As of writing this, tomorrow marks the release of one of the most highly anticipated game of the year, Overwatch. Now bringing up Overwatch to begin a review of Battleborn may seem odd, but they were announced around the same time, released in the same month, similar in concept and structure. There is no way you can talk about one and not the other. After spending two weeks with Battleborn, we look at how well it’ll hold up and if it’s worth your money.
Gearbox struck gold with it’s hit Borderlands and follow up MEGA hit Borderlands 2; a uniquely styled, FPS that has some of the funniest writing and great character design to date. Ignoring Borderlands the Pre-sequel (which is just a good idea at this point) Gearbox looks to recapture the magic of Borderlands by bringing that winning formula over to Battleborn. Same art style as Borderlands? Check. Same humorous borderline ridiculous characters and dialogue? Check. Looting stuff? To a degree, check. So that’s it then, I should just stop and give Battleborn a ten out of ten right? Well, that would work if this game was called Borderlands 3, but it’s not. Its Gearboxes foray into the world of team based online shooters.
Battleborn doesn’t necessarily get anything wrong, in fact the opening cinematic is incredibly well done and entertaining. The problems come when you compare it to Overwatch, then you start to see what it didn’t get right. For a game that is heavily focused on online play the match making is a complete joke. Selecting a versus type game puts in a wait from average for me of three to five minutes, to first find my team, then finding another instead of finding ten random people and assigning them based on level. This has often lead to some very one sided matches. Thankfully Gearbox was nice enough to add a team vote to surrender. Once teams are set you get to wait, I mean vote on the one of two levels available for any given mode and connect to a server, sometimes taking up to two minutes. Then you get to pick your character and wait, do you see a theme? And once your match has ended, you simply start the whole process over again. After two to three rounds of this I often did not feel like going through it all again and simply took a break from the game. Add in the fact that there is no training or bot mode so you can get accustomed to newly unlocked characters and no character swapping during matches in case a hero just isn’t clicking and you piling on the frustration with the game.
The game isn’t all around bad. The character designs are trademark Gearbox fun and unique and the actual gameplay is pretty good once you get to it. The in game leveling was very cool and lets you sort of customize your character to the situation you are in and always kept me guessing if I made the right choices with my leveling. And a huge bonus for a game in 2016 that includes couch co-op (even if you can barely read text in it). You can complete challenges to unlock lore for each character and Gearbox promise free content updates to go along side of the DLC packs add maps, modes and more than nine story missions. Will it be enough to keep me playing? Time will tell. I love the Gearbox team and what they are able to put out so it may be enough to keep me going. Gearbox took a calculated risk bringing their fan favorite formula to a different arena, but their strange design choices on mission failures and online play make me feel like it could have been done a bit better and there is still plenty of time to fix these issues but for right now with the competition that they face, I hope they can make the fixes soon enough.
Reviewed on an Xbox One Retail Copy