Battleborn Hands-On Preview (Gamescom)

A couple of weeks ago, we felt like Battleborn was at risk of being overlooked. The art style isn’t a million miles away from Blizzard’s Overwatch, it’s not free to play, and Gearbox aren’t exactly the name they used to be after the disappointments of Aliens: Colonial Marines and Borderlands: The Pre-sequel. It’s easy to forget that the spectacular Borderlands 2 only came out three years ago, it just so happens that Gearbox is an incredibly productive studio.

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Around Gamescom though there was a definite buzz for the game. It had a large booth, but no larger than most others, it wasn’t giving anything away that was amazing or enticing, it didn’t have the longest queue, but people were talking about it loads. You’d hear it in the queues, in the restaurants, people whispering about how amazing this game from 2K was and how you needed to go try it. So when we got an invitation to 2k’s booth for a presentation and chance to play through a level, we jumped at the chance.

Battleborn is a first person co-op shooter. There are definitely PvP modes (not being shown just yet) but at it’s heart you and three friends will fight through waves of enemies to complete objectives while levelling up and collecting loot. The story goes that there is only a single star left in the universe and every civilisation to survive this long has converged to try and survive around it. That inevitably leads to clashes and we guess battle is erm… born?

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There’s going to be 25 playable characters for launch and there’s a huge amount of creativity inherent within them. From hawks with prosthetic wings to mushroom people and gentleman robot snipers, Gearbox have clearly let their imaginations run wild in coming up with new ways to play. The characters themselves feel as different from each other as the characters in Borderlands did, and similar to Borderlands over time you’ll level up and make skill choices that refine the way you play even more. For example, I was playing as the mushroom man; he was part healer and part poisoner. As I progressed through the levels I could always make a decision that would either buff damage or healing. You level from 1 to 10 in every single match so the choices don’t have a long-term effect, it’s more like Heroes of the Storm where you will quickly get used to playing certain ‘builds’. The levelling is incredibly fast and it’s fun to gain new powers and use them immediately. To avoid slowing down the action Gearbox have made levelling up as easy as anything, you just press up on the d-pad and then either press the left or right trigger to make your choice. Then you’re levelled up and ready to use whatever your new abilities are.

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The level we played had us escorting a giant robot across the map to break down a huge door. There were gold crystals dotted around (mostly away from the main path) and by smashing and collecting these we could build turrets or shields on the robot, or even build turrets near the end for a defence set-piece. There was a lot of strategy involved and playing as a healer was immensely rewarding, bouncing around the battlefield throwing down healing mushrooms and using a beam whenever I could. At the end of the level you could see there was the chance to get loot. There’s only three slots for this and everything comes with a drawback, so you might do more regular damage, but get less crits, or do more healing, but have less health yourself. These are somewhat procedurally generated a la Borderlands so there always the possibility of finding something better or more specific to what you want.

We had a great time with Battleborn and we’re looking forward to the release on February 9th 2016.

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