Battleborn BETA Thoughts

BETA season is upon us; and in a rather generous move, Gearbox and 2K allowed gamers a full 10 days of their new MOBA ‘Battleborn’. On top of this long time to play there was also an absolute metric ton of content in that BETA too, 2 story mode missions, 2 multiplayer modes, 25 heroes and 3 progression systems!

Almost too generous; but it’s better than struggling for things to do!

While it was undoubtedly heaving with content all of it would be for naught if it wasn’t worth playing. So the question is, should you buy ‘Battleborn’ come May 3rd?

Let me disclose the following before I begin, I am no fan of the MOBA genre. I find the communities (largely speaking) are inaccessible and full of absolute dickheads; the barrier to entry is also incredibly high as everyone seems to have a high-level knowledge of everything in the games and you seemingly have to spend more time in Wikia’s than you do in-game to “git gud”.

story charsAnd while there is no real innovation to the genre to be found here – I had a really good time playing it. The skill that gearbox have when it comes to making characters really comes to the fore here with the various heroes on offer.

My first stop in the BETA was the story mode – because I wanted to learn the basics of my chosen heroine; Thorne. She is classed as an attacking character; which suits my play-style as I tend to be aggressive – she really suited me and I found myself learning something new about her every game I played – and as the BETA ended I found that she was literally the only hero I had used.

The story mode was an interesting proposition, to my knowledge ‘Battleborn’ is the only MOBA with a story mode (if i’m wrong them flame me in the comments); Gearbox use this to introduce the games five factions (Consortium, Eldrid, Rogues, Peacekeepers and the Imperium) and introduces us to the lore behind the game. While it’s not required knowledge to enjoy the game, it builds context and saves you having to visit the wikia.

Story mode plays slightly differently to how you might expect. It is a combination of ‘Borderlands’ and a traditional MOBA and it is not as awkward as it sounds – in fact the game melds the play-styles together with an amazing amount of success! You team up with (up to) 5 other players and work your way toward an area boss; en-route you will be accosted by minions and sub-bosses gaining EXP and boosting your character’s stats and skills. While it remains fun, it is also extremely challenging – I was unable to play with friends and relied on matchmaking for a team, it’s here that we bumped into a few issues.

Battleborn MatchmakingMatchmaking takes a significant amount of time; it was not uncommon for me to wait 4 minutes on a team to assemble; this was more of an issue when the BETA was opened up on the last few days. I get that this was BETA and the net-code is being worked on (while being stressed) and I feel that this will NOT be an issue come release, but it is worth mentioning.

The second issue was that my teammates seemed reluctant to talk to one another (although playing music annoyingly over the mic was grand apparently) and this made teamwork impossible and on a few mission attempts it all fell apart on the boss. Many ended up leaving the game and eventually we failed the fight by running out of lives.

Obviously playing with friends circumnavigates both these issues; and there were numerous occasions that I got great teams via matchmaking. When that occurred ‘Battleborn’ literally felt like a different game ; it is intense and immensely fun.

battleborn competitiveOnce I beat both the bosses I decided that it was time to brave the competitive side of the game; since this is the obvious draw here and many of the players will spend 90% of their time here…

…and it was initially very daunting indeed!
The two modes are called Incursion and Meltdown and they have different play-styles:

  1. Incursion is the classic MOBA play-style, each team has two towers (in this map giant robot spiders) that must be destroyed. Teamwork and strategy is a must as well as competent use of credits to build minions, defenses and healing stations.
  2. Meltdown on the other hand is a nice twist on the above formula, instead of having to destroy towers you have to guide minions to their doom, it is a timed mode and whoever has destroyed more of their own minions by the expiration of the round is the winner.

There is undoubtedly a lot to get your head round if you are to be part of a winning team, choosing the right option to maximise the chances of success requires almost constant dialogue with teammates and having a good mixture of heroes is just as important.The characters are split into three general categories:

  1. Attackers
  2. Defenders
  3. Support

They all play differently, have different skills and each play a vital role in winning a round. If you have an unbalanced team; or have a member who doesn’t really know what they are doing, then the match will be an uphill struggle. The good news is that ‘Battleborn’ communicates the important of these variables in a logical way – the hints that populate the loading screens are genuinely worth reading because they will educate you.

performance Battleborn.jpgGameplay-wise the multiplayer is really good, it is fast, frenetic and really well balanced. I saw plenty of good players dominate games, but I never saw a hero dominate one. The skills are varied and for everyone you unlock someone else will have an effective counter – it is expertly made and it shows on every level.

The game has beautiful art direction and graphics with plenty of effects going on; yet somehow Gearbox have managed to get it running at a solid 30fps with no dips, even when the effects literally filled the screen.

Overall ‘Battleborne’ was a good game that I had a lot of fun with;  while it will win over non-MOBA fans initially; time will tell if it can keep them playing! With their schedule, and continued generosity with free heroes and DLC all the signs are good for ‘Battleborn’.

Did you play ‘Battleborn’?

What did you think of it?  

Let me know in the comment section!

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