Battleborn is the newest IP coming out of the land of Gearbox Software and I recently had the privilege to go hands-on with a new chapter of the game’s Story Mode, a new character named ISIC, the competitive multiplayer modes Meltdown and Devastation, and there is a lot of new information to share regarding the game’s progression systems. Yes that’s right, progression systems.
Starting off with the latter, gamers already know about the in-game progression that resets prior to each match beginning as well as the overall profile progression, or Command Rank. What you probably don’t know about is the fact that each character you play as will have its own continuous, overall progression system. You can rank every one of the 25 characters in Battleborn up to Level 15.
Not only is that absurdly awesome depth from a progression standpoint, but each character will have certain challenges that reward players unique benefits that range from in-game skills to additional character lore and background. What strikes me most about this is the level of detail and depth that is actually behind each Battleborn character, and how much additional progression there really is in the game. The time in which it will take you to 100 percent Battleborn has suddenly skyrocketed to intergalactic levels.
Getting into the game’s actual character progression, 100 percent-ing a character does seem like it will take some time. I say this because I played as Caldarius for a handful of matches, both in Story Mode and in Competitive Multiplayer, and after a few hours, I was just about to get to a Level 2 rank for the character. It’ll be interesting to see how the rate of progression changes, if at all, as well as how the game entices the player to grind for that 100 percent with each character.
All characters will have gear, which can be purchased by players with in-game currency, and that is earned by killing enemies and smashing boxes for loot. It wouldn’t be a Gearbox game without loot and gear combinations rank well over 10,000 different combinations, as I was told by the studio. Gamers can pick and add gear to their loadout, which has three slots for items of your choosing.
I enjoyed the element of choice here because I really had to be careful about the gear I equipped. Some gear has an activation cost you will have to pay when you use it in a match and not only that, some gear has a trade-off. An example of this is a item that gave me a eight percent increase in attack damage, but at the same time, that item brought down my character’s movement speed. The latter can be a problem when trying to sprint out of a hostile situation.
These are a few things I had to think about, but not only that, I had to consider when the appropriate time was to use the gear in-game. If you have multiple items that take away from the same trait, then you probably don’t want to use both pieces of gear at the same time. Then again, some players like moving at half the speed of smell, which is a personal choice and is totally cool if that’s how you rock it. Gearbox has done a nice job of creating systems with multiple layers of choice and your gear is the perfect example of that.
Moving onto the game’s Competitive Multiplayer, I was able to play a session in both Devastation and Meltdown. Devastation is essentially domination in its objectives, though team points are awarded for everything from taking out a buildable, capturing a point, defending a point or killing a player on the other team. The first team to reach 1,000 points or has the most at the end of the time limit wins. Meltdown is a hilarious mode as your task is to guide your minions from where they spawn to an incinerator typically located at the middle part of the map. The first team to reach 500 points or has the most at the end of the time limit wins.
In Devastation, there are three points on a map and your objective is to capture and hold as many as possible. Aside from how points are awarded, something that truly differentiates itself from the typical domination mode is the fact that you can purchase buildables, like a defense turret. These items do cost in-game currency to build, but they are extremely important in defending and capturing a point.
There was a specific point where I continued to get hit by turret fire and had a hard time taking it down. It was great to see an AI aspect of the mode have such an impact versus it just being an option for the sake of having an alternative. Even though it was AI controlled, the turret had meaning and purpose, which is something other games definitely miss at times.
Looking at Meltdown, this is a mode that will usually last longer than say a match of Devastation. During the round I played, each team fought well to prevent the other team’s minions from making it into the incinerator for points. The locations where minions spawn and the incinerators pop up did seem to switch halfway through the match, but I can absolutely see how a match of Meltdown could get very defensive because of the way each of these things appear on the map.
In this mode far more than Devastation, I feel like having a sound and cooperative team will be essential to winning. If you play on a team that doesn’t communicate or work well together then you’ll probably struggle against a team that does work well together. There is a 30-minute time limit and I can definitely see games hitting that mark, should a really defensive match take place.
While Devastation and Meltdown are a lot of fun and quite engaging, however, I can’t help but wonder about the staying power these modes will have over the long-term. There is one other mode called Incursion that I didn’t experience, but still, I’m left wondering if these three modes will be enough? Are they going to keep me coming back time and time again or will they grow stale quickly?
The quantity and variety of maps will be a key factor in this and that’s something I can’t yet speak to. It’s impossible to tell with only one session of Devastation and Meltdown, and none with Incursion, what the long-term power of Competitive Multiplayer is in Battleborn, but it’s definitely something on my mind when thinking about the game as a finished product.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll try to keep my thoughts on the new Story Mode level and new character brief. I played through a level called Algorithm and really enjoyed how this built on the first Story Mode level I played earlier this year called Edge of the Void. AI in this map was actually quite challenging and the level design was tactfully layered so as to give me plenty of options for how to play a level.
A new character I played as was ISIC and his humor was fantastic, kind of in the same way Handsome Jack’s humor was. ISIC feels like a slower moving character, but he has a range weapon with unlimited ammo and no need to reload. If you hold down on the right trigger, you can charge up a more powerful range attack to deal out more damage to an enemy.
His most powerful ability is when he goes into a tank-like state and shoots out three different range attacks at once. The major trade off when in this mode is that his movement slows down to a weak crawl, which can leave you vulnerable to enemy fire. Overall, I loved playing as ISIC and thought he provided some good contrast to the other characters we already know of in Battleborn.
When I take a step back and consider what the entire experience of Battleborn is looking like, I see a game that has a ridiculous amount of progression depth and customization options. I see a game that will be a blast to play with friends locally and online, with a Story Mode that also has the potential to hold my attention from start to finish. I also see a game whose Competitive Multiplayer has something to prove with its three modes, and needs to show it can keep me coming back after the initial novelty of it being new has worn off. I’m excited to see more from Battleborn in the coming weeks and months, leading up all the way to its Feb. 9, 2016 launch date.