Myself along with another few gaming fanatics were invited to the Microsoft HQ last night to play a brand new upcoming first person shooter crafted by the minds behind the highly successful Borderlands franchise. Battleborn feels like Borderlands with 25 playable classes, Destiny with its lengthily level, and an RPG thanks to its deep skill tree. Megarom, the South African distributors for 2K games, set up a quick presentation, and 5 PCs that we could sit down at and play through a level of the game.
The game is set across multiple planets that all have their own look and feel. The enemies are also unique to each planet and the battles and game modes will stretch across each planet.
There are 25 playable characters in the game; that is the plan when it releases early next year, but for the sake of the demo we were able to select one out of ten carefully crafted characters. Each of the characters are based on some of the typical classes you find in games.
Miko (Healer, ranged combat)
The last surviving bud of a once planet-sized fungal colony, Miko is widely known as compassionate and is a very skilled healer. Now more of a combat botanist, Miko devotes its time to restoring all which can be restored and throwing kunai at things which cannot be restored.
Boldur (Tank, close combat)
Boldur the Unbearable is a stubborn, axe-wielding native of Ekkunar who has survived the last two millennia of interruptions to his quiet forest life through sheer stubbornness and the aid of the civilian militia he leads called the Woodsworn. Tough as a gnarled root, the Ekkuni dwarf carries only a rune-forged axe and shield into battle against any foe who dares land their dropship in his front yard.
Caldaruis (Stealth, ranged combat)
Caldarius won his name, fame, and eternal Sustainment in the Jennerit Fighting Pits. Armed in the jet-enhanced J-HTX Assault Frame armor of the Jennerit Shock troops, Caldarius is brutally efficient at hit and run close quarters fighting.
Marquis (Support, ranged combat)
Marquis d’Caliber was once butler to Phoebe before an odd encounter with the LLC‘s AI leader, the Magna Carta, altered his personality. Now, this high-society sociopath wreaks havoc on the unwashed masses with his sniper cane Bindlebane and his explosively temperamental mechanical owl, Hoodini.
Montana (Tank, ranged combat)
When he’s not clotheslining bears for fun, Montana can be found on the battlefield, soaking up industrial-sized buckets of hurt and suppressing enemies with his fearsome mini-gun. A friend to everyone, Montana controls the Battlefield with sprays of ice or fire, and sometimes just a good old fashioned knock-the-tree-down-with-my-shoulder dash.
Thorn (Speed, ranged combat)
Teshka Elessamorn – nicknamed Thorn “for her short temper – was the last child of her homeworld before it was darkened by the Varelsi. Thorn ranges the jungle-wilds of Ekkunar and beyond with her bow Kreshek and her battle-honed skill with advanced Eldrid magic“.
Rath (Speed, close combat)
Verod Rath is not a vampire, though he gets that a lot. Rath is a master bladesmith and swordsman of the Jennerit Empire, once a member of the Keepers of the Blade – the elite guard of Empress Lenore. Rath is deeply focused on the art of battle, applying his three energy blades with lethal efficiency.
Phoebe (Tank, close combat)
Inventor, adventurer, and heiress to one of the largest family fortunes within the Last Light Consortium, Phoebe Elizabeth Audelia Hemsworth the Fourth is NOT to be trifled with. Always ready for adventure, Phoebe rushed to the aid of the universe, accompanied by her multi-phasal sabre, Addonexus, earning her the title of “the Mageblade” among her friends. Phoebe is lured by her fascination with Eldrid magic
Orendi (Speed, ranged combat)
Feared even by members of our own faction, the unhinged and unpredictable Orendi channels powerful magic-like energies, striving to test herself against the universe’s greatest foes. She has more than earned the title “the Chaos Witch“.
Oscar Mike (All-round, ranged combat)
Cloned to fight in a war that ended years ago, Oscar Mike now brings well-crafted modern combat instincts to the Solus War, with the effective, sure fire of earnest objectives, strong missions, and excellent personal hygiene. Master of the UPR-AR7 Assault Rifle and the UPR-MkII Battle Augmented Deflective Armor Stealth Suit.
Each character is highly unique in every way. I played with Miko, Rath, and Orendi and each time it felt like a brand new experience. Each character has a unique approach on the combat system. Rath gets up close and personal and swipes away at enemies with his awesome glowing swords. Orendi tosses anti-matter from a distance. Miko throws knives. It’s all completely different and thanks to the in-depth skill tree, once you have unlocked new skills by levelling up during a mission you can further enhance your character. Each character has a primary, secondary, melee, two special attacks, and an ultimate attack which you only unlock at level 5.
While we all played through the co-op level, which had five of us playing as different characters, we had to infiltrate the enemy’s base and call a tank turret to help us through to the end. You earn XP from killing enemies, and gather gold by taking down enemies and smashing open crates and shiny rocks. The gold is used to purchase the Tank Turret’s shield, mini-guns, and healing ability, so the richer you are the more equipped you will be when you need to hold an area while the turret hacks a door. When I say “hack” I mean it shoots a laser beam that cuts the door open, typical Gearbox humour.
There was enough variation in the characters design and abilities to make every replay of the mission feel different. It takes you about 5 minutes to master the characters’ controls to know when and how to use certain abilities. Miko was a healer and when my team mates where low on health holding the LB button would heal them. When my ultimate ability was full Miko tossed her head into an area and a mushroom would grow, healing team mates and poisoning enemies at the same time. Rath’s ultimate ability saw him spinning around like a spin top with his swords out damaging enemies every second.
Although the mission that we played did not have excitement to it, given that it was an early preview build and the objectives were lacking, the main idea of the evening was to get us acquainted with the characters.
The drawing card in Battleborn has to be its characters. There is a huge emphasis on originality and not only did the character look cool at the selection screen, but I never felt like I preferred one over another, well not yet anyway. Regardless, with 25 characters available at launch and of course 2K will do what they always do and release a ton of DLC packs, probably with 5 or so extra characters, there will be a huge selection available.
We heard that there is a PvP mode in the works for Battleborn, although we never got to see any of it, the thought of it is pretty great, given that wrecking enemies is already fun with all the characters, could you imagine doing it to other players? That along with the many different co-operative PvE modes, will make Battleborn a pretty decent package. There will be a story mode, and it can be played single player or co-op.
Thanks to Megarom and 2K for putting together an awesome evening for us. The game looks great and I cannot wait to get hold of more characters or even see what other refined characters 2K has in store. Battleborn is set for release early next year on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.