What do day dreaming samurais on Tatooine, the Pirates of Dark Water, Cybermen, Gambit, Alex Rodriguez, Musashi, Kinopio, woodland elves and Dick Cheney all have in common? Absolutely nothing to the average focus group. But to Gearbox Software, those fun-loving dreamers behind Borderlands, it’s the makings of a new shooter mash-up, entitled Battleborn. We got a chance to get an early view of this game in pre-alpha.
Battleborn is designed as a cooperative and competitive shooter, complete with pirates, swordsmen, elves, steroid freaks, mushroom killers and piss-on-the-poor, upper class assassins. The goal is to take just about every character class and archetype from fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk fiction or otherwise and put them all together in a universe where it makes sense for them to coexist – even if it’s in disharmony with one another.
Of course, under-the-hood of every multiplayer shooter, there’s a little story behind the magic curtain to give you a reason to lay waste to a fresh-new, diabolical villain. In Battleborn several factions take refuge on the last star of the Solus system.
Like any dystopian future, survivors start going at each other’s throats instead of hugging out their problems in an effort to control resources. Unfortunately, somebody’s got to wrangle these heroic miscreants together before the viscous Varlesi destroy the entire universe. Eat your heart out Cobra Commander.
That’s where you and your esteemed crew comes in to play. The game breaks down its characters into different factions. It’s like Dungeons and Dragons, which has its adventurers, alchemist, fighter, thieves and assassins guilds.
In Battleborn, there are imperialists, who are basically the Empire from Star Wars. Then there are the draconian peace keepers, who are like a bunch of over-zealous “do as we say, not as we do” bullies. Next, we have the Eldrid, who preserve the natural order of the universe (aka Pure Bloods from Harry Potter). There’s a rogues group that does whatever it is they feel like, thank you very much. And finally, there’s the aptly named, LLC. These guys have bourgeoisie robotic snipers on their side and speak to the dreaded one percent.
Now, like all cooperative shooters, you’re guessing that this game is built around the standard roster of all-around solider, heavy gunner, medic and possibly some kind of engineer or spell caster character classes.
Yes, those archetypes are all there. However, Gearbox is aiming to add several layers of depth to these classic roles so that no two characters are ever the same. More on that in a bit. Just expect to download new characters and/or faction types for several months following the game’s 2015 (expected) release.
Why should you be excited about this game?
Well, for starters its got the same CG, fantastical visual style of Borderlands. It may be a first-person shooter, but there are several close-quarters, fighting elements inside this bad boy. One character, named Rath, uses swords as his main weapon. Now, any FPS fan who loves melee combat knows that their targets usually hate fighting up close. There are a few moves that we saw that give the melee fighters a chance to engage in pseudo-third person attacks. For instance, Rath has a spinning dash move where he rips through his enemies like a wheel on fire.
Even though the game was in pre-alpha, we saw the kind of carnage that Rath’s attack yielded. Heaps of shredded-robot scraps littered the floor. This is a vital part of carnage that was missing in last gen games, but is now present on the PS4 and Xbox One. We’d like to see more of this damage as the game progresses in development. In this pre-alpha build, several guns seemed to do the same type of damage to the enemy. I’d like the carnage that a gun yields to be as diverse as the guns. The damage from Oscar Mike’s automatic weapons should look different from the damage Montana’s steroid guns delivers. By the same token, Thorn’s elvish arrows should also deliver a visual injury that varies from Marquis’ ever-so distinguished, robotic sniper fire.
The interface for upgrades was also pretty cool. Instead of your those trite row-column setups, that feel like an Excel spreadsheet (yuck), the upgrade window looks like a DNA double helix. Although Gearbox said that this interface could still change, we’re hoping it stays the same. It’s in this upgrade screen where you’ll get the chance to start to blend those traditional team roles. Of course, we all know how upgrading is. If you don’t stick to one path, you end up with several mediocre abilities. I’m still kicking myself for Knights of the Old Republic. Why oh why didn’t I just go dark side one-hundred percent?
The game will utilize shorter scenarios, much like Activision’s recently released shooter, Destiny. So no more worrying about taking two hours to finish a map. And if you do take two-hours to finish a scenario, you really should drop the difficulty.
Battleborn will utilize two leveling systems. At the start of every scenario, everyone will start off on equal footing so that one character isn’t dominating. However, you will also have cumulative levels so that you’re rewarded for playing more.
What are we still waiting on?
Loot. Damn straight. Gearbox President Randy Pitchford promised loot as the game progresses and after scenarios. After building up our addiction to loot in Borderlands, it will be hard to digest anything less – especially since this game totes such a similar visual style.
Team attacks. Remember when Billy Lee and Jimmy Lee did the Cyclone kick in Double Dragon III. I’m still waiting for a shooter that changes the genre with some kind of combo attack. I don’t just want to get a few extra points for an assist. I want to set up the assist like Jason Kidd or John Stockton.
Friendly fire on or off? The Gearbox team is still considering whether to go with friendly fire on or off. We’re pulling for off, or at least a setting that can be toggled off.
We’d like to see more with the Rogue faction. How does lock picking or thievery factor into an attack? How can that be shown visually and not just with a few extra loot drops displayed on the HUD.
Since Battleborn is cooperative multiplayer like Destiny, we hope it isn’t designed like Destiny. We DO NOT want it to require a always-online connection to the internet. That would suck for those who just want to play the campaign. Nuff said.
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