The MOBA genre gets murkier with each passing year. Nowadays, games like SMITE, Overwatch, and Paragon have either forcibly broadened the genre, or are creating their own, yet unnamed field altogether. Battleborn is also one of those games that is pushing the traditional boundaries of the team-shooter-not-quite-MOBA genre.
Although Battleborn’s PvP ditches the top-down view in favor of a first-person perspective, there are still some clear similarities to its MOBA brethren. There are minions that you need to escort across the battlefield which will help you take down checkpoint enemies (similar to towers) necessary to advance. You can use abilities from a hotbar, and eventually learn an ultimate that you can unleash occasionally during battle. The parity is definitely there, yet there are cases where Battleborn deviates from the classic gameplay and draws from its FPS elements.
Despite the towers and guardian-type enemies, the battlefield itself feels like the lovechild of MOBAs and bowl-style FPS maps instead of direct lanes through these enemies. Pathways filter into bigger areas where carnage ensues. Minions, big minions, giant spider mechs (which are the “towers” in this case), and players all clash in these bloody arenas. It was crazy good fun, and I never felt that “fed” player characters were able to completely dominate due to the space that I had, and the number of minions around to distract everyone from just always killing each other.
I’m no MOBA expert, and what I liked about SMITE is that it was incredibly accessible to someone new to the genre. Battleborn takes this even further. It’s developed by Gearbox, and it really does feel like Borderlands gameplay transplanted into a MOBA arena, easing shooting players in as nicely as Borderlands slipped RPG elements into an FPS game.
Every Battleborn hero starts with a two primary abilities and through leveling up, will be able dramatically enhance their effectiveness. Every level, you make a permanent choice between two different ability modifications. It’s a quick and painless process that only takes as long as it takes for you to read two sentences and push a button.
Gear is also simplified by a choosing a load out pre-game of three pieces, and simply activating it once you meet the in-battle pre-reqs to use it. The focus is kept squarely on the combat with new abilities and items turned into super quick stops.
During the demo, I played as Marquis, the cane-wielding sniper. At first, the sniper was difficult to use, my pet owl that was supposed hunt down enemies barely did anything, and I had a bubble that was supposed to slow enemies down but was too small and short-lived to really do anything. I struggled to kill any enemy Battleborn. Eventually though, after sneaking a few kills and dropping some minions, I slowly turned myself into a killing machine that finished in first place on my team.
I evolved my time-warp bubble to become massive and slow enemies down to a crawl, making them easy prey for my now highly accurate sniper fire. Also, my owl, that originally didn’t do anything, evolved to crash down on enemies and leave behind a damage over time effect. Perfect for enemies slowed down by my bubble. There are over 20 Battleborn characters, and I’m really excited to see all the different builds people come up with.
Battleborn seems to be in excellent shape going into its May 3 release date. At PAX Prime last year, we thoroughly enjoyed its cooperative campaign, and after a close look at its multiplayer, we feel confident in its PvP elements, too.