Battleborn (2016)

When two tribes go to war, brand wars are exciting, immense wealth for the victor and the loser usually out of business or forever playing catch-up. In some cases, it’s not necessarily the best that wins, in other cases the loser is absorbed and provides the winner with a lot of assets. Making these competitions both high stakes, and higher risk. In 2016, Gearbox Software released an online battle videogame around the same time as Blizzard’s Overwatch and got involved in the battle of its life, in the aptly named Battleborn.

This is just some of the colourful cast of characters you can play as!

The plot of the game is set up in the opening cutscene: A space Imperium starts a crusade to destroy all the stars in the known universe. An intergalactic coalition is set up to stop this dark force from destroying the last star, Solus. The campaign takes you across eight stages that you can play publicly online or by yourself in single player. For those who prefer fighting other teams as opposed to the environment, there’s also a versus mode, like Battleborn’s competitor, Overwatch.

Each level you have three choices upon how to upgrade certain abilities, these reset each level, so you’re not locked in to a bad decision for long.

The plucky, almost anarchic humour of Gearbox’s Borderlands fits well here with the dialogue having that same sense of humour that made the former such a success. Obviously inspired by Saturday morning cartoons, the style of Battleborn is pretty with a lot of vibrant colours and uniquely designed heroes. The levels are varied with gothic mansions, forests, frozen tundra’s, ancient temples with hefty doses of Neon colours and unique geography that can be used for your advantage by the specifically crafted hero you selected. My favourite of these was a Clockwork robotic sniper, who goes by the name Marquis, he has a penchant for clockwork, Bowler hats, and the German Language.

You can unlock in depth biographies by completing certain character challenges.

Being a “hero shooter”, its cast of characters is among the main draw and are unlocked through gameplay. Your character gets special abilities that upgrade as you play through the level, while it means that you have to pick options each time you play, you’re not going to be overspecialised in one level, and feeling completely underprepared in another. Fighting and fighting well gives you coins and loot, coins can be used in the marketplace to buy more loot. Loot is used to give you certain buffs, like more health, or seconds off your abilities, and you’re given certain layouts, allowing you to build a specialised combination for certain scenarios.

You can have up to three layouts, allowing you to have different spec style for each encounter.

Thrust into a brand rivalry it probably wasn’t ready for, and with the jolt from going Free-To-Play not riving Battleborn means that the game is scheduled for closure in 2021. But with a commitment to its theme, smart writing, intriguing gameplay loops, and a lot of fun ideas, and an emphasis on teamwork allowing up to four people to utilise the heroes they selected for maximum efficiency and success. While it may not have won the war or the battle, Battleborn was a fun trip, its just ironic that its story was so apocalyptic.

The levels mix interesting geographies with a strong visual design.

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