Battleborn is one of a new breed of “hero shooters,” a trigger-pulling sub-category designed to inject a little something fresh into the crowded FPS (first-person shooter) gaming ranks. These games generally offer a crew of super-duper avatars to choose from and focus on online, multi-player, team-based combat.
And that’s especially true in the case of Battleborn, a game that’s all about its colorful cast of characters.
Battleborn introduces us to a parade of powerful, comic-bookish protagonists in a goofy sci-fi tale of apocalyptic doom. You see, an alien race known as the Varlesi is—for some short-sighted reason—consuming and destroying all the stars in the universe. Everything comes down to Solus, the last remaining star. To put the kibosh on the Varlesi’s plan to snuff out the lone light in the universe, all of the still-breathing races of the universe swoop into this sun’s system, put aside their growling differences and rally together to take on their common foe.
Those factions include a broad spectrum of cartoony combatants, such as elves, dwarves, vampires, humans, robots and others, each of whom boast unique weapons and skills. They tote assault rifles, machine pistols, and swords; they shoot arrows and ice bullets; they cast magic spells and unleash mech devices.
Take Boulder, for instance. He’s a well-muscled dwarf who likes to wade into the fray with his ax. Mountain-sized Montana is a massive brute who blasts away with a fearsome minigun. The bowler hat-wearing robot Marquis specializes in ranged sniper shots and sending in a mechanized owl for predatory strikes. Miko, meanwhile, is a tall, mushroom-like battler who focuses on fungal attacks, poisonous throwing knives and healing spores. Shayne is a boomerang-slinging teen girl who tag teams with a rock demon named Aurox¬—a creature that would like nothing better than to break free of their special bond and kill its teen partner.
And the diverse list of 25 initial characters stretches on from there.
Battleborn focuses on putting together a team of five heroes to take on the task at hand. The game’s story mode consists of eight large missions that involve repelling wave after wave of malevolent, marauding minions and besting big bosses at the end of each level.
But that fast-paced campaign mode isn’t really much more than a preparatory tutorial. You play through it over and over so that you can explore each character’s strengths and vulnerabilities, experimenting with their individual attack styles and leveling up their skill trees. Essentially, you’re honing these characters’ war-craft abilities so that you can then draft your favorites and plunge into Battleborn’s online multiplayer mode.
Once logged in there, the game offers three competitive modes (as of this writing). Generally, they involve protecting or destroying a given set of assets. And they force players to be more strategic in their approach. Since you’re now facing off against live online players, you have to evaluate which characters should make up your team and which tactical battle positions you should stake out.
For all of Battleborn‘s colorful, choose-your-team strategizing, though, there are still some issues to be aware of here.
There’s not much nasty gore in the mix, and players mostly face off against aliens and robots. Still, some alien critters can splash a bit of purple goop. Some female characters also wear revealing or form-fitting outfits. Also problematic, there’s quite a lot of profanity woven into the game’s attempt at crude, rib-nudging humor, including uses of “h–,” “a–,” “d–n” and “b–tard” as well as some bleeped f- and s-words.
But more than anything, it’s Battleborn’s perpetual trigger-pulling formula that wears thin. Spending hours in a constant grind of blast, smash, slash, rinse and repeat gets old pretty quickly—no matter how interesting the animated characters unleashing their alien-slaying talents might be.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.