Texas-based Gearbox Software rocketed to success with Borderlands in 2009, livening up the sometimes tedious world of first-person shooters by embracing the absurd nature of a game that pit players against tiny angry psychopaths wearing hockey masks and billed itself as featuring “17 million guns.” Borderlands became a huge hit and launched a franchise that continues to prosper, but Gearbox Software has had some rough patches in recent years as well, including the should-have-stayed-dead Duke Nukem Forever and the disastrous Aliens: Colonial Marines. With Battleborn, Gearbox will be rolling out their first original IP since the first Borderlands, and it’s definitely an odd duck.
Launching any new IP is always riskier than just rolling the dice on another sequel (or even a pre-sequel), and Battleborn is a game that ambitiously bills itself as being “for every sort of badass,” mixing genres and combat styles with 25 characters ranging from up-close melee fighting sword-slingers to robot snipers with cane rifles and knife-throwing healers who also happen t0 be giant anthropomorphic mushroom people. There’s a lot going on in Battleborn, and by extension a lot that could potentially fall flat. The good news is that, at least based on the above 20-minute gameplay demo from E3, Battleborn looks to be fast-paced, silly, and a lot of fun.
Battleborn is set at the literal end of end of the universe, when all the stars but one have gone out and the few surviving factions descend on the last star system standing. On the planet Solus, the evil Varelsi are trying to finish the job and snuff out the universe’s last sparks of life. Standing against them are “25 of the bravest, strongest, strangest, and still-alive-est Battleborn the universe has ever seen.” The demo showcases a mission from Battleborn‘s campaign, which can be played solo or cooperatively with up to four other gamers. The mission takes place on the “Frozen hellscape of Bliss,” another planet in the Solus system. The Battleborn team is sent to “infiltrate an old Peacekeeper base and attempt to close a portal that’s allowing the evil Varelsi to enter the Solus system.”
The line-up for this mission includes bow-wielder Thorn, space marine Oscar Mike, sword-slinger Phoebe, “chaos witch” Orendi, and tech badass Caldarius. Each character’s skillset and playstyle is given time in the spotlight during the demo, showcasing the sheer variety of gameplay Battleborn will offer. It looks like characters will possess elements of traditional MMO/multiplayer tropes such as tanks, healers, and DPS, but with enough flexibility that those roles don’t have to be hard and fast. Battleborn will live or die based on how well Gearbox balances those characters and roles, but it’s a good sign that so far none of the characters look like an obvious “no thank you” at this point.
The last survivor of her homeworld, Thorn brings a bow to a laser fight but nevertheless seems capable of holding her own. In addition to launching arrows into people’s faces, it looks like she can wield various AOE magic/debuff attacks. There are a couple of moments where she also looks to possess a “Force push” style ability for close range, useful for when the bad guys get too close.
Up Next: Meet More of Battleborn’s Cast