I can’t contain my excitement. I’m sitting at a train station right now, foregoing nourishment and hydration just to write these words of joy. Think back to your happiest first date and you’ll have a good idea of how I feel after my first time playing Battleborn. This game is just thrilling.
Mayhem good enough to make Tyler Durden proud
Battleborn is a team-based first-person shooter developed by the deranged minds behind the Borderlands series. It plays very much like Borderlands, which makes it an immediate pick-up-and-frag experience, but it has a great deal of extra depth and variety. The cast of 25 heroes starts with a conventional rifle-wielding soldier — his name's Oscar Mike and he was the one I played my way through the Gamescom level with — but quickly expands to include characters you wouldn't expect to find in an FPS, such as the katana-wielding Rath and the "unhinged chaos witch" Orendi. Both of them were on my team of five, and the fact that I remember their names in spite of not actually controlling them should tell you a lot about how immersive the game is and how compelling the heroes are. And even my seemingly boring soldier had an invisibility cloak and the capability to call in an air strike.
The controls of Battleborn are supremely well designed. I played it on the Xbox One and very quickly learned all the ways in which my hero could assert his status as a badass. By comparison, there have been games here at Gamescom that were basically unplayable for anyone without a full training manual. Battleborn is just logical and intuitive, and everything you do is beautifully and brightly animated, giving useful visual cues to keep you going without stumbling (too much). The accessibility of this game is hugely important, since the whole premise here is to have unthinking, maniacal fun.
Battleborn splices genres in a refreshing, deeply satisfying way
When I first heard that Battleborn would include MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) elements, I was immediately skeptical about how they would be integrated. First of all, traditional MOBAs like League of Legends and Dota 2 just don't work on consoles, which is mostly down to their need for a full keyboard and mouse. These are not gamepad-friendly games, and their strategic upgrades through the course of a match don't mesh easily with the frenetic pace of a game like Borderlands (which is the foundation upon which Battleborn is built). But Gearbox Software, the makers of Battleborn, have quashed those reservations completely. They've created a gradual hero augmentation system that's very similar to the way you level up a MOBA hero, and they've made the upgrade choices extremely quick and easy. I was able to upgrade Oscar Mike's agility in less time than it took him to reload.
Perhaps I should have expected this. I have spent many countless hours inside both Borderlands and Dota 2, so the combination of their best aspects into an immediate, delightful, team-based shooter seems like it would obviously find favor with me. But pulling that premise off successfully is so much trickier than it sounds, and it's the thing that's keeping me buzzing with excitement about this new game. Battleborn will have both the single-player, narrative-driven (mis)adventures of Borderlands and the team-based deathmatches that make Dota so hopelessly addictive. My experience with fellow Gamescom attendees showed many of the cooperative joys of Battleborn — such as reviving one teammate while another puts out covering fire behind us — but it didn't let us take on another team of humans.
The full roster of heroes and their abilities are among the details that are yet to be revealed about Battleborn. I'll be keeping close track of them and everything else about this game in the build-up to its release, which is scheduled for February 9th next year on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. If you love gaming, you'll be doing the same.