Battleborn pre-E3 2015 preview: born to be heroes

2K Games and Gearbox Software revealed more details on Battleborn last week, but Shacknews recently had the opportunity to go hands-on with their latest first-person shooter just head of E3 2015.


2K Games and Gearbox Software offered a mere taste of what their first-person hero shooter, Battleborn, would look like late last week. The last star of the universe, Solus, is in peril. A mysterious evil is seeking to snuff it out, as it has all of the other stars in the cosmos. That's where the game's 25 playable heroes come in.

While Battleborn will feature a number of competitive PvP modes, the game will mainly center around a 1-5 player Story Mode. Shacknews recently had a chance to try it out.

Only ten of Battleborn's characters were playable during this hands-on, those being the ones revealed last week. Each of these characters fill a distinct role, not unlike what one would find in a standard MMORPG or MOBA. There were tanks like Caladarius or Oscar Mike, while there were also support characters and offensive juggernauts. For me, I wanted something slightly different, which is why my first choice was Marquis, the sole sniper of the current group.

The session started by meeting Kleese, the team's elderly guide that leads the team via intercom. He provides some direction for each stage, but the easiest way to determine which way to go is by finding where the game's enemies are lurking. Enemies will pop in by the dozen, allowing team members to either work in tandem to take them out or use their individual abilities. Teammates will have to notify each other of certain points of interest, such as a particular foe that would spawn more lesser enemies if not dealt with.

Battleborn's style of first-person shooting, loot collecting, cooperative mayhem, and art direction may look familiar to some. It bears a striking resemblance to a certain other franchise under Gearbox's belt. And while that commonality is acnkowledged, Gearbox is going into Battleborn with a distinctly different goal in mind.

"Borderlands is a really neat mix that Gearbox did between shooters and RPGs," creative director Randy Varnell explained. "You take a character, you play them over many, many hours, you grow them up, you customize the way they play, you really tweak the gameplay to the way you like. Battleborn, we wanted to take that RPG loot and make it even faster, so you could experience the thrill of leveling up and customization a lot more often."

To that end, I got to check out the Helix System, which is Battleborn's most unique feature. Rather than build characters up over the long haul, every co-op mission and competitive game session will see characters start from scratch. Over the course of each session, characters will level up quickly, all the way up to 10. Whenever they level up, players will have the choice between two upgrades, which include passive and active skills. Think of it as a MOBA-style leveling system, but used in a shooter. This is an interesting idea, since it opens the door for experimentation and trying out various builds of the same character. Some situations may call for a certain set of skills, while other stages will call for others, so it's nice that characters aren't locked into any skills.

As the session progressed, the signature Gearbox humor was on full display. Later in the session, a giant wolf sentry would slowly carry a doomsday device on his back towards a target, with the wolf and Kleese arguing the whole way. In fact, with lines like "Knock, knock, fellas! I'm dumb as hell and thirsty for death!" delivered with a Patrick Warburton-like dopeyness, the wolf sentry actually wound up being the funniest character in the demo. Playable characters will likewise share their own banter over the course of the game.

As for my individual character, Marquis felt particularly sweet to play with, with sniper controls feeling sweet and simple. But his mechanical owl, Hoodini, was the most interesting element, as he could be used to attack enemies or otherwise provide support. Marquis could also support teammates with a variety of time spells, which could slow down any enemies affected. Hanging back and taking shots, while knowing when to activate time spells, was particularly important when bosses like the Varelsi Conservator, a massive shadow demon, appeared.

For those that don't want to waste too much time leveling up characters before going in with guns blazing, Battleborn appears to be a fine offering. As we learn more about the game, my main concern with the game is that because it centers around always starting with a clean slate, it makes the idea of loot hunting kind of unnecessary. But as it is, Battleborn is off to a good start and it'll hopefully stay on that path as it aims to release on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 this winter.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 12, 2015 5:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Battleborn pre-E3 2015 preview: born to be heroes

    • reply
      June 12, 2015 5:39 AM

      Wow, well that should win an E3 award for most annoying music in a trailer.

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        June 12, 2015 6:16 AM

        What are you talking about you heathen - Alt-J are an awesome band :P

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      June 12, 2015 5:58 AM

      I really don't know why, but I want this to be good.

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        June 12, 2015 9:40 AM

        It feels like a more hyperactive Borderlands. I think it's got potential.

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      June 12, 2015 7:59 PM

      I'm liking the way they're mixing up genres here, pushing things even further and giving Blizzard some competition right out of the gate with their Overwatch offering. Whoever wins this arms race, we win!

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