The beta has been and gone, but was it any fun?

I haven’t played many MOBAs before. Between the prospect of children screaming abuse down their microphones at me, incompetent teammates who can’t follow basic instructions to quite literally save their digital lives, and a life plagued by crappy internet connections, online gaming is rarely more than a fleeting indulgence for me. Give me a solid single player experience and a room devoid of bile-spewing pre-pubescent brats and I’ll be a very happy gamer. It’s perhaps surprising, then, that I’ve found myself quite enjoying the open beta for

It’s perhaps surprising, then, that I’ve found myself quite enjoying the open beta for Battleborn, the new first-person MOBA-esque game from Borderlands developer Gearbox.

Let’s start with the basics. Battleborn is set around the last star in the universe. Every other star has died out and every remaining species has now fled to a planet known as Solus, which orbits the last remaining gas giant. These species, who are divided into different factions, come together and send out their best fighters to take on the Varelsi, mysterious enemies who are said to be the cause of the other suns’ demise.

Firefight With Friends

Players can fight alone or alongside friends in split-screen local co-op or online with up to five other players. No less than 25 characters will be available at launch, with Gearbox Software hoping to add more at a later time.

Two gameplay modes were available in the Battleborn beta – story mode (which features two levels for you to try out) and competitive multiplayer. Both modes are played out with other players and both can be set to private matches so you can opt to play with people you know.

The game has been designed to be a fun competitive multiplayer experience and, for the most part, it definitely succeeded in keeping me entertained. It’s got the same colourful brashness, out-there comedy and violent charm that the Borderlands series has always done so well.

Battleborn combat

So many colours. So much death.

It’s hard to tell what the story is going to be like at this stage – throughout the Battleborn beta it felt like little more than a way of stringing levels together – but the wit and humour of the game’s script are its real selling point. In one mission you’re joined by an AI sentry whose job is to close a reality-warping portal by jumping into it and self-destructing, only he doesn’t quite know it – he’s been programmed to not think about his own mortality and doesn’t understand that he won’t be coming back. At one point it cheerily asks what everyone’s doing after the mission and suggests going for drinks, while another time it responds to the suggestion that it won’t be needed tomorrow by assuming that means it’ll be getting time off for completing the mission. As I type it out it sounds sad, dark, almost tragic, but in the context of the game’s ongoing madness, it’s resoundingly funny.

So the trademark Gearbox humour is in place, but is it fun to play? Early impressions suggest that yes, it is. I took to the battlefield as Marquis, a robotic homicidal butler with a cane that doubles up as a sniper rifle and a bowler hat that contains a robotic owl called Hoodini who, when the hat is doffed, can be used to target enemies and fire lasers at them or explode in their faces. Marquis is best suited to long range sniping but he does have another ace up his sleeve that comes in handy during close range skirmishes – a temporal distortion attack that creates a dome of energy which slows down enemies stuck within it.

As you fight through the levels ratcheting up kills and points you’ll unlock upgrades that can be activated via skill trees. Each branch gives you two options, for example: do you want your temporal distortion attack to cover a wider area, or do you want it to last longer? You have to choose which attribute you want to boost. It can be done in seconds with a couple of button presses and is designed to be done on the fly as you blast your way through the level.

Get Born Again

There’s very much a sense that you’re making decisions there and then for short term gains and it obviously remains to be seen how this will play out and affect the long term game when the full version is released. The upgrades can certainly help make life easier for you and your fellow players if used properly, and that’s where the importance of effective comes into effect. As Marquis, I often found myself playing a support role of sorts, casting temporal distortion over groups of enemies and allowing the melee brawlers in my team to wade in and cut them down while they were slowed down.

Similarly, providing a sniping role from a slight distance allowed me to pick off enemies with well-timed headshots as they raced up behind the brawlers, who were so distracted with cutting a path through the enemies before them they hadn’t yet noticed the monstrosities planning to quite literally stab them in the back. As someone who hasn’t played a lot of MOBAs, I found it very accessible and much more satisfying than I’d expected, which surely bodes well for others like myself who may be interested in the concept but who are also uncertain about it.

So, the humour is there and it’s fun to play. And from the five or six hours I spent with it, the game was also remarkably bug-free– aside from one instance of player clipping, I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

It’s hard to make a proper judgement from such a small section of a game – that’s where reviews come in – but my early impressions of the game are positive and left me with a good feeling about where Battleborn is headed. Let’s hope the full game lives up to it.