The studio that nailed the co-operative first person shooter experience is starting fresh for the new console generation with a brand new franchise called Battleborn, that Gearbox is quick to explain is more than meets the eye.
Gearbox, developer of the popular Borderlands series, is calling Battleborn a ‘hero shooter,’ a term they’ve coined to recognize the heavy focus on its player-characters. Each of the character types in Battleborn (there are nine so far) seem to be inspired by League of Legends‘ own hero system, which is an ever-growing roster of characters that each have their own unique appearances and attributes.
It’s difficult to get more than a very general idea of what Battleborn is all about in the trailer with absolutely zero gameplay and an incredibly vague pre-rendered combat sequence, but what is certain is that the game will be highly stylized and colorful, and playing with friends is going to play a major part.
“Battleborn involves our heroes – called the battleborn, conveniently enough – teaming up to fight the Varelsi, an unstoppable menace trying to destroy the last star in a dying universe. You can play with up to four friends in our five-player cooperative campaign, or try out one of several different competitive multiplayer match types in games of up to 10 players.”
There are actually many similarities being drawn between Battleborn and MOBA (Multiplayer online battle arena) games like League of Legends, but Gearbox is pretty quick to reject the connection as too narrow a comparison, as they explain in an interview with Game Informer:
“I think there are some elements that could be recognized as [a MOBA] but… we drew in from fighting games, there’s first person shooter stuff in there, there’s heavy influence of RPGs because we’re drafting a lot off of some of the things we explored in Borderlands… So we’re drawing from lots of different reference points.”
Despite the one game mode of Battleborn that has been shown to journalists so far, which admittedly has been described as very MOBA-like, Gearbox also promises an engrossing co-op campaign for players that they hope can be immersive and welcoming for a very long time. This is apparently in response to the success of Borderlands 2 and its fanbase’s willingness to spend hundreds of hours on Pandora with their characters. While the studio says there’s a focus on second-to-second action and dense, combat heavy sequences, they also want a larger scale ‘meta-narrative’ to carry players through the planet and keep them invested in the characters and larger world.
Borderlands 2 was a major success for Gearbox, and while it did a fantastic job bridging co-op gameplay and a sprawling RPG narrative, it was somewhat of a slog to endure on your own. Battleborn looks like it will double down on the need to play with friends, so it’s not likely they’ll take many steps to implement a balance for solo campaign players. The way social gaming is leading the charge in the next few years they may not have to; it seems the days of adventuring in a massive world all alone may be coming to an end, but with the potential for exciting, emergent co-op on the horizon with games like Destiny, Evolve and The Division, that old concept might not be missed.
Battleborn is slated for release sometime in 2015, for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
Image: Gearbox Software