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Battleborn Preview: Putting The Smile Back Into Video Games

Tough day? This should sort you out...

18/04/2016 17:51

In case you haven't heard about it, Battleborn (like Destiny, The Division and even Rocket League) is part of a glorious new family of social games that encourage us to make new friends or drag along current ones and play video games together.

It's a terrifying concept we know but it's one that's catching on, grabbing even the attention of people who wouldn't normally call themselves 'gamers'.

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Friends who would never have normally considered themselves gamers now can't wait for the lonesome-but-cinematic Uncharted 4, while others have joined the hordes of us that currently play online.

So many of these games however are missing one key element: a sense of humour.

Don't get us wrong, Destiny finally became funny late last year with an expansion called the Taken King but honestly, if you look at the line-up of blockbuster games thus far there's a lot of scowling.

Hitman, The Division and Quantum Break are all excellent but they're about as infused with joy as a vegan honey badger.

Enter stage left Battleborn, a game so silly, so raucously ludicrous that an 'Attack Owl' is perfectly normal and socially deranged robot butlers are commonplace.

It is then, glorious.

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The game's premise is simple: The last heroes of the universe have teamed up to prevent an pantomime villain from destroying the last star left. Simple, easy to get on board with and mostly secondary to the real stars: the characters themselves.

There are 25 completely unique characters, all with different fighting styles and all with different abilities.

These characters effectively make Battleborn, they are so inventive and so utterly unique that you'll spend days perfecting each one.

Take Toby for example: He's an adorably cute and tiny penguin who was initially rejected from the Battleborn for being cute and tiny. He then managed to gain entry into the hero squad by building a small army of hideous death robots, one of which he now lives inside.

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Or there's Shayne & Aurox - a 16-year old teenager who happens to have an all-powerful demonic genie sitting on her shoulders. They're particularly fun to play not least because Aurox is permanently miffed at the fact that rather than consuming whole galaxies he's now stuck doing the bidding of a deranged teenager. He complains a lot.

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Then there's Marquis, our personal favourite. Originally a robot butler for a lady of high stature, Marquis underwent a minor personality adjustment following a catastrophic software failure and is now a hyper intelligent sociopath. With a beautifully ornate sniper rifle and the ability to summon robotic clockwork attack owls he's madder than a teapot at the Mad Hatter's tea party.

These characters are the life and soul of this game and thankfully Gearbox (the game's developer) have made sure the writing is up to scratch. The script is self-deprecating, absurdist and always fun.

This is quality writing, and frankly you'd expect nothing less from the studio that made another comical masterpiece in the form of Borderlands.

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So what is it actually like to play? Well there are, roughly speaking, two halves to Battleborn. The first is an online co-op focused storyline in which you play against the game's AI, and the second is a series of multiplayer game types which allow you to play against other human beings.

The storyline is a great way to get a feel for the game and the characters, it's also extremely funny. The multiplayer however is where you'll end up spending most of your time.

There are a range of game modes available but we spent the large part of our time playing something called 'Incursion'.

The premise of it is simple: Each side has a giant turret and a base, your job is to destroy the other team's before they destroy yours.

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Helping each side are a selection of constantly spawning minions which are controlled by the game. They're weak but vital if you want to push through and get into enemy territory.

Your job is to not only eliminate enemy players but also to help support the minions as they cross through the game map and head towards the enemy base.

You have a number of ways to do this from fighting up close or building a network of turrets and defensive stations on pads dotted around the map. 

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As you play through each game your character is given upgrades, presented in the form of two possible options. This is then reset at the end of the game allowing you to tailor your special powers dependent on how the game is going.

What makes the game so fun to play is that while this all sounds quite complex it's actually devilishly simple. The challenge is in working together to swing the balance, making sure you're making the most of your character's strengths and weaknesses and above all, not dying.

Not dying is really quite key here because each time you die, it takes longer and longer for you to come back to life. That's right. Whatever you do, don't die.

So there you have it, our short but sweet time with Battleborn is now at an end but what it has done is remind us that while video games are definitely growing up, that doesn't mean they can't be fun.

Like Worms before it here is a video game that knows you've had a bad day and just wants to make you laugh.

Who should play Battleborn?

If you love online games and feel like the current crop need to lighten the hell up then Battleborn is perfection. It's addictive as hell, easy to master and above all else, fun. Think of it as you would FIFA. It's the perfect game to come home to, play a couple of rounds with and then happily log off again, safe in the knowledge that it was the most surreal thing you've done that day.

Who shouldn't play Battleborn?

People who don't enjoy smiling. Also people who like playing serious solo story-driven games like The Last of Us, Batman or Uncharted. Battleborn is rooted deeply in the idea of playing either with or against other human beings so if that's not your cup of tea then we'd hold off.

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