The ‘Battleborn’ Open Beta Feels A Bit Too Familiar

Battleborn is officially out in the wild, at least in beta form. PS4 users get first crack this weekend, and it opens up to Xbox One and PC owners next Wednesday. So what’s it like, for those at work and those without a PS4? Like Borderlands! In fact, almost too much like Borderlands!

The aesthetic is different and cartoonier, but on our solo playthrough of the first mission, thanks to the unsurprising server troubles, using the all-around useful character Oscar Mike, it was pretty much Borderlands. It plays almost exactly the same, although there are a few changes towards the retro such as temporary power-ups and a respawn limit. If you’re not revived by a buddy, you’ll have to burn through your counter, making solo games a bit intense. But otherwise it’s Gearbox’s classic shooter franchise, right down to the green lights on chests and the excessively cheerful AI out to wipe the entire human race from the face of the Earth. It even reuses the map markers and the basic HUD of Borderlands.

There are some fun innovations; the leveling system, for example, lets you pull up the menu on the fly and pick a new skill, especially useful because if anything the pace is more frantic. The gameplay borrows a few cues from MOBAs and other arena shooters, like enemy teleporters, sidekick drones you can buy, and an absolute riot of characters, and almost becomes an FPS bullet hell in places. But in the end, you’re chewing through shields and health bars, reloading, popping crystals to open up new areas, and doing it all again. It’s fun in the playing, but you have to ask what this brings to the table, especially as Gearbox and Blizzard will be going up against each other next month.

Is it fun? Undeniably. And once the multiplayer versus servers are fully operational, that should be an interesting play experience. But as it stands, while more Borderlands is no bad thing, one hopes Gearbox has more than just this up its sleeve at launch.