Concepts and mechanics: A casual approach to learning the game

This guide is mostly intended to help out people who don’t have much experience in this game yet or are trying to get into a new character. It covers a few things, new players can use to get a smoother start into the game.

I won’t hide the fact that I’m no professional in this game and I honestly treat PvP in this game as almost non existant unless I have people to play with, until some of the stuff is fixed that made me stop playing PvP last autumn. But I use the existing features in this game to try to get to a point where I don’t feel like a huge burden for a team and can play at least the occasional PvP game and have fun with it.

I decided to write this little “How to” to describe my way to get into this game, since I have the feeling that many people just think that the only way to learn it is the hard way by jumping into PvP and repeatedly get stomped into the ground. While I agree that at some point you can’t avoid going into PvP to improve your game and learn all the small little details to be successful, I also think that it is the wrong approach to a game - which should be something you play for fun - to do this only by playing a mode that can be a little frustrating at times.

Every game has two big parts you have to learn to improve your playstyles and these are

  • Concepts and game mechanics.

  • Tactics

My method only covers the first part of that. The whole idea behind it is that the game became much more fun for me personally when I got to a point where I could say for myself:

  • I know my characters: I know what they can do, I know where I’m expected to be in a game and I know what can’t be done while playing them. I’ve played around with many combinations of different skills and items until I found something that makes me personally happy and makes playing that character fun.

  • I know the gamemodes and maps (minus Face Off but I don’t see much danger to play that mode as PC player): I know where the buildables are and special features like thralls or elite bots, I know how the objectives work and what the general goal of a match is, I developed an intuition when the shards spawn and respawn, I found shortcuts, I don’t get that easily confused and flee into the enemy base instead of my own anymore when it gets a little tense, …

  • I found a playstyle for myself: Even those tiny things like the different skill casting types the game has, minimap options, button mappings, team colors, … can make a big difference and it is helpful to try out some different options here.

  • I can play with a team if the others also at least try to play with me: I learned to look after my teammates and learned how to make them aware of dangers during a game and coordinate with them. Communication and coordination are huge factors in this game, but both can happen even if you don’t talk to each other. When I was younger and played Volleyball in school or with friends, these two Cs were necessary too. During a match there wasn’t time to always talk to each other, everyone had to know their place and make split second decisions if they go to the ball or not without blocking or bumping into each other and not letting the enemy score. The small callouts we made basically are the pings in Battleborn. A hive mind where everyone knows their role can be a scary team both in sports and video games.

PvP tactics, of course, can’t be learned in a casual way, but these are only small little details you can work on later and I find there are many things you can do first to get a better and smoother start into the game. I’ve looked through the available guides on reddit and the forum and most of them seem to be quite out of date. Some things I mention can be found in those too, but there are some new additions to the game that extend the possibilities for training and should get a little spotlight here.

The basic concepts of this game can - in my opinion - be learned best in a relaxed environment that lets you explore the game a little. Going straight into the real PvP can be a very overwhelming experience and it is very hard to even find and notice the mistakes you made when you are struggling with characters, gamemodes, maps and tactics all at once (it’s obviously not impossible, but I’ve met quite a few people who could use a slower approach). There’s a huge danger to get pushed into your own spawn during a match in PvP and have no way to escape that. The learning effect of those matches is very small and most people don’t know what they did wrong there.

I’ve seen many people in this game who

  • didn’t know that you can’t damage the turrets directly in front of the enemy base in Meltdown. I had to tell some players this secret after they had died to them for the tenth time in a row while trying to destroy them.

  • have no plan what the maps look like and they couldn’t navigate them, e.g. they fled with low health right into the enemy base instead of their own and were killed by the sentry.

  • had no idea what characters can do, how they work and in which distance to enemies you should be. I admit that some things may not be that obvious when it is locked behind a mutation (and I found it quite funny when people called me a cheater after one match shortly after release, because “Ambra is a melee class and can’t shoot!”), but I’ve seen people who even were surprised by things that are just secondary attacks of characters like Deande’s fan throw. Things like misinterpreting Toby and El Dragon as tanks because of their visuals can make at least 4 other people very frustrated in a PvP game.

  • had no idea what the game has to offer in general (e.g., some people didn’t even know textchat on PC existed and only typed via steam direct messages).

I’m quite blunt here now: This game’s matchmaking is basically the definition of Elo hell. New players or people with very little PvP-experience are very easily overwhelmed by all the things that happen in a match and it doesn’t help that the game tries to get you into a team with people in your skill range to pit you against much higher skilled or much lower skilled teams most of the time. Especially on PC the games usually just jump between very stressful and cakewalk - there’s next to no middle ground (and I have talked to people who are more active in PvP to get some confirmation on that). People who played the game since release had a much easier time to get into the game when the playing field was more even (it was never perfect but there were times when it was much better than today) and most of them also were around before the current meta established and sometimes even helped forming it. Newer players and people with less experience in this game can have a very rough time.

There is much to learn in this game and I personally had to find a way for me to break it down into small baby steps to get a little more familiar with the PvP part of this game again after I stopped playing it for some months. Things like the Dojo and Bots Battle had been very welcome additions to that system for me.

Training doesn’t have to be a challenge, it can be done in a more relaxed atmosphere and in most other areas where training is needed this is also the case:

  • If you are training for martial arts you don’t do that by going into fights with other people right away. You have a sparring partner who just stands there and allows you to learn basic combat techniques or you learn how to block or how to fall without breaking your bones.

  • Technical training in tennis or table tennis is often done against machines that don’t move and serve you the ball in a very predictable way.

  • Combo training in fighting games is mostly done by fighting enemies with no AI who only stand there and tank hits. No one expects to go into an online match and then consistently can do a 75% damage combo as against those lobotomites but you need to play those matches to work on getting those button sequences into your muscle memory.

  • Chess players train by playing against themself. They don’t just cheat by playing one side more dumb than the other to achieve a fast win.

  • And more.

Training is always what you personally make out of it. This applies to any game and any area where training is needed.

#The Characters

Battleborn has 30 characters with varying playstyles. I often see people claiming that the game doesn’t explain any character and people tell stories like “I didn’t even know that Miko has a healing beam until I was command rank 50”, “The game doesn’t explain any character other than Mellka”, …

That’s not really true. The first thing I did when I booted this game up during the open beta was looking through all the menus. That’s when I found the character pages in the command menu. The information you find there isn’t as detailed as I’d like them to be, but something you can work with (a much more detailed version, suitable for number crunchers can be found here - I can only recommend going there!). It’s still a way to get information about the skills of the characters and to take a look into their helix.

My general recommendation is always to study this and then pick some character who just looks the most fun (I even recommend this in fighting games which can even have worse balancing problems and a stricter meta). Any game with different characters is more fun if you play as a character you want to play as instead of the character “the meta” dictates you to play as.

Read the description of the skills and helix options carefully and try to get a feeling what the role of the character could be. Some characters don’t look like what they are, e.g., even if Toby is sitting in a very tanky looking machine, he’s still a character who should not get in close combat with enemies all the time.

Try to find a build for your character (I recommend creating your own builds instead of looking them up somewhere). It won’t be perfect at first and it will change when you find some options that look good on paper but are kind of bad in a game and while levelling up that character you will unlock mutations later that may be a better option on some levels.

If you can’t memorize the build you came up with, maybe write it down: I still have a post-it with “Alani: R-R-R-M-R-R-L-R-L-L” on my monitor because that’s something I’m trying out lately and I don’t always want to read the descriptions again in a game. :slight_smile:

If you already have earned some gear, look what you have and try to find items that may work as an addition for the build you’re using (e.g., you have interest in trying out Calculated Risk and have items that increase shield strength and skill damage).

#The Dojo

One of the newer additions to the game (found in Training). It doesn’t really have much gameplay but it is a very nice arena to test out a build and to some degree items. You will level up over time and start already at level 5.

Try out your planned build here. When I was looking at the characters, I often found some skills with a description I didn’t quite understand (english is only my second language, but I prefer to play games with the original voice acting - unless it’s a language I don’t understand). Sometimes you have to try them out how they work. The Dojo is a quick and easy way to reach even the highest level of a character quite fast and experiment with some things that augment a skill or add different options to your character (e.g., Kleese’s buttslam, Thorn’s quick melee augmentation, Deande’s Ground Zero, …). It will not teach you if those options are viable in a PvE or PvP situation, but you can try them out and can try out how picking an option like that will change the playstyle for a character.

I also recommend this as a way to test different button mappings, skill casting types, etc.

Just play around with a few different options until you found something that makes you happy. :slight_smile:

#Play the game - just for fun

This is a very controversial point, but it’s one I feel like is worth mentioning. Video games always should be primarily one thing: Fun.

But fun is a very subjective thing and everyone has to decide what it is for them personally.

I have some days when I just want to shut down my brain and relax a little by playing a game when the day had been stressful enough already. Competitive gameplay is not really the thing I’m looking for in this case. These are the days when I’m playing

  • Bots Battle

  • PvE

just for fun. These are the days when I’m just goofing around with the game and can’t take anything too serious. I’m trying to help people finish lore challenges, I’m trying to get some silly teamcompositions together, I want to chat with others and I don’t care about anything really.

Why do I mention that in a post about training? Playing a game is practice, no matter if you are trying your best or just horse around.

I’ve played table tennis competitively for years (until our sports club decided to not fund our group anymore because they became megalomaniac and wasted every money they had for the football (aka soccer) team) and we started and ended every training session we had by playing a few rounds of a very casual game (I have no idea how it’s called in english, but we call it “Rundlauf” in german …):

  • Everyone attending the training gathers around one table and queues up (half on one side, half on the other side).

  • First in queue on either side of the table has to play the ball.

  • When you’ve hit the ball you have to run to the end of the queue on the other side of the table.

  • When you make a mistake you’re out.

  • This goes on until only two players are left over. They play a complete set then to decide the winner of the round.

Basically: Last man standing.

These were just fun games and didn’t prepare anyone for tournament play, but every person in our team just loved doing those. They were a tradition for us and even if the training already took longer as expected (at the start of a new season this happened very often), no one left training before we played at least two or three games of that. These games were fun and held our group together - young and old, male and female. Focused training and tournament rule games was in between this casual part of the evening. You still could learn something from those matches even if the only thing you were practicing was to get into position quickly again and not block others or be blocked by others.

In my opinion, breaks like this are necessary. A too competitive environment all the time creates frustration. Battleborn has breaks like these already included in the form of Bots Battle and PvE and these are even more valuable than my sports example above:

  • Just playing the game will give you credits (for additional bank slots, loadouts or loot packs), loot and you will unlock mutations for the characters you play. This is a quite important thing.
  • You will get a feeling how your characters react in a more dynamic environment than the Dojo. No levelling over time anymore and enemies that won’t only run from point A to point B. Get familiar with travel speed of bullets, casting range and area of effect of skills, …
  • When playing in the public modes and you run into some people you enjoy playing with: Ask them to group up with you. Try to get some friends. This game is so much more fun if you can play it with people you know already.

Some people don’t see the appeal in this, because it isn’t challenging. I see it as a way to get familiar with characters and get in contact with other people and I’ve had a very fun time doing that.

I also recommend looking into the lore pages of characters and find things you can do in PvE or Bots Battle. As officially stated, these challenges are meant as some kind of tutorials for the different characters. Do them in a tutorial friendly environment. There’s nothing more frustrating than having people on your team who do e.g., Deande’s “escape on low health” challenge, Toby’s double kill, etc. in public PvP when a match can already be lost because of something stupid like people picking the most unfitting character or doing stupid stuff just because of lore reasons. No one really cares if you do those in Bots Battle. And if people call me a cheater for that: I don’t really care, because at least I know that I didn’t intentionally throw a match and ruin the experience for 4 other people on my team by not doing them in PvP.

#Focused training in private and public bot matches

Now we come to the training part of the game. This is the part that takes a little self-discipline and you have to focus on your gameplay and what you want to practice. There are basically two options to consider. The first one is Bots Battle again.

In this mode you can practice playing with a team. More so it is the only viable non-PvP method to get some training as support character since you need real people on your team for that. Give yourself some challenges in this mode and practice how to

  • keep your teammates alive as healer no matter how bad their game is.

  • learn to always know what the other people on your team are doing. One of the biggest things in this game is to play as a team and a team looks after each other.

  • learn methods to draw the attention towards incoming danger or how to mark targets you’d like to see focused (e.g., when you are going to stun them in a bit).

  • Learn where you are expected in a game: Are you a frontline tank? A support that should stay a few steps behind its personal meat shield? A Sniper? Someone who can flank the enemy to get rid of an annoying pocket healer? …

Basically you can learn the big two things: Coordination and communication. You won’t master those by only playing Bots, but you can get to a point where you have some basic intuition already and by playing the real PvP you can work on how far you can really push in a game (spoiler: it’s much shorter than against bots).

I’ve played a PvP game not long ago where the enemy Galilea repeatedly tried to solo an Attikus with his personal Miko and Alani behind his back. She’s strong, but not that strong. Even Bots will teach you the lesson that this doesn’t work, but you have to find and recognize these mistakes and learn from them for yourself. Don’t just farm kills from Bots, this is useless and doesn’t help you to improve your game. Try to play a good game, play the objectives and learn the gamemodes. Also try to learn gameplay mechanics e.g., when will shards spawn, when can I leave my team to get shards, where are the buildables, what items can I take into a game and consistently activate (no matter how short it will be), how does level and match progress influence respawn timers, which additional buildables are available when the first enemy sentry goes down, …

There are many things to explore in this game and Bots Battle allows you to do this exploration in a slower pace than any PvP game you will find.

If you are familiar enough with the game to know some basic concepts you can try to simulate a very bad game with the most uncooperative teammates you can imagine. You can play with bots (Versus private, classic modes) and to make it even worse you play an unbalanced game (put a full team of 5 bots on the enemy team and less bots on your team). I personally like playing 3v5s here.

Don’t exploit AI behaviour or gameplay mechanics e.g., don’t make life for yourself much easier if you let the enemy team kill your first sentry and then roflstomp them while their respawn timers are longer. Don’t do that. Shoot for a win with maximal score. Try to play your best game and increase your personal single player performance.

This won’t be easy, but I found this a very nice way to really learn not to panic in a game. Learn how to push minions in Incursion, learn how to pay attention to both lanes at once in Meltdown (and switch lanes depending on where you are needed most) and learn how to play with people who just don’t pay attention to anything. Every death of you will hurt both your match (when your allies won’t defend the sentry that is under heavy fire) and your sanity (because you have to watch them both die while fighting the back thrall instead). Sadly this will happen in PvP too, but learn in those matches to not get too frustrated by that.

Playing those private games helped me a lot to understand the gamemodes, learn how to play objectives and learn how luxurious my loadouts can look like if I have to take care of multiple things at once, all of the time. I like playing those games for the learning experience and also because I find them fun.

#What’s next?

If you went through all of that above you should have learned the theory of this game. You know the concepts how the game works and all you’re missing now is experience in this game and tactics. I will admit that this is basically the point where I have to further improve on too. :wink:

There’s no shortcut or casual way to get experience and learn tactics. These can only be learned by playing against other people. That’s sadly also the point where you have to take a closer look at the meta and may find your favourite character be considered worthless or OP. :frowning:

If you have friends who play this game, maybe start out with private matches against them (even 1v1s can be much fun - no matter if with bots on both teams or without bots) and slowly go into public matches with them. You still will be crushed very often, but you will probably notice much easier now why this had happened. You notice when you make mistakes like overextending and you can try to improve your game further.

Basically: Trial and error. Don’t give up instantly if something doesn’t work first try. Find your mistakes and find ways to avoid them. This can also be done again in Bot matches by trying to find another playstyle which avoids the thing you recognized as infeasible tactic in PvP.

Games will be much less frustrating when you only have to work on your PvP tactics and not on the whole game at once and even a loss can sometimes make you proud of yourself if you feel like you played a good game in this match but the other team was just better.

In conclusion: Playing PvE, Bots Battle and private PvP games helped me personally to understand the game much better and this also caused the PvP to be more fun for me even if I rarely play it (but I try to change that and become a little more active again). I have the itch again that I want to play PvP more often and Bots Battle was a huge factor for that since it has allowed me to catch up again a little bit.


Unless you are a BAMF with him, like yours truly! Seriously though, i’m pretty sure Toby has the most “this character is garbage” threads here on the forums, created by people who picked him up with zero knowedge of how to play him… :expressionless:

Also, a very in-depth, helpful guide for beginners! Well done!


Thank you. :slight_smile:

I like Toby as a character, but he’s not easy to play and his appearance is a little deceiving. Reading character descriptions is something that helps to find his spot though, but who reads manuals nowadays. :wink:


No, he most definitely is not… I believe there are only 3 or 4 true Toby mains who are well known to BE Toby mains…

As to his appearance, i know to what you are referring, but instead choose to take it’s meaning as “Toby looks cute, but is a terrifying bird of prey!”; and i thank you for it!

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Also one thing I would say helped me to stick with the game past the early grind part is finding a character I liked. This is only for PvE but can still apply for learning the basics of the game in any mode. There are a wide range of characters with different personalities and playstyles. Some characters are fun but play much differently than others. Like Benedict has to be my favorite personality but he flys so takes some getting used to if you are not familiar with him. I always like playing support and I think it helps to learn the game if you can stay back and heal your attacker heroes while playing a more support role. Just make sure the team foes have some offensive heroes or it’s game over.

Try to play missions that don’t require defending objectives. As I found a lot of times they end early because nobody defending the objective. Saboteur and experiment come to mind as ones to try and avoid early if possible.

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So much this. :slight_smile:

A game is much more fun if you can play someone you want to play and not feel like you have to pick someone specific. I’d try to find someone for each role though. This gives you the option to pick a character that fits into your team (even in PvE). :slight_smile:

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Yes sadly this was tough originally with the level lock behind many of the cooler characters. But now I think they are all available so just play around and see which one is the most fun. It’s not even about playstyles but more about personality for me. I was willing to put in the time to learn Benedict for example once I found out how cool he was. It’s all about the character lines and dialogue. Orendi comes to mind as well as one that is Bat■■■■ crazy and if you like that kind of off the wall humor she might be for you.

Honestly, I enjoyed my rush to Deande when I started. :wink:

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