After sinking a good amount of time in the PvE segment of Battleborn, in overall the content is neither terrible nor great, for me, it’s simply just alright for the most part. As a gamer, I’ve always loved playing campaigns or story mode, having done so ever since the first Borderlands to the Pre-Sequel. Think of the following as a side-review of sorts. I’ll talking about each campaign in order. Just be warned this will be quite a long read.
THIS! Is how you kick off an introduction to the game and it’s setting. The tone of the animation speaks of the dark yet wacky Saturday cartoon feel of the world. In this we, playing as Melka, are given a light tutorial and introduced to characters crucial to the storyline. One of the highlights, for me, is the banter between Melka and Deande. Gameplay is simple, a linear wade through enemy minions and a staple end boss, a blade-wielding sentry bot. It is simple yet effective means of getting a grip of the controls and the setting.
The first mission is a classic raid, similar to the likes of an MMO. It is a battle through scores of minions, 3 mini-bosses, and the obligatory giant end boss with weak points. It has a good pace, and each boss offers a good mixture of different battles. While there’s much amusement to be gotten from Geoff (our first non-Jennerit sentry bot), I find it lacking in the exchange between Isic and Kleese, which is pale in comparison to the prologue. Other than that minor flaw, it is an enjoyable run.
The Void’s Edge
Here we are given an interesting mix between a raid and an escort mission. The mission has 2 bosses spaced between the said escort, which is an ally sentry bot, Wolf. As like the first mission the pacing is good, but it is here where the writing department starts to slip off. Angry words from Rendain, Kleese yelling at Wolf, nothing interesting. The saving grace to this however is the very first engagement against the Varelsi, the variant enemy types they have, and the awesome raid fight against the Conservator which emphasizes on keeping mobile.
Now we are introduced to another game type, a FPS tower defense of sorts. The outcome of this mission hangs on the selection of Battleborn, their loadouts, the towers, and player coordination. The fact that failing a mission means restarting from the very beginning is a cause for frustration for the unprepared. I give praise for the attempt to give a different game mechanic, however execution wise, there’s much to be desired. The concept of FPS Tower defense is not bad itself, just take a look at the indie games Sanctum 1 and 2 and you’ll get a far better example.
And as for the story, it’s just a rescue mission. There’s a great opportunity lost here. Considering Calderius’ gladiatorial background, why not have the mission take place in a giant colosseum. And rather than a jailor, why not have an evil lord of the arenas as the antagonist. Instead of tower defense, we could have a horde mode against different enemies, even against predatory wildlife. In between waves there could be bosses, and a virtual change of environment. If the ancient Romans could stage naval battles, surely it is a feat easily accomplished by an evil space empire. The entire mission could have taken place in the arenas and provide more insight to Calderius the former gladiator and the Empire.
The transition from a winter plant to a forest plant is very refreshing and the artwork here is superb. But aside from that however, the events and game play taking place is sadly dull. Here we have another escort mission, where we escort another sentry bot, aptly named Chronicle. The escort here feels like it was just lifted from Void’s Edge and planted to pack in content, not only once but twice. In addition to that, we have a minion escort segment, which seems like a mini-tutorial for the meltdown mode. Compared, again, to Void’s Edge, the end boss in a step down in terms of the battle scenario.
For something that is as gravely important as the Eldrid Codex, the chores in the mission and the writing, makes it feel like there’s no urgency despite the predicament presented. I feel that a giant talking tree would be more entertaining than yet another sentry bot. If they wanted to emulate Meldown further, little codex-transferring wisps need to be guided into the waiting mouth of said talking tree.
It appears that this is also meant to be a raid mission. But having The Algorithm before, it feels like a downgrade of what could have been a great alternate option for a raid. The Guardian mini-bosses used here are simplified versions of the Galactic Emperor, both having uninteresting combat scenarios and exactly identical. And all the build up to the purported “superweapon”, awards us just an enlarged copy paste of the mini-bosses with a regeneration phase thrown in to make it appear different. This only thing fresh was the environmental traps, but they were still rather underwhelming.
Gosh, it would have been fun if the Sentinel was a being so colossal that the Battleborn have to take a trip into its innards to destroy its core. And obstructing the way to the core could elemental spirits of Eldrid wildlife.
The second tower defense of the campaign, and the story by then just falls flat. Since in the Archive there is an instance where a PvP mechanic is featured, why not have this one have the Capture mode. It could be a tag and pull situation between the Battleborn and Rendain’s forces where Boldur’s experiment needs to be powered by captured points.
It is simply a harder version of the Renegade. It’s disappointing to find that three of the eight missions are watered-down tower defense. Not much to say here, but they could have taken a page from the Claptastic Voyage dlc in Borderlands the Pre-sequel. What if the only way to sabotage the Tempest is to enter a virtual realm of the mainframe’s demented AI? Or the mission could function like a heist in the Payday games.
Two-thirds of this mission is taken up by wave elimination pressured on by a countdown. The final segment is a classic showdown against the big bad in the form of a boss rush. Unfortunately half of the thrall and Varelsi bosses are basic and dull. It’s cool to finally fight against Rendain but the battle scenario itself is rather uninspired. While fun in an alternate mode, the boss rush just feels like it is a filler for a lack of variety on Rendain’s part. Despite having experiences from three Borderlands games, the end boss fight, while admittedly adrenaline-pumping, was less than stellar. I personally would have liked to see a battle against just Rendain with a few phases.
As a note to end this, I’d like to throw out a couple of ideas. I frankly wouldn’t mind another take at having a sci-fi and fantasy mash-up like in the vein of Borderlands 2 Tiny Tina’s Assault On Dragon Keep. Perhaps the Varelsi invasion has cause an anomaly on a planet causing it to be ruled by a maniacal sorcerer. I mean how could this wacky game not have space dragons?
Another source of material that I notice that Gearbox has yet to tap into (or make parodies of) is the fiction of HP Lovecraft. Suppose if the mysterious power behind the Varelsi have rivals in the form of ancient entities, and that they’re none too happy that the Varelsi is taking a large pie in the universe ending business. There can be an Incursion style mission where the Battleborn have to shut down a portal disgorging a vanguard of other invading horrors. Surely we can’t go wrong having a gun-toting Cthulhu as a boss.
TL;DR - The campaign could have been better. Too many defense missions.