Gearbox Tackles a New IP With the Character-Driven Battleborn

John Keefer | 17 Sep 2014 08:00
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battleborn screenshot - campaign the varelsi arrive

Not everyone will hit max level during the 20-30 minute missions, as leveling depends on a player's play-style, but players should be able to hit at least level 7, which will unlock an ultimate ability for their character. And then, when the mission is complete, player abilities will reset to level 1. allowing the character to make different choices as they level not only only for experimentation, but also to adapt to the needs of the mission. Each mission will have a five-man team to accomplish the objectives, but there is no restrictions. There could be five Oscar Mikes if players decided that's what they wanted.

"The Battleborn system allows the benefit to playing different characters or trying different specs without having to respec," said Gearbox Creative Director Randy Varnell. "More freedom allows more character exploration and experimentation."

While characters will reset after each mission, Gearbox is also working on some meta details that would persist in a players account, similar to Badass rank in Borderlands 2. The concept is that the longer you play, there will be more player profile growth to earn things over time. The goal is to reward players for putting a lot of time into the game, but not keep them from playing with friends who may not be a high level or have as much time invested in the game.

Gearbox also wants to give players an incentive to try new characters, another reason they are looking at player profile style of perks that can be applied to all characters in their Battlebarn (yeah, they went there, although that is more of a joke term than anything official). While loot was at the core of Borderlands, it will probably be more of an account perk than anything if they choose to implement it.

battleborn screenshot - campaign rath ambush

One thing that did come through in the non-hands-on demo was the trademark Gearbox humor in the interaction between the various characters. Designer John Mulkey said that each character has 500-700 lines of "battle chatter," which includes interactions between the characters, faction call-outs or just quippy one-liners meant to lighten the mood. "Humor is part of Gearbox's DNA," Mulkey said. "The characters use humor as a coping mechanism, since they are all fighting to save their race from dying."

While coop was the primary focus of the event, Gearbox had previously revealed that competitive multiplayer will also be part of the game with various 5v5 modes. Only Incursion mode was briefly discussed, but more modes are expected to be revealed down the road.

Other tidbits picked up from our time with the team:

  • Each player will be part of one of five factions: The Peacekeepers, who are the protectors of Solus; Rogues, which are a motley band of misfits and mercenaries; The Jennerit, who value power above all else; The Eldrid, who are out to preserve the natural order of the universe; and the LLC, profiteers who look down on all who have less than they do.
  • When a player dies, they will respawn, but Gearbox is toying with the idea of only a limited number of respawns for the team so that players can't die indefinitely and will force players to play a bit more carefully.
  • Gearbox would love for Battleborn to become an e-Sports game, as it has been awhile since they have done anything in the competitive multiplayer space. Characters continue to be balanced so that one will not always be an obvious choice over another.
  • The team has development hardware for Morpheus and Oculus Rift in house. There are no plans for that officially yet, but they are open to the possibility if "commercially viable."
  • Missions will take place at various locales on three different planets: Ekkunar, Tempest (think cyber-Castlevania), and one that has yet to be announced.
  • Many characters have hefty AoE abilities. Gearbox has been going back and forth on whether players will be affected by friendly fire, but nothing is official as of yet.
  • The game will have a retail release and not be free-to-play. DLC is a possibility, but nothing definitive has been laid out.
  • Some characters will play better with a mouse and keyboard, while others are more precise with a controller, so PC players and console players should be happy.

The game is still very early in development, and it was difficult to get a sense for how the game played without hands-on time, but Pitchford said that the game represents Gearbox's most ambitious project to date. In concept, and watching the devs play, it appears Battleborn could be a fast-paced thrill ride meshing a few different genres. Hopefully we can find out for certain in the coming months.

Battleborn will be coming to PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime in 2015.

Disclosure(s): Strauss Zelnick, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., is the head of ZelnickMedia, an investor in both Take-Two and Defy Media, LLC, our parent company. This article was published without approval or consent of ZelnickMedia or Take-Two.
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