I tossed my battle axe across the map, all while bursting forward with my shield out in front and my four comrades giving covering fire from behind. This was just the first minute of Gearbox Software's Battleborn.
At X-15, Gearbox had a playable demo of one of their co-op campaign mode in Battleborn. Ten characters were available to choose, all vibrant and unique. I could immediately associate the "hero shooter" with Borderlands just through the personality on the character screen.
Seeing how this is a shooter, I did the logical thing and picked Boldur, an axe-wielding melee dwarf.
The goal of this campaign was to make it through an enemy compound, kill minions and eventually escort a tank. Now Gearbox has previously stated that they've taken inspiration from MOBAs like League of Legends and DOTA, so I wasn't sure what to expect.
Well, upon loading up it felt very familiar. Nothing like a MOBA at all. You play the game from a first-person perspective akin to what Gearbox veterans experienced in Borderlands.
The map was very atmospheric, ripe with colour and detail. Really no surprise if you've played any of Gearbox's past games -- minus Alien: Colonial Marines.
It wasn't long before we encountered our first set of foes... these black skull-like creatures that are part of the Varelsi, the game's villainous organization.
The first set of these creatures spawned in groups of five. They weren't particularly strong; definitely the fodder class on the minion appreciation scale. Soon after we ran into a more tankier class that sported a large rifle and a melee class minion that jumped around the battlefield.
It really took all five of us to deal with these creatures in the first leg of this compound. If you lose your HP, a teammate can pick you back up before you die. If for some reason you go unnoticed, you will respawn a short time later.
There are characters that can play a support role and lay out healing. Boldur was not one of those, so I can't speak too much on it. There are crates throughout the map that carry health balls[?] and additional armour.
Boldur was a lot of fun. I'm always skeptical when playing a melee-based character in a shooter-driven world, but it works. When you load into the game, you start at level one. This will be the case every time you play through a campaign act, or through the multiplayer PVP (which was not playable at X-15).
Right from the start Boldur had four abilities ready to go. The primary melee attack for Boldur is "runic axe" which deals a powerful blow to the enemy. Most of those smaller minions would go down with one hit from this attack.
"Boldurdash" let's Boldur leap forward into a crowd of enemies to deal damage and knock them back. This ended up being quite useful in the latter part of the game when swarms would start spawning. Boldur is also equipped with a shield that he can use to block incoming damage and regenerate health.
The last and most fun of these abilities was Boldur's "axe toss", which can travel through multiple enemies to deal damage. If you miss your toss the axe re-appears in Boldur's hands, but on a hit you have to run and retrieve it. Mixing axe toss with boldurdash proved to be a very fun and effective combination.
There is a leveling system in Battleborn called, "Helix". You get skill points every time you level up, but because the tempo was so fast-paced, I didn't really have much time to invest in fiddling with it. In fact, I can't even tell you what upgrades I chose because they were at random. That being said, Gearbox is adamant that the Helix system can change how the character works and can support different play styles for each character.
Our team eventually reached a point in the game where we faced our first mini-boss that was holding a landing pad. He was this big brute of a creature with a massive gatling gun. Small swarms popped up as the battle commenced, but we were able to lay waste to him pretty quickly.
It was at this point that the second part of our quest took place. A large spider-like tank dropped down from the sky and we had to escort it to a large door. Up to now, I've been sporadically acquiring yellow shards that can be gained through drops or by destroying large crystals. You can spend these to activate turrets at choke points or abilities on the tank.
More and more swarms spawned in the second act, but eventually we made it to the door. It was at this location that we had to defend the tank, while it cut through the door. I spent some of my shards to activate two turrets. It was good thing I did.
This was the final act of the demo. Everything that we had encountered before was just leading to this moment... a large swarm attack by varying enemy types. By now I had reached level six or seven, so my abilities were much stronger. I adopted a goal of keeping my ranged teammates safer from these swarms, as they were a little on the squishy side..
I can't stress enough how effective Boldurdash was in this final act. I could leap from one group enemies to another and try to pull aggro. I mentioned before how the tempo was fast, but now things were cranked up even higher.
Finally the final boss showed her face. She reminded me of a floating tentacle monster that could shoot energy blasts. I was constantly throwing my axe at her, while laying punches to enemies that were heading toward my comrades. In the end we were triumphant.
It wasn't a long fight, but it didn't need to be. It was fun, fast and chaotic. Anyone who liked boss fights in Borderlands will love this.
It was that lasting impression that could be see on everybody's face when they left the play area. It was a look of satisfaction; one that you can only get from playing something so fun and ridiculous, you just want to hop back in and do it again.
Battleborn releases on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on Feb. 9.