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Battleborn-derlands: Hands-on with Gearbox's familiar new shooter/MOBA hybrid

Hayden Dingman | June 26, 2015
There's a concept I'd like to discuss with you today called "Flanderization." If you've never heard this term before, here's the TVTropes definition: "The act of taking a single (often minor) action or trait of a character within a work and exaggerating it more and more over time until it completely consumes the character." And yes, it comes from The Simpsons' Ned Flanders and his increasing religious zealotry.

There's a concept I'd like to discuss with you today called "Flanderization." If you've never heard this term before, here's the TVTropes definition: "The act of taking a single (often minor) action or trait of a character within a work and exaggerating it more and more over time until it completely consumes the character." And yes, it comes from The Simpsons' Ned Flanders and his increasing religious zealotry.

Although it's primarily a TV-centric trope, I bring it up to kick off this Battleborn preview because I feel like we see the same idea quite often in games--and not just in terms of characters, though that's certainly a problem too.

Rather, I'd like to discuss how entire studios undergo this process of Flanderization.

BioWare becomes "That RPG Studio." Naughty Dog, after years of switching up its approach for each new console generation, now seems destined to make Uncharted games until Nathan Drake dies of old age. Bungie, once the creator of Minotaur: The Labyrinths of Crete and Oni andMyth becomes "The Shooter Studio." DICE, who at one point churned out all sorts of crap for EA (seriously, look it up) is now "That team that makes Battlefield."

And Gearbox...Well, that should be clear. Gearbox makes Borderlands. Even when it's calling the game Battleborn.

Square peg in a rectangular hole

Is it slightly reductionist to say Battleborn and Borderlands are identical? Absolutely. But it's not far from the mark--especially if you're playing as one of the game's many gun-equipped characters.

The premise: There's only a single star left in the entire universe, and the 25 of you (or whatever) have to decide on the star's fate. Do you save it? Study it? Blow it up and get it over with? That's certainly a heavier tone than the meme-heavy humor Borderlands relies on, assuming it's not played for laughs.

There are 25 characters in Battleborn, and you can think of them sort-of like the heroes in League of Legends or Dota 2--each is themed a different way, with unique abilities and weapons. Battleborn is not a loot-driven shooter like Borderlands. Instead, it's more like...I don't know, really. Some sort of MOBA/dungeon crawling hybrid thing with some really fascinating characters.

Like Blizzard's new shooter Overwatch, it's all about flashy characters with recognizable silhouettes. Here in Battleborn there's "Mushroom Guy," "Prim British Robot Dude," "Dwarven Axe-Man," "Elven Archer," "Soldier," and a bunch of other characters who probably have names but who you'll more likely refer to by the archetype they inhabit. And that's fine, because it means Battleborn's done a good job making these characters (and their corresponding roles on the battlefield) immediately identifiable.

 

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