The House of Borderlands ups the ante with Battleborn a story to save the last star

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2K and Gearbox have had momentous success with the Borderlands series since 2009. Each game has enjoyed its own unique DLC and new characters. Their latest game, The ‘Pre-sequal’ even let us play as claptrap. Now the team has put aside their sirens and commando’s for something a little more fantastical than D&D themed expansion packs. . . Welcome to Battleborn.

Battleborn the first next gen title to come from 2k and Gearbox in the first person shooter genre. The game revolves around a group of ‘badass heroes’ defending the universes last star from being mined/consumed by our villan Rendain. While not much is known of this enemy, There is a plethora of heroes to choose from, whether it be cyborg hawkmen, or combat botanists, one of the twenty five characters will tickle you fancy/play style. Before getting into the characters though, lets get a bit more back story on what the world actually has to offer.

Battleborn gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to its story element. You can sit and play by yourself, or you can jump into a group with four other people and battle your way through levels and tons of enemy minions. If you have the burning need to crush your foes, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their NPC’s then the five versus five multiplayer might be more up your alley. There are currently three game types for multiplayer announced.

INCURSION:

Teams of heroes must defend their base from waves of AI-controlled minions while working together alongside their own minions to destroy their opponent’s base.

DEVASTATION:

Teams of heroes face off in a fast-paced death match and must capture and hold objectives on the map to win.

MELTDOWN:

Teams of heroes must guide their minions as they march to their death at the center of the map. Points are scored for every minion who throws themselves into the incinerator, and the team with the most points wins.

At E3, they have a live demo that was open to the public to play, and gave a brief introduction to each of the ten characters available to play over the week. Each character has its own unique flair and characteristics. At the end of the post there will be some screenshots of the characters power sets and a brief bio that were provided to those who played, but I would first like to talk about the gameplay itself from the 20 minute match I got to play.

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I played as Miko, the last surviving bud of race of plant/mushroom people, who hails from a once planet-sized fungal colony.  In many moba’s I play a support character so having a healing mushroom, or combat botanist as he is referred to in the game, as a main was right up my alley.  Gameplay for every character is basic, you have your basic attacks, jump, duck and sprint. That is where the similarities end. In my group we had Marquis, Thorn, Orendi and Oscar Mike. The first thing you do upon entering the level is quick-assigning your skills. Hitting ^ up on the Dpad brings up your perks for each time you level and you make a snap LT/RT decision based on what you want to do. My skill upgrades were based around healing (one of my abilities) and doing poison damage/debuffing (my other ability). AS the teams only support I took all of the healing talents to keep my team alive.

As we progressed through the level, each of us continued to level up and assign our points to respective skills, increasing one ability or the other. Near the end of the demo, people/ who had focused heavily in one tree had an incredibly powerful ability, while their other lagged a bit behind. Throughout the level there were many small “collect this” or “kill that” type trackers appearing for each player. I was tasked with grabbing crystals from enemies killed, which later turned out to be useful for our end of level encounter. I am not sure if they are the same for everyone, or if each character has their own rotation of quests to work on.  Your two powers plus ultimate are an entegral part of each characters overall play style. Lobbing Debuffs onto an enemy group while auto attacking makes your damage spike, while characters like Oscar Mike enable a cloaking field to get position and unload grenades up Lt. Mobs.  Each type of combat, feels solid and fun, and will feel familiar to players who have gone a few rounds in other first person shooters. The Melee combat is, to me, like a faster paced skyrim, which I know doesn’t do it justice but I have nothing to really compare it to at the moment. I was seated near the person playing Marquis, and if you get the chance to play this game before its launched, definitely try him out. A robot butler with a sniperrifle cain and mechanical owls called Hoodini’s…HOODINI’S!!!!

While this is not a finished product yet, I did notice some things that irked me. Running in the game feel very sluggish. If you are not with the team, they will quickly leave you behind, and sprinting to catch up doesn’t feel like you are making up the distance. I assume this is partially to do with your teammates also sprinting, but also the lack of momentum your character seems to have while running. One other thing I noticed for Miko in particular was his “heal” ability did not auto-switch when I tried to target another character without breaking the stream. Not a huge deal, but a seemingly minor oversight. On the topic of the healing stream, the hitbox to target an ally is very small. If you are aimed just in front of their feet, you do not heal them, and when the battle lines start to become chaotic, trying to maintain lock on a target can get pretty intense.  This again is not a show stopper, just a oddity in games that have some sort of ‘stream’ heal/attack mechanic from a character.

Lastly here, before we get to the images of the characters themselves, lets quickly talk about the character progression and leveling you will see. Straight off of Battleborn’s site, this gives the best description of their leveling system.

“All experience points, whether earned through playing Battleborn’s Story Mode or Competitive Multiplayer modes, contribute to leveling up individual Character Rank, as well as player profile Command Rank.

CHARACTER RANK:

Each hero can permanently rank up from 1 to 10 outside of missions and matches, allowing players to swap out augments in their helix skill tree, as well as unlock skins.

COMMAND RANK:

Players can rank up their own player profile, unlocking badges and titles to impress friends, and loot that can be used to benefit any hero the player chooses to command.”

Battleborn also has something called the Helix system, which allows fore accelerated leveling in both PvE and PvP. This sounds like some sort of xp booster you can pay for. Not my cup of tea, but it is useful/wanted by someone, so let them have a good time as well. With that though, here are the characters from the character sheet we received,

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E3! The adventures of E3’s day one and two and a enthusiasts entrance into an industry event

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It is 8:40pm Los Angeles time, and I am sitting in my hotel room sipping a water, and listening to some classic rock (America’s ‘A Horse with no name’ just finished). As I gather my thoughts for the many articles/opinion pieces I have to write tonight, I cannot help but feel giddy. I have been a huge fan of video games for over twenty five years, and coming to E3 has been an item on my bucket list for the past ten.

Getting to rub shoulders with industry veterans of media, such as IGN, Gamespot, and a personal favorite, Kinda Funny is a personal dream come true, as I have followed many of the ‘faces’ of these company’s for quite some time. That’s not to say we are schmoozing in the back lounge drinking scotch, but many of these people are very pleasant and will return a handshake and hello. Case and point, I briefly met 4/5th of the Kinda Funny crew who took the time out of their busy schedule/break time to have a quick chat, and a hand shake. Class act in my book.

228751-sony1While I am not a member of the press, I think the press conferences are the lynch pin for the entire event. The best analogy I have heard is “they are like the home run that won you the game, but its at the beginning of the game.”

Whether you believe this analogy or not isn’t so much the point, as it is a fun way to jump into my own experiences of hitting the show floor and wandering around.

Day 1: Line Simulator 2015

If you have been to any convention, be it PAX, SDCC or any host of other conventions from anime to scifi, you know the ‘Line simulator’ experience. The doors to the convention floor open, and unless there is heavy security (which there is here for the start of each day) there is a mass of people running towards the hot demo’s/booths to be first in line, or as close as they can be. My first stop was to the Battleborn booth, as it is high on my list of games to play when it comes oiut. a 5 player coop horde-mode? Sign me the hell up!

I hit the booth line at 12:15 which is 15 minutes after the doors open. I didn’t get to play the game until 2:30. Standing in line for over two hours is murder on your feet, even if you were at a healthy weight and had the proper shoes, of which neither apply to me, the pressure can be incredible, but I digress. The line was slow and no one was very talkative around me. I tried engaging in conversation with some people/ behind me, and they were not interested in it at all. I looked to strike up conversation with people in front of me, but it was a group of people from Ubisoft and they were busy in their own world. Alas, it was a wait in silence, except for the kick ass music that Battleborn trailers; play to. Seriously, go and check out this trailer and just see how well the music pairs with the video.

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Anguish aside, everything feel into place once we got to sit in and get the ‘pep talk’ from the games cortana, which is actually an old man who bears a striking resemblance to Master Roshi. The quick fifteen minutes video introduces us to a handful of the full twenty five characters that will be playable at launch, and shows us their power sets and a small back story.

Once our info dump was complete, we were unleashed upon. . . . another line. This time it was to actually play the game. Fast forward five or six minutes and we were in our seats. Five player co-op against an enemy A.I, almost like Borderlands and Left4Dead smashed together. Its a very fun concept, as it melds the combat of something like left for dead  with the objective/kill/collect aspect of borderlands to keep you engaged on each map. We played one of the three demo levels available (do not know the name) and had a blast. I played Miko, a fungus being known as a ‘Combat Botanist’ who is a support class and can heal allies/poison enemies. There will be a full write up of that a little bit later.

After Battleborn, I needed a palette cleanser, so I made my way over to Ubisofts side of the show floor to see what would catch my eye and get some pictures. The game I saw, had (I thought) a small line so I jumped in,, little did I realize that IU had entered round two of line simulator, and almost two hours later I finally made it into the booth to play. That game was For Honor.

For Honor

For Honor is a melee-centric combat game which focus’s on bringing the weight of the great sword and swift strike of a katana to players as they battle it out in a Four versus Four battle. The Battle we played was a Capture the objective fight. Three objectives laid across the map, which had ‘minion’ style waves pushing against each other, while the players themselves battled against them and each other. There will be as big write up coming on my experience with the game itself, but I can say this, if you are a fan of hack and slack games but have always wanted to have something ‘heavier’ and more realistic, this is your game. We only played as the knights, but so far there are Knights, Vikings, and Samurai being shown around in the trailer. The rest of the day was spent sitting for 20 minutes to get some feeling back in my feet and getting my bearings for day two’s adventures.

Day 2: Let’s go exploring!

Day two started off much better. I arrived on the second wave of shuttles, which meant that traffic had delayed us enough to not be standing outside in the heat waiting for the show floor to open. This time, I thought I would make the smart move and go over to the west hall, to checkout the big boys, such as Microsoft, Sony and Ign’s set up.

Microsoft and Sony stare down

This image should tell you everything you need to know, but just incase it doesn’t lets break it down. Microsoft and Sony took up one third of the entire hall. Nintendo also had a massive presence on the floor, taking up as much room as Sony did.

Navigating through the South Hall was a little easier as the ‘big three’ took up the majority of the space, so you could jump between each of them  Microsofts booth had a monsterous line that was cut off by the time I got in, as it was a five hour wait! It was for the holo lens, and after seeing their press conference, it kind of makes sense that it would be a highlight attraction at their booth. There were smaller lines for games like Tomb Raider, Gears of War, and Forza 6 as well as multiple terminals for Indie games on one side of the floor, and Rare’s games on the other. The Gears booth is on my list of ‘must get to’ for Day 3.

Sony’as booth also bristled with activity. A second massive line wrapped around their section for Project Morpheus and the game Rigs, a three vs three mecha combat game. God of War also made an appearance on the floor, with a dozen terminals dedicated to God of War 3 remastered. The indie games filled in a good portion of the floor as well, and the indie scene will also be a ‘Day 3’ exploration for me.

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The last thing I saw on day two was the ‘Theater experience’ or ‘demo cage’, not really sure what to call it to be honest. This was three mini theaters that showed a demo in each. We started with Horizion Zero Day, and let me tell you, this game is my  ‘Game of E3’. Beautiful, smooth, and crazy robot dinosaur mecha action! Sign me up right now. We got an extended demo, and they talked about some of the arrows you can use, as well as how some of the dynamics work for the different creatures. This demo was played live, so there was a bit more franticness to it as the Thunderjaw (name of the Trex looking dino) was on the offensive up until the very end. The Second game we saw was an extended demo, though not played live, of The Last Guardian. If you were/are a fan of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, then this should be on your radar every year for E3, and we finally got it. Showing more of the platforming and interaction between the boy and the creature, everything just ran smoothly and beautifully. I think this will be a great game to sit and relax over an evening with to unwind.

Uncharted 4

The last demo, was Uncharted 4. This played demo showed just how gorgeous a game in motion can be, as right from the get go we were shown a action set piece to rival the best movies have to offer. Weighty feeling cars, zippy one liners and some fun looking gun play were all in this trailer, which ended with a lovely lady we all know; Emily. Each of the three demo’s were fantastic to watch, and the chatter between each room was high as people briefly discussed everything they had just seen. The rest of the day was spent wandering around, taking pictures and catching five minutes with the gentlemen from Kinda Funny. A quick hello and a handshake while they had a spare moment between shows/lunch bites really made my day.

Today is the last day of the conference, and I have Gears, Destiny and maybe some more Nintendo stuff to try and get into, as well as walking around to see things I missed on the other two days. As as a first time experience for E3, this has been fantastic, and I cannot wait to finish out the day with some more stories/news to talk about.

Blizzards Hero of the Storm slices up bodies with a melee assassin – The Buthcer

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Heroes of the Storm is Blizzards newly released MOBA title for PC. As half the crowd rolls its eyes, the other half is eagerly consuming the latest hero Johanna the Crusader, who is part of the Diablo franchise. Not to sit on their laurels, Blizzard announced its continued Diablo coverage with a new map, new skins and mounts, and a new character; The Butcher.

The Butcher, for those who played Diablo, was a level boss early on in the game. With a charge, hook mechanic and everyone’s favourite “the floor is lava” throughout the fight, is going to be thundering his way into HotS (Heroes of the Storm) on June 23rd. As a melee assassin the Butcher joins the ranks of Thrall, Illidan, Kerrigan, and Zeratul and brings a ‘big body’ to that class of characters. Let’s take a quick run down of his abilities:

Fresh Meat: Passive – Nearby minions drop 1 piece of meat while heroes drop 3 when they die. You can pick these up for a 1% bonus to attack damage that persists until you die. Once you die, your meat spoils (you lose it)

Hamstring – Q – 50 Mana, 4s Cooldown – Slams your axe down into the ground, dealing 40 damage and slowing units by 50%. Slow fades away over 2 seconds.

Butcher’s Brand – W – 60 Mana, 14s Cooldown – Deals 32 damage to an enemy and cause your basic attacks against them to heal you for 75% of the damage done for 5 seconds. Healing is doubled vs heroes.

Ruthless Onslaught – E – 75 Mana, 20s Cooldown – Charge at your enemy, becoming unstoppable and gaining movement speed. If you rech the target, they are stunned for 1 second and take 110 damage

Furnace Blast – R – 75 Mana, 90s Cooldown – After a 3 second delay, fire explodes around you dealing 685 damage to enemies. Can be cast while using Ruthless Onslaight.

Lamb for Slaughter – R – 75 Mana, 60s Cooldown – Throw a hitching post that attaches to the nearest enemy hero after a 1 second delay. This deals 75 damage and causes the enemy to be chained to the post for 4 seconds.

You can view a video of the abilities in motion here.

Square Enix heads to the online shooter arena with a 5v5 Mecha with Figure Head for PC

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Square Enix isn’t a name I think of when I hear “Online 5v5 shooter”. Frankly the only time I think of guns and Square Enix at the same time, is when I consider how ridiculous the gunblade is. Be that as it may, Square is leaping into the third-person online shooter arena with a new game called Figure Head.

This game is 5v5 PC only (so far) mecha combat game. If you have watched anime such as Patlabour or played games like Armored Core and Vanquish, this might look somewhat familiar. The premise is thus; Meteor’s have pummeled the earth into a desolate wasteland and humanity, whats left of it, has retreated to underground bunkers/cities. The populous has built these robots to work outside the shelters and potentially be used to check the surface for viability again.

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As with any great mecha anime, someone thought it would be good to give weapons to these workerbots, and allow them to battle it out for people’s amusement. Standard weaponry seems to be the choice of the day, with assault rifles, shotguns and shoulder mounted missile launchers being shown heavily throughout the trailer (below). Other more exotic weapons, such as the ever classic sniper rifle, Chain gun and popular anime support weapon back mounted mortar launchers are also shown.

One can safely assume that your mech will be customizeable, not only in weapons, but chassis and colour. We will have to wait and see on how customizeable these, but it does not look like it will reach the same level as the Armored Core series. Some interesting notes gleaned from the trailer, each mech has a weak point on their back, this looks to be some sort of heat sink/engine compartment. If this is true, many Dark Souls players will have a leg up, as they are used to skirting around for a critical hit in the back on enemies.

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Speaking of customizeable, your avatar seems to be a young woman, which is not surprising due to the location this game comes from. Mech anime and games for a large part, are dominated by young heroes/heroines so Figure Head does not seem to buck that trend. As you will see in the video, you can change the appearance of your pilot/avatar, though again, it is unclear if that has extensive option or just a basic ‘create your character’ style choice.

Being both a PC exclusive (as far as we know) and being free-to-play has me slightly disappointed. I think mecha-combat games could do well on consoles as I believe the market for a solid single player campaign merged in with some fun/frantic multiplayer is rich right now. Here is the trailer, mind the sound as the music kicks in fairly loudly.

Xbox 360 and PS3 will not gain access to Vault 111 as Fallout 4 remains current generation only

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Fallout 4 has been officially announced for roughly a week now, and even though most of us knew it would be announced at/before E3, we are still falling over ourselves to talk about it. What does the new Vault hold, will the protagonist have a voice actor, could you turn the voice actor off, and will the dog survive long enough to make you weep like a baby when it dies.

All valid questions, yet, none of these rang out like the question of last gen consoles and if Fallout 4 would be making its way there. Rumours bolstered both sides of the argument, whether it be the xbox 360/ps3 logo text within the site, or the seemingly lower than expected graphics from the trailer, many believed that there was a chance.

However, much like Dogmeat, those dreams were ended switfly and brutally by Matt Grandstaff on a Neogaf thread, stating simplly. “It is not coming to 360 and PS3, the stuff we’re doing will never work there.”.

On a personal note, I am glad that this is current gen only, as the issues with supporting both can cause issues in some games that have to pair back a ‘next gen’ title to fit on older consoles, or to try and bump up a game which will not utilize all of the power thews new consoles can muster.

It might be the biggest Drake you see all year, massive billboard overlooks LA Convention Centre for E3

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E3 is directly infront of us, and boy are we excited! As a first time attendee, I have my sites set on doing everything possible, and with that in mind, I am glad that Nathan Drake will be watching over me as step outside to grab a quick break for air/food.

Sony is no stranger to erecting massive billboards/posters/ads at conventions, and this year a Thief’s end will. . . end. That is the rumour at least. Many fans have surmised that this is Drakes last hurrah, but a cryptic and potentially trolling tweet from Neil Truckmann continues to keep us in suspense.

“Looking might good for his last E3” goes the tweet, and is paired with an devil emoji icon.

Personally, I am a fan of having a character runs its course. There are games/characters which allow you to have a continuation of a series, such as Mario or Street Fighter, but games like Uncharted, Halo, Mass Effect and Dragon Age would, in my opinion, suffer from that type of longevity. The series can continue by all means, I would love to see more Uncharted games, but like Mass Effect, putting an end to one story arc, or character arc allows you to keep a great universe, but expand upon it in new ways with new characters to fall in love with.