Gearbox has a long history in video games with their start as a mod developer for Half Life and then as an independent developer creating Brothers in Arms, porting Halo to the PC and then finding major mainstream success with the Borderlands series. They have had highs with Borderlands and the Homeworld remasters and lows with the Duke Nukem Forever completion and Aliens Colonial Marines, but they never fail to entertain with their dynamic presence and passionate approach.
I checked out their panel at PAX East and, while it was a little awkward and uneven, they had some interesting information about their upcoming title Battleborn and some tidbits of the very early (at the conception stage really), but inevitable next title in the Borderlands franchise.
The panel started slowly and with some magic from the President of Gearbox Randy Pritchford as they waited for Kinda Funnys Greg Miller to join them a tad late. Once he arrived they entered into a discussion about Battleborn, which just ended it’s open Beta as it nears the May 3rd launch date. Randy was joined on stage by producers, art directors, and writers from the series to discuss the creation process and lifecycle plans for Battleborn. Right at the start they talked about how they will provide 5 new characters, and the game starts with a staggering 25 already, for free over the next few months and that the Season Pass will offer 5 DLC packs that focus on story and co-op content. All PVP (Player versus player) content will be free for all owners of the games which is a welcome change from the Call of Duties of the world. This promises to reward players with a steady stream of content both on and offline which is great news.
They then moved on to the creative process of the characters which is key to Battleborn as they are calling it a Hero Shooter, the focus is characters and it shows. The cast is as diverse as it is numerous with melee, magic, ranged, and mechanical creatures; there is even a Panda in a mech suit to show how diverse it is. All the characters have nearly 700 lines of dialogue, some specific to certain characters so interactions are fun and interesting. The development of new characters comes from all sources within Gearbox, the first confirmed post launch title was suggested by a QA tester (who was on stage) and was approved and moved to production which is rare in a AAA studio.
It was interesting to hear the group discuss the game and all the growth they have in mind for it. I had a chance to play the Beta and found the humor and story to be interesting; however, the gameplay was a bit of an acquired taste for me, but one that grew on me as I played more and more. The depth and variety of characters is something I am keen to try out and explore further in the full game. Battleborn is hard to explain; the skill progression happens during a mission and is reset at the next mission, but you do level up and get skins, taunts, and gear/loot that carry into your missions, but as you play each level you get to choose your skills each time. This makes it a loot/RPG shooter but also MOBA like, as I said hard to explain.
Talk moved inevitably on to Borderlands and Randy spoke about how the Battleborn writer and Art Director have moved on to the next Borderlands title; they jokingly called it Borderlands 4, the quest for 3, which I think is actually kind of awesome. Apart from that they did allude to the fact that Battleborns DLC packs will more than likely have easter eggs that hint at the next Borderlands game.
As I mentioned the panel went back and forth quite a bit, and and one of the cooler tidbits near the end was to announce that Thorn and Miko from the game will appear in RockBand 4; they also showed some fake ads from the game and a fan rap video that was actually pretty great if too long. The panel ended with thanks to the team and a promise that Battleborn will live up to the Borderlands legacy. I guess we will see when the full game comes out in a few weeks.