The launch of Battleborn is upon us and I can’t kick the feeling that some poor souls missed out on the open beta last month are going to buy it and be tossed into the fray with pros who have already spent dozens of hours learning the ins and outs of the game’s twenty-five strong army of insanely diverse playable characters. Worry not, forlorn gamers! I’ve got you covered.
The early game of Battleborn is all about acquainting yourself with the various characters, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they are best utilized in any situation en route to finding one or two special characters that suit your own personal gaming style and taste. Preferably one that lets you utterly dominate your fellow players.
I picked the following five characters based on a combination of their strength in story missions and multiplayer battles, novelty and personality, and general fun factor. And although they are among the best characters in the game when used properly, they are among the easiest Battleborn to unlock (although the methods vary so make sure you check the in-game codex), so you don’t have to wait very long before you get to play as them. These are the early game characters beyond the starting seven (who are also fantastic in their own way) you’re going to want to latch onto early to simultaneously maximize both your score and your online success.
This dark knight strikes fear into any online player who sees her coming. In the beta, she utterly dominated PvP exchanges and almost invariably carried the high score for any match where somebody chose her. And somebody always chose her. She’ll likely be nerfed to some extent prior to release, but her capabilities are delightfully stackable, so if you level her up right and play smart she’s going to be a threat no matter what.
Galilea’s main weapons are a sword and shield. Her melee capabilities are only rivaled by Rath, but in addition to swinging a nasty broadsword, she can use her shield like Captain America to block almost all incoming damage and throw it to damage and stun opponents. One of her upgrades allows the shield to return to her hand if she hits the target, which is awesome because you won’t have to wait for cooldown to get your defense back. But what really makes Galilea a killer is her demonic powers, which allow her to get stronger as she fights, amplifies damage done to enemies in her vicinity while healing her, and even lets her transform into a pool of pure dark energy to devastate multiple enemies at once.
The Battleborn’s backstories are filled in with unlockable lore earned by in-game achievements. Galilea’s past includes ill-advised covert operations that have led to a catty rivalry/frenemyship with Ambra and to her present terrifying abilities. Neither lady is big on personality, but if you like no-nonsense characters with a serious darkside and nigh-unlimited power or have been quietly nursing fantasies of a playing as a medieval/sci-fi sword-swinging female demonic Captain America, then your time has finally come.
Out of the whole batch of available lunatics Battleborn gives you to choose from, Toby stands out. Maybe it’s his personality, maybe it’s the fact that he’s a mech pilot/mechanic or the way his helmet doesn’t fit, or maybe it’s the fact that he’s an adorable penguin cut from the Rocket Racoon mold. Maybe it’s all these things, but there’s just something really awesome about this guy.
Toby’s death machine has got some beastly combat capabilities. On top of a chargeable/zoomable railgun built into one arm, a mine-launcher on the other, a massive laser, and thrusters for serious mobility, it can project a stationary shield that blocks incoming fire while allowing for outgoing. In fact, the shield can be modified to enhance your outgoing railgun blasts to increase damage, velocity, and even split each projectile into three for some seriously devastating effects. This makes him an ideal pick for crowd control to deal epic damage to the enemy frontlines, but it also makes Toby a major target in PvP where he’s often at a huge one-on-one disadvantage, especially against melee fighters, so most gamers are going to want to stick to story missions with him unless they’ve got friends with solid teamwork.
Toby’s most endearing quality is probably his dual personality. He’s naturally super adorable, but he doesn’t want to be and is prone to flying into rages when people patronize him or treat him the way he looks and acts. But I mean, come on! The dude climbs out of his mech to fly at the bow when he goes through a man cannon like he’s going to shout “I’m king of the world!” and alternates between apologetic anxiety and cackling psychosis on the battlefield. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle him? Plus, I’m pretty sure he flirts with me during the matchmaking screen. If the game takes off, he may single-handedly launch a furry storm the likes of which we haven’t seen since Friendship is Magic debuted.
One of the most prominent faces of Battleborn, and for good reason. First, he’s a hawkman, man. Second, he’s got a bigass rocket launcher. Third, dude is crazy. And lastly, he’s a ball to play as. One of the great things about this game is the breadth of gameplay styles presented by the characters. Some characters are great at mobile hit-and-run harassment, objective completion, and resource gathering (Thorn), some are great at buffing and healing teammates (Miko), some are absolute player killers (Ghalt), and some are just really cool. Benedict is one of those.
Obviously, sporting a rocket launcher has its advantages; explodey area of effect damage and all that. But in addition, he has a special projectile that tags a target when it hits and allows subsequent rockets to home in, making them much harder to dodge, and an ultimate attack that allows players to manually guide the missile in first person and detonate it manually. But the big advantage to playing this character is exactly what it looks like: he can fly. Or at least glide. One of his skills launches Benedict skyward and by holding the secondary attack button he can remain there for quite a while either slowly floating down while raining death or actively pursuing and dive-bombing the enemy. Being the only character really capable of this give him a huge advantage in evasion and surprise attack capabilities. And, as stated previously, it’s also really fun.
Benedict’s personality is….interesting. His initial taunt is hopping from leg to leg with his hands up next to his head in a “nah nah nah-nah nah” manner, but he can also cough up the occasional spare rocket, owl pellet style. His bio claims he loves three things: himself, rockets, and himself. Personally, I’d add a fourth: more rockets. His trash talk is routinely rocket-centric and besides, who doesn’t love a good explosion?
Shayne and Aurox
Definitely a personal favorite of mine due to both cool factor and gameplay. Shayne is a punk kid with a talent for boomerang-slinging, and Aurox is an interdimensional demon-djinn-symbiote thing. Together they are trouble. One of the best attackers from any distance, these two have a combination of skills that make them extremely adaptable and dangerous.
As a general rule, Aurox is a melee attacker, but with Shayne’s rapid fire boomerangs as a secondary attack capable of ricocheting to hit multiple enemies, they’ve got major offensive flexibility. Plus you can send Aurox flying to physically grab a distant enemy and bring them back to your position, which is great for opponents in groups or entrenched positions trying to snipe you and it can be upgraded to steal their shield to boot. In a pinch, you can activate stealth mode, which renders you invisible either for escape or advance and deals explosive area-of-effect damage when it expires. Their Tag Team technique sends Aurox to an area of your choice to unleash hellfire while the player controls Shayne to inflict even more damage with boomerang attacks.
These two make a hell of a duo, but there’s trouble in infernal paradise that goes beyond Aurox’s indignation at being called a teen detective if you dig into the lore. It’s some dark stuff, and all the more reason to love these two. The moment I knew I was really going to love this game was the first time I taunted and Shayne and Aurox both put out their arms, shook their fingers, and shouted “JAZZ HAAAANDS!” in their young girl and monster voices together. Shayne in general is a serious trash talker and like a lot of the Battleborn, her ongoing dialogue is part of what makes the game so fun.
The character that proved the best fit for me in PvP and along with Galilea, probably the most essential character to boost your score, gain experience to unlock more Battleborn in multiplayer matches early on, and generally kick ass. Ambra is crazy powerful, easy to use, and possesses healing capabilities, so consider her a must. Praise the sun.
Ambra’s stackable skills make her almost unbeatable in a pitched match. First off, her staff auto-targets and drains the life out of any target within range, healing her at the same time. She can also create multiple solar balls that simultaneously heal allies (and herself) and drain enemies and can also explode like mines. Now picture fighting an enemy whose attacks heal her while they damage you with no need for aiming and has multiple balls of fire doing the same. You do not want to engage this character on her own terms. Ever. Throw in her insanely powerful solar wind area of effect attack and the ability to make a goddamn meteor fall from the sky on you and you can see why she’s going to need a nerf.
Immortal, all-powerful priestess of the sun or not, Ambra has a bit of an attitude. Then again, I’d say she earned it. The woman just dominates the battlefield. I’m not crazy about her initial “Walk Like an Egyptian” taunt (kind of out of character), but I definitely loved having her make a throat-slitting motion after taking down another player knowing that the camera zooms in on it and forces the defeated to watch. Her powers may harness the heat of the sun, but she’s got ice cold killer’s blood in her veins.
I know what you’re thinking, fellow beta testers: “where’s [insert favorite Battleborn here]?” And who am I to minimize the elegant-but-deadly charms of Phoebe, the generic space marine appeal of Oscar Mike, the lithe elvish mobility of Thorn, the C3PO-inspired snipery of Marquis and his army of mechanized attack owls, or any of the others? Well, it’s a testament to how great Battleborn is that even if I did a list of my top twenty characters, the five that I left out would probably have an army of advocates demanding to know why they weren’t included. The cast is that good, and that’s the best reason to pick this game up. See you online!