Honestly I’m surprised it took as long as it did for someone to try and turn the Borderlands formula into a Roguelite FPS as opposed to a full fledged RPG, but the folks at Duoyi managed to do it. And the result is a pretty darned fun experience, solo or co-op. So yeah, it’s time we take a look at it I think.
GENRE: Co-op Roguelite FPS (But you can play solo too)
So, this game is admittedly not the most original in some ways. When I said it’s ‘Borderlands with Roguelite elements’ I meant it. Two of the characters skills are just flat out lifted from the Borderlands franchise, but I’m not saying this is a *bad* thing mind you. I’m not someone who thinks just because a game does something like another game that it’s suddenly unoriginal or not good. How can I put it? It’s something I’ll point out, but it’s not something I’ll criticize if the game is good. And yes, Gunfire Reborn *is* good. So let’s get into that.
This is one game where I’ll admit I didn’t really follow the story, maybe because something was lost in translation along the way. All I know is you play as one of several fuzzy fellows with guns, and shoot/loot your way through several stages with big bosses at the end of each major zone. And frankly that was good enough for me due some very important things, some of which I think it does better than Borderlands itself. But that’s getting a bit ahead of things, I suppose. Let’s start with the basics, shall we?
You have several heroes or ‘classes’ to choose from as you progress, starting out with the balanced and adaptable cat known as Crown Prince, but eventually gain access to several more heroes, each with their own perks that I’ll go into. You pick a hero, enter the first stage, and get to what this game’s about: Shooting.
Enter a level, clear the room of enemies, move to the next room, repeat until you reach the boss. It’s simple, but it works due to this game’s co-op nature and the fact you want to keep things moving, so getting lost in branching paths and mazes wouldn’t make for the best time. That’s one thing I appreciate about Gunfire’s design: It respects your time and knows exactly what you’re here for, so it focuses on keeping you in the action and engaged versus going “Wait, which way do I go next?” In most FPSes this kind of level design would probably be frowned upon, but thankfully Gunfire makes up for its simple level design with a lot of other things that keep every run fresh, fun, and engaging to the player.
Let’s start with the guns themselves. Gunfire focuses on making every gun feel unique, rather than having a bunch of variants of the same type of gun: You aren’t going to find 20 slightly different assault rifles, for example. You of course do have your mainstays from any FPS: Your shotguns, your handcannon pistols, your sniper rifles, but you also have more outlandish weapons like a little dragon you use as a flamethrower, bouncing poison kunai that go off walls, a sniper rifle that fires piercing drills as opposed to bullets, a laser gun that fires seeking beams, and can be ‘tethered’ to a specific target to ensure the beams only hit that enemy…Yeah. Gunfire Reborn absolutely nails it with the arsenal by providing us with a good assortment of familiar weapons along with more exotic ones, so I’m certain you’ll find at least one firearm that fits your desired playstyle along the way. To keep ammo simple, you only have three ammo types: Light, Heavy, and Special. So ammo for your desired weapon is usually on hand, as opposed to having to worry about juggling a ridiculous number of ammo types for all these guns.
Then we have our heroes: There’s a lot of them, and while you start out with one, each hero you unlock is a game-changer due to their new playstyle and abilities, I’m certain you’ll find at least one guy (or gal) in this lineup who works for you:
You’ve got six heroes total, and each of them can be built in various ways depending on what upgrades you pick up for them during your runs, which helps appeal to the Roguelite fans among us who enjoy trying new builds and adapting to what we’re given, versus knowing we can always just make the perfect build. Each Hero gets access to a primary and secondary skill, with the former being cooldown based, and the latter requiring pickups to use. In terms of upgrading, you’ll find Elixirs that let you unlock or upgrade enhancements to your Primary/Secondary Skills, or your character’s specialty/trait that sets them apart from the other heroes. Along with this are Scrolls, which will give you various bonuses and perks and are universal, allowing any character to make use of them. These can be simple things like improved movement speed, or big risks like inflicting elemental damage on yourself, but getting a buff in exchange. Needless to say, this means build options are incredibly vast, and discovering new builds based on a combination of Elixirs, Scrolls, and Weapons is always a possibility: Something you want in a good Roguelite.
The Crown Prince, as I mentioned, is a fairly balanced jack of all trades type. Which makes sense for the character you start out with. His primary skill is quite literally Maya’s Phaselock from Borderlands 2. Blast an enemy with an orb, and they’re chained up for several seconds (aside from bosses, who break out in about a second). During this time they’re easy targets, so lining up critical hits by aiming for heads or other relevant weakspots is super easy. His secondary skill would be smoke grenades, which are poisonous and cause a poison DOT to any enemy caught in the blast. Key words here? “Any enemy.” There’s no friendly fire in this game, even to yourself, so throwing a grenade point blank is 100% safe. His unique ‘trait’ as I call it is elemental damage, with trait based Elixir upgrades improving various aspects of elemental damage by enhancing an element or giving buffs whenever an enemy is afflicted or killed by an element. What’s great about Crown Prince though is that as I said, he’s a jack of all trades and can be a lot of different roles. This can admittedly be a weakness if you can’t get the stuff you want for a specific kind of build, plus you have so many possibilities you may not know what you want to go for. That said, here’s some general ideas on how you can make the most of the cat to help get you started. I won’t be going as in depth on other characters, but I will give some general tips. That said, here’s some good setups I’ve found for our starting cat:
-If you get your hands on the Energy Blade upgrade for Energy Orb, it’s time to be a sniper. When using an Energy Orb, Energy Blade causes your next shot to do massive damage, and enemies near the target will take a % of that damage. Needless to say, this goes best with a weapon that does high damage with a single shot, and has a good crit damage multiplier, like a sniper rifle or a bow. With this setup, you can watch entire groups fall from a single well placed shot. Since it heavily damages the primary target and does less damage to adjacent foes, always aim for the strongest target in the group when using Energy Blade, ideally you’ll take them *AND* the lesser foes down in one shot!
-A fairly universal setup for any element is Elemental Fury + Wildfire. Elemental Fury will make you do extra damage to any enemy under an elemental effect (which even your grenades can apply), while Wildfire will buff your rate of fire any time you kill an enemy under an elemental effect. This is a good adaptable setup, and you can also make your grenades defensive by adding in Elemental Shield which makes your smoke bombs buff your max shield and give you elemental effect immunity for several seconds whenever you toss said smoke bomb out.
-Acidominance is another good pick if you can get it since your smoke bombs are poison based, and poisoned enemies will release a poison explosion whenever you crit them while they’re poisoned…Which will be easy when you have a steady poison supply via your smoke bombs.
Next on the list is Ao Bai, a dog who might as well be called Salvador since his gimmick is dual-wielding guns in a berserk fury as his primary skill, with his secondary being simple grenades that explode on impact. Most heroes in this game have health and shields, with shields regenerating over time, and health requiring health pickups or benefits from scrolls/elixirs to recover. Ao Bai has pitiful shields, but a MASSIVE health pool that makes up for it, along with an entire set of elixir traits dedicated to making him tankier with regeneration and damage mitigation. I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of his grenade based elixir stuff, but his Dual Wield and Survival upgrades can be used to make an absolute beast in terms of offense and defense. Dual wielding a rocket launcher and a minigun while constantly regenerating health and ammo is a hell of a drug.
Qing Yan the bird is in my opinion the toughest of the heroes to use, due to being focused on melee and having Armor as a secondary healthbar instead of shields. Armor recovery is based on skill usage, as well as various enhancements from his elixir effects, so you won’t just be able to passively recover it. This means you have to play him much more aggressively, and stay in close quarters where things can get very dicey very quickly. His primary skill, leap, is a gap closing jump kick that strikes foes hard, while his secondary skill lets him use a razor-sharp wing to slice foes up close. If constantly being up close and in the fray sounds like it’s up your alley, Qing Yan may be your pick. Just know he’s very high risk, high reward in terms of his design.
Lei Luo, who I think is a Snow Leopard, is one of my personal favorites due to greatly favoring Sniper type weapons, which are always a favorite of mine. His Fatal Current skill causes his next shot to add a lightning strike that deals significant damage to whoever he hits, while his secondary attack fires chain lightning at a foe and can be made to deal with groups surprisingly well. His traits focus mainly on crits and sniping, so Lei Luo is definitely someone where you want your primary weapon to be a good, hard hitting sniper or bow. He can also be surprisingly adept at taking out groups though thanks to his Chain Lightning, and an elixir effect that makes lightning strike enemies near him while you’re under the effect of Fatal Current and haven’t spent your shot yet. A good Lei Luo build can often kill entire groups without firing a single shot by popping Fatal Current, letting the passive lightning strikes kill things, and only take a shot right when Fatal Current is about to end.
Tao the Bunny is a fan favorite due to her ridiculous boss melting capabilities, and being all about nonstop shooting. Her primary skill summons a volley of swords to strike a target, while her secondary creates a damaging blast that can also have other effects on enemies based on the Elixir upgrades she’s picked up. What can make her scary is Elixir effects that let her summon swords to strike at foes just by hitting them, or getting a volley of them to strike any target her secondary Bloom skill hits. Nevermind the fact you can enhance her attack speed to ridiculous degrees. One thing that does set her apart from other characters is that her Primary skill gains a stack per cooldown cycle, and many of her Elixir effects are based on how many stacks of her Primary you have stored. When properly set up, she can absolutely melt heavy targets as I said before. The challenge with Tao is knowing when to use your Swords Out primary since it’s a great damage dealer, but keeping the stacks onhand is required for various Tao builds to truly shine.
The last character is the tank of the group: Qian Shi the Turtle. His Tidal Aspis creates a barrier that negates all frontal damage, while his Striking Punch is a powerful, well…Punch. One thing to note is that while the Aspis is active, he can ONLY punch, so these two skills are very mutually exclusive to one another, meaning you’ll want to improve both as much as you can via the Elixirs you find. I’ll confess I haven’t spent much time with Qian Shi, so I don’t have much to say about him at the moment besides the fact I know he can absolutely facetank things that would melt everyone else.
So, that’s our hero roster, whew! So let’s talk about the other thing that absolutely makes this game for me, the enemies!
One thing I’ll admit I’ve always disliked about Borderlands is that a lot of the enemies tend to feel samey after awhile, and you don’t often see a lot of mixing up of said enemies. This is something you do not encounter in Gunfire Reborn, and is one of the game’s strongest points. Every zone has its own enemy lineup, and the enemies in these lineups are all varied. More importantly, they’re all used together, meaning you’ll have to often consider target priority and how to deal with the current mixture of enemies that has shown up. Act 1 for example has crossbow users (your basic grunts), but also longbow users who fire homing shots and snipe you from afar, close range, agile spear users, kamikazes that rush you in order to blow up, grenade users that can toss said grenades from behind cover…And you may have to deal with any combination of these at any time. Combat is something that always remains engaging since you might be trying to take cover from a Longbow sniper, only to hear the dreaded noises of a group of kamikazes rushing your position which means you now have to move elsewhere, and expose yourself to sniper fire. And each act introduces an entirely new rogues’ gallery of enemies to deal with, each with their own frontline type foes, and specialists that will require their own approaches. Teamwork is especially key in this game because of that: If you have a good sniper in your lineup, they’ll probably be best targeting enemy snipers or whoever has the biggest health pool, while an ally keeps the lesser rabble off the sniper’s back.
And then there’s the bosses…Hooboy. The bosses.
Bosses are definitely a strong point in Gunfire Reborn, due to the fact each boss has their own attacks and mechanics to learn, as opposed to just being a normal enemy with an extra large healthbar. As a result of this, expect to die to bosses quite a few times on your first few attempts as you learn them (Unless you get lucky and melt them with a really good build). The first boss for example, is a very melee focused foe that will require perfectly timed dodges to avoid, while the alternate boss of the first act you unlock later on is a massive golem that requires taking cover to avoid its lasers, but also watching the ground for spikes that can pop out from under you, and then you also have to shoot out giant flying rocks that home in on you at the same time. And that’s just the first act’s bosses, it gets crazier as you get further in. Every boss has their own unique mechanics, as I mentioned, so it’s not always a simple matter of ‘just shoot it until it dies.’ Some bosses actually become invincible and require taking specific actions to remove that invincibility: This makes teamwork key yet again in co-op. Another thing to note: Bosses give tells to their attacks, and it’s for a good reason, they hit HARD. You have an evasive dash for a reason, and it’s because if you get hit, you WILL feel it. While tanky builds can be done in some cases, it’s still best to avoid damage whenever possible, especially during boss battles. In co-op this is made even more apparent as you take more damage in co-op, which further encourages dodging as opposed to getting smacked in the face. If there’s one lesson to take here, it’s this: DOOOOOOOOOODGE! …What? I like Team Fourstar.
On top of all this, there’s quite the bit of roguelite stuff tossed in to keep things interesting. Optional Vault areas can be found by searching for and shooting cracks in walls found throughout your adventure: Vaults will reward you with Scrolls if you can complete them. Vaults can range from platforming challenges, to evading traps, to dealing with a wave of enemies followed by an Elite miniboss, but are always worth seeking out and completing for the Scrolls they reward, which will help you augment your character and build. The Merchants you find will supply you with ammo, health, and other goodies if you have the coin, while the Craftsmen will upgrade your guns, and can eventually re-roll Gemini Inscriptions on them. Gemini Inscriptions are a special feature you can unlock, and will appear on late game weapons. What makes Geminis so special? They’re REALLY powerful, but only work if both weapons you carry have the same Gemini Inscription. These can range from combining the Crit Multipliers of both guns, to both guns having a Magazine size that equals their combined base magazine sizes. What’s better than a Rocket Launcher and a Minigun? How about a Rocket Launcher that gets the Minigun’s ridiculous mag size, meaning you can fire a barrage of rockets without ever having to reload?
Thankfully, even if runs don’t go your way in Gunfire Reborn, you’ll have plenty of chances to become stronger thanks to the Talent Tree. You’ll gain Essence on your runs, which can be spent between them (and is kept even if you don’t spend it all, so you can amass more to get more expensive upgrades) to get permanent upgrades. The majority of talents are shared between all your heroes, with only a small section on the very right of the Talent Tree having hero specific talents you have to unlock per hero. This means even when you aren’t winning, you’re at least able to feel a sense of progression and get stronger, with more of the game opening up as you do so since the Talent Tree awards you with new heroes at various milestones. You might not be much by the start, but you’ll feel like a powerhouse once you’ve filled out a good chunk of your Talent Tree.
There’s also quite a bit to see after you beat the game, with higher difficulties, some of which involve new mechanics, but I haven’t gotten that far into the higher difficulties to really comment on it.
At the end of the day, while I’ll admit the story of this game isn’t something to write home about, it’s more than forgiven due to being as fun as it is. It’s like all the fun of a massive 20+ hour run of a character in Borderlands, but condensed into a much shorter Roguelite experience that’s enjoyable alone or with friends. An incredible variety of guns, enemies that force you to change your tactics on the fly, and some satisfying yet brutal boss fights make this one to absolutely check out if you enjoy a good FPS with some random elements tossed in, and it makes for a great time alone or with your friends, though I STRONGLY recommend the “with friends” aspect. Go check it out if you need an FPS fix and want something a bit different but still fun as heck.