I know that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to create a good game. That is why we tend to see games copying each other’s ideas resulting in a flop or a success. But when a game combines different game genress together, it is risky business, but sometimes the risk is worth it; such is the case with Gearbox‘s Borderlands.
Following a story of four treasure hunters set in a wasteland called Pandora, Borderlands is a loot-driven first-person shooter with role-playing game hooks throughout the game. The game has different zones to roam in and the in-game mechanics include a working log where you can track your quest and side-quests easily. This and a mixture of leveling up, skill-trees and gazillion guns (loot) winds up in a experience that will captivate most of the players for hours. It offers a lot of different ways to eliminate everything that stands in your way. The main theme song summarizes it well: There ain’t no rest for the wicked.
If you’re enjoying the story elements of a roleplaying game, I have bad news for you. Borderland’s story is shallow since all the good bits are more or less focused on the action bits, rather than in the story development. Personally I like good story within a game, but playing a game such as Borderlands, you don’t waste tears on the story cause everything else seems to be superb. Borderlands is about action and action shall it be, with a mild addiction to the game of course. We could say that in the case of Borderlands, the story is satisfying enough.
A good action game requires both; a solid sound presentation and great visuals. Borderlands has both. The visuals of the game are very nice, the cel-shaded graphics work especially well supporting the wasteland atmosphere the game has and I bet you won’t be complaining when you punch someone’s head in to a pulp for the first time. The sound presentation is exactly what to expect. There is a good amount of dark humor in the game with all of the crude jokes and entertaining one-liners. So tell your wife to go and see her friends and pump up the volume and enjoy some Borderlands action.
Now that we have covered the story and the visuals, it is time to move to the nice stuff: The actual gameplay. The character creation is a simple process. You have four characters to choose, each with unique style. You have Roland (Soldier/Medic/All-around-style), Lilith (Magic&Weapons-style), Mordecai (Sniper/Hunter-style) and of course Brick (Brute/Explosions/Melee-style). Luckily however, it really doesn’t matter what kind of weapons you’re going to prefer since you gain experience also in guns according the amount you use them. So you can create this brute huge melee smasher Brick with excellent skills on sniper rifle, if you wish to. And when it comes to weapons, Borderlands provides endless amounts of random generated weapons which all differentiate from other. With more than 17,000,000+ weapon choices, I sure do believe that you need more than a few playthroughs to see the same gun.
There are many ways to enjoy Borderlands. You can just run through the game if you wish to with all of the action packed charm of the game or spend hours running the side-missions which are quite numerous. There are about 30 main missions and 130 side-missions to go through + you can refight the bosses again and again if you wish to. Numerous side-missions are a nice addition, since it allows players such as myself, to properly level up my character. The missions itself are somewhat simple; you either kill someone, activate something, find something or do a combination between those three. Still, these missions are enjoyable (sometimes little boring if you play alone), helping players to prolong the game, find some serious loot while scouring through the wastelands of Pandora.
While the game doesn’t have a good story, it covers it with the actual game play and that is: Action. You will find yourself numerous times in the middle of the action, even if you were planning to snipe out each monster you face because there are always few monsters who manage to get through even with sniper style of play. One option is to embrace the action and play as Brick hurling melee punches to colossal monsters and brutes of the wasteland. Each style has its advantages and disadvantages, but there really is no “golden way” to play the game. So don’t worry about which character you’re going to play or are some weapons better than others because you will do fine anyway. With the handy new-u stations, you can even redistribute your skill points if for some reason, you choose poorly. The game has been built so, that you can easily find your own style of playing the game.
The best way to play Borderlands is nevertheless, to go online. If your friend is thinking about buying a new game, buy Borderlands together and it surely does the trick. With each character having their own specialties, having support from different character helps a lot. The best thing in online co-op is, that even the “dull missions” turn out to be more interesting, since you have a lot more options and tougher enemies to face. Tougher enemies also provides better loot! Driving a car with your friend sitting in the gunner turret is a real pleasure. While many multiplayer games offer somewhat different amounts of experience points to each player, Borderlands divides the experience equally. If you get 300xp, your friend gets 300xp. If they find 50$ you find 50$. The only difference is the guns, but so far there has not been no arguments since by playing together, you survive better if both players have good equipment. The difficulty level is always determined from the level of the players and of course, the host of the game. While the online is well balanced you must remember, that joining a lvl 50 game with lvl 1 character is still going the get your ass beat. All in all, the multiplayer aspect of Borderlands is impressive and entertaining despite it has few bugs. Occasionally the voice of the other player dropped or the online mode just simply argued to start. With good amount of patches underway, these problems are a disappearing slowly.
Borderlands has positively surprised me, since I somewhat missed the game when it was released. Every game has it small faults, but as a summary; Borderlands is a rock-solid gunplay experience with good amount of rpg elements in the game. It is a blast and I find myself going back to Pandora surprisingly often, especially if my friends are around to help me out. Considering how fun I’ve had so far with this game, you will be seeing reviews about the DLC in the near future. What I would also like to see is a pen & paper version of the Borderlands setting.