Borderlands Reader Review
Blood, loot, levels, guns, dismemberment, 4 player drop-in/drop-out co-op and a number of big maps to play in. Borderlands offers a lot. Hell, look at the back of the box and it'll tell you that it offers "Bazillions of guns", what an offer! Borderlands is what we need. It's the mixture of two very popular and very successful elements, the RPG and the FPS. Two elements which when combined properly, create a beautiful child of, well, addiction.
The game's set in a somewhat shanty looking, almost post-apocalyptic world and with a focus on guns and levelling up. Some may be excused for thinking this sounds all too familiar to a certain other big title. But no, it is its own game, and here's why.
The art style Borderlands took on was a risk, but it works very well. The general feel is that it makes you feel like you're playing inside a comic book, and that's something that will definitely appeal to a majority of gamers. Everything from the characters in the game, the enemies, the surroundings and the guns, all have a superb feel to them. It seems purposefully done to make Borderlands feel more colourful and vibrant. For a world that appears to have been on the brink of destruction, it hasn't got that dull grey and brown feel to it. Which is an impressive feat, as much of the world is grey and brown! This is the art style at play, which makes for a more interesting and comic book-esque experience, which had they used the previous, more bland style, you feel the game wouldn't have succeeded as well as it could have.
Moving onto the combat which is mostly about melting the faces off of bandits who've obviously spent a little too much time at the gym and quite a bit less focusing on their battle plans. What I'm trying to say is: The combat isn't difficult, there's no real challenge when it comes to the running and gunning. Which I hope you like, because there certainly is plenty of that. This is where the RPG segment comes into play. You may find yourself at points ambushed by a group of bandits or an army of skags. Which can only be explained as an angry dog hell bent on finding its chew-toy which it believes you have just consumed. To make matters worse, these dogs seem to have all swallowed a plethora of items, ranging from flame-throwers, to Dads chemistry set which you were always told, should you touch it - you'll get a stern seeing to!
Now, how you play out this ambush is completely your choice as it doesn't really matter if you are as much as 2 or so levels below it, you are more than likely going to find yourself running in the opposite direction to the nearest giant rock you can clamber upon. (Which is also not suggested when you're up against a group of skags as these darlings can jump higher than your granddads trousers.)
So the aim of this game is to level, level and level again. Now a pro-tip here is that should you be struggling, then team up with a higher levelled friend. This is power levelling, despite the fact that most of the enemies he's facing will probably laugh at your feeble attempts of tickling their face with those feathers fluttering out of what you first thought was the best shotgun since your last best shotgun. However whenever your comrade gains a kill you will notice a significant increase in the amount of experience you get than you were previously used to and in no time you'll be gaining on said comrade. This may not sound like the barrel of laughs you had hoped for, but this is not the only way to play the game. You can just grind through killing skag pups and the weaker bandits who are fresh off of the bus from basic gun training 101, in their brand new pre-torn bandit uniforms, and their mandatory bandanas which were obviously only 'in' two years ago.
This brings us on to a minor gripe I have with the game, the shields! They've decided that instead of armour, clothes or letting you have a bit of customisation further than the choice of eight colours to change all three sections of your mandatory clothing, that they would instead give you a tiny item, that once equipped is invisible and only serves as a shield (and possible health) regeneration. This is all very nice and handy but it feels like they could have implemented the same shield capability to an item that once gathered, then didn't become a mere tool that was never to be seen again, unless you decide to drop said item onto the floor. This may seem petty, but I feel that Borderlands is a game where you are meant to be shouting, "Hey! Look what I got! I bet you haven't got this bowler hat that gives +30% hp and eliminates 50% of all shock damage!"
That is what they started with, all the guns having slightly different colours, scopes, barrels and whatnot. Why did they not think to finish it all off with a range of different clothing? I want to be able to travel through the desert with nothing but a pair of hot pants, leather jacket and a top hat! That's just how I roll though, and although that might not fit the image of the game, a little variation is never going to shun fans away, in fact quite the opposite. It seems an overlooked feature that would have brought a lot more to this harsh wasteland.
Borderlands is good, but it could have been great. There isn't enough depth, I'm inclined to say that the story is shallower than a paddling pool for ants i.e. a puddle. It's quest after quest and you really don't need to know what it's all about. Go get some dude's leg, go get some stolen food, go kill a guy called nine-toes (if you need to ask - It's not explained), and so on. It's all still great fun and really rather addictive, and you will enjoy it, but with a real story and more variety on quests - this may have become a game in the ranks of Fallout 3. It does get close on other aspects though, it includes upgradeable traits that boost stats like accuracy and damage to certain weapon types, boosting an element of your action skill, etc. What I should also mention is, each character has its own "Action Skill" - the phasewalk for the Siren being my personal favourite. These add some flavour into the action and give you time based aids, for example: Going berserk and throwing flurry's of punches at anything in sight. Going invisible, giving you a chance to retreat or a chance to get closer and use a much boosted melee attack on an unsuspecting foe. Almost forgetting, it also has a neat gimmick of, when you die, you go down in a Call of Duty style Last Stand. The spin on it is that if you kill an enemy while in this stance - you gain a second wind and are back up on your feet with a fraction of your health and shield back.
It all makes the game that much more unique and with more ideas like this Borderlands would have been granted a place much higher than it is. It's a very light-hearted Fallout 3 with loot. It will take for many players, many hours of their time, but with so many other big titled games coming out so soon, I don't think it's going to get the lime light for very long.
7 / 10