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Borderlands (Windows)

81
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.6
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Kadath Bird (706)
Written on  :  Nov 28, 2009
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars

22 out of 25 people found this review helpful

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Summary

Take a spoonful of Diablo, pour a cup of Halo, pepper on some Fallout, stir in a pint of Left 4 Dead, and you have Borderlands.

The Good

There are plenty of First person games out there that mix in role playing elements. System Shock, Deus Ex, and even the recent Fallout 3. Despite this it seems that there isn't a 'true' FPS/RPG, as it seems that the RPG elements are usually toned down. There was no 'leveling' perse in Deus Ex or System Shock, and Fallout 3 had scaled leveling and a fairly straight forward leveling system. Yet now we have Borderlands which is, in all honesty, one of the first games that truly balances equal parts shooter and equal parts RPG.

The RPG elements and structure are, surprisingly enough, very similar to Diablo in that you go around a rather desolate and strange world and slaughter as many things and picking up anything they drop, while you slowly level a character and dump points into a branching skill system. There are 4 classes in Borderlands, since I'm a twitchy action fan who was weaned on Quake I picked the Soldier pretty quickly because it said he was specialized with shotguns. There's a sniper class, a class that I'm assuming is stealth (They call her the 'Siren' but she goes invisible/uses blades so that's why I assume she's stealth) and then there's a class called 'Brick' that appears to basically be The Incredible Hulk. I haven't really messed around with the other classes yet, although my friend uses the "Brick" class and usually runs around with his fists out turning foes into red pulp.

The combat is very satisfying. As I said, the game perfectly balances the RPG elements with the Shooter elements and doesn't sacrifice one for the other. For every RPG element there is, there's a shooting element mixed in and vice versa. For example, each class specializes in a different weapon type. I picked the soldier who specializes in Shotguns and assault rifles. I started off better with said weapon styles, but I still had to build skill for the various weapon types and I wasn't as proficient with pistols or sniper rifles and the more I used them the more skilled I became with them. The guns are a ton of fun to shoot, and there are literally thousands of various types of each weapon.

The game lets you compare weapons where it counts; in accuracy, fire rate, clip size, damage, etc. and there are also 'elemental' weapons that are a helluva lot of fun. Elemental weapons will have a special effect on enemies if you get a critical hit on an enemy. If you get a critical using a fire element weapon, they will start on fire. Get a critical with a water element pistol and they will melt into a puddle of liquid. The amount of different weapons/manufacturers, and of course "unique" weapons owned by unique characters is absolutely staggering. Combat is fast paced and fun.

Although it isn't the most technically proficient title, Borderlands looks cool. Its yet another example of art design covering up mediocre technical specs. The game is heavily cel-shaded (Yay! Seriously, there hasn't been a single fully cel-shaded game this generation yet :<) and the style makes the game look like a living comic. There are plenty of funky looking aliens on the planet of Pandora (Yes, believe it or not, the game isn't a post apocalypse like one might first assume looking at screenshots.. its some planet called Pandora) with cool designs. The human enemies also look cool, often wearing twisted masks and traditional Mad Max Raider garb. Plus the game has evil horny mutant midgets with axes. I'm not kidding.

Mentioning the evil horny mutant midgets, the game is actually pretty funny. It definitely takes a page from Fallout by using dark, absurd, and often dirty humour to lighten the otherwise serious scenario. There's a robot named Claptrap whose sure to please fans of the character "Gir" from Invader ZIM, a funny blind redneck named TK who keeps losing prosthetic limbs to a wild Skag, and a boss early on who is introduced in a Grindhouse style cutscene that proudly announces him as "9 TOES (Also, he has 3 balls!)" and various other grim and silly scenarios. There are plenty of times you will laugh thanks to the great humour and voices, especially if you are a fan of the style of humour from the Fallout games.

The game is fun alone, but it is even more fun with a friend. The game supports 4 player Co-Op in the vein of Left 4 Dead that allows you to invite a friend into your game and do quests together as well as dick about in the universe. If you are a certain level you can also do duels and steal a trophy off your friends, once again like in Diablo. The co-op is well balanced and the game automatically ramps up the difficulty to provide more of a challenge when you have a friend, but it doesn't crank it up so high it becomes frustrating. Naturally, you can use your character from single player and experience gained in a co-op game will cross over. Your characters progress might be different, but it depends on whether or not you are the host or a joiner; the quests you do and progress that is made is based on who is hosting the game. This allows higher level characters to help lower levels with quests obviously. However, it is most fun to play the game in sync with a friend so that your progress in the campaign is equal with your friend.

The interface is fairly simple and intuitive, meaning RPG newbies won't have to deal with the often complex interfaces of most PCRPGs. Borderlands is very easy to pick up and play for gamers of varying skill, and it has a broad appeal for both RPG fans and shooter fans.

The Bad

The story is "meh." It is a classic "There's a big mystical thingy that does cool stuff, go get it" story but the real kick in the nuts is the ending. The ending is abrupt and concludes nothing, and has practically no climax at all. Save for the funny characters, the story isn't anything special.

Sometimes the game will solve quests out of nowhere. One time I had a quest where I was supposed to kill some raider leader and get some thing he had stolen preventing the owner of a car shop from building cars. I was about 80 miles away grinding and suddenly it completed both my objectives on that quest saying I had killed the raider dude and retrieved the repair system and I just had to get my reward. I wasn't playing with anyone else, so it wasn't a possibility that a friend had cleaned up the quest, and it was kind of weird and sometimes this bug will appear and make quests seem anticlimactic.

The games technical details aren't anything special. The game has some very poor draw distance and it has no option for anti-aliasing. It lags even on a high end computer if you max the anisotropic filtering, so that is out of the question. There are typical effects like bloom and depth of field, but none of them really pop save for some good gore and the aforementioned art design. World textures are somewhat drab and low quality, but character models are decent enough even if they have a creepy habit of talking like their mouths are on hinges, with their mouth and lip movements practically being non-existent and out of sync, just opening and shutting in a rudimentary manner.

This is probably always going to plague RPGs until the end of time, but grinding can still be a pain in the ass. The combat is fun and the game does a good enough job of keeping you in the game, but it can be tiresome and repetitive when you need to get past some big badass that's 5 levels ahead of you and so you need to go out in the middle of friggen' nowhere and slaughter shit until you finally get an equal level.

You can't cook grenades or modify throw distance, which is annoying. There were several times I was trying to toss a grenade at an enemy fairly far away but because you have no option to actually modify the throw or cook, I would just throw grenades at the default distance which was annoying. This makes standard grenades fairly useless, although when you get the Transfusion Grenades, you might find them useful (Transfusion Grenades explode good and they steal health from bad guys :D) but for the most part grenades are useless.

This may just be my computer, but the load times are painfully long. Each transition takes about a minute and a half to load at minimum, and one time a level took 6 friggen minutes! 6!!! Thank god I had my DS on standby.

Although it is still a lot of fun to play in single player, once you get a taste for co-op you'll find single player a bit slower and not quite as fun without a friend.

The Bottom Line

Borderlands is a balanced, fun, and cool RPG/FPS game. It has the simple, fast paced action of your standard FPS but keeps all skill building, leveling, and character modding of an RPG. It doesn't sacrifice either genre for enhancing the other, and feels like one of the most balanced genre combos made. Borderlands is great fun, especially if you take a buddy along for the ride.