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Borderlands

aka: Pandora
Moby ID: 43378

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 82% (based on 87 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 136 ratings with 4 reviews)

An overhyped, overblown mess of a game

The Good
NOTE: I am reviewing only the single-player portion of this game, as I never exposed myself to co-op multiplayer. If you must take the following review with a grain of salt as a result, awesome, because you should probably be doing that anyway.

  • To begin, Borderlands has an impressive (if not fully-realized) scope. The world of Pandora is huge, with tons of locations to discover and explore. In some ways it reminded me of the Capitol Wasteland from Fallout 3, although the overall effect was much different, and not nearly as dramatic.
  • The game demonstrates an interesting blend of genres to create something new and refreshing. Although FPS/RPG hybrids are nothing new, the focus on finding and collecting treasure is something that, up until this point, was almost completely connected with old PC hack-n-slash titles like Diablo. In adding this treasure-hunting, loot-hoarding element to the game, it sucks in people like me who obsess over opening every box, checking every locker, and killing every enemy to get whatever reward they can. It's almost a dirty trick - most gamers, I think, exhibit this trait, and I'm sure the developers knew this when they were building the game. But damned if it doesn't work exactly like it's supposed to; in my case, this was the main element of the game that kept me playing to the end.
  • Borderlands is incredibly fast-paced, especially considering the kind of game it is. There's a shallow learning curve, especially for those of us familiar with how modern FPSes usually play. The game is simple and makes no attempt to be anything other than simple. Although I will come back to this in the section below, this can be a good thing from time to time, and ultimately the rapid-fire nature of the game was refreshing, especially as the game wore on and its many faults started showing through.
  • The basic gameplay mechanics are well-integrated and the game plays very fluidly. The RPG elements too fit in well and are pretty bare-bones - in this case that's a compliment, as this is not meant to be a cerebral game and the simplicity of the RPG system (you gain experience, you level up and apply points towards special abilities) works well in that context. Also worth noting and praising are the in-game menus, which are easy to navigate and well-organized. From a technical standpoint, the gameplay is actually pretty top-notch, given the game's style.
  • The voice-acting, where there is any, is solid. Although story and character development are lacking and almost non-existent (respectively), when voice acting is needed from NPCs, it's done superbly. Scooter (one of the more commonly-heard NPC voices throughout the game) is hilarious, and the dialogue always feels off-the-cuff, much like the rest of the game.


**The Bad**
  • I'll tackle one of my more minor complaints first: the game's story is pathetically lacking. What's most annoying about this is that it has every opportunity to be thoughtful, engaging, and memorable. It is none of these things. All the pieces are there, too: a mysterious, desolate planet, alien life, trans-solar mega corporations...instead of fitting these things together to make something interesting, the story takes a back seat to everything else. It feels half-baked and skeletal, and squanders every chance it gets to grow into something that's not completely trite. Although it's clear that the story was never meant to be the driving force behind Borderlands, all I can think of is the embarrassing number of missed opportunities here.
  • One of the things that seems to be frequently cited as a success with Borderlands is the Procedural Content Creation System, which has the potential to create several million different weapons, armor, and other items. To anyone who has not played this game and considers this to be the selling point, let me dispel your notions that this is some awesome miracle of coding that will make this game literally endlessly replayable. Although it's true that, technically, this system can generate a huge number of random items, the differences in these items and weapons is largely in the numbers, not in anything else. You can have two "different" revolvers, for example, that look identical or nearly so, but do a different amount of damage. The novelty of this system wears out, and quickly. It actually gets to be a nuisance, because later on in the game weapon drops get to be a common event. You'll be constantly checking to see if a dropped weapon is worth picking up by comparing numbers. There's a system which color-codes items by how rare they are (similar to Diablo 2), and while this is useful the more OCD among us will be looking at everything and checking it against the items we already have. I suppose that's more of a fault with the gamer than the game, but I think the whole "more is better" principle that the PCCS system seems to be based on is fundamentally flawed, in that it minimizes the fun and satisfaction that would otherwise be found in obtaining a more powerful weapon or item.
  • The gameplay, while solid in a technical sense, is annoyingly repetitive. Each quest you do will probably be one of two things: (a) kill this guy/these guys or (b) fetch these items. Although you could probably make a convincing argument that most FPS/RPG hybrids that have open-ended gameplay like this have quests which can be boiled down to these two objectives, in this case it's so much worse because...
  • The environment is so horribly bland. This is, perhaps, my biggest complaint about the game. Pandora is just one of the most incredibly boring video game worlds I have ever played in. Pretty much much the entire game is desert. Yellow and brown is the dominating palate. There are no weather effects of any kind. Every city, settlement, and outpost looks exactly the same. In short, although the in-game world is objectively huge, it feels tiny, cramped, and painfully dull. I get that Pandora is supposed to be bleak and desolate. Like I said earlier, in that sense, it reminds me a lot of Fallout 3. The difference between the Capitol Wasteland and Pandora is that the Capitol Wasteland had a certain richness to it, an underlying theatricality. Pandora, on the other hand, is empty and soulless, and, to put it simply, much less fun to be in.
  • Similarly, there is a distressing lack of variety throughout. Not just in the quest construction, as I've already mentioned, but just as importantly in the enemies you fight. You can probably count the number of different types of enemies on two hands (maybe three); in a world so huge, I felt like I should have come across many more. The vast majority of the enemies you encounter are human bandits or some derivative thereof, and you'll get sick of seeing (and killing) them. Mix this with the aforementioned repetitive questing and the drab world, and what you get is a game that, unfortunately, fails to be nearly as engaging as it could be.


**The Bottom Line**
When I was playing Borderlands I really just could not help but notice the enormous amount of wasted potential that was simply everywhere in the game. You are able to conjure up an all-terrain vehicle to help you get around Pandora, for example, but why stop there? With the item excess displayed throughout the rest of the game, it's surprising that there were no flying vehicles, no slow-but-powerful tanks, no really-speedy-but-unarmed motorcycles. Another example: the intro cinematic for this game is pretty stylish, with a tongue-in-cheek comic book feel. You'd think that the designers would want to capitalize on this look, but they really don't. There are a handful of other times (usually when encountering a Big Bad Boss) that this style shows itself again, but that's it. They could have integrated this look into the HUD or in pop-up messages throughout the game, but they didn't. Along with the story, the droll setting, and the lack of variety amongst enemies I already discussed, the game just feels incomplete. It leaves me wanting, but not in a good way.

That said, though, for everything it does wrong, Borderlands can be a stupid-fun game. It satisfies my basic desire as a gamer to shoot stuff and kill stuff. If I could look past everything else that core truth would still remain, and for that reason I will probably, at some point in the future, play it again (whether I finish it again is another question entirely). For the skeptics out there, who are wondering if this game is worth it, my answer would be...probably not. The thrills are cheap, and I'd be lying if I said that I felt the designers didn't exploit my shallow, intrinsic desires to collect stuff and pull a virtual trigger to make a quick $20 off me. Borderlands satisfied precisely none of my desires for the deeper things I look for in a video game, and, as far as I'm concerned, that's the stuff that matters.

Xbox 360 · by CrackTheSky (30) · 2012

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.

Windows · by Kaddy B. (777) · 2009

Boredomlands

The Good
I love RPGs. I love FPSs. I love it even more when I can have both of them in one game. Borderlands is just such a game: it's a FPS and a RPG. What's more, it does both parts well.

It's a paradox, but there you go: I don't like this game even though on paper it represents precisely what I wanted from a game for a long while. Borderlands plays like a shooter, with all the moves and all the satisfaction derived from the simple pleasure of pointing your guns at enemies and squeezing the trigger. But it is also a fully developed RPG - at least from an academic point of view, where gaining levels and building up a character is all that is needed. You receive experience points for killing enemies and completing quests, level up, allocate points into skills, and happily watch how you slowly, but surely turn into an indestructible machine of death.

You grow up constantly. Borderlands may be a lot of things, but it is certainly not stupid. It knows how to appeal to our lowest gaming urges. It knows how to lure us, how to trick us into playing it. It keeps feeding us all the time: experience, quests, enemies, guns - everything flows in a steady stream, all you have to do is reach out and grab it. There is no learning curve in Borderlands: you step into the game and you are sucked into a well-oiled machine that grinds and grinds, spitting out more loot, more money, more equipment. Rewarding? I guess you could say that, although playing this game made me think that perhaps there is such a thing as "too rewarding". You always feel how everything is there for you, not because it exists independently, but simply because you need it.

Borderlands has glimpses of humor here and there. I suppose it is a matter of taste, but I don't find it particularly funny that a boss enemy named Nine Toes "also has three balls". As a matter of fact, I found the game's humor juvenile yet too harmless to be entertaining in that politically incorrect, shocking way. It's like a non-offensive, mild version of Duke Nukem. But at least the game throws in a few encounters that break up the monotonous routine for an instant. The story is generic, formulaic, and predictable, but writing and voice acting are both decent.

The Bad
You can imagine how much I wanted to love Borderlands. And yet no matter how hard I tried to list, again and again, everything the game does right, I remained cold and indifferent. Once again I realized that good gameplay system means little when it is slapped over a horrible game world. A world where nothing excites, where everything is automated, calculated, and serves the gameplay system alone. A world that is but a receptacle for Lv. 18 Alpha Skags and shields with 130 defense points and 27 recharge rates. A world that immerses so little that you never feel you are on a mysterious planet called Pandora. In fact, I felt I was in my room playing a shallow, uninspired game.

Playing Borderlands made me remember some notable games of the past I didn't like. Loads upon loads of randomized items thrown at you at every opportunity, forcing you to compare stats until you stop caring? Receiving heaps "kill this" and "fetch that" quests from people nobody gives a damn about, following a marker on the map, fighting a boss, losing, automatically respawning, marching forward, leveling up, quick "click-click" skill upgrade, killing the boss, repeating ad nauseam? Hello, Diablo! To be fair, I have to add that at least Diablo had atmosphere. Borderlands has none. It is mind-boggling how such a stylish setting could become the epitome of soulless world design, where nothing feels like a part of the world and you feel how you walk through code, talk to code, fight code, and collect nothing but code. By the way, the cel-shaded graphics don't fit the setting at all; they are there just to make the game look "different", serve no purpose, and their imaginative potential is fully wasted.

Disastrously repetitive, bland environments? Welcome back, Halo. It's hard to believe, but even that game has a more interesting world than Borderlands. At least the world of Halo conveyed the somewhat exotic vastness of an alien planet. Borderlands is just one big desert with junk. If Halo was a collection of repetitive, dull levels, Borderlands is simply one huge repetitive, dull level. You won't even have the dubious consolation of exploring a lavender-colored alien ship or something like that. It's all a grayish-yellowish-brownish cel-shaded wasteland. All the settlements look the same; no location has a personality of its own; it's a world that doesn't even try to immerse.

Every game has the "how" and the "where": the gameplay and the world in which it takes place - setting, atmosphere, everything that translates bits and bytes into entertainment and art. That's why Borderlands is such an unexciting game: it only has the "how", not the "where". Its world gives you no reason to be in it, no reason to explore it, no reason to get attached to it. And in such a world, why should I try to advance to level 32 or get a fire-elemental shotgun to kill another bandit? Why should I do anything if nobody and nothing around me convinces me it is worth doing?

Just before playing this game I played Sabotain. It's a buggy, weird Russian shooter nobody has heard about, with broken gameplay, bad pacing, and plenty of design flaws. It has 20% of gameplay balance and 5% of the polish found in Borderlands. And yet I'll never trade it for Borderlands. Flawed games can be charming if you see the designers' effort, ambition, and care through the flaws. But there is no charm in a game that sacrifices creativity for numbers.

The Bottom Line
Borderlands embodies much of what I dislike in video games. It is one of those cold, calculated, soulless products that focus all their energy on catering to our basic instincts, reducing gaming to a mechanical, mindless experience where crunching numbers matters more than immersion in a virtual world. I find this kind of gaming pointless, unrewarding, and ultimately boring. I'm sure many would disagree, but I value creativity in my games, and that is exactly what Borderlands does not have.

Windows · by Unicorn Lynx (181748) · 2012

It's just good, okay?

The Good
The cell-shaded graphics mixed with the massive amount of violence makes for a fun combination that never ceases to amuse me. I really like how everything looks so colorful and it only get better when the blood is splattered all over it, I am kind of surprised that they went with brown though, there was some serious potential to use a lot of blue or red, but I am glad that in the end it still looks great. If this all confused you, you should try to imagine "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" in cell-shaded graphics, that is what this game looks like (and like I said earlier, it looks good).

The single-player might not be great (getting to that later), but the multi-player is like a bottomless pit filled with women and chicken noodles, it might be a little messy, but it will never be annoying enough to tick you off. I especially like that the amount of players determines how tough the enemies are and what loot you will find. Me and my cousin have had hours of fun in Pandora and some very tough battles. If you do get bored, there is always the option to duel or grieve the hell out of the other players (just burn their cars down).

There are hundreds of ways to dispatch your enemies and some of them might be stupid, but are still funny to do for the thrills. My favorite way is probably to run up to an enemy and shotgun them in the face, when the rest of his friends notice me, I just use my special ability to become invisible and take them out from behind. At other times I was too lazy to get out of the car and just splattered a family of Skags (dog-like creatures). There are many other ways and some of them are exclusive to just one gun, so it will take a while before the fighting starts to feel repetitive.

I like it how the game plays to both the fans of RPG's and shooters, but doesn't really disappoint either one of those groups. There is an interesting story for the RPG-fans and a lot of moments that are worth discussing and analyzing, but at the same time the story is also light enough for shooter-fans, so they can simply ignore it and shoot monsters. I remember that Tabula Rasa did something similar, but the shooting was too much for RPG-fans and the story to heavy for shooter-fans, so it didn't do very well. At least Borderlands made sure a perfectly good idea didn't die along with Tabula Rasa.

The Bad
When you play single-player there is nobody to back you up and that is a much bigger problem then you would think. Without a second player there is nobody to help you back up after you are taken down, so you need to hope you can quickly kill an enemy before time runs-out or you are simply send back to the nearest respawn. There is also nobody to help you with boss-fights, so if a boss has smaller enemies helping him there is nobody to look after them while you fight the boss. Not having a second player makes the game a lot harder, which is odd considering that having a second player makes the monsters stronger, but at least you'd be fighting stronger monsters with a few more guns on the field.

There are probably more than a million guns & items in the game, but there are only a few that are actually worth bothering with. 95% of all the guns that you can loot are just way to weak, so they just end up in your backpack so you can sell them later. It's very annoying that almost every enemy drops a weapon and that they sometimes blend in with items like ammo or health. Very often I would try to find some ammo during a boss-fight and ended up finding a worthless weapon in my hands because I swapped it with my own by accident.

The Bottom Line
Borderlands is a very fun and enjoyable RPG that works perfectly with the shooter part of the game. It's full of awesome boss-fights and camps to raid, the light story also makes it easy to replay this game because you can just ignore the story during your second playthrough and just follow the instructions.

A second player is a must though and the incredible amount of worthless items is a bit annoying, but those are just minor problems that I can ignore, it's a gem that requires a little polish. If you're a fan of RPG's with a light story or a fan of shooters that is growing bored of the usual Call of Duty games, this game might be worth a shot. If you're into "The Witcher" games or similar heavy RPG's this game might bore you due to the lack of a deep story, but it might still be worth a look if you ever find it in the budget-section of a shop.

Xbox 360 · by Asinine (956) · 2011

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Cavalary, Caelestis, Spenot, Alsy, Jeanne, Seth Newman, j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】, jaXen, Picard, Patrick Bregger, Tim Janssen, Cantillon, Dariusz Sadkowski, Havoc Crow, CalaisianMindthief, ryanbus84, chirinea, Alaka, Baron79, Big John WV, Yearman, Serrated-banner9, PolloDiablo, Samuel Smith, Joel Segerbäck.