Borderlands; or CATCH A RIDE!!

In honor of the DLC release of “Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot” expansion for Borderlands yesterday, I thought I’d finally weigh in on the game.

First of all let me just say, I enjoyed the hell out of this game.  Borderlands is a gamer’s game.  It combines the best elements of some of gaming’s best and gives a title you can really sink your teeth into.  But make no mistake, this game is not for the casual “Wii Sports” gamer.

The combination of style, humor,  solid controls and enormous piles of loot is something I haven’t seen in years or at least hasn’t been done this well in years.  There’s literally millions of different guns that are all noticeably different.   You will find yourself constantly hucking your prized rifle for an even better rifle, just to do it all over again and again and again.  Maybe you found a pistol with 2x zoom that has exploding rounds, just to turn around and find a pistol with over twice the damage and a quicker reload.  So you have ask yourself, “am I the kind of man who prefers huge explosions to outright damage and precision?”  That’s up really to you and that is the glory of Borderlands in a nutshell.

The visual style is also really nice and works really well to separate this game from all the other shooters out there.  Combine that with a very tongue-in-cheek sense humor and you have a seriously great game.  One that isn’t afraid to take itself seriously and will punish you if you try to, but really could probably care less if you do because there’s a sheepload of looters out there trying to take MY GUNS!!!

Unlike my cohort, I have no problem recommending this to the online gaming challenged.  True, the combat gets crazier and the loot is more frequent but you also tend to repeat quests your friends haven’t yet completed and you get little to no experience or loot from that.   So it really only enhances the experience when all players have the same quests left in the game or are at least the same level and that is easier said than done.  That being said, this game shines no matter how you play it and shouldn’t be missed, especially because they have already release two DLC expansions for the game.  So who cares if you’re playing with friends or not, there’s tons of loot out there to be found!

The major issue I have is that for a game proclaiming itself as super hardcore there isn’t a lot of depth to the RPG elements.  You have no idea how your stats have grown when leveling up except when switching out to better guns.  The idea of leveling up because you can’t use your new favorite toy for two more levels is sort of weak.  Also, the supposed classes and special skills for these classes are pretty paper-thin compared to the more robust systems from most RPGs.  There are four classes, berserker, soldier, siren, and hunter; each is supposed to be better at using certain weapons than the others, but really after the first 10-15 levels those differences are insignificant.  Each class has class a special skill that you can tweak every time you level up.  Now, you can change the skills and adjust different stats of each character but some are so insignificant that there’s really no point.  Others skills do make a noticeable difference but because you’ve spent 20 levels getting to that skill, you really don’t care anymore by the time you reach it because you have a rocket launcher that shoots 3 lightning rockets at once.

Those may seem like huge issues with the game, but the thing is, like I just mentioned, the gun-play is so solid that you really won’t care.  You’ll just be looking for the next best thing to take down Skagzilla (yes that’s real).

The good:  The guns, the first-person shooter elements, the style, the humor, and the loot.  OH LORD!! THE LOOT!! A fresh mash-up of some tried and true aiming formulas.  Don’t forget the added DLC chapters.

The bad:  basically no story, could use more depth with the RPG elements and the online leaves a bit to be desired at times.

The decision: Play this game now.  The style and shooting elements work so well that any sort of flaws can easily be overlooked by anyone looking for something fresh in an otherwise crowded market.

Review written by Cool-C

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Borderlands; or, I’m dancing! I’m DANCING!

Borderlands is a shooter/RPG, which if that sounds like an interesting combination, that’s because it is. Taking a page out of the likes of Diablo, Borderlands is about three things: loot, leveling up, and loot. And did I mention there’s loot in the game?

What I appreciate about Borderlands is its unorthodox nature. The world is populated with Call of Duty’s and Halo’s and Gears of War’s. It’s nice to play a game that sits you down, slaps you across the face, and tells you to stop taking this genre so damn seriously. And as soon as you boot up the game, you’ll realize this. The game’s art direction can best be described as next-gen cel shaded.While this might not sound appealing at first, the end result makes you feel like you’re playing a comic book. Which is awesome.

Furthermore, the game interjects a type of quirkiness found infrequently currently. The game knows it’s a game. That might sound weird, but you never worry too much about dying, you never get angry at it, and everything is done with a wink and a nod. Perhaps the best example of this are the clap traps, which scurry around the wasteland and yell crazy things, like “Oh! check me out!” or “I’m dancing! I’m dancing!”

And you have to tell yourself: this is a shooter. Right?

There is nothing better than a Clap Trap. Not even guns. (Well..)

The shooting part of Borderland’s hybrid composition is solid. The guns are great, and the game encourages players to keep searching for that next best gun. I found myself falling in love with one type of gun only to find out the merits of another type, switch over, and repeat. Usually I was influenced by the gun’s stats, but I am only a man after all who has needs that must be satiated–by that shotgun’s ridiculously high damage.

Where the game runs into problems is the RPG side of the equation. As great as the guns are and as robust as the armory in the game is, I feel that the RPG side is lacking. Each character is different, but they just aren’t different enough. There is only one special skill per class, and while I found myself enjoying most of the skills, I was left wondering two things: why aren’t there more skills to enjoy? and why the hell would anyone want to use Brick’s skill?

Poor fella' wants to use those deformed fists of his. But why bother?

For those who don’t know, Brick’s skill is punching like crazy, going into a berserk mode. This is effective and cool at the early levels, but by the time you get to the game’s halfway point, you don’t end up using it  much. This is a problem since the other three character’s use their skills like they use bullets (and they use a lot of bullets), so poor Brick usually finds himself ducking awkwardly behind cover while Roland runs out and deploys a turret, or Mordecai throws his bad-ass bird Bloodwing. Why couldn’t the RPG element be a little bit better? There’s no real explanation why.

Brick wants to know why, too. Poor thing.

Borderlands, as desolate as the game world is, really becomes fun when you add more people. It’s hard to recommend this game to someone who doesn’t have the ability to split screen co-op or play with friends online. The loot gets better, the gameplay gets more frantic, and the whole experience multiplies by a million. I’ve played single player really only to level up my character to catch up with my jerk friends who keep getting ahead.

The story is interesting, but not interesting enough. However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing in this situation, as the game isn’t meant to be taken as some hardcore affair. There is text based background behind most of the missions you’ll perform, and you’ll find yourself charmed by the game’s sense of humor. But don’t come for some elaborate, Metal Gear Solid opera. You’ll find a dancing robot, a man with mutated fists, and a bunch of guns, and if that sounds like a good time to you, then, to paraphrase Scooter from the game, come git chew sum.

The good: great art style, funny characters, and a great co-op multiplayer experience makes Borderlands a sleeper hit for the 2009 gaming season. Although you might develop an addiction to scavenging. And to guns.

The bad: while the characters are funny, the storyline isn’t memorable enough to make you care more than to laugh at what they say; some more RPG elements would’ve made an already great idea even better.

The verdict: buy if you have three friends to play with or are comfortable playing with strangers over Xbox Live. It’s hard to say to buy this for just the single player. If you’re into loot games (think Diablo) then definitely check this one out if you’re sick of the hardcore shooting crowd.

Review written by Neutrally Chaotic

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Read Cool-C’s review

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