We’ve all heard the hype about the new, FPS/RPG Borderlands. After seeing the graphic and hilarious trailer, I was pretty pumped up for this title. With a supposed 3.5 million guns to be found and laughs to be had, the game is promising a lot. Let’s find out if this funky fresh game lives up to the surrounding news.
The story is fairly simple. I mean, it’s really simple. It takes place on the planet Pandora and your main goal is to find this legendary treasure, called The Vault. Like in Fallout 3, Borderlands has one main storyline and many side quests. So, expect a ton of missions with minimal storyline. You’re pushed along the right path by the “Guardian Angel” who is leading you to the Vault, making her a sort of “Cortana” character in your ear. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t quite pull off the deep story like Fallout 3. The story consists of trying to find a way into the Vault and collecting various objects and pieces of the key. Along your journey, you run into a lot of….let’s say “interesting”, people: bandit kings, conniving thieves, evil militaristic Russians, over-the-top bad guys and midgets with shotguns.
You choose between four characters to play as: Mordecai the Hunter, Roland the Soldier, Lilith the Siren and Brick the Berserker. Mordecai (fun fact: you can change the names) is more of a ranger, using sniper rifles and revolvers. His special attack is his pet “Bloodwing,” which is something like a hawk and it’ll fly around, swooping down to attack people. Roland is better with assault rifles and shotguns, which makes him the “Jack of all trades” character. His special attack is an auto-turret that he can place. There’s really no down side to picking him, but where’s the challenge? Lilith is the rogue, with specialties in SMG’s and elemental attacks. She has the special ability of “Phase Walking.” She explodes with energy and then becomes invisible, then explodes when her time in “Phase Walk” ends. It’s not particularly useful unless you’re really stuck between a rock and a midget. Finally, we get to Brick. Depending on your favorite RPG slang, he’s the: Berserker, Brawler, Tank, Fighter, “Guy Who Likes to Punch Things.” I may have made the last one up. As the big, badass of the group, he let’s his fists use the talking and dabbles in explosives. It’s really cool getting to punch people to death, but it’s not as helpful as you’d think. It requires you to run right into the middle of the fray, just to punch one guy. His special ability is “berserker rage,” which is fairly self-explanatory; you take less damage and hit really hard.
Over Xbox Live, you can have three other players hop into your campaign or you can do split-screen co-op with two people. This game is definitely more enjoyable with more people, but there is a bit of a flaw with the entire idea. With the ability for any player to drop into your specific campaign, you’ll end up having either lower level players struggle through your quests or higher level players blasting through the enemies and taking all the fun from you. Unless you start from scratch with the same gamers, it’s hard to get a good spread. So, don’t expect a fun time if you’ve put on a few hours and then your friend jumps in at level one, because being only one or two levels beneath the quest’s difficulty can make the game quite frustrating. Also, the level suggestions on each quest may not seem important, but if you are barely beneath the level it thinks you should be, you can get killed over and over. So, that creates the need to go “level grinding.” I hate level grinding. Doing mindless and unimportant tasks, solely for the purpose of getting the opportunity to do one quest is a very big turn off when I play a game.
The actual gameplay is pretty fun and addictive. It really does a good job of combining the shooter genre and the RPG genre. The guns are fun to shoot and there really are a ton of different combinations of guns, except most of them suck. What’s the point of having an endless amount of crappy guns to use? You’ll end up finding two or three guns that you like and sell the rest. Most of the quests end up being pretty basic: go somewhere, kill some people and take their stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that and it never seems to get repetitive. The A.I. has a few problems, though. They will run on a set course and then just stay in their one little spot. So, you can hide behind one wall and shoot people or regenerate shields and then not have to worry about one peeking around the corner.
My other big bone to pick with Borderlands is the fact that picking characters doesn’t really matter. You gain skill with guns by using them more, and each amount of skill is different with each gun. The thing is, there’s not a ton of encouragement to use the gun your character is supposed to use. I played as the Hunter, who is supposed to use snipers and revolvers, but I ended up mainly using my SMG. Some of the guns you get just aren’t useful enough to gain proficiency in, which forces you to play out of class. I guess it’s nice to be able to use everything, but it doesn’t make sense to make different classes, when there’s no real difference to the way you fight. Another big problem is getting stuck. I’m not talking a challenging boss, I mean literally getting stuck. You could make one wrong jump and fall in-between the support beams of a bridge or between a cluster of rocks. This happened at least ten times, to where I had to hope an enemy would kill me, so that I could re-spawn.
The cel-shading is really fun and it gives Borderlands a fun and unique feel. I didn’t mind it being a little more like a cartoon, because it fit in with the humor. The game has a lot of great humor, the best being a little robot who is prominent throughout the entire game. His dialogue is great and the voice actor (who sounds exactly like Gir from Invader Zim) does an outstanding job. He’s the most likable person in the game and really perks up the gameplay after level grinding for a few hours. The music is pretty generic after the opening video’s use of Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked by “Cage the Elephant.” It consists mostly of whooshing desert sound or some keyboard chords while you get into some combat.
Overall, Borderlands is a fun game, with plenty to do. It’s got everything you could want from a game with: gunplay, laughs and quirky characters. If this game had managed to sort out a few issues, it could easily have gotten a perfect five, but it failed to do so. Don’t let my griping get you down, though. It’s definitely worth your time to check out this innovative gun-fest.
I give Borderlands 4 “Midgets with Guns” out of 5