by Victor ‘r0gue’ Vieira
The post-apocalyptic scene has been done quite a bit, but I for one am more than happy to return to it in my escape from reality to the world of gaming. Borderlands is a sci-fi set in the wastelands of Pandora, and from the start, you can tell that you are in for a treat. Developed by Gearbox and Published by 2K Games, Borderlands gives us a fresh hybrid that combines ‘looting’ and ‘leveling’ that we are used to from RPG’s, with a ‘meaty-feeling’ first-person-shooter, breaking into a new genre dubbed RPS (role playing shooter).
Four mercenaries, each with different strengths, own story and a special power. All share a common goal, to loot their way to the ‘Vault’ hidden somewhere on wastelands of the desert world of Pandora, battling bandits and mutants all the way. Either go at it alone or gather three others and dive into it in four-player co-op where this game shines.
Gameplay and Features
Firstly, the developers went with a stylistic and offbeat look for the game that for me is a breathe of fresh air. Where most games are trying to look as true-to-life as possible, Borderlands is just trying to look cool… and it sooo succeeds in doing so. Graphics are very out-there, much like the game. Character animations are very well done and shows that allot of effort was put into this aspect. The sound affects, backround sound and voice-work was once again really well thought of and overall the visual and audio just ooze quality which elevates the gaming experience. I saw a few floating characters here and there, but other than that, absolutely polished.
Gearbox clearly incorporated two genres as I said, an rpg and Shooter. It is not as involved as a your big rpg, and even keeps the pace of the game going by not bogging you down to long dialogue, even leveling up and looting does not bring the game to a halt. I think those who love the shooter genre and find rpg’s too much might find a good match with this one as I did. The upgrading and customizing gives this game so much character and steps away from the norm that is the traditional shooter. You can customize just about everything in the game from your characters to weapons.
The mercenaries are Mordecai the quirky-looking hunter (sniper), Roland the soldier, Lilith the Siren (who can turn invisible) and Brick the goliath human tank. You begin by choosing one from descriptions of their strengths, and then you can customize their look. You have those particular characters standard weapons, which you more than likely wont have for long as an abundance of weapons are available quite soon after the start. You can store things in your characters backpack and begin with only two weapon slots, which eventually leads to four. Your characters each have a special power, which you unlock soon after start and can evolve as you go along. Mordecai’s special power was a badass Hawk that I send to kill an enemy by hitting my LB. A very useful helping hand he was when I was faced with many mutants or bandits. A guardian angel (a sci-fi vision of a woman) will be your overall guide. Also true to rpg-style, there are people of the wastelands and a few helping robots to guide you and give you tasks or jobs to do.
The Borderlands controls scheme feels like a top-notch shooter, fluid and everything is in the right place. Shooter fans will get to grips immediately with the familiar set-up, but then you get your first headshot and the game quickly reveals its RPG genes, with the enemy literally bleeding numbers until he dies. They will drop weapons, ammo and XP to increase the ever-present level-bar at the bottom of the screen. The AI all have a ‘critical’ hit point, that will tell you that you have hit (most cases the head) so it is good to keep these critical hit spots in mind for those times at higher levels where you may be flooded with enemies, so quick dispatching of them helps. To keep the game flowing, you also have a chance to redeem yourself should you almost be out of health. You have your last-stand where you the game goes into slow motion and if you quickly take your enemy out, you will get your second wind. If not, you re-spawn to your last spawn spot.
As said, Borderlands is best in co-op mode, exploring Pandora alone is a fun but in a co-op team of four the campaign is undoubtedly a more enjoyable one. Locations feel designed with four players in mind, even the vehicles are two-man equipped. There are numerous variations of different combinations you can have with the characters’ skills that will give you and your team the upper hand in the battles to come. Being picky with what loot each of you pick up in co-op like you would normally in an RPG, is not really necessary as there is plenty and you can swap drop weapons for your mates. You also share loot (gold) so if one is picking all up, the others will also get a share of the profit. Even the AI is bumped up when you play in co-op; they come in bigger numbers and seem more potent. A very nice touch is the ability to drop in and out of co-op, as it does not interrupt anybody’s campaign. I did find it could be overwhelming if you drop into a game that is on a much higher level than your character. You just do not have the strength in firepower.You have an enormous amount of weapons, and then by further being able to customize them, it opens up what feels like a never-ending amount of weapon options. You do have categories of weapons that include pistols, shotguns, snipers and machine guns. Then you can add scopes and have various types of ammo options like a shotgun that shoots waves of bullets or bullets that will light the enemy on fire. You also have a permanent dagger and a shield that is always with you from very early in the game. The shield is not visible, it absorbs an amount of damage you take depending on the shield’s level. Grenades with different characteristics can be carried with allot of options, so you can work out what situations suite the different types. The ammo and weapons are truly unique, entertaining and well thought of in Borderlands.
What I loved
- A refreshing new genre.
- Great memorable characters.
- Graphics and colour palette suit the ‘off-beat’ game.
- Spot on controls.
- Stunning marriage of genres.
- RPG element that do not put you to sleep.
- Weapons, weapons and more weapons.
- Very good gfx and sfx.
- Everything is customizable.
- Huge amount of fun hours that never gets boring makes for great value.
What I disliked
- Occasional dumb AI.
- Very few floating enemies.
Borderlands is a hybrid that really combines the best of two genres. On the one hand you get a solid feeling shooter that feels meaty as we like with shooters. On the other hand you get an rpg that is not slowed down with long dialogue, and every element of the game was designed to keep the game flowing. Gearbox clearly rolled up their sleeves for this one and it shows with a very polished and hugely fun finished product, in a ‘mad-max’ type world. Because it captures the best of both worlds, I think this will appeal to any gamer that knows what makes a good rpg or shooter. I for one get bored with rpg’s quickly but I cannot put this one down, and am so glad that it is a long campaign with plenty of ‘leveling’ up. It is great to go alone, but you really need to try to get a regular team together and experience what is my favourite co-op game to date. I really hope that Gearbox have started a trend here and I will look for anything in future that compares to this. A brave and bold venture by Gearbox and I have no doubt that this will be a smash hit.
Borderlands is also available Playstation3 and PC.
For more visit the official site.