The premise of Borderlands is simple. Set in a relatively open game world, you and up to three other players can join up to explore the wastelands of Pandora, completing numerous quests to try and establish the location of the mysterious alien vault.
While the story of the game is a little tentative, the really interesting part of Borderlands is the decision to mix two very different genres to create an exciting new hybrid.
FPS v.s RPG
- The chance to play a combination of RPG and FPS creates an addictive game experience combining frantic firefights with level gains and exploration of the game world. Each character can be levelled up to a maximum of 50 levels, leading to some very careful choices about how to develop your character throughout the game.
- Borderlands features 4 playable characters which each compliment one another in battle. The AOE and elemental specialist (Siren), the all-out tank and damage dealer (Beserker), the gunslinger and ranged expert (Hunter), and all-round gunner character (Soldier).
- Greater character customisation would have been a plus. Such as the ability to customize your character more (or provide female versions of every character and vice versa). The option to only spec out only half of your skill-tree is a frustration, but hopefully this will be addressed by an increase of the level cap in future DLC.
- Because Borderlands is striving to please two very different crowds the story can sometimes get lost in the action – particulary towards the end of the game. But a humourous and indeed very intriguing story is available for those that want to unpick it.
Inventory and weapons
- There are hundreds of thousands of different weapons available in the game. In truth there are the same types of weapons with varying stats and advantages such as the chance to inflict an elemental effect onto each attack. Nothing on a weapon comes as standard so you’ll be comparing weapons as you go.
- The modifications for grenades are a nice touch, allowing you to improve your damage or tactics at a moments notice. But the class mods offer the most flexbility, providing many brilliant advantages per class, either benefiting you solely or the team as the whole. e.g increased ammo regen or elemental chance up. These can be swapped and changed depending on your situation, and are reflected by a change in your character’s title.
- The inventory system leaves a lot to be desired, mainly because of the sheer amount of items you have to compare and swap. You will eventually get used to how best to use the menu to your advantage, but the clumsyness of it at times does create a steeper learning curve.
- The game really suffers from a lack of a storage facility. Borderlands encourages you to collect tons of items on the one hand, but gives you few ways to protect items you aren’t quite ready to get rid of. Quests to improve your inventory size, or gain the ability to handle multiple weapons will become your first priority.
Questing in Pandora
- Pandora is beautiful, and Gearbox’s dusty dystopia feels like an utter pleasure to explore. The chance of getting bigger and better items, combined with the well-paced quests (which offer experience rewards upon completion) means that levelling up is seldom a bore. In fact Borderlands really comes into it’s own upon the second playthrough, as you begin to master your character type and join up with others online.
- While the game is extremely enjoyable in single player, it really starts to come into it’s own with another person or three. The options to drop in and out of online co-op are handled extremely well, with the forces of Pandora growing stronger as more players enter the game, with higher and lower levels characters able to play together due to the benefits of doing so. The option to return to play after death by killing an enemy (second wind) is a extremely welcome feature and will probably appear in other games, as it makes each actual death feel totally fair.
- While Gearbox has created a beautiful, cell-shaded world it’s clear that some variations the level design are missing. While there is some variation in the wastelands and junkyards, some lusher environments would have been nice. However the light brownish hue of the game does make the objects and characters that are in the game that much more exciting.
- Unfortunately there are a few too many glitches and bugs remaining, it’s a little too easy to get momentarily stuck on objects at a difficult time, or for the in-game indicator to lose track of where the quest items are. Framerate issues are an occasional issue reminding you of quite how much is going on on the screen at any one time.
My game of the year
Out of the many games I bought this year Borderlands was a complete impulse buy. The quiet little game that I knew nothing about at the beginning of October but the one that I was completely obsessed with by the end of it. If you like FPS and you’re starting to grow tired of RPGs you’ll wonder why it’s taken this long for a game like this to be made. It’s just a shame that it’ll get largely swamped by larger releases this Autumn – but regardless – you should pick this game up and become instantly enamoured by the world of Pandora… and the loot.