Borderlands (Xbox 360) review
"The game play works incredibly well, but more polish on the more superficial aspects would have made this a game worth revisiting. It may have gotten the Game of the Year, but that was then; the GOTY edition with all of the DLC is affordable now and youíll get a lot of hours out of it, sure. Borderlands 2 improves on its predecessor in every single way, though,"
Borderlands is an addiction machine. If you, like myself, avoided the game up until now, you need to know that youíre going to lose quite a few hours of your life. Youíre not going to be entirely happy about it or even realize what youíre doing at some points Ė youíll be so fixated on the glowing diamond on your HUD that marks your current goal destination that youíll forget why or what youíre even doing it for. Although, wait, didnít that one NPC that was important need something fetched from Point B and brought back to Point A? NoÖ? You had to kill something, right? Or was it just a boss fight youíre going to?
Does it really matter or do you really care? Borderlands gets so much right in its core game play that itís impressive. It looks good, sounds great, and the game gets an incredible amount of mileage out of the RPG/FPS hybrid style. Grabbing your friends and traversing Pandora together is a blast and easily could be the best part of the game, though itís heavily dependent on your preferred playing style; there is fun to be had for solo gamers, but traveling with a buddy helps you get more invested into the experience because the lackluster story doesnít do you any favors in that regard.
When you start up the game, you pick one of the four blank slate character choices given to you. Each of the characters fits into an RPG archetype; the hulking tank Berserker, the agile and speedy Siren, the long-range Hunter and the jack-of-all trades Soldier. Each character has different skill trees available, and the amount of customization in getting just the right build for your character is immensely satisfying. My current Hunter has a 100% chance for the bullets to bypass all shields. Yeah, heís a beast.
All of these characters are looking for the Vault, a giant cache of alien technology and weapons on Pandora that nobody has been able to findÖ not for the lack of trying, though. Corporations have descended on Pandora trying to get the weaponry for themselves, and youíre put into direct conflict with some of their mercenary groups.
If this sounds compelling, let me reassure you it really isnít. These characters are complete blank slates. Aside from a few one-liners, thereís no real sense of personality from any of these characters. The NPCs and quest-givers are given slightly more personality, but none to the point where you feel like these are just more than quest-markers. Thereís no need to talk to any NPC that isnít a quest-giver. Youíre told to help the people around you in the first area because they might be able to aid you on your quest Ė why? Iíve logged about 50 hours into the game and I honestly canít tell you about some of the subplot missions I had because they just werenít involving. Games should be just as much about the art and experience of it as it should be about the game aspect. If Iím not compelled to move forward to learn more about the story, why bother? Thankfully, the customization and core game play mechanics work so well that itís almost forgivable.
The RPG/FPS hybrid is a killer hook, and itís remarkably easy to get suckered into leveling up your character. It works like a traditional RPG Ė you kill bad guys, earn experience points, get loot, and repeat. Of course, the fact that itís a FPS turns all that on its head. Instead of leveling up strength, charisma, or intelligence, youíre putting these points into skill trees that offer varying bonuses, both passive and active. The sniper Mordecai, for example, can pump points into reducing his weapon sway when aiming or regenerate health with his Riotous Remedy skill after he kills an enemy. The options are enormous and youíre able to customize your character to suit virtually any play style.
The game looks pretty, but the world of Pandora is full of wide open, rocky spaces that all seem to bleed into each other after a certain point. Itís a mostly desert, arid-type landscapes with a few junkyards tossed in. The four separate DLC campaigns offer changes of scenery which helps, but the main vanilla game is a bit bland-looking. Thereís not much variety to be had in the way of enemies either; thereís a lot of the same archetypes, such as bandits, the dog-like skags, and the flying bird Rakk. The DLC campaigns do remedy this by adding some more villains, but taking the time to create more models and enemies to blast away in the vanilla game wouldíve given it more polish.
Itís was an impressive looking game for its time, but it has since shown its age in the animations, landscape and character models. Itís not all bland, though. Some graphical touches like the elemental effect weapons are a neat touch Ė killing an enemy with an acidic-corrosive weapon melts them right in front of you. Pandora is huge and has lots of nooks and crannies to explore, but the similar-looking location hampers the sense of exploration and fun.
Thereís absolutely no denying that getting a group of your buddies together and creating the perfect rag-tag team of Vault Hunters isnít satisfying. The game is difficult enough that rewards and skill points are handed to you at a logical, timely progression. You arenít ever feeling intense difficulty spikes or that the game is too easy. Thereís a lot to do in Pandora, even if the quests are just the basic fetch or ďgo kill this.Ē The core of the game is incredibly addictive, and credit has to be given to Gearbox for coming very close to a perfect blend of first-person shooting, RPG customization, and loot-based dungeon crawling. The game play works incredibly well, but more polish on the more superficial aspects would have made this a game worth revisiting. It may have gotten the Game of the Year, but that was then; the GOTY edition with all of the DLC is affordable now and youíll get a lot of hours out of it, sure. Borderlands 2 improves on its predecessor in every single way, though. Keep that in mind when booking your ticket to Pandora.
Community review by Mega5010 (March 31, 2013)
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