Developed by Gearbox Software, and published by 2K Games, the guys behind Bioshock, Borderlands was actually a highly anticipated game that had many things on offer, most noticeably its co-op mode. So, let's see if Borderlands has what it takes to stand alongside not only other games in its genre, but the other, awesome games we've see so far this year.
- Worth The Time?Yes, especially for its co-op mode.
- Things LovedIt's tons of fun, the sheer number of weapons and combinations, the co-op is an absolute blast, the art direction is awesome, the humour is excellent, good boss fights.
- Things HatedThe game could have been a bit deeper with its character progression or RPG elements, the game is extremely repetitive in that the structure and gameplay almost never changes.
- RecommendationThis is the ideal game for casual gamers, those who are looking for a great co-op title and those who want something that will last them a really long time. It might not appeal to those looking for a deep RPG.
- Name: Borderlands
- Genre: First Person Shooter, RPG
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online and Offline Co-op (2-4 players)
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox360
- Developer: Gearbox Software
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Price: R300 (PC), R550 (PS3, 360)
- Reviewed On: PC
Now this is most certainly an interesting title. Borderlands, during its development, was often said to be a clone of the highly acclaimed and extremely popular RPG, Fallout 3. Personally, while they do have many similarities, they are as far apart as you can get and I’ll explain that in this review. Basically, the most blatant similarities are the settings and some of the concepts. Developed by Gearbox Software, and published by 2K Games, the guys behind Bioshock, Borderlands was actually a highly anticipated game that had many things on offer, most noticeably its co-op mode. So, let’s see if Borderlands has what it takes to stand alongside not only other games in its genre, but the other, awesome games we’ve see so far this year. Read on to see eGamer’s verdict.
During the course of this review I’m going to be making a few comparisons to Fallout 3, because not only are there a couple of noticeable similarities, but word around is that Borderlands was, in fact, inspired heavily by Fallout 3. So, now that we’ve cleared that up, at the beginning of the game you will be introduced to the story via a short-length cutscene and, after that, you will find yourself in a bus traveling down some sort of desert-like wasteland. From there, you will be given the choice between four characters, namely Brick (Beserker), who is the tank, Lilith (Siren), the magical lady, Mordecai (Hunter), a sniper and Roland (Soldier), the typical machine-gunner dude. I’d advise that you think carefully before choosing, because after picking you will play as that character for the rest of the game. Each character comes equipped with their own backstory, skills, stats and weapon proficiencies – and each character possesses one special ability that you unlock early in the game.
The main goal of the story is very simplistic and, to put it in perspective, it’s also quite subtle, although you do notice its presence. Basically, the story is sometimes non-existent to the extent where you’ll go on for a number of hours without even realising that the game has one, but after a long time you’ll come face to face with a swift reminder, usually a main story audio log or mission briefing, that brings you back on track. This is a double edged sword, actually, because the story is quite interesting when you’re first introduced to it and some might be irritated when it doesn’t progress any further after hours of playing, while others will enjoy simply being immersed in the Borderlands experience without having to worry about taking in facts and too much information. Take your pick, but despite which you choose, Borderlands still manages to be an engaging game.
Borderlands is a futuristic game that takes place on the planet Pandora, which lies on the edge of the galaxy. To fill in the backstory, colonists hear rumours about there being valuable resources and minerals to be found there and, with the hope of becoming rich, venture off to the planet in order to live it up. However, when arriving, they’re treated to the good news as the planet is, in fact, barren and devoid of anything useful other than alien ruins and technology. Seven Earth years later Pandora’s orbit transforms it from winter to spring and, as a result, dangerous creatures begin to emerge from their slumber. There is only one hope for the colonists to survive, and that lies with a mysterious vault hidden in the side of a mountain. Many doubt it even exists, but rumour has it that this vault contains a vast amount of alien technology and buried secrets, and since the colonists who originally discovered this vault were all killed, leaving only a scattered radio transmission as evidence of its greatness, no one knows its location. That’s where you come in, the player, as you are contacted by a strange, holographic, nameless woman right at the start of the game who claims that she is there to help you discover the vault – and that you must trust her. And so the quest begins as your character jumps off the bus at the woman’s request and ventures off into the lands in search of the vault.
In the beginning I mentioned that Borderlands and Fallout 3 are very much different, and here is the ultimate reason as to why. Fallout 3, all things considered, is an RPG through and through, with the first person shooting featuring very little in the game. Essentially, Borderlands is entirely a first person shooter with very little RPG elements included. While Fallout 3 is a slow paced and long yet memorable and treasured experience, Borderlands is a fast, action packed shooter that always has your finger on the trigger and you on the lookout for someone to shoot at. You can basically say that Borderlands is the fast paced Fallout 3 – minus nearly all of the role playing elements. So now that we see the difference between the two, it’s time to focus once again on Borderlands.
Borderlands follows a very simple, unchanging formula that is surprisingly fitting and manages to keep the game more or less constant in both difficulty and pace. Basically, you, with the character you’ve chosen, will travel freely around the large game world, completing main and side quests, killing bad guys, leveling up your character and exploring. This pretty much sums up most of the gameplay and its simplistic nature actually makes it all the more fun to play, even more so casually. However this is yet another controversial issue, because on the one hand the game can be seen as very shallow, but on the other one might argue that the simple, linear quests make the game faster and more comfortable to all kinds of players. The majority of the game’s missions are very basic, mostly revolving around going from point A to B to kill, find or collect something and this structure more or less remains throughout the duration of the game. Generally, you’ll be taking on multiple quests at any given time, going out into the game world to complete as many as you feel like doing and then returning to the quest givers for your rewards.
As you travel around the game world, you’ll encounter enemies, landmarks, outposts, shops and items. Regarding enemies, the game follows the typical “everyone-hates-the-player” formula where you’ll be attacked by all enemies in sight once you get near or show hostility. What’s good though is that you’ll sometimes see different enemies fighting it out with each other which will allow you to either slip past or get the advantage over both parties. There are plenty of large, open areas to explore and you’ll certainly enjoy the detailed environments and changes of scenery as you travel. Scattered throughout the world are outposts, called “New-U” stations, which allow you to either instantly transport yourself to another outpost that you’ve discovered or customise your character by changing the colours of his/her clothing or by purchasing a full skill reset, which will refund all the skill points you’ve spent, in exchange for some cash, allowing you a “do-over” of your character’s skills. It’s very useful when you need a change or want to try something new, and it will make more sense as to why when I explain the character progression system. Exploring the game world is enjoyable because getting around is quick and easy, as aside from outposts you’ll be able to sprint and get access to vehicles (all with nitros) all over the map, which is great.
Probably the only RPG factor in Borderlands is that of the character progression system (and the weapon and item stats system), and these are becoming so typical in games these days that they can’t really be seen as RPG elements anymore. Essentially, as you kill enemies and complete quests you’ll earn money and experience. Earning enough experience will level your character up while money will allow you to purchase items, weapons and upgrades. Each character, out of the four, have a unique, special ability and three separate skill trees for their different proficiency. For example, Mordecai’s, the Hunter, special ability allows him to send his pet bird, Bloodwing, out to attack enemies. His three skill trees are Sniper, Rogue, which powers up Bloodwing, and Gunslinger, which focuses on revolvers and pistols. Each time you level up you will earn one skill point to spend as you see fit, but keep in mind that you’ll only gain access to your class abilities once you reach level 5. With your earned skill point, you can either focus on one tree or mix and, luckily, if you discover that you went the wrong way you can always purchase a skill reset at the New-U stations. Each skill upgrade has 5 levels which progressively increases the effectiveness or power of the upgrade. For example, Mordecai has a skill that increases his critical damage by a certain percentage and each point you spend on this skill will further increase the percentage bonus.
Borderlands is a simple to learn and simple to play game, where the only real thinking comes in with the weapon and item stats systems. In Borderlands, what’s awesome is that there are literally thousands of different weapons and items to discover, to the point that it’s very unlikely that two weapons or items will be the same – not to mention that there are many different “brands” of weapons, such as Hyperion for instance, whose weapons have better accuracy. This is all thanks to Borderland’s item generator, which randomises the stats of any weapon or item you discover, which allows for a damn load of combinations. Now you might be thinking that this all sounds great in words, because this just means that the stats will only change, which isn’t very impressive. However, what rectifies this issue is that not only are there lots of different, original and awesome looking weapon models, but there are also different elemental attributes for each weapon, such as fire, acid, shock or explosive among other bonuses that are unique to any given weapon. So what this means is that you’ll constantly be checking out the statistics of every new weapon you receive so as to compare it to what you already have. It can become quite a mission at times when you can get about thirty new weapons in an hour, not to mention all the new ones you’ll purchase at the shops, but it does create a great sense of variety. Since you’ll always be picking up so many weapons and items, it’s a relief that you’ll be able to sell anything you have at any shop you encounter, of which there are many scattered around the map. What adds to the whole weapon stats system is that the more you use a certain class of weapon, such as rifles, shotguns, snipers and so on, you’ll increase your proficiency with that weapon class which grants you further stat bonuses when using that weapon type.
Items are an interesting part of this game. Aside from the standard med packs, there are three item types, namely shields, class mods and grenade upgrades. Shields basically give you a defense barrier from attacks before you start losing hp and, depending on the shield you find, they can have different abilities, such as high capacity, fast recharge times or creating damaging energy waves once their power reaches zero. Your class name depends on the class mod you have equipped, so having a sniper mod will give you the class name “Sniper”. These are basically equip items that increase certain stats depending on the mod, of which there are many different ones. Some mods are better suited for co-op as they benefit an entire team and others will only benefit specific players according to their weapon proficiencies. Lastly, grenade buffs simply serve to increase damage, change the effect or the condition of detonation or add elemental damage to your grenades. All of the above ensures that your character will constantly evolve and become stronger as you play the game. With all that has been said, it goes without saying that Borderlands has a lot of variety and it’s truly great to have such a vast array of weapons and items available.
I’m sure by now you’re beginning to see just how different Borderlands and Fallout 3 really are and it’s now time to discuss the final and greatest aspect of the game – the co-op. Really, on its own, the single player is a blast, but ultimately this game was made for co-op. Playing co-op doesn’t really change the dynamic of the game, it’s basically playing the single player except with friends. It’s an enormous amount of fun and very useful, because you can help friends out, if you’re a higher level, by jumping into their worlds and aiding them with difficult missions or trading powerful items with them. Alternatively, you can just challenge your friends to duels and laugh as you annihilate them in tense gun battles. However, to keep things fair, a duel can only happen if your friend accepts it, which is done by casually whacking your buddy in the face. The game supports up to four players and co-op really makes the game an awesome experience. What’s better is that if you were to die in co-op, your friend can merely revive you, while dying in single player will put you in a “last stand” situation, where you will be able to fire at enemies while slowly losing crucial health. Killing an enemy will grant you back your life, but failing in this will revive you at an earlier checkpoint, taking away some of your cash as a penalty. You will still enter the “last stand” in co-op, but with a friend there you’ll most likely be saved. That’s all there is to co-op, it’s just playing the single player with friends, in addition to the bonuses that come with it.
However, perhaps the worst thing about Borderlands as a whole is that, because it lacks depth and it’s very simple, the game is extremely repetitive. The pace, gameplay and structure of the game basically never changes. What’s worse is that Borderlands is hellishly addictive. Whether you’re playing co-op or single player, you’ll find that your time will just fly by without you even realising it. These two aspects, repetitiveness and addictiveness, are possibly the only two major flaws with Borderlands.
Graphically, Borderlands looks fantastic. If you have seen Prince of Persia 4, they look very much similar. It’s basically cartoon-styled, 3D graphics that really give the game its own style and originality. The environments really look amazing and there is a great sense of variety in the various locations you’ll be exploring as each area has its own feel, style and inhabitants. I don’t even have to mention how unique and awesome the weapons look. The visuals contribute well to the game’s original and likable humour and you’ll learn to appreciate them more as you play the game. On the note of variety, there is a mighty impressive amount of enemy types in the game, each with their own weaknesses and critical spots, which really adds to the whole combat experience as you’ll have to use different weapons and slightly alter your strategy against your enemies. I’d advise that you don’t play this game around minors as you’ll see lots of blood, violence and limb detachment, especially when you get a critical hit on an enemy’s head and it explodes to pieces. Borderlands has some really good music and sound tracks in it, but they are mostly subtle. The music won’t flare up or become explosive, even in tense moments, but if it were absent the quality of the game would noticeably reduce. This is testament to great sound work as, in the case of Borderlands, it’s vital to the game, even if you may not realise it.
In conclusion, Borderlands truly is a great game. I hope this review has managed to inform you of the differences between it and Fallout 3 so that you do not disregard this title on the mere thought that it is a clone. It’s original, action packed and a ridiculous amount of fun, even more so with friends. While the game does become very repetitive after a while, its simplistic nature is a great change from the usual and it’s a gem for casual players, although it contradicts itself in the casual area since it’s damn addictive. Still, all considered, Borderlands is an awesome addition to 2009’s list of titles and the amount of hours you pour into this game will really be time well spent. Borderlands is a winner, in both single player and co-op.