8.5

Borderlands review
The Youngest Retro Game to Date

Summary:




Over the last few years, I've developed a fierce liking to post-apocalyptic role-playing games. And for one strange reason or another, I never got around to playing Borderlands during its post-release success. Why? To be honest, after playing it, I have no idea. Borderlands is easily one of the most enjoyable games, on or offline, that I've ever played. While games like Fallout are of a consistent enjoyability prior to completion, after completion or while playing DLC, there's something very sentimentally brilliant about Borderlands. Without having to take the game too seriously, it becomes a game that you can pick up time and time again when you're bored, and despite how much time you give it, it still manages to create a sort of spontaneous excitement on your screen. Any fans of the franchise will agree that Borderlands could well be a game that could be picked up again in 10 or 20 years' times and still be considered fantastic.


An uninteresting plot with strange appeal


Borderlands is set on the planet Pandora (no, we're not watching Avatar), a place greatly populated by those seeking this mysterious Vault location. In fact, as you progress you'll find that every Pandorian (seems like a legit word, doesn't it?) has a peculiar interest with this Vault - the Vault only opens once every 200 years, once you have all the corresponding components and keys. And, as I'm sure you could've guessed, this 200 year milestone is approaching once again, leaving many of the Pandora dwellers hunting for its location. So, back to your own character(s) now; at the beginning of the game, you're on a bus that's heading for Fyrestone (your first location of the game) and on this bus is 4 characters that you can choose from; Roland the Soldier (generically boring role for a 21st century gamer, don't you think?), Mordecai the Hunter, Brick the Berserker and Lilith the Siren.

I'll go into a little more depth with your characters further on in the review, but for now you've chosen one of your players, and you've left the bus to be greeted by one of the game's many Claptraps (a robot that will constantly entertain you throughout with quirky dialogue and scenarios). Claptrap explains your situation, gives you an ECHO network that displays your health, ammunition, action skill etc., and leads you on your way to Fyrestone. However, as expected, your journey isn't pleasant and shortly after meeting Claptrap, you find yourself in Bandit territory, the first moment of the game where you get to experience some gun-on-gun combat. As you adjust to the controls and combat, you'll progress to the centre of the town to be greeted by a vision of the "Guardian Angel", who explains your main objective throughout the game; find the Vault and nothing else. So there you have it, your mission through every town is to help others to help you find information about the Vault. To be honest, the plot itself isn't exactly what captures the attention of the people who play it, because it really isn't that interesting and there's times when you forget that you're looking for it, as you come across plenty of missions that have nothing to do with the Vault. In fact, things only start to heat up, primary objective-wise towards the latter quarter of the game. It's strange though because you're still compelled in the game's objective, and still feel very focused on seeking this curious Vault, and what's actually beyond it. Maybe it's the fact that the game's gameplay is so appealing, that in turn it leads you into other aspects of the game. Or maybe I'm sure over-analysing, who knows?



Roland, Lilith, Mordecai and Brick (respectively)



Gameplay won Gearbox the Game of the Year award of '09


When fans think back to how well this game did for them and for others, they'll think of the gameplay and how well Gearbox put this work of art together. Borderlands can be played with 3 others, on or offline, but my review will exclude any online gameplay, so you'll have to assume how much more enjoyable the game is when playing with friends over the world. Like other role-playing games, you level up and earn skill points as you progress through the game - and like some, enemies will level up with you making it a very consistent game as a whole. Let's come back to your characters; each character is awarded their action skill after they've reached level 5, and each of the 4 characters has a unique list of skills and abilities to unlock after each level up.

Roland is a soldier, so his abilities will focus on shotguns and machine guns. His action skill allows him to deploy an automated gun turret, that can work in both offensive and defensive situations. Now, I haven't played online, but this action skill comes across as the most team-oriented of the bunch. Mordecai is very effective with both sniper rifles and pistols, so his skills allow him to improve and upgrade on each type of weapon, while his action skill gives him the ability to use his pet Bloodwing - Bloodwing is a bird that you can use to attack enemies, and when you upgrade its ability, it can come to your aid so much in battle as it can take out the tougher enemies in an excruciating battle. Lilith has superhuman powers, and has an amazing melee ability that can daze enemies and cause serious damage. Her action skill is definitely the most effective of the bunch; Phasewalk gives you the ability to go invisible and become invincible. You wanna know why that sounds good on paper? Because it bloody well is! Once you've upgraded your Phasewalk enough, Lilith is pretty much unbeatable at times and can become unstoppable. Brick is a big ass dude, and he caters for the gamers with no patience, who like to get in there, mess shit up quickly and go home with no questions asked. His abilities make him really strong offensively and defensively, making him a very ominous target throughout. His action skill is Berserk which allows him to - what else? - go berserk! He spends his action skill time absolutely annihilating enemies and can become a real handful to any opposition. I have one big tip for you when you give this game a go; practice with all 4 characters before you make your solid choice of who you want to play the game with first time through. Borderlands is a lengthy game, so if you find that halfway through when it becomes quite challenging that you've chosen the wrong one, well, there isn't much turning back unless you want to start from the beginning. Play the game through with all characters eventually, for sure. But be sure you pick the right one first time. I'd suggest Mordecai or Lilith because they're both great.

The first enemies you'll come across are Skag Pups and weak Bandits and at times the game may seem a little easy. But it won't be long before you face your first big challenges - fighting Nine-Toes and Bone Head are two very good introductions to how tough some boss battles can be in the game, and they both arrive very early. As you go further through the game, you'll fight Alpha Skags, Bruisers, Psychos and stuff like that until you come across the really challenging stuff. The mistake that a lot of people could make is trying to go through with all the main objectives, and completely ignoring the 'unimportant' ones. You see, Borderlands is thought through very carefully and each primary mission is significantly tougher than the last if you choose to ignore the other missions. This was the perfect idea to make gamers explore all aspects of the game - not that they're dull; they're as exciting as anything on here but it's something you don't see developers doing much. If you just play the main objectives, you're going to get owned sooner or later.



Roland vs. a big ass Alpha Skag


You'll come across enemies that are just so tough that you'll want to turn the game off in a huff. Believe me, you will die a lot if you approach the game in the wrong way. But Borderlands is a very, very forgiving game - one of the most forgiving games I've ever played. When you die, you return to one of the New-U stations throughout the game, and all you'll lose is some money, returning to full health and keeping the same ammunition and weapons you had beforehand. That then leaves you with two options - load up on ammo and attempt the same mission again, or leave and explore a bit more until you've levelled up. Each mission will give you a level bar that will allow you to determine what level you should be before you attempt it. So if you come across a mission that looks daunting, don't do it until you're finished with the side missions and you've levelled up. Borderlands also gives you the ability to reset your skills and upgrades too, in exchange for a little bit of cash. I think this is excellent. Of course when you begin the game, you're going to choose the abilities that seem like they'll help you out. But as you progress, you'll realise you're not so great with a certain weapon, and prefer a different one - that's fine, just go to the New-U station and reset your skills, and redo them! Fantastic idea Gearbox, thank you so much.

One thing I'm sure the developers take pride in is how many weapons there are on this game. There are assault rifles, SMGs, sniper rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers, revolvers, repeater pistols and laser weapons - pretty standard for most shooters. But there are at least 200 of each type (well, maybe not laser weapons as they're quite rare - and maybe 100 rocket launchers) and throughout the game you'll find weapons that can do elemental damage to opponents, like corrosive and fire weapons. Seriously, there are some weapons on here that you'll fall in love with. Like levelling up your character, you can also level up your weapons, increasing their damage, accuracy and fire rate. The most enjoyable weapons are corrosive weapons for me - especially corrosive pistols with Mordecai because he's pretty badass with those. Hearing the enemies screech as they're dying is something that never grows old and when you come across a weapon you love, it won't be long before you're reaching level 10 with said weapon and doing some serious damage to opponents.


Graphics that look poor to a neutral eye

From the above picture, you can see how the graphics differ in Borderlands to most games that have been released since, maybe 2006 onwards. The black outline on the sniper rifle, on both characters, and the environment is something that's ever present throughout the game. To a neutral eye, these graphics probably look awful, but once you've played the game you'll see that they fit the game so well and that the developers were so right to choose this type of graphic. If I was to compare it with another game it would be like a cartoon Rage (despite Borderlands being released prior to Rage). At times the game comes across as a very arcade-based game and I don't mean that in a tacky sort of way. This game looks like it'll be a retro classic in years to come, and sometimes it already looks retro because of how the layout of the game looks. Sometimes when using corrosive weapons and corroding enemies, the game can get very laggy offline, so I can just imagine that it's of a more significant degree online. Characters don't look very significantly distinctive like they do in Rage, but bosses in particular look so ominous that you'll regret walking towards their path. When you get to level 20+, you'll come across bigger and stronger enemies, and the corrosive Skags are bloody terrifying! Overall the graphics aren't too much to shout about, but they suit the game down to the ground. The weapons look exactly as they should, considering how they shoot.



Give 'em hell, Bloodwing!



Voice-overs and music ineffective throughout


Unfortunately, plot isn't the only thing that lets the game down slightly. Characters' voice-overs are generally lacklustre and unmemorable. Besides Claptrap's silly and sometimes witty responses, there's little to remember from what characters say, and that's pretty poor for how long this game is. Sometimes Mordecai has something witty to say when he achieves a critical hit like "what, you didn't like that?", and saying "so you want me to share, huh?" when he opens a container of weaponry is funny the first couple of times but what characters and enemies tend to say when in free roam can come across as very repetitive and sometimes worthy of muting the game. In fact, all you have to do is throw on subtitles for the game's main missions, stick on some music in your earphones or speakers and you'll still love the game. Scooter, the guy you hire cars from, has a couple of very funny monologues about his 'Mama's girl parts' at the beginning of the game, but besides that and Bandits saying "nobody kills my buddies but me!", you really won't miss a whole lot. Music makes for decent background too, but there's nothing that'll make you think "Jesus, this music made that battle so effective!". It's so ineffective that I hardly remember any tracks from the game myself after 30-40 hours of play.


Fear not, this game is close to perfection


I wouldn't worry about the minor things in this game not being amazing; they don't have any big say in how good this game is. Without sounding biased, this game comes across as amazing without having a great plot, voice-overs or music because the gameplay makes up for any setbacks the game might have. At times the game can create battles between Skags (or other creatures) and Bandits while you become an innocent bystander. These can be so spontaneous that you'll be in awe at times. It's also quite beautiful getting a critical hit with a sniper rifle on enemy Bruisers, as well as corroding enemies to ash. I think it goes without saying that this game has some serious lasting value; there are four playable characters with a 20+ hour long story mode, as well as the option of a second playthrough where enemies are much tougher. Oh, and did I mention playing online with your friends and 4 downloadable content packs? Honestly, you could clock up 100 hours of gameplay on this game if you really wanted to, and I'm sure many have. I haven't got the opportunity to play this game online, so you could almost add a .5 to my 8.5 rating giving the game a very respectable 9/10.


OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

Was this review helpful to you?
10 members like this

Comments

1 thumbs!
^
Ditnopota Aug 6, 12
Great review, man! I agree that Borderlands is definitely one of the best games to have come out in recent memory and will definitely be considered a classic many years from now.
1 thumbs!
^
EricF Aug 6, 12
Cheers buddy, thanks for giving it a read!
0 thumbs!
^
Vicarious Aug 6, 12
Awesome yet again Eric! Definitely agree with everything you said, told you that you would love it.
0 thumbs!
^
EricF Aug 6, 12
Cheers Corey! Really love the game as a whole.
0 thumbs!
^
Foquinha Aug 7, 12
nice review, you pretty much summed it up perfectly
0 thumbs!
^
EricF Aug 7, 12
Cheers lads, appreciated.
0 thumbs!
^
HunterKiller666 Aug 7, 12
I gotta disagree with the voice over part. This game is meant to be a FPS and RPG, so the main character dialogues (or the lack thereof) is meant to initiate conversations with the NPCs. And I honestly liked all of the NPCs in the game, each one being unique and very quirky.

Everything else is pretty much spot on though, great review!
0 thumbs!
^
EricF Aug 7, 12
Thanks HK, glad you gave it a read!
^
Sponsored
In order to comment on this user review you must login
About the author
82
Based on 6 reviews
Write a review
10
0
6-9
6
2-5
0
1
0
(0.0858/d/www1)