Borderlands (PC, Playstation 3, XBox 360)

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Introduction

In a galaxy of planet purchasing corporations– that are embroiled in a brutal debate as to which of them is actually bigger than God– four childhood friends join to fulfill their dream to find the greatest treasure in history. This treasure is rumored to be kept in The Vault on the lawless planet of Pandora– I mean look at that guy up there, if he’s the average citizen this might not be a great place. These Vault Hunters will weather through Bandits, the wildlife, and annoying robots to reach the fabled Vault with all its immense riches– that is… if treasure is what lies within.

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Picture here is the main cast, from left to right, Roland the Soldier, Lilith the Siren, Mordecai the Hunter, and Brick.

History

Borderlands was designed to run on a modified version of the Unreal Engine 3. At the time of release the engine would be five years old. The developers made up for this simple engine with a cel shaded and cartoonish world design that would be memorable and visually appealing. The old design was meant to be much more realistic. After this realistic design was scrapped the Art Director felt so offended that she walked out on the project.

Rumors abound that the deadline for the game got pushed forward surprisingly in the final stretches of the game. Speculation abounds that this is what caused the ending of the main game to be so lackluster.

Borderlands was released for PC on October 26 2009– what is it with 2009 popping up a lot lately? It’s competition included League of Legends: Clash of Fate (PC), Bayonetta (PS3, XBox 360), and Saw: The Video Game (PS3, Xbox 360)

Nostalgia

When this game came out it was super exploitable. The computer club that I frequented bought one copy and simply removed the disk after they started up the game. This way everyone there was able to play at the same time together and we didn’t have to buy four copies of it on our limited budget. We came into a snag though because although we made character profiles there was no cloud support. Every time we wanted to play we had to use the same computers if we wanted to play our level appropriate characters. It lead us to keep switching computers and starting new characters. We eventually got to the end but we played through the opening section so many times we had strategies specifically for getting through it as quickly as possible. We would position people at quest markers the game hadn’t given us yet, ready to go to other areas as they unlocked.

Gameplay

This game is described as a loot based shooter. The player assists the people of Pandora and they’re given more powerful weapons, shields, and grenades in return– oh yeah, and cash which is kind of useless.

Each of the different characters has an action skills and abilities that they can spend skill points on. It’s really easy and cheap to redistribute a characters skill points. Certain items offer the character passive abilities or bonus points to different skills. These abilities are usually pretty similar but the action skills couldn’t be more different. From siccing large birds on enemies to pummeling them with your fists in a berzerk rage, these skills will heavily influence the way you play.

The game was touted as having a Bazillion Guns and they weren’t kidding around. From machine pistols to rocket launchers this game has weapons large and small for intrepid Vault Hunters and Bandits alike. Each weapon can have different parts on it that change its appearance and stats. One assault rifle might reload really quick or have interesting elemental power which really mixes things up.

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Very rare weapons also have special enchantments that appear in red text with no clear explanation to their effect– trust in their awesomeness.

The Gush

I was listening to the soundtrack when I was writing this and I found it to be remarkably good. I hadn’t really been paying attention to it when I was playing– too busy shooting people and trying not to get dead and all that– but now that I focus on it I really like it a lot. It’s got this sort of western movie, mysterious, alien, and Diabloesque nature to it that I really dig. Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked was a perfect choice for the title theme as well. Showing off the mercenary nature of Pandora.

Even though cash is a largely useless resource– there’s not usually a gun available for purchase that’s better than what you have– it’s still fun in it’s own way to imagine this character’s fortune growing to an immense size.

The writing in this game is decently comedic. It seems to cover up for the games lack of compelling narrative and I think it does that pretty well. Some of the jokes fell flat but the later DLC campaigns got more funny as they went on.

The creature design for this game is really cool. The character design is pretty good too. I’ll never forget Helena Pierces wicked scarred face or Ned’s absurd mustache poking out over his surgical mask.

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I dunno what that thing is but I think it’s coming this way and I’m not entirely comfortable with that.

The DLC in this game made up for the lame ending in my opinion. The delectable camp of the Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, the real closure brought by General Knox’s Armory, and the sheer ridiculous fun of the Robolution were all a great time to be had by all.

The Kvetch

The bandit design is originally reminiscent of Mad Max or some similar post-apocalyptic setting and I thought it was really interesting. As the game went on and it was more of the same masked individuals I became very bored with it.

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Killer bird things ripping out the eyes of masked thugs! This should be awesome but it’s sort of worn after the 50th time.

It’s something so small but it was a point of contention among me and my friends for the longest time. An abilities has ranks from 0-5. Class modification items can boost skills in rank. Does that mean they still cap out at 5 or can they be pushed beyond that limit? The answer is that they can be pushed above fifth rank but the game doesn’t inform the player as to the new statistical advantages.

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This all being said, the skill menu looks quite nice. It just would have been great if there was an inclusive tooltip or something.

The planet of Pandora has all sorts of strange animals living on it and they’re all pretty cool. The Vault was reportedly built by a race of aliens known as the Eridians. That’s pretty cool, how the aliens left it behind. It would be quite the mystery if it wasn’t for the fact that actual living Eridians show up, especially during the finale. They have no desire to communicate with the player and serve only to create loose ends.

The ending of this game is a real let-down. After hours of mounting tension it’s revealed that The Vault was a hoax, which could have been cool in itself but it’s actually some sort of prison for a monster. Instead it was exacerbated by the existence of the Eridians. It makes sense why they wouldn’t want you to open it but then why would they have made a key to open it in the first place? I just… don’t understand.

The Verdict

This game is most enjoyed with friends but it’s ultimately disappointing. The DLC helps alleviate the shoddy ending but I’ll never forget the time I was promised mystery and subsequent closure and was given a Space Vagina Kraken in return.

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“Hey guys! Itsa me!”

Next Week: Braid

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