Borderlands – PC
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date (NA): October 26, 2009
Nerd Rating: 7.6 out of 10
Reviewed by Dovahkyle
My love for Fallout led me to this beaut, as chats with friends about FPS/RPGs brought up the Borderlands series, and as much as I want to play Borderlands 2, I just had to try out the first one. And boy am I happy I found it for only $7.49 on Amazon. It was a Game of the Year edition, but still a no-brainer. The game’s intro is more like a great Robert Rodriguez flick in the way it really pulls you in, and it kind of feels like a scene right out of the movie Domino with the “Vault Hunters” (Bounty Hunters in the movie) in the van out in the middle of nowhere. Labeled as a “Role-Playing Shooter,” this game does bring some aspects of RPG character building with experience points and specializations, but the all around customization is pretty bare bones.
The player can select one of four characters with their own specializations to use throughout to the game. These characters have three areas of skill that can be leveled up, which is accomplished by earning skill points that are given when the character reaches a new level. The planet of Pandora has an uncanny resemblance to the world of RAGE, which was an amazing FPS/Action Adventure/Racing game set in the wastelands of Earth ravished by asteroids. The barren planet is full of vicious monsters, bandits, raiders, and psychos (no that’s really what they’re called) that will stop at nothing to kill you.
Remember when games were so hard you didn’t know if it was even possible to win? They’re baaaaack. This game constantly evolves around the level of the player much like the world of Oblivion, except Borderlands is always one step ahead of the player in difficulty. Just when I thought I had finally found a stronger/faster gun, a better shield, or successfully used one of my skill points on something necessary, the enemies were crazier, faster, and stronger. This will not leave you as some kind of god like the Fallout series will when you level up; I always had to be on my toes when entering enemy territory (which was everywhere), ready to run at all times and fully stocked with all kinds of ammo and healing kits.
Gameplay: Like I said before, the player can choose one of four characters: Mordecai, the “Hunter” class, specializing in long-range marksmanship and using a Bloodwing to attack enemies for him; Lilith, the “Siren” class, uses elemental powers and has the ability to become invisible; Brick, the “Berserker” class, specializes in explosives and has the ability to go into a berserker rage to destroy enemies with his fists; and finally, Roland, the “Soldier” class who can use all weapons. His special is the Scorpio Turret, which gives minimum cover and obliterates enemies autonomously (I played through with Roland).
A helpful little one-wheeled robot helped me get acquainted with the starting area and introduced me to the doctor (he gives some missions and is the creator of the “Dr. Zed Vending Machine”). Throughout the game, I found Health, Ammo, and Weapon vending machines that allowed me to trade cash, weapons, and gadgets for whatever I needed. I typically found better weapons than the vending machines ever supplied, as most of their inventory was just surplus or cheap. I quickly found out that one of the most important items to find in the game are the shields. The shields will be found with different regenerative properties. As well as bonuses to health, finding the next best shield became top priority pretty quick.
Upgrades for grenades can be found on dead enemies, lockers, or safes throughout Pandora. These upgrades could make my grenades become “bouncing betties,” which would cause my grenade to jump into the air before exploding, resulting in maximum damage to surrounding enemies, or even making them blow up into 3 or 4 smaller grenades to ensure everyone felt it. Ammo capacities could be increased if you’re willing to spend the cash. The two weapon slots you start with eventually unlock into four, which is extremely helpful being that sometimes you need a good shotgun and other times you just need to blow someone’s head off from 400 yards.
There are also vehicle stations, which even the odds a little in the arid wasteland as they come equipped with an unlimited supply of rockets or machine gun ammo and have a killer nitrous system. I have to say, a lot of fun was had as I smashed Skags all over the place. Those little devils become pretty deadly in a large group, I won’t lie, I had to run away a few times and purchase a few more health kits to get back in there. The battles in this game really got my adrenaline going, having to hide behind walls, throwing grenades, launching my turret, all with a wing and a prayer that I would just barely survive to make it back to a vending machine.
Dying in Borderlands is pretty awesome, as far as dying in games goes. No need to save…ever. When I died, my character would be rebuilt at a nearby station where I would just pay a small fee and BAM, everything I had accomplished up to the point of death was still done. I literally died about 4 times fighting one boss and every time I was rebuilt, I could walk back to him and his HP was right where I left it. This is a pretty cool way to do it, especially in a game that is so difficult. It took me a while to stop pausing the game to save because there isn’t even a save feature. Autosave all the way, baby!
Story: The game revolves around a “Vault” that everyone is looking for. This vault is supposed to contain all kinds of alien technologies that could help anyone take over the world. The story itself is a little dry as this is really just a great FPS more than a deep adventure game. Throughout the game, a kind of “woman” speaks to the player and instructs him on the obvious, like “working with Doctor Zed was a good move towards finding the vault,” (like I had any choice he is the only person in the town who wasn’t shooting at me, and the stupid little robot told me to talk to him).
Without giving away any spoilers I wasn’t carried away by the storyline, but it really didn’t bother me a bit because this game is seriously non-stop action right from the start. Of course, there are downtimes, mostly when I was selling equipment and stocking up on goods. Other than that I was always shooting at or being shot at by someone.
Controls: I really wish there was more of a common control system for PCs aside from the WASD movement. I find myself relearning the keyboard every time I start a new adventure on Steam. On one game, crouch is “Lft Ctrl.” On the next, it’s “C.” Melee attack is “F” on one game and “V” on the next. This really drives me nuts, especially on games that don’t let me change the key mapping. I was frantically hitting every button near the “V” key anytime I was trying to slash an enemy with my knife, which caused me to die more than once. And the reload key is “R,” which is great except that “T” opens up a typing dialog to speak to friends who are playing with you. When this menu is open I couldn’t do anything in-game, which really pissed me off more than once. My HP was all the way down, shields were gone, and I’m trying to reload, then BAM a menu pops up and the game is continuing while I am typing up a conversation…ridiculous.
Graphics/Sound: The game is trippy right off the bat. Everything is outlined with black lines, like a cartoon. It kind of reminded me of Halo 3: ODST, except it is the entire game. The cartoonish environment was different, but I really liked it, especially because I could play it on my laptop without any frame skips. The ambient sounds leave something to be desired, but the action is awesome with loud, realistic-sounding guns and explosions, and the monsters are freaking scary sounding, especially when you don’t see them, but you hear them getting closer and closer, Oh My God! Where is it, AHHHH! Yea it’s like that.
Replayability: The game could essentially be played through 4 times with a completely different experience on each run. Although the story and missions won’t change, the abilities of the player’s character will be drastically different. I will personally play this game a couple more times just to see how the other characters are; as for playing it all the way through, I doubt it.
Overall, this game is grade-A killer for a first-person shooter. If you want a dynamic RPG then keep looking, as this game is given that title extremely loosely. I am an avid RPGer and I still loved it; the abundance of weapons and upgrades kept this game entertaining all the way through. Give it a shot if you like PC shooters. Come on man, how can you beat seven bucks for a game of this quality? Gearbox (007 Nightfire & Halo CE) has yet again impressed me, and I can’t wait to play the sequel.
*FS Rating System*
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