Borderlands is a unique and rare game that, unlike many current games, pulls you in right away and never lets go. This Diablo-style first person shooter has all of the best elements of an action game and a loot-based roleplaying game packed with some beautiful artwork and enough content to keep you busy for fifty hours or more. With a recent price drop to $37 for Xbox 360 and PS3 versions and under $30 for the PC version, Borderlands is a steal. I highly recommend it.
The Longer Review
We live in a wonderful, yet strange age for video games. On the one side, we have games like Final Fantasy XIII, a game that according to sources, requires nearly 35 hours before you leave the tutorial. While this incredibly long introduction isn’t the norm, it is normal for a game to take up to five hours before you really understand how well you will like it or not.
Borderlands is not one of these games. I was hooked on Borderlands within the first fifteen minutes of putting in the disk, maybe even sooner. The introduction alone is enough to really pull you in and show you what sort of game you’re going to be playing.
At its core, Borderlands is a Diablo-style first person shooter. This is a weird combination you might not be able to get your head around if you haven’t seen it or tried it out. Though it feels like a first person shooter, there are definitely hard-core roleplaying elements here. Every shot you fire shows you how much damage you’ve done. When you set fire to guys, numbers go flying out of them like blood or flames showing you the damage of each tic. As you level up, your accuracy, damage, and hit points all increase. There’s a talent tree for the four character classes (for my lengthy run-through I played Mordaki the Hunter), and an enemy level system that makes it nearly impossible to kill monsters more than three levels above you.
The artwork in Borderlands is unique and fantastic if you like cell-shaded comic-book style graphics. Style overtakes realism in this game, and it’s a really cool effect. The sound is likewise excellent with a great soundtrack and useful audio cues when enemies are coming up from behind.
At it’s heart, Borderlands is a game about upgrading gear. The story is a lot of fun but it’s the constant upgrade of new items, many with unique combinations of statistics that really brings you in. The joy you get the first time you receive an ultra-rare 4x corrosive high-damage revolver is hard to beat.
The baseline story of the game takes about 20 to 30 hours to complete, bringing you about half way through the level tree. At this point you can begin another play-through which scales up the difficulty of the bad guys and puts you through the game again. Unfortunately, the otherwise awesome quest system is linear enough that you don’t get a much different experience the second time you run through it.
As good as it is, Borderlands isn’t without it’s problems. For one, I hate roleplaying games that shoehorn in vehicular combat. I don’t want to ride around in a go-kart that I didn’t level up and can’t improve. When I go through the trouble to level up and equip a character, I want to spend the game in the eyes of that character, not riding around in some vehicular afterthought. Luckily, the quests that require the vehicle are very slim.
There have been a number of downloadable content releases for Borderlands, some good and some bad. I have played through about half of the Island of Dr. Ned and I’ve been loving it, although I had to go back to the main game and level up a little bit before being able to effectively kill the waves upon waves of zombies. All the humor and action of the main game are well played out in this expansion. I’ve read good things about the Secret Armory of General Knoxx as well but from what I understand you need to be level 50 to enjoy it. From what I heard, Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot is pretty uninspired and not worth the $10.
With games like Mass Effect 2, Fallout 3, Dragon Age Origins, and now Borderlands; it’s a great time for console RPGs. If you’re a fan of Diablo who isn’t afraid of a little first person shooting, Borderlands is a great game and at $37, it’s a steal.