Review: Borderlands

Mike’s One Minute Review

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.

Comments

  1. Seconded! I really enjoy Borderlands, and it’s even more fun in co-op mode. Grab some pals, and gets ta shootin’.
    .-= Chris Sims´s last blog ..Mailbag 4 – All By Myself, Part 1 =-.

  2. Hands down my favorite game to come out in a long time. I will say Moxxi’s Underdome is an odd duck. It’s really not that bad if you have a group of friends and an evening to kill.

    The latest DLC makes up for it though 🙂
    .-= Rev. Lazaro´s last blog ..Reversing the Idea: Older Editions as Prequels =-.

  3. Michelle says:

    This review is almost exactly what I would have written, had a a wildly successful blog as you do. Dr. Ned is awesome, Knoxx is hard but kind of dull, and Moxxi is harder and even duller. If the developers focus on elaborating the plot and gameplay in the inevitable sequel, it will be amazing.

    FYI, the new Red Dead Redemption game looks unbelievable in the previews I’ve seen. Please consider reviewing it when it comes out in a few weeks. It’s graphics alone make an older game like Oblivion look like it was done on an iPad by high school students.

  4. Noumenon says:

    I have two friends who multiplayer this game at every opportunity — one always multiplayers, like Left 4 Dead 2, but the other just finds Borderlands uniquely fun for multiplayer.

  5. TheMainEvent says:

    I have to say, there were a few things that made me put this game down well before I came close to beating it.

    1. Paper thin plot. Basically, its a retread of every other first person/rpg mission you’ve ever done with a sorta meta-plot thats hardly of note.
    2. Repetitive monsters. I got pretty tired of the same monsters in the same situations I had done before with more powerful attack stats ad naseum.
    3. Passive Leveling. I was disappointed that you only get one ‘special’ action and all your leveling is passive ‘under the hood’ benefits. I’m a huge fan of Bioshock style varied secondary powers.

    I thought the game was a noble failure, but I can see why others would love it for the equipment and cooperative aspects.

  6. “You just keep on pushing my love over the [Borderlands]….” – Madonna

  7. @TheMainEvent: I definitely agree that Bioshock has some awesome power-ups that also allow for customized play style. =)
    .-= Chris Sims´s last blog ..Mailbag 4 – All By Myself, Part 1 =-.

  8. I am well behind the curve when it comes to video games (I’m just now getting into Modern Warfare 2). This makes me want to go out and try it. Thanks.

    -Tourq
    .-= Tourq´s last blog ..Screw Combat! Why sometimes the best fights aren’t even about fighting at all =-.

  9. I just started Armory of General Knoxx and so far I like it. It has a nice variety of new guys to fight including awesome armored ninja assassin squads. It took me a little bit of running around in the main game to get my level up to 50 but now I am well into it.

    Still, the game suffers from a Diablo problem that eventually you get random guns so optimized that you’ll never switch. I have a very-rare 4x acid damage pistol that I use as my main gun even though its 25 levels old now.

    I’m still having a blast though.
    .-= Mike Shea´s last blog ..Providing Real Choices =-.