I have to admit I don’t look upon First Person Shooters with the same level of respect as I do with strategy games. Rather than planning out your moves and thinking ahead, you’re often thrust into a situation where you have to gun down all the bad guys while trying to stay alive. Without a compelling storyline to keep me engaged, I quickly get bored and move on to the next game.
Borderlands is a First Person Shooter and its story is relatively simple. You pick one of four treasure hunters and go through a series of missions to try to find “The Vault.” The graphics are quite cartoonish in nature but I found it to fit the over the top, silly personalities of the NPCs (Non Playable Characters) you’ll run into along the way. CL4P-TP (humorously nicknamed “Clap Trap”), for example, will appeal to almost anyone who is breathing and has any sense of humor.
So we have a simple story with simple graphics…what would make me want to play it? Simply put, it features RPG elements similar to that of Fallout 3 and a talent tree you can put points into to improve your character in a number of different ways and combinations. As you complete quests and frag humans, insects, and aliens, you’re XP bar will fill up and when it becomes full you “level up” and are awarded a skill point to spend in your talent tree. People who have played MMOs like World of Warcraft will feel right at home. The talent trees aren’t as big or complex as your standard MMO but it gets the job done.
It’s also worth noting that all four playable characters have their own unique special abilities and talent trees. Those that want to get up close and personal may decide to choose the character “Brick” and those who feel like sniping may choose the character “Mordecai.” You’re not required to play a specific way however…I often choose “Roland” the soldier class and even though he’s better with weapons like combat rifles, he has abilities that can recharge ammo and health turning him into an excellent support class. I’m often using the sniper rifle for long-range combat in conjunction with his support skills even though “Mordecai” is probably better suited for that play style.
The loot is another feature that I really enjoy. You’ll find guns and equipment everywhere and they are never the same. You’ll find pistols, repeaters, rifles, shotguns, shield generators, grenades, mods for your weapons…you name it. Each weapon or item you find is randomized in terms of stats, meaning you could find a sniper rifle with high accuracy in one container and then find a similar one that does fire damage. The name of the weapon is also colored to give you an idea of the weapons rarity. Again, those who play MMOs may recognize the standard white, common but better greens, uncommon blues, and rare purples / oranges that are much more powerful. Weapons and items also have level requirements, so the purple rare level three shotgun you found may not be as good as the white level ten white shotgun you may find later on. You’ll be switching out your weapons and items often as you discover new, fun things to play with.
Throughout the wasteland are vending machines where you’ll be able to buy and sell your items. The items for sale refresh after a period of time, giving you a new set of things (and stats) to look at. There are medicinal, ammo, and weaponry vending machines. As you probably deduced by now, yes, you do have money that you both loot and earn via quests. Save up enough and you can buy that cool looking weapon in the vending machine or upgrade your ammo capacity for a certain weapon type.
Save points are scattered throughout the wasteland, though they also serve as respawn stations should you kick the bucket. You’ll have to pay a sizable fee every time you die and respawn so try not to let that happen. The game does however help you to prevent this from happening, giving the player the ability to shoot off more rounds after losing all of their health. Should the player manage to kill anything while they are down, they gain a second wind and keep playing. If they don’t after a short period of time…they die for good and respawn.
There are many areas and it has an open world feel…meaning you can explore anywhere you wish assuming you’ve unlocked that area from completing the appropriate quest line. You’ll be able to get around with a vehicle similar to a dune buggy, though it has a machine gun and a rocket launcher…both have unlimited ammo. Areas are designed however to make you have to dismount from your vehicle in order to advance in a particular quest so that players can’t abuse the dune buggy’s obvious power.
Bosses are colorful and dangerous…they often require a lot of kiting. Kiting is geek speak for a hit and run play style which keeps the enemy out of melee range. As “Roland” the soldier class, I’m often dropping my deployable turret (my special ability) and running around it to recharge my ammo and health while it kills stuff or damages a tough enemy. Each of the four classes will of course have their own strategies in beating these harder foes.
You can play online with others though the last time I tried port forwarding and Hamachi were required. They may have since solved this problem but be warned, online play may not be a simple matter of inviting someone to your game. Nevertheless, I’ve played the game solo and had loads of fun doing it, always anxious to see what new weapon would be lying in wait for me around the next corner.
Another issue I’ve had with the game is the occasional crash, though I experienced them while playing Borderlands on my Dell XPS PC which is five years old. Yes, I updated the video card and yes, the drivers were updated as well. A number of people have reported crash to desktop issues due to a memory leak but I have not had the problem so far (knock on wood) on my new Asus Laptop. I would recommend getting this game while it was on sale so you aren’t out much if you do end up running into technical issues. I would also recommend you have a fairly good, updated system and video card.
Overall, the game is fun. While the story and graphics probably won’t keep the hardcore FPS player engaged, the RPG elements and the loot certainly will should they also be interested in that genre. If you are someone who enjoys playing video games and feel that the people on the show “Hoarders” have nothing on you then you may want to give this a look. As always, check your PC specs and the system requirements before purchasing. The game is also available on the XBox 360, PS3, and Mac OS X.
Final Verdict: 8/10