Borderlands, a game review

An often well rounded and liked addition to some of the more traditional game genres is the use of RPG elements. The addition brought Castlevania up to a new level with it’s use in Symphony of the Night. Dissidia: Final Fantasy utilized the series’ home in RPGs by utilizing the same RPG elements in the fighting to make it a little more than a Final Fantasy Fan’s dream. Deus Ex and Fallout 3 both use RPG elements to set itself from the rest of the FPS titles. Borderlands is another game that combines First person shooters and roleplaying games to create a unique experience. Developed by Gearbox Software, creators of Brothers in Arms and developers of many of the Half-life expansions, and published by 2K games for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the PC.

The game’s graphics, art style, and art design is very well done, if perhaps controversial. The game originally had a more realistic appearance, and then was shown to be changed to add a more comic art style a few months back. The cel-shading like appearance doesn’t hurt the game’s gritty style, if anything it works better for the game with the light humor that comes from the game’s characters. The Weapons, characters, and enemies are all nicely design giving each one a distinct personality, especially in respect for the characters and weapons both of which are incredibly unique through out the game. The landscapes are vast and varied, the size of them is incredible, however the scale often underused.

What really takes this first person shooter and make it really unique is exactly what doesn’t make it a first person shooter. The roleplaying elements in the game drive the gameplay, giving you four classes to choose from, and a tree system not unlike World of Warcraft’s. Each class, while able to use all of the same weapons and most of the same equipment, are extremely diverse. There are a number of variables that you can choose from depending on your play style and in large they work. There isn’t really much in the way of great abilities that are extremely flashy or overpowered, and the trees are a bit on the short side, but they can really enrich the experience a great deal.

Perhaps one of the biggest other features the game borrows from RPGs is the number of weapons. There are millions of weapons in the game, which is largely due to the computer randomizing a vast majority of the stats and characteristics. This randomization can give you something like a revolver that fires bullets like a shotgun, or an RPG that launches fireballs, but more often than not comes down to the base stats of the gun, like it’s fire rate, the presence or absence of a scope, the power and the like. The weapons will in large feel the same, but the emphasis on upgrading your loot makes this a fairly unique First person experience, even amongst other first person roleplaying shooters.

The shooter part of the game itself is solid and pretty simple. You get a projectile weapon of some sort, fire it at the enemy. Most enemies have their weaknesses, some are obvious, others not so much. The fighting in the beginning can become difficult just by virtue of being vastly outnumbered and out-geared, but become a brilliantly controlled chaos once you learn the ins and outs of the game and your talent tree becomes more filled out. There are a handful of boss fights in the game, but in a singleplayer standpoint they’re not exceptionally hard.

This is where online becomes a huge welcomed addition. Borderlands, like many games in this age, has online co-op allowing you to play with up to three of your friends in the same game. No one is restricted to a certain class, you don’t need to make a new game or character, people can drop in on any character on any level at any time. The more people in a game, the harder the fights get, the better the loot is, and the more fun the game gets. Battles that might be easy and short on single player are now ramped up to large scale fights that can go on for a great deal with seemingly no end in sight. Working together in these large fights become an extremely enjoyable experience for even the smallest of fights.

Perhaps the only downfall to this is that it’s too damn enjoyable. Playing Borderlands cooperatively with friends becomes a past-time almost as addicting as some MMOs. Anything you might have to do while playing the game becomes a secondary thought as you do quest after quest in the game. It becomes a vacuum for productivity and has indeed kept this review from being written because of it’s addictive nature.

All is not great in the game though. A small point of poor performance is in the game’s vehicles, which perform a bit worse than the rest of the overall game, but make up a small portion of the game largely being used for traveling. A rather significant and strange disappointment is in the game’s story. With roleplaying games a strong story is usually paramount, not so with Borderlands. There is a story to the game, but it’s barely noticeable. In large you pick up all of the quests, skipping past the exposition for each one, and go do them. The game doesn’t do much to make you notice the story, which makes for an almost absent narrative experience.

Borderlands is a game that, while not laden with a strong story or driving narrative, is an immensely fun game. The talents, classes, innumerable weapons of every kind, and amazing coop gameplay create a game that, above all else, is nothing but an enjoyable experience. The game’s art style reflects the light humor and dystopian world perfectly to create a lovely atmosphere. While not perfect, Borderlands is a game well worth purchasing and spending hours upon hours lost to the world of Pandora due to it’s delightful gameplay.

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