Review by ThirstyThirstin
"What's that stuff coming out the back of his head?"
Borderlands attracted me with its cartoony-style graphics and the fact that it's class-based. I haven't played a good shooter in a while, so I got it because it looked pretty.
As far as the story goes, there really isn't any effort put into it. It's mostly just a device to keep the game together. You are a "vault hunter" on the planet "Pandora" which is a desolate wasteland like in Fallout 3 with lots of rubble plopped all over the place also like in Fallout 3, except there's giant dinosaur bones plopped in with the rubble similar to how Spore plopped dinosaur bones around. You, along with the cut-throat kill-or-be-killed population of the planet, also like in Fallout 3, are looking for the magical treasure that will get you wealth, fame, happiness and also women apparently. I guess they're packaged with the treasure. There's no explanation of how this treasure came to be, so I just assume it was buried by a man named Gold Roger who was king of the pirates. But it's not One Piece, the treasure is in fact called "The Vault" which immediately struck me as an interesting name because Fallout 3 also opened with talk about a vault. And already I can sense where it's all going. The planet is called "Pandora" after all and anyone who's played Paper Mario Thousand Year Door can tell you that so-called mythical treasures of ultimate destiny should never be opened.
The story begins with the four potential yous on a bus and you pick your class. I was at first a little disappointed that revolvers and shotguns weren't on the same class, but soon after I learned that I could in fact use revolvers anyway even though I went with the Soldier class which is supposed to specialize in assault rifles and shotguns. So the only difference between classes is the ability you can activate every once in a while. So I could deploy a sentry and the other classes couldn't. I'll play for hours and hours and I'll never think to use it. So already the whole class system is lost for me. Once you've picked which character you think looks the coolest, you immediately see a vision of the girl from the cover of Memoirs of a Geisha. She tells you that you will meet, and I knew things were going downhill from here, a "funny little robot" and that I have to do whatever it says. This game works so hard to get us to like this robot, it's just depressing to witness. The fact that it has to say the robot is funny is sad enough. It's voice can be heard from miles away and it never stops talking. I actually feel bad for the robot, I think it had neglectful parents judging from all the attention it craves. Even when I'm in the middle of a massive shoot-off I can still hear it in the back screaming for me to look, "hey check it out everyone I'm dancing! I'M DANCING!" And he's absolutely everywhere too. He's in two of the many many unskippable opening scenes that have to play every stinking time the game starts up. And remember how in Fallout 3 when you highlight equipment or stats or anything in an inventory screen there was a little boy acting it out in different outfits? Borderlands has done the same thing, but with the robot. And did I mention there's several scattered around the different maps? I can't get away from this thing. There's even missions where you have to repair ones that have gone broken. But somehow it's voice box never seems to be on the fritz, and it wails and sobs and can be heard for miles and miles until I fix it.
Gameplay-wise, it's essentially the same thing as Fallout 3. It's quest-driven, but the quests are so much less inventive and there's no alternative ways to go about them. They're all "kill 20 of this" "collect 20 of that" "kill the big scary guy." But at least it lets to dip into the action right away. The action doesn't seem to ever stop even when I think I've put things on hold. When I stopped at a town to shop at one of the gun vending machines one time, I could hear shots being fired in the background and I was alarmed when I saw my blood flying around behind the shop menu. I closed to menu to see that a baddie had followed me into town and was taking advantage of the fact that I thought the game paused when I open a shop menu. But hey, it's not like I can really die. I'm supplied with enough ammo to populate Poland. Seriously, I can't stress how much ammo this game gives to me. Enemies drop ammo, green misty corpse piles give ammo and there's crates and boxes and dumpsters and lunchboxes that give ammo and even the toilets, I kid you not, give ammo. It does become a problem though when I start getting supplied with ammo for weapons I don't use instead of the weapons I do use. And I can't even sell ammo. I can sell guns and shields and any other item, but not ammo. I guess this is because if I could sell ammo I'd have enough money to say "forget the vault and it's fame and women dispensers, I've got enough cash already."
For the most part the combat flows very nicely. Everything in the game looks pretty and enemies are easily recognizable and more easily taken down with one shotgun shell. I think my criticism would be that it's too mindless. All I ever do is run into on-coming fire and shotgun people up their noses. There's no sense in trying to take cover and exploit moments when they reload or pause firing because enemies never run out of rounds. I guess they all have the same problem that I do. But I never see them reloading and when I'm hiding behind a wall for my shield to recharge and for my health to regenerate (yes you can purchase shields that never stop regenerating health) I notice that they never stop firing even when they're hitting nothing. I have no choice but to run back out into the on-coming fire. And another mechanic that Borderlands takes from Fallout 3 that I was rather hoping it wouldn't is that you can point a gun square in the eyes of a enemy standing close enough to count his eyebrow hairs and fire and it can still miss because the gun has an accuracy stat. And as I said before, I hardly ever die because when my regenerative health and shield are completely gone, if I kill an enemy within a certain time slot, I spring back to life again. Which I guess is good, considering finding a health pack is like finding money in your pants. The problem with this mechanic is you can't get back up unless you do kill an enemy. I was on the verge of finishing off the last guy after a very large shoot-out and I had almost no health. The little guy shot me and I went down. I figure I could just shoot him back to bounce up again, but the little guy ducked under a rock and I had nothing to kill and so I died. I wasn't under fire, there were no other enemies around. Nothing was killing me. What is it about killing another person that magically brings me back from the dead?
I think it's important for a game to have a comprehensive method for saving progress. I'm very big on games that let you save at any given moment like Half Life or, you guessed it, Fallout 3 (which renders that whole persuasion stat useless when I can just save before talking and keep resetting until the persuasion works). I wish, since Borderlands has stolen so many other things from Fallout 3, that it would steal this one, but no. Borderlands uses the save point method which I'm not hugely big on because then I find myself constantly back tracking to save progress and the bad guys regenerate so I have to fight things over again. The problem with the save points in Borderlands is that they automatically save when you approach them. There's usually shop vending machines within the save point's radius, so say I bought a gun and I want to save that I've bought it, I have to leave the area then came back again and it's difficult to determine how far away I need to be to leave the save point's radius and reenter. I find myself running back and forth like I'm doing sprints in gym class trying to get it to work. Though it is fun that many of them let you change your name and you can purchase skill point resets and change the color of your clothing (though in a FPS, how often am I going to see my fabulous outfit?).
This game is enough to keep me up playing it until four o'clock in the morning, so it must be a decent game. It's just not the astounding, innovative, edge-cutting game-candy it was dressed up to be. It's just a dumbed-down Fallout 3 that tries too hard to be funny.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 01/05/10
Game Release: Borderlands (US, 10/26/09)
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