Review by Ninjujitsu
"Welcome to Pandora, Traveller."
There are good games and there are great games. They are bad games and there are decent games. In any of those ranks there can, however, be a game that has a certain something. A certain "jin uh say kwa." An ineffable specialness that allows you to enjoy the game past its face value. Borderlands is such a game. A very good game that, with a sprinkle of magic becomes one of the most addictive and enjoyable titles to come out in recent years. Combining a Diablo-esque soundtrack (imprisoned elephants excluded of course), world-style, RPG elements and loot system with a more action oriented Fallout style atmosphere and shooting system yields the unruly child that is Borderlands. The developers seemed not to put much focus on the story, but you'll hopefully be more concerned with shooting the heads off of some evil gang midgets to notice.
There are four classes. Each has a three-tree specialization system and a unique action skill. Borrowing from the successful Diablo tactic of skill trees, you can play a class pretty much however you want. No class is limited in which weapon they want to use. For instance, if you wanted to use rocket launchers on your Siren, you could certainly do so. There are no stats to speak of and thus no way the weapons could affect these negatively. If you try to do research on the "best' build for a class you'll likely get the response that there simply isn't one. They are there to give you a boon in your play-style. I will however tell you that if you want to do maximum damage, do not ignore your action skill.
The questing in the game is the normal gopher objective style you're probably sick of at this point, but the action-oriented gameplay and loot hauls make up for this. There are different brands of explosive, corrosive, shock, fire elemental weapons and non-elemental weapons. The brand name determines what type of attribute the weapon will have. For instance will it shoot very quickly but have poor accuracy? Will it have excellent accuracy and firepower but shoot extremely slowly? You will likely choose whichever brand suits your style. Different elements are effective against different enemies. Fire and corrosive do damage over time, explosive does high immediate damage, and shock is highly effective against shields. The statement that there are a bajillion guns is a little bit misleading. There are mostly tweaked variances on certain type of guns. The main list consists of shotguns, assault rifles, repeater pistols, revolvers, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, SMGs and alien weapons.
The presentation and graphics are outstanding. I've had my doubts about cel-shading in the past but it works wonderfully with Borderlands. The atmosphere combines the intentional alone, barren feelings of Fallout with the silliness of a cartoon or comic book. The music has that ambient, Diablo-esque guitar that is suiting for an "evil on the horizon" feel. The repeated samples of speech do get rather repetitive after your 20th hour in, but it isn't insufferable.
I need to mention that the full enjoyment of this game is the online play. Single player is fun and all, but the game shines when you're mowing down enemies with an ally. I'd even go so far as to say the game's good in single player, but great online. The good thing about the PC version is that you can play your character offline if you can't find anyone or just need to get some old quests done and then hop in with that same guy whenever you choose.
So, full of spirit and atmosphere and with an addictiveness that is reminiscent of the days of Diablo 2 Borderlands will certainly make a grand addition to your library and should keep you well entertained for a good while.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/11/09
Game Release: Borderlands (US, 10/26/09)
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