Gearbox must have been pretty miffed when Bethesda announced Fallout 3. The post apocalyptic world full of bandits and small settlements of what’s left of humanity sounded awfully similar to what Gearbox was working on – Borderlands. The bonus Bethesda has was the fact that F3 is a sequel so arguably the trend setter rather than follower. Since both games had a similar development cycle, Borderlands wasn’t able to change it’s core story but has been able feed off any negativity that F3 received, creating a brilliant shooter-come-rpg. Read on to find out why I’m loving Borderlands.
You start by choosing a character from 4 fairly standard FPS classes; The soldier who’s a solid all-rounder, A Hunter that favors long range sniping weapons, colossal hulk of a being that loves to blow things up as well as beat them down and finally a sexy stealthy lass with her speed and cloaking ability. Normally I would choose the soldier but decided to go for the stealth option with the hope that this would add yet another dimension to the shooter aspects. The classes are presented to you on a heavily armored coach traveling to a remote area of a place called Pandora. Your goal? To seek a fabled Vault for the chance of fame and fortune. Upon leaving the bus, a vision of an angelic female tells you the stories are true and becomes your guide though her interaction so far has been few and far between. And now the game truly begins. You meet a mobile robot known as Claptrap who helps with things like entering barricaded settlements and start completing missions for various folk you meet on your journey through these badlands. These beautifully-styled badlands because Borderlands has a cell-shaded cartoon-like appearance that allows it to stand ever further from Fallout 3. Powered by Unreal, it’s nice to see even more variety with the engine.
Something that trouble a lot of gamers with F3 was how to approach the gunplay. It seemed the most affective way was not to treat it like a shooter but almost an turn based rpg having the VATS do most of the work for you. Borderlands on the other hand focuses heavily on the shooter mechanics making the game feel a lot faster and more like what we hoped F3 to be. There’s also feeling of Bioshock about some of Borderlands elements. Mainly when you buy and upgrade health and weapons since they’re done via vending machines. Bioshock may not have been the first to do this but something about how Borderlands treats the interaction has somewhat of a Bioshock quality to it. Not a bad thing I must add as it’s another way that the game oozes out it’s own personality.
Speaking of which, the character development and personal progression is an area that Borderlands excels in. This maybe my initial impressions of the game but despite only being 4-5 hours in, there are enough little things that give me that extra level of immersion. For example, Lilith, the stealthy lass I opted for, has an infectious laugh when gunning down bandits and beasties. Saying things like “Hahaha!, I’m really good at this” or “Aw, did that hurt?” all the while giggling as she does so is something I look forward to hearing. It hasn’t yet failed to make me laugh along with her as I enjoy the power of the weapons I find or buy. These weapons are numerous in quantity and I do find myself juggling my inventory as at the moment, I can only carry a limited number of items. When you get a really good gun though, you’ll treasure it dearly and rely on it’s entertaining capabilities – I know I did! Scattered around the world are crates full of ammo and cash so it’s rare that you become so low that your experience is hindered. The crates in question replenish themselves too over a period of time allowing you to build up a mental map of where to go if you’re in need of that top up.
There doesn’t seem to be a feeling of loneliness that other open world games have issues with. So far, it’s not long before I stumble across a den of mutated or just down right ugly animals or even random bandits of all shapes and sizes. Mission points and objectives aren’t ridiculously far apart either so I don’t feel like I’m spending most of my gaming time walking rather than playing. I haven’t even got to the missions involving vehicles yet so this addition should flesh out the world even more.
Like I said, I am only a fraction of the way through a game that can last up to and over 50 hours long but what I’ve experienced in that short time is nothing short of brilliant. I haven’t even touched the co-op multiplayer which is getting some great reviews at the moment. As I write this, all I can think of is how I want to play Borderlands. How I really really want to play Borderlands. I’m confident that this is a game that will keep me entertained for quite some time.