After some more hands on time with Borderlands I wanted to address some of the aspects that I left out of my first impressions plus talk about the insanity that’s floating around the net regarding the game.
First I want to elaborate on the visuals of Borderlands. Graphically it’s clean and crisp with a style reminiscent of Crackdown and the last Prince of Persia. Bold strokes of black and stylised character models lift the appearance which may not be the best to come out of this generation. But this doesn’t mean they’re bad, just not as ground breaking as bigger budget productions. Since Unreal is behind the looks it does suffer from the notorious texture pop-in whenever a new area is entered or a save is loaded. The failing lasts about as long as every other Unreal game plagued by the same issue so isn’t something Gearbox can be truly blamed for. Read on to see what else can be said about Borderlands.
I’ve heard that some critics seem to experience a feeling of loneliness while traversing Pandora (the game’s location) which confuses me. On my admittedly early wonderings, there were always something going on or some kind of enemy to tackle after a short amount of time. Loneliness was far from my mind as I had my twitch reactions fully tested by Skags – wild dog-like beasts – who would lunge at me, open mouthed or pint-sized axe-wielding bandits wanting nothing more than to hurt me. These moments are what make Borderlands such a fun experience as the level of enemies can almost make you feel overwhelmed yet holds back enough to keep things fun. Edge of the seat moments are what fuel a lot of great shooters and Borderlands has it’s fair share. The inhabitants aren’t all bad however and I have stumbled across some friendly faces willing to send me off on missions boosting my money and attributes.
Multiplayer for the most part works well but item collection and trading are a little questionable. If playing with a friend or three, you have to be pretty trusting when loot is around. Pressing X on a fallen goody lets you pick up that one thing but holding X makes your character pick up all items within a small area. So it’s very easy for a group of you to down a stronger foe and only one receive all the rewards. If you want to sell or trade items you must drop them for the buyer to pick up and they should hopefully do the same for you. I say hopefully because nothing is stopping them from just running off with your loot or worse, shooting you. I would hope a patch is being worked on as I type to make things a little fairer for all. But then again, these are meant to be the Badlands and fair isn’t something that’s meant to enter the minds of it’s visitors and citizens.
For players hoping to carve out individuality within their character may be a bit disappointed at the limited customisation of appearance but should be satisfied with the skill points. Levelling up and gaining experience points leads to skill points which can open up new abilities or advance the ones you have. I’m playing as Lilith who’s first skill to be unlocked was the phasewalk. When entering this mode, a small burst of energy is released, harming those within it’s range while Lilith turns momentarily invisible and runs much faster. This can be used to evade or sneak up in enemies with the changing back giving off another hurtful blast. After gaining this ability, I’m able to choose how I spend my earned skill points with a number of different outcomes. I could aim for more stealth or increase my melee attack. Right now, I’m trying to go for both.
The multiplayer is what reviewers are seeming to get the most hung up on. Bizarrely for me, someone who’s playing the game mostly in single player, I keep reading that the only way to really have fun is by playing co-operatively. I don’t doubt that much like any game, it’s always more fun with other people but saying that the most of your enjoyment will come from multiplayer feels like it’s selling Borderlands short. That sentence could be the deciding factor for those unsure whether to buy the game or not . By saying it’s less of a single player game could prevent a large group of people having a great time with it. I know I am. If Gearbox developed Borderlands to be a multiplayer experience with a single player campaign tacked on then they’ve done a superb job with said tacks. It certainly for me, doesn’t feel like that’s how the game’s been made so baffles me to think some critics feel that way.
I’m still very much enjoying my romp through the world and it doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. It would be a shame if Borderlands is dismissed due to the idea that it’s unable to offer a decent single player component then it’s a great shame for those missing out.