Growing up on games like Quake and Diablo really helped me to appreciate the greatness of Borderlands. There’s been a lot of games that have tried to pull off genre hybrids, but they either fail to deliver or just fail to program a game correctly. Borderlands is one of the few games that manages to feel like an RPG and a FPS at the same time.
Coming from a shooter side, the game is a very fun classic style shooter, meaning that the realism has been replaced with you getting to unload a clip into someone before dropping them. Sniper head-shots can generally take a foe down with one shot, but most all other guns are going to require you to get dirty. It feels an awful lot like a classic Quake shooter too. It’s just action based. Your ‘cover’ system is generally using you strafe and jump at the right time. By all means, this a welcome to some older gamers since most of today’s games are just striving to hit a certain realistic feel.
From an RPG point, the game does take a few tumbling points in certain areas. The biggest problem is the skill tree. It’s pretty bare and some of the skills just feel useless. There’s also not enough skills to pin you into one type of character. Are you a Hunter looking to just be the stay-back sniper? Well, you can max those skills out but you can’t invest only points into one branch. It would have been nice to borrow a few more of the Diablo elements, allowing you to create an amazingly unique character from branches. Instead, you’re left feeling a bit underwhelmed by the skills. The only other problem with the RPG element is the characters all feel about the same. My Hunter manages to be a jack-of-all-trades character instead of just a hunter. While I might technically do more damage with a sniper rifle, my dark-orange rare machine gun that does 4x fire damage is going to take down the enemies faster. While these two things are a bit critical, the rest of the action role-playing feels genuine. Looting is fun; leveling up is fun; and having a huge inventory is very nice.
From a graphic standpoint, this might not be a masterpiece, and some may feel a little turned off by the cartoony look, but by all means, you can at least distinguish this title from the other 90% of shooters that look like Modern Warfare clones. The one problem with the game’s graphics is some unstable frame rates, mainly when there’s a lot of blood on screen, a lot of elemental damage, or just towards the end of the game. It’s not unplayable, but the slowdowns shouldn’t be happening at all. Aside from that, it’s a nice refreshing look and feels more like a video game than a simulator.
There’s a story to the game, but even after playing through the game two times, I don’t think I could tell you what it’s about other than treasure hunting. Personally, I think the lack of story kept me more interested. I wasn’t worried about progressing to the end as much as I was trying to kill as many things as I could to find the next best weapon. While the story lacks in a big way, it would be nice to have a bit more of it in the next title release.
Where most people are probably going to go wrong with this title is trying to play this game as a single player game. Don’t bother. This was meant to be a co-op game. It’s like playing Left 4 Dead alone. It’s possible, but you’re going to actually enjoy playing the game when you have friends around. A benefit of having more friends play with you is that the game rewards you with more rare items. Plus, if you want to break away from the typical gameplay, they’ve installed arenas around the area to help you test out your gear against other foes, or to just play a little smack down with a friend.
And for you achievement/trophy treasure finders out there, this title is pretty easy to get 100% in. What’s more interesting is the Medals (or challenges) you can try for with each character. Trying to get 2,000 head-shots or get the max number of cash in the game is wildly fun. It actually feels more like an extra quest in the game, since each challenge gives you a nice pot of experience points.
My final thoughts on the game: it’s a fantastic game, and for a new IP, it’s refreshing to see that there’s companies that still want to bring new or greatly tweaked genres to the table. While there’s some work to be done in some areas, the game had me fork over $60 and supplied me with $100 worth of entertainment.
TL;DR: Buy this.
Reviewed on the PlayStation 3.