Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games / Feral Interactive (MAC)
Release: 2009 / 2010
Platform: Windows / Macintosh / STEAM / PlayStation 3 / XBOX 360
Genre: Science Fiction / Action Roleplay
OFLC Rating: MA
Borderlands is a zany science fiction presented as an Action RPG. Yes, some would call it Roleplay-Shooter, Action-RPG Shooter… Action-RPG is what this is, no matter how it is presented. For example Diablo being known as “The Godfather” of the genre was presented with “Point ‘N’ Click” style in an isometric perspective, whereas Borderlands is an action RPG presented purely as a First-Person Shooter (FPS). Opinions regarding genre classification aside…
For those of you not familiar with the Action-Roleplay genre it is in a nutshell as Elvis Presley would put it – “A little less conversation, A little more action!”. Instead of sitting through hours of dialogue and chores, Action-RPG thrusts you straight into the action. Like a roleplay you play in a world where physics revolve around a set statistics, everything from strengths and weakness to perks.
Borderlands’ story takes place on a desolate planet called Pandora and you’re probably wondering as to whether or not there is any connection between the game and the legend from the Greek / Roman mythology… I will let you figure that out for yourselves since I have no intention of spoiling it.
The story starts off with the suggestion that Pandora is rumoured to be the location of a mysterious vault containing advanced alien technology. This has a lot to do with the back story of the original game (before the release of the four DLC Expansions) which is hidden throughout the game in various “Quests” or Missions. Borderlands’ overall story is pretty loose as the action will stand out even more so. Since this is an action-RPG, expect to be picking this up, trading and/or using an epic assortment of items (ranging from weapons to support gear) – This is otherwise referred to as a “Loot-Fest”.
The one thing this game does well is the option of playing alone or with company (up to 4 players online or 2 player splitscreen should you have one of the console versions). Borderlands focuses on co-operative gameplay (where all players in theory work together) supporting up to four players, however competitive multiplayer is available by way of a simple “Duel” (where the challenger strikes the intended opponent using a melee attack and the challenged accepts by replying in kind or simply ignores – whilst playing co-operatively) or players can visit the “Arenas” where larger matches are set up and held. Unlike most action games where you pick a difficulty before starting (sometimes adjust in the middle of a game also), Borderlands controls the difficulty by the number of players you have in your party (whether it be just yourself or a full game of four player slots filled). Whilst the size of your party may bear effect, the overall difficulty is set similar to Diablo’s style of play where you play through the game multiple times (each time you play through it gets harder). But like any good Action-RPG this saying is very true… “The Higher the Risk. The Greater the Reward.”.
In other words by slugging it out with tougher foes, you can expect to get better loot for all your efforts!
Borderlands features four characters which offer players an appearance and persona along with a discipline to appeal to various playing styles. These are the Soldier, the Hunter, the Siren and the Berserker. (Though they are each introduced as set characters in the story) They can be customised from their names, colour schemes to their strengths and abilities. Each character has a signature ability along with their own unique “Skill Tree” which can be filled out from Level 5 onwards.
The Soldier “Roland” can deploy the “Scorpio Turret” and a skill tree that offers a rather defensive discipline. The Hunter “Mordecai” can send out his pet (bird of prey) “Bloodwing” on an attack runs along with offering a ranged discipline. However these two characters provide disciplines that offer support to all members within the party and are recommended for solo play. The Siren “Lilith” can enter “Phasewalking” the state that which allows her to manipulate time and turn invisible along with a discipline best suited to those favouring stealth. The Berserker “Brick” is practically self-explanatory as his ability allows him literally to go into a fit of rage and pound his foes senseless whilst offering a discipline catering to those hungry for demolition and all-out brawls. Both the Siren and the Berserker are close-quarters specialists offering offensive capabilities to any party. All the characters offer a unique contribution thereby forming a potentially formidable force (provided you have a party of players capable of working together as a single unit). With having a massively huge assortment of items, weapons in particular – you would in some cases have various classes of weapons exclusive to certain characters, however not in this case as this works to allow players to further customise their characters. With a countless number of weapons they each fall into one of eight classes, with each class there are seven associated masteries or “Proficiencies” allowing players to shape their characters according to general style of play. Each level of proficiency grants a bonus for the particular class of weapons ranging from accuracy to damage. These weapon classes include…
Pistols (Revolvers and Repeaters), Combat Rifles, Sniper Rifles, Launchers, Shotguns, Submachine Guns and Eridian Weapons. Together with each character’s skill trees, ability and (general) weapon proficiencies you can ultimately shape your characters by simply making choices when level up and the manner in which you choose to engage your foes.
Along with the original game you have the four DLC expansions “The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned”, “Mad Moxxi’s Underdrome Riot”, “The Secret Armoury of General Knoxx” and “Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution” each of these expanding on the game’s story and gameplay.
At the beginning of this review I introduced Borderlands by describing it as “Zany”, and with the character (playable and non-playable alike) development (with regard to the scripting and so forth) it’s not hard to see why. One of the most memorable of these are the Claptraps (particularly The Claptrap) who are highly comparable to Star Wars’ Jar Jar Binks, being an annoying yet goofy love hate character. Others include “Quest-Givers”, general foes and bosses written with some often crudely funny dialog.
Visually Borderlands has a rather interesting art-style to it and you could be forgiven for assuming it to be cell shaded. Near as what I have heard it is very similar to Team Fortress 2 where the cartoony look is actually rendered rather than cartoon graphics painted over meshes (which is pretty much what cell shading is).
Borderlands overall is a brilliant game offering vastly generous replay value to those seek to take every of advantage of that.
Now is Borderlands for you?
If you consider yourself a connoisseur of Action-Roleplay games, then yes!
If you are looking for a break from the typical linear story driven shooters and still want to play a first-person shooter, then this game can quite easily offer you that provided it’s engaged with an open mind.
If you’re after multiplayer action, Borderlands serves it up on a silver platter to suit both co-operative and competitive tastes.
If you’re looking for a comical sci-fi offering some laughs along the way, then you should not have much trouble there.
If it is challenge you’re after, then you can count on Borderlands to answer it with no holds barred!