Regardless of how much time you decide to spend on Pandora, that’s time well spent.
Time and time again, we’ve seen games that try to combine dissimilar genres, but that can go one of two ways: the result can be a terrific game (Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords) or a complete and utter failure (Duke Nukem Forever.) Luckily, Gearbox Software’s Borderlands falls under the former category and its loot-hunting, first-person shooting and action-RPG elements make this game easy to recommend to fans of any of the aforementioned genres.
The story’s set in the planet of Pandora where’s there’s a legend about the Vault, a place that contains powerful alien technology. In the game, you assume the role of the vault hunter, a traveler who’s after the legendary treasure with a couple of his friends. As soon as you launch the game for the first time, you need to choose one of four characters. The options include Lillith the Siren, Mordekai the Hunter, Roland the Soldier or Brick the Berserker and each of them has a unique set of weapons and abilities.
So that’s the run-of-the-mill premise behind this game, but that’s more than enough to get you shooting and looting and luckily, those elements are delightful. The action is remarkably simple, but that doesn’t make it less engaging: an NPC gives you a quest and you go to a specific point in the sprawling map killing enemies, retrieving items and getting as many weapons as you can, so that you can eventually defeat a boss. As you’d expect, rewards come in the form of experience points, money and sometimes a reward item.
There’s a variety of weapons to choose from, including pistols, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, machine guns sub-machine guns and so on. Each weapon has statistics attached to them and at no point did I come across two exact weapons which is a testament to the MMO qualities of this game. Your character also unlocks different types of skills as you level up. The skill tree’s divided into three sections and these are different according to the character you choose. Roland, which is the character class I chose, had Infantry (which enhances the damage you make) Support (which unlocks abilities that assist you in battle or defense improvements) and Medic (which is, of course, related to health.) Your first skill point’s unlocked at level 5 and you continue getting points until you hit the level cap.
When it comes down to it, Borderlands is a combination of different genres, but the best part about the game is that it takes the defining characteristics about those genres. The quest logs feel like they fell right out of World of Warcraft, the action-RPG elements are reminiscent of the Diablo series and the shooting, while nothing special, reminded me of some of the best. On their own, none of those elements would stand out, but when you combine them in the same game, Borderlands becomes an irresistible title.
The world of Borderlands is divided into different areas that are interconnected (there are loading times between them) and everything that inhabits that world is always pretty to look at. The game uses the popular cel-shading technique, a visual style that makes everything looks like it was hand-drawn. This cartoon-like and colorful quality provides both detail and contributes to the bleak tone of the game, which by the way, is reminiscent of the Mad Max series of films, but with a much more humorous tone. Borderlands is a series of fetch quests where you usually shoot enemies, retrieve items and explore vast environments on vehicles or on foot. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but to make most of the game, make sure you have at least another friend to play with.
There are definitely moments in this game where you feel woefully unprepared for what’s ahead and that’s where some of the side-quests come in-to play. There are dozens of optional missions and you can do them whenever you want. As you’d expect, they reward you with money, experience, equipment, story bits and more. Although I completed a bunch of side-quests during the first few hours of the game, I never felt forced to do more of them, though if you want to level up quickly, they are probably the most organic way to do so.
Borderlands combines elements from dissimilar genres (MMO, first-person shooters, role-playing games) and the result is genuinely unique and eminently entertaining title. The number of missions can be overwhelming at first, you can hit a wall if your level isn’t high enough and the game can seem to drag if you’re playing on your own, but Borderlands is an intoxicating title that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in any of its individual parts.