In a year when gaming was at its best, with classics in the making and the appearance and reappearance of great developers, people believed that they had seen everything.
Then Borderlands arrived. A callback to a time when shooters were truly challenging, this game had everyone who played it sucked into its immense, deadly world for dozens, if not hundreds, of hours. But does that mean it’s any good?
Evidence shows that, yes, it is.
The game is a blend of first-person shooter and role-playing game, with a bit more emphasis on the latter than some hardcore shooter fans may appreciate. However, the major draw here is the endless loot.
Yes, this game has a Diablo feel to it, as weapons, items, and money can be collected from completing quests, killing enemies or searching the vast desert plain that is Pandora, the setting of the game. It can be addicting to players, spending just one more hour trying to find that awesome gun…and then it’s 5 in the morning.
Visually, the game is stunning, rendered in a cell-animated style not unlike that of a comic book. The sheer beauty of the terrain is only matched by the bloody, uncensored nature of the combat, which is deeply affected by the massive number of useable weapons.
Most games have around ten to twenty weapons available to the player, excluding vehicles and special powers. Not only does Borderlands include Death Race-style 4-wheelers, the ability to choose between four specialized classes, and upgradable powers and stats, but it also features an enormous weapons randomizer, capable of creating thousands of different weapons, ranging from shotguns to SMGs to sniper rifles.
All the weapons in the world won’t matter if the game is unbalanced or dull. Luckily, Borderlands hits the right balance between accessibility and challenge. While I won’t say the game is easy, the shooting and aiming mechanics are solid, allowing for first-time players to adapt fairly well. The straining combat is made much more rewarding by the fairly wide variety of enemies and the wider range of ways to kill them.
So that’s the good news. However, with every game, there are some minor flaws that should be addressed. First, the plot is simple, paper-thin and simply uninteresting, which may irritate some story-centric gamers. Second, for those hardcore fans who expect to have a wide range of customization options, the game limits you to changing the name and colour scheme of the chosen character. Finally, the difficulty of combat and the occasional level grinding may turn off some more casual players.
Looking at this game, I see spots where there is potential for greatness that wasn’t achieved here. Borderlands is an amazing game with well-crafted shooter mechanics, a large and beautiful open world, a soundtrack that boosts the intensity of the action and genuinely funny dialogue from the cast. It stands as a reminder that games were once praised for being tough yet rewarding, and are still able to earn that praise today.
It’s not a perfect game, but it is packed with content and the pure goodness of games past. This is recommended for anyone craving action…or loot.