Borderlands hadnâ€™t really been on my radar before E3, but after seeing it in action, itâ€™s definitely something Iâ€™d recommend keeping an eye on. It combines addictive shooter gameplay with an RPG underpinning in such a way that it largely transcends its derivative setting.
It may help to think of Borderlands as a cross between Halo, BioShock, Diablo, and World of Warcraft. Or rather, as any first person shooter mixed with Blizzardâ€™s penchant for addictive loot-gathering. Borderlands is set on a foreign planet that was once inhabited by humans and exploited for its resources. Once the planet was bare, most people upped and left. However, word got out that a legendary vault of alien artifacts was on the planet somewhere â€“ and so all manner of thieves, rogues, mercenaries and general scumbag opportunists have returned to try and seek their fortune. Itâ€™s almost like a sci-fi gold rush.
You can choose from one of four characters, all of which fulfill a different archetype, from melee classes to healers. Regardless of who you are, youâ€™ll be able to find all manner of different weapons, armour, and other useful things. Itâ€™s a surprisingly deep system that wouldnâ€™t look out of place in an RPG. Likewise, your character sports a whole heap of stats that can be upgraded however you see fit. Skill trees allow you to grow your character in one of several ways, giving you access to whole new abilities.
The world itself is a combination of open travel and side quests, and a linear main quest. There are apparently three distinct areas to explore, all of which you can return to at any time. Vehicles will help you get around, as will fast-travel points that let you return to various hot spots. Four-player co-op is strongly encouraged â€“ this is a game that youâ€™ll like a lot more if youâ€™ve got friends alongside you for the ride.
The landscape is gritty, and full of greys and browns (unfortunately). And yet the cell-shaded, exaggerated art style makes it far more interesting than it would otherwise be. Complementing this is the gameâ€™s humour â€“ itâ€™s obvious that the developers are having some fun here. How else can you explain the ability to get healing bullets that make your team feel better instead of leaving them bloodied on the ground?
Overall, Borderlands is looking tight â€“ and much more interesting than when it was first shown. The off-beat graphic style and humour make it stand out, but itâ€™s the tight-looking RPG systems and subsequently deep shooter gameplay that will keep people hooked.
The Good: Deep RPG system; off-beat humour.
The Bad: Derivative setting.
The Ugly: The greys and the browns.