Borderlands


By: Jess Nickelsen    On: Xbox 360
Published: Monday 2 Nov 2009 10:00 AM
 
 
 
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It really seems like less than a month has gone by since I first got the chance to try out Borderlands first-hand; but here we are already in November, and the game at last has been released commercially.

If you missed the earlier article - which got into the detailed aspects of the gameplay mechanics, as well as the look and feel - I recommend you follow the link and have a read; I’m going to try not to repeat myself too much, even though this is the official review. I thought I’d instead address a few of the more interesting parts of the game in a little more detail.

Borderlands is a Role Playing Shooter, a moniker that may frustrate FPS and RPG purists, but I really think the combination works. The focus is definitely on action and questing, rather than ‘role playing’ as such, but the leveling up aspect, and decisions players can make about which areas of their character to develop, definitely add to the enjoyment (and replayability) of the game.

Not only is Borderlands an amalgam of two different genres, but it also has a very fluid approach to solo and multiplayer gameplay. While you can, of course, play right through in solo mode, you can also host a game at any level, and have your friends join in. With a group, you can choose to all start out at the beginning, or choose instead to kick off the multiplayer mode at the level the host reached in solo mode. It’s great that the approach is flexible, but it also means that to avoid the awkward situation where you have beginning players scrambling to keep up with an advanced host, you’ll need to manage the hosting process a little and arrange for the beginners to host the game. That way they get a challenge (but not too much of one), while the advanced players can act as support.

As a result of this (I think), the characters available to play in the game have a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. Some are great for multiplayer, but may make for a more difficult game if you play solo. For example:

Last time I played, I took on the role of Mordecai, the hunter. For those starting out, or those more interested in solo play, I really couldn’t recommend the character more. With his ranged falcon that he inherits at level five, concealed enemies don’t stand a chance. And that falcon is surprisingly powerful, which means that the bird, not the dude, often takes out even the really strong enemies. It was fun, but at times could feel a bit hands-off.

This time around, I thought I’d play as Lilith, the siren. She’s got some magical vibes going on, but these are primarily to do with using elemental weapons (guns that can light enemies on fire, for example), and something called a phasewalk, which is a strange ‘in-between’ state that Lilith can move into for a short period of time. She’s practically invisible, and can’t be attacked when she’s in phasewalking mode, but unfortunately it doesn’t last long. You can however make improvements to the phasewalking ability with level-up points, so eventually Lilith can heal herself, or even stun enemies, while she’s phasing. I noticed in comparison to Mordecai, Lilith was a bit weaker, and it was often difficult to get through sections of the game that had been a cakewalk for Mordecai, even though my 360 shooting skills have improved since those early days (yay). In that regard she’s probably best utilised as the rogue-type (sneaking around, etc.) in group play, though she’s still definitely able to kick butt and take names with the best of them.

Multiplayer mode was also great for introducing my boyfriend (a gaming noob) to the game. It was easy enough for me to call up a runner with a rocket launcher, put him in the gun turret, and drive him around the arid badlands for a while to let him blow up skags. Multiplayer also has the added bonus of being able to heal your allies, which meant that when he was busy running around in circles and being shot at, I could walk over and heal him, without having to worry about where he would respawn. And if things got a little hairy, he could run back to the safety of the runner.

Another thing I was interested in was how the game would stand up the second time around. Would I be bored replaying the same quest scenarios again? Well, yes and no. While the quests definitely were familiar (and there can be a fair amount of grinding in some of them), I still very much enjoyed myself.

And as for the rest, well, I’m still very impressed with the look and feel of the game, as well as the deceptive simplicity in the game mechanics. The jump-in, jump-out aspect of multiplayer mode is great for people who like to play both solo and multiplayer. And while FPS/multiplayer extremists may find the questing a bit grindy (as one confided to me after a few days of playing), there really is a je ne sais quoi about this game that totally rules. In fact, I’m considering getting another copy for the PC, just so I can play with my other group of gamer friends.


The Score

Borderlands
"What’s more awesome than awesome?"
9.2
Excellent
Rating: R18   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 15 Min

 

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Comments (17)

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Donutta
On Monday 2 Nov 2009 12:43 PM Posted by Donutta
Nice to see a review from Jess. It's been a while. :)

The more I hear about this game, the more tempted I am to splurge and get it. There's just too many good games out this holiday season. (Why don't they stagger the releases more?!)

The problem is, if I wait, will anyone still be playing it down the line?
 
 
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stevenz
On Monday 2 Nov 2009 12:54 PM Posted by stevenz
You don't say why you think the audio is worth a 10. I thought it was pretty good although the incidental dialog gets extremely repetitive. The graphics tend to suffer from some fairly major pop-in (on the PS3 and PC versions anyway). It's very grindy in a WoW sort of fashion in order to be able to tackle any of the bosses and suffers the repetitiveness that all grinding results in.

The weapon variety isn't quite what they made it out to be, any specific (boss-drops, quest items) weapons will always be of the same type usually with minor differences in bonuses, and very little of the random weaponry you find is of any more use than just selling it immediately. Strangely the best loot seems to come from killing the Rakk's (Pterodactyl-like birds).

I do quite like the game but despite the novel graphics style and the Tarantino-inspired "cutscenes" it's largely just a shallower Fallout 3, with some WoW-like aspects thrown in.

If they didn't base the little robots, at least in part, on GIR from Invader Zim, then I'd be quite surprised.

I'd give it about a 7.5 - bearing in mind I haven't tried the multiplayer which I believe is a lot more fun.
 
 
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Takuyafire
On Monday 2 Nov 2009 1:08 PM Posted by Takuyafire
One of the largest flaws with the game is its multiplayer unfortunately...

Well for PC users anyway, almost anyone that wants to host a game needs to port forward due to the stunning GSA built in.

It annoys me.

The game however is fantastic and once you get in multiplayer it can become a real scramble when hordes of Bruisers appear.
 
 
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Jess
On Monday 2 Nov 2009 4:24 PM Posted by Jess
Hey Liam :-)

Stevenz, I rated the sound as a 10 because (as I mentioned in the hands-on) Borderlands has the best in-game music I've ever heard. That's a totally subjective statement, but I stand by it for my score :-)

I also loved the look and feel of the game, and while I agree that FO3 has better 'RPG depth' the fighting has a lot less impetus and forward-motion due to the VATS system.

I agree 9.2 is a high score but to be honest there aren't a lot of games I've played recently that I've enjoyed so much. So while you (and rightly so) may give the game a different score, I've tried to be as straightforward and honest as I can about why I think the game works.
 
 
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SpawnSeekSlay NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Monday 2 Nov 2009 8:59 PM Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
Im glad I didnt buy this game brand new and basically be the BETA tester for it. But even with its bugs and problems ill still get it on the PS3 in the new year to Co-Op with mates... just hope its had a few patches by then to fix the betaness of it, then we'll be rockn :)
 
 
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proGENE
On Monday 2 Nov 2009 10:18 PM Posted by proGENE
You should mention something about the god-awful mic support. My god I tried to play today and None of my friends could hear me, and I could barely hear my friends. If you're playing with mates be sure to use something like vent or steam voice chat because it just does not work well in-game.
Also the fact that you can't see what ammo you're picking up unless you know what it looks like is trouble, since I haven't figured out how to drop it for mates. I have a bunch of useless ammo and my friends all have my sniper cartidges. Bad borderlands.
 
 
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guido NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Monday 2 Nov 2009 10:21 PM Posted by guido
Can't wait to get this game!! Well, actually I can. A couple more patches and she'll be good to go!! :-D Damn there's been a lot of great games out this year and more to go yet?!
 
 
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ChatterboxZombie
On Monday 2 Nov 2009 10:56 PM Posted by ChatterboxZombie
'parently its a bit of a grind fest but theres some solid fun to be hadwith this. quite a big game too.
 
 
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stupidlikeafox NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Monday 2 Nov 2009 11:19 PM Posted by stupidlikeafox
ive quite enjoyed the first 15 hours of multiplayer i experienced. <3 bloodwing.
 
 
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dbsmith
On Tuesday 3 Nov 2009 9:10 AM Posted by dbsmith
The online (PC) game joining feature is really badly implemented - it took ages to find a game that worked and even then, the lag made it pretty unplayable.
 
 
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Takuyafire
On Tuesday 3 Nov 2009 11:23 AM Posted by Takuyafire
Oh yea the mic support.

Just to ask, has anyone figured out how to turn the damned thing off? We want to use vent, but none of us know how to disable mic ingame...its just on...permanently and it only transmits when its bored instead of when you want it too.
 
 
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Jess
On Tuesday 3 Nov 2009 6:29 PM Posted by Jess
Ah, argh! Thanks for the heads up about the PC multiplayer (bugger) and also the mic support. I didn't get the chance to test out either of these.....
 
 
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lol
On Tuesday 3 Nov 2009 7:38 PM Posted by lol
I played it and it was boring at first but then it was good fun bun then I ran out of munyes so that was pwetty ratchet

and the sound realy is not 10 i wood guve it a 4
but it is fun......

in parts
 
 
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Foxman
On Wednesday 4 Nov 2009 2:16 AM Posted by Foxman
PC multiplayer is best run through GameRanger (www.gameranger.com). It bypasses Gamespy completely and provides a more stable platform without the stupid in game voice as well so you can use external voice chat. I've been running it for a few days now with Steam for voice and have yet to encounter any issues. Much better overall. Fully loving my scorpio turret with ammo and health regen :)

As for graphics pop-in on PC, I haven't seen any. The game runs smooth as silk on maximum settings without the remotest hint of slow down, stutter or graphical anomalies.
 
 
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GayMan3000
On Friday 13 Nov 2009 3:34 PM Posted by GayMan3000
:D
 
 
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Anthony
On Saturday 28 Nov 2009 8:35 PM Posted by Anthony
Awesome co-op fun but the game was ridiculously disappointing overall.
 
 
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shigeru_yoshida
On Sunday 17 Jul 2011 12:41 PM Posted by shigeru_yoshida
Great game, would recommend it to anybody
 
 
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