Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Borderlands

I wasn't playing modern PC games for a long time. It's too much of a hassle, installing some GBs in your hard drive, getting into the game, calibrating tons of controls and then not playing it. So, I used to play old stuff and emulators because it's easier to set up and the controls are simple and you might finish a game in half an hour. So, if I review a modern PC game I have been playing it means something. Because I rarely have the motivation to install and play one. The last good FPS I loved on the PC is Return To Castle Wolfenstein to give you an idea how away I am from hardcore (not casual or indie or emu) PC gaming. Also, there were two recent PC games I played too much the year that passed (and I still play). One is Test Drive Unlimited and the other is Borderlands. Nuff said!



I see that Borderlands has created a fan base on the internet. And I see lot's of people hating it. This happens a lot with succesful games that miss that something and you think they are overrated. Many people find Borderlands boring. It's exactly the opposite with my case, cause I find it extremely addictive. Needless to say that I play the single player mode only, while most people say the game is worth for it's multiplayer. I can't imagine how that will be!

Ok, I will start for the bad points and I agree with some of the haters that something is missing. And then I will go on with what makes Borderlands so unique. They say there is no scenario, just pointless missions. There is some kind of scenario unravelled here even though it's not very strong. This is not important though to enjoy such kind of game. You are a treasure hunter on planet pandora, being lured by some kind of guardian angel to go into the search of a legendary vault that is supposed to hide some alien technology. There is some progression on the story, you find a young scientist called Patricia Tanis, there is Atlas corporation who wants the alien technology for itself, etc. And some side missions that sometimes have some relation to the story, like collecting audio tapes that people left that tell the story (like the Patricia Tanis audio tapes) and some other stupid missions like collecting bottles of beer and such stuff. The ending is not that good, maybe leaves you with expectations for another sequel, maybe not. But the scenario is there to fill the gap and it's not supposed to be important, there are also humorous elements in it and funny character presentations. But it's there, it doesn't suck entirely as people say.

Ok, the annoying stuff that I agree with. Lot's of side missions where you have to go somewhere and find some stuff scattered around, like "Oh, those bandits have stolen my cigarretes, go find them" and such. But if you just love moving around and mowing people done and getting loot then the punny missions are just the motive to go at some place and do that and then finish and go back to collect your reward. Such side stories existed in Fallout 3 and Oblivion too. Then, having to run around from one far side of the map to the other far side to collect something for a mission can be boring, although you have some vehicle you can use for faster travel too. Oh, and those signposts where you can teleport at different location. One sidenote, in the DLCs (aka expansions) that were released for this game, there are no teleport posts to move around, I don't know why they did that and it's very annoying for example in General Knoxx's Secret Armory DLC where the distances are vast (but you always move with the vehicles) - a very good DLC anyway.



What makes Borderlands good is how it combines the FPS and RPG elements together. It's more focused on the hilarious FPS action (with some sense of humour and funny cartoonish style graphics) rather than RPG itself, but borrows some of the most addictive elements of RPG games. You won't find any serious role playing in here, all you will find is what made the Diablo series addictive. Constant leveling up and ability increasing and (drumroll :) LOOTING!!! This is the single thing that makes it addicting for me. You can either kill enemies and they randomly drop loot, which can be money, ammo or weapons, shields and special items. Or you can find these stuff by opening chests. We are interested of course in chests that contain special weapons and stuff, not those ammo chests because you always have plenty of them.

There are any random combination of weapons (some say 1000000... number I don't remember) in the sense of being a pistol/revolver/SMG/Rifle/Sniper/Bazooka/Alien but each with random characteristics sharing, like different percent of accuracy, recoil, damage, reload speed, etc. So, you might find something totally funny, like a rifle with very strong damage but firing so slow like a fucking pistol or a powerful shotgun that spreads the shots so widely that you can't hit anything over one meter of distance or an SMG that fires X2 or X4 shots at once and there are also elemental powers attached to some of the weapons like fire, shock, acid or explosion damage and way much more funny stuff. What might come into your posession is so vast that it's such the excitement when you find new weapon chests scattered around. And there are also many different 3d models/styles of weapons and different weapon manufacturers that affect differently some of these elements. Well, most of the times there is some balance in what you find, so you end up with 95% of the weapons being already worse than what you have which you go and sell in vending machines (another place to find and buy weapons) till you reach higher levels and find more interesting gear around.

This is the main thing that makes this game addictive to me. But of course it's not the only one. The FPS/RPG mix is better to my liking than say Fallout 3 where you had to play with the turn based fighting mode (R.A.T.S.) instead of the real time because it was simply more effective and also you felt sort on ammo (this game is more focused on true role playing than action but it' still a good game but not as addictive as Borderlands for me). There is a scenario that I like as a concept even if it's not deep and just there to fill the gap, but the characters, the humour, the stylish presentation raise this up to a good level imho. If you like moving around in vast areas, enjoying good action and the leveling up/looting elements of RPGs like Diablo then this is for you. Don't listen to people who say this game totally sucks, it's not that bad, it's quite good in my opinion but that depends whether you will be bored with such kind of games or not (if there is a playable demo, try it first).

One last thing I forgot, you choose between four characters, each one of them have different special abilities. One is better with snipers and pistols and carries a sword while he sends a hawk down to enemies, another is the soldier who can set up a turret with a shield to mow down enemies, then there is the girl who can phase in another dimension and come back and likes elemental weapons and then Brick the monster who can punch people to death. So, if you finish the game with one character, you can play another one for an entirely different experience (there is a tree list of different abilities you can choose too). Till now I am playing with Mordecai, the guy with the sword and the hawk, because he had great style on the intro presentation and I also enjoy snipping :)

For me it's one of my most favorite games ever now! I hope more FPS will follow these RPG elements with such success.



p.s. Words about the DLCs. Dr.Ned's Zombie Island, small nice, with Zombies and purple colours and gothic atmosphere. Mad Moxxi's Underdome riot, this is a sequence of arena matches, too many of them, I stopped playing it at some time because it took me 6 hours to finish 3x25 rounds and there were 3x100 later(!!!), might catch up with it later, also it doesn't give you XP by killing enemies so it makes less sense. Then we have General Knoxx's secret armory which is one of the best DLCs, relies a lot on driving vehicles (3 of them) and have some nice ideas and a good finale. Killing the boss (which looks like the general inside a robot suit like in Avatar the movie :) you are into his armory where you set up a bomb to explode in less than 3:00 minutes and you are in a room with maybe a hundred of special weapon boxes with tons of loot, being extatic while your acomplish tells you "Hurry up, you have xxx minutes left" but you ignore and collect loot, LOL!!! And then Tartarus Station where you find Tanis again and she asks for robot parts and more robot parts and she has you complete a boring mission for several times (whyyyy???) before you reach a nice town with a railroad and take some more interesting missions. I wonder why these DLCs don't have teleport signs for their various locations as the original. Though they are generally smaller in size so except from the General Knoxx DLC, the others are ok. I am also hoping for a new Borderlands 2 instead of more DLCs. Maybe improving some of the stuff I don't like (I almost forgot, the Bazooka's sometimes pass through an enemy so you have to shoot for the floor and they still don't do much damage, ugh :P)

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