Review: Borderlands

Combining RPG elements with frenetic FPS action is usually a game development path that can’t go wrong. In the case of Gearbox’s brand new darling <b>Borderlands</b>, they most certainly hit one out of the park. Splicing together some of the things we love about both genres — as well as explosive multiplayer adventure — was one of the best moves they could have ever made. And it’s become one of the most infamous time sucks of all time. Where to get more loot? How can I level up faster? And why isn’t everyone playing <b>Borderlands</b> on my friends list?

Enter the world of Pandora, a planet inhabited by some of the most vile creatures to have ever been spawned…as well as copious amounts of gnarly treasure. On Pandora the coveted “Vault” is hidden somewhere, tucked far away from the greedy paws of adventurers such as you, or at least the persona you will take up upon beginning the game. And it’s no wonder everyone’s risking their lives to find it. Rather than Vault-dwellers, the inside of the Vault is a supposedly filled with endless wealth, power, and treasure. Countless hopefuls ship off in order to find this hallowed location, though <b>Borderlands</b> is more about the twists and turns on the pathway to the Vault rather than the frolicking about reaching such a mythical place.

Though <b>Borderlands</b> allows for a solo campaign, much of the fun to be had comes from rounding up a few good friends and tackling the world of Pandora head-on. Much like an MMO, the game consists of waves of NPC interaction, completing quests, the extermination of several bosses, and cashing in various treasures found whilst performing the latter tasks. To compare it to current similar titles, think Fallout 3 mixed with the silliness and irreverent sense of humor found in Serious Sam.

<center><a href=”/members/image_screen.php?s=3775″ rel=”lightbox[imbeddedscreens]”><img src=”/members/image_screen.php?s=3775″ width=”485″ border=”0″ alt=”Video Game Media”></a><br><span>There’s plenty of ground to cover in <b>Borderlands</b>.</span></center>

At the beginning of the game you can choose between four character types saddled with unique skills, costumes, abilities, and attitudes. Among these you have the Siren, the Berserker, the Hunter, and the Soldier, While there is little visual customization to be had no matter which character class you choose, it shouldn’t matter too much since the game is played in a first-person view. Unless you’re gaming with friends, in fact, you’ll soon forget about which character type you chose to begin with until one-liners begin to fly. And it’s not a worrisome affair, choosing the “proper” class, as all are just about equally balanced and a blast to play as.

The flow of obtaining quests, meeting new NPCs, taking out enemies for said NPCs, returning for rewards and loot, leveling up, and restarting the cycle is a smooth one as well as a rewarding one. <b>Borderlands</b> wants to ensure that you are thoroughly compensated for the time you sink into it.

For instance, downing enemies (as in every other RPG available) will net you valuable experience points that go a long way in bettering your character’s overall constitution as well as contributes to a skill tree that eventually will become decked out with useful abilities you can employ to get to that loot a little quicker. It’s all up to you how your character should grow. Do you want to take them in a direction that relies mainly on defensive abilities or offensive abilities? Taking into consideration team play, the branching character ability paths are strategic watersheds that take quite a bit of thinking on before making your final decisions. Of course, if you become unsatisfied with what you choose, there’s always the option to start anew in order to try something completely different!

<center><a href=”/members/image_screen.php?s=3777″ rel=”lightbox[imbeddedscreens]”><img src=”/members/image_screen.php?s=3777″ width=”485″ border=”0″ alt=”Video Game Media”></a><br><span>Mmmm…sweet carnage.</span></center>

If character creation is not truly your thing, then take heart! <b>Borderlands</b> is packed chock full of loot. Loot indicates treasure, shields, cash, and most importantly, guns. Yes, there are a lot of them. You’ve got your familiar categories: shotguns, SMGs, rifles, pistols — you name it. A wide variety of weapons have been included that will make your head spin. Some err on the side of traditional sidearms, while others will do explosive (and even corrosive) damage. Bladed pistols, rocket-launching shotguns…the list goes on. If you’re not lured in by the slick RPG elements then surely a seemingly endless cache of imaginative weaponry and massive amounts of loot should do the trick. However, even though you’ll come across tons of explosive weaponry, you’ll find yourself selling good chunks of it off in favor of the better guns scattered around Pandora via vending machines or picking it out of dead enemies’ remains. In fact, you’ll spend far more time scavenging than actively engaging in combat or completing quests — it’s an explorer’s dream. Looking down to pick up all the loot you’ll eventually require can be tiresome, but eventually as you ease into the game’s atmosphere and play style the acquisition of new bling becomes more and more satisfying, like some kind of ritual.

I spent most of my time on Pandora alone in order to complete the campaign, and found that going solo severely hinders your ability to rapidly complete the story mode and significantly reduces the amount of fun that’s possible to have with the game. Most of the intelligent life on Pandora wants your head on a platter, so it’s prudent to play with friends whom you know will have your back, lest you enjoy being brought back to life at various stations across the planet and going at the same missions over and over. Teamwork sells <b>Borderlands</b>, so keep that in mind if you’re in the market to pick up a multiplayer extravaganza that requires an extra hand in taking out the baddies and then cleaning up, so to speak. 

While the game can most certainly be enjoyed alone with a good amount of perseverance and dedication, the climax leading up to the very end of the game was quite unsatisfying, and the extremely thin plot line left much to be desired. Those are the only true negatives I can find to say about <b>Borderlands</b>, since most everything else is done quite well. The visuals are absolutely fantastic, rendered in a half-cel shaded, half heavily inked style. Vivid colors abound even throughout the world of Pandora, covered in rust and rundown locations. It’s playful without being goofy, and character animations, specifically the more violent ones, are a treat to behold. The voice acting is superb, especially for the lovable Claptraps found throughout the planet. If an FPS/RPG hybrid ever needed an official mascot, I think we’ve found it in the endearing little droids.

<center><a href=”/members/image_screen.php?s=3779″ rel=”lightbox[imbeddedscreens]”><img src=”/members/image_screen.php?s=3779″ width=”485″ border=”0″ alt=”Video Game Media”></a><br><span>Welcome to Pandora.</span></center>

<b>Borderlands</b> is a fantastic hybrid of gaming genres that we all wish would meld together. It’s an exercise in teamwork, sprayin’ and prayin’, and looting the corpses of our enemies. There’s nothing particularly cerebral about it, nor groundbreaking, but it’s a rousing good time for those who want to sink hours of their life into a game to claim what’s theirs for the taking. Round up a few friends online and explore the world of Pandora. Though you’re questing to find the Vault, you’ll come out on top with the discovery of something even better — a great game.

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