Gearbox Software, the developer of Borderlands, brought us a game in 2009 that managed to mix two genres of video games into one, and do it rather successfully.
You’re a Vault Hunter in the world of Pandora on a mission to find the legendary treasure that is supposedly waiting for you in the Vault. The catch with this Vault is it can only be opened every 200 years, so this might be your only chance at it. You set off to find pieces of the Vault key that have been taken by some bosses in the world of Pandora. That is about as far as the story goes and is a bit thin in the development of that story. With practically no cutscenes besides the opening one, all the story is generally acquired by reading text in your mission details.
The story is by far the weakest component to this game, and once you reach the final boss fight, you’ll be left slightly confused, leaving you with more questions than answers. You’re given little explanation as to what is fully going on and is a bit of a disappointment.
The gameplay of Borderlands though is the shining moment in this game, with plenty of humor thrown all over the place. Between your sidekick Claptrap, to NPCs scattered throughout the world, to even the bosses, they all offer up humor that can be sure to give you a chuckle. The game manages to be a role-playing game and a first-person looter-shooter all in one in a seamless way.
You’ll have four different classes of a character to choose from, each with their own unique ability and skill set you can level up. There’s a Hunter who prefers the sniper long-range approach with a pet hawk to send and take out enemies. A Soldier that has a deployable shield/turret to use as cover. A Berserker, who prefer up close melee combat and shotguns, with a special that allows them to punch the living crap out of enemies. Lastly, there are Sirens who can become invisible and run fast, with the ability to upgrade and customize their elemental effect on enemies. With each of these classes they have three different skill trees to level up and customize all their abilities.
One of the best thing about Borderlands is the amount of guns available in this game, which seems to be an infinite number of them. From SMGs, snipers, pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and rocket launchers, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from in how you decimate your enemies. The looter-shooter aspect of this game is what makes it addicting, with each new chest you open up giving you new possibilities for a new powerful weapon. Even when it comes to boss loot drop and the fact that you can farm them gives you even more options for that next overpowered weapon to add to your arsenal.
A lot of the weapons will have elemental effects, which can either make a weapon more powerful or less powerful depending on the enemy type for which you are facing. Incendiary and corrosive weapon types can be very powerful and have a damage over time effect on them. Shock weapons work wonders on enemy shields and explosive weapons give the chance to blow things up.
With all the weapons at your disposal Borderlands also gives you plenty of chances to use those weapons, with a great amount of enemy variety that is scattered throughout the game. From Skags that like to pounce on top of you to Rakk that will swoop down from the sky, you’ll have a lot thrown at you. Even some of the boss fights offer up some interesting bosses in terms of looks, but are a little lacking in the mechanics side of things. Most bosses end up just being a bullet sponge with no real mechanics to carry out.
Even though the story is lacking, there are still plenty of missions to tackle and will give you ample playing time during your time in Pandora. There’s a decent amount of mission variety ranging from retrieving a specific item, killing a certain number of enemies or even killing a specific target. If you explore enough and do all the side missions you’re bound to run into some optional bosses as well.
This game also isn’t just meant to be played solo because you can get up to three more players to join you in your journey through Pandora. Difficulty does ramp up when there are four players though, so be aware of that, but having your friends along can make the experience more enjoyable as well. Although when loot drops from enemies you’ll be left to fight over who gets the loot as it’s shared between everyone in the instance, but there is trading available between players.
Borderlands offers an interesting art-style that was originally not how the game was supposed to look like and delayed so they could add the cell-shaded art style. While the graphics don’t look amazing in a realistic way, they still do look great and make certain areas really pop, along with all the varied enemy types. The colorful gore in this game is great, whether you snipe a Psycho from a distance or you tear through a Midget with a shotgun the end result ends in a colorful mess.
The world’s environments do start to feel and look the same after a while though, with not a whole lot of variety. After a while seeing the same run down looking shack and rocky environment can get a little monotonous. The last area is a nice change in scenery since it’s a snowy mountainside, but other than that most of the areas and environments look about the same.
The music throughout the game serves its purpose, but it’s nothing to write home about. It knows when to pick up in suspenseful situations or during boss fights, and stays nice and mellow other times. The voice acting is decent at times, from what little voice acting there is. There is plenty of humor from your claptrap companion, as well as the various bosses. This game would have greatly benefited from more voice work though, especially when it came to missions. Missions objectives are just a wall of text, so it would have been nice for Gearbox to expand on the voice work there.
Overall I think Gearbox did a decent job with Borderlands, and nice setup into the world of Pandora. While the story and character depth is lacking, the gameplay and the vast amount of gun variety somewhat make up for it. If you love a looter-shooter style game with plenty of weapons and some RPG elements thrown in with laugh out loud humor, then definitely give Borderlands your time.