As you probably know by now, Borderlands is a billed as a FPS and RPG hybrid that's been developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2k games. There have been FPS/RPG hybrids before on the PC, so how does Borderlands stack up?
Welcome to Captialwa-, er Pandora.
As with most RPGs, before you start your journey for adventure and treasure you're given a class to play. Each class has their own set of unique abilities . This game isn't meant to be played solo, and you'll get the most of Borderlands when you're playing with 3 other friends. I won't go into extensive detail about every single class as I could go on for ages, so here's the class run down:
The Soldier - The solider has the ability to drop a turrets to defend your location, or if placed right can be used offensively. The solider also has the ability to replenish ammo in your party as well as healing other party members with the "cauterize" skill by oddly enough shooting fellow team-mates. The soldier's weapons of choice are shotguns and assault rifles.
The Siren - The siren is quick and nimble. She posses a "phase walk" skill that lets run and fight with incredible speed. This is skill is also helpful to have to revive wounded team mates as I'll explain why later in the review. She prefers weapons that incendiary in nature.
The Hunter - He possesses a bird of prey that allows him to attack enemies from a distance. As you would expect from someone who likes to stay out of harm's way, the hunter prefers using sniper rifles to make his kill.
The Berserker - Every multiplayer RPG has these characters: The Tank. The Berserker special is, well, Berserk mode. While in this mode, you go into a frenzy recovering any lost health while dealing a whirl wind of death with your punches that's reminiscent of getting the stim-pak in Doom when you're going around punching people's heads off.
On top of their special abilities, each class has a "class mod" slot that gives you and sometimes your party bonuses to weapon skills, stats, health and just about every buff imaginable.
Once you've chosen a class, the game starts by telling you about Pandora - a planet that seems to only be inhabited by psychotic raiders with a penitent for steroid abuse. On Pandora there is legend of an alien vault that is stock piled with precious alien technology. Of course, no one has ever been to this vault and you and your team are out to find it for fame and fortune. Now, going out and looking for a vault but some precious technology, in a desert landscape fighting off bandits sounds a bit familiar to anyone you're right. The plot is torn right out of Fallout 2. I know what you're thinking, the game takes place on another world and not post-apocalyptic earth. But the shanty towns, raiders that look like they're from The Road Warrior all scream Fallout to me but it's not a bad thing. Speaking of borrowing from other games as you're going about doing quests, there's an ominous vision of a woman who guides you throughout your adventure telling you where to go and what to do when you're searching for the legendary vault. So if you're looking for more of a sandbox RPG, you won't find it here due to the strict linear nature of the story.
The first town you're dropped into is the town of Fyrestone who's population has to be 3, including the friendly robot tour guide "Claptrap". Claptrap gives you basic tutorial of how the menus, HUD and basic gameplay mechanics. Anyone who's familiar with FPS's should pick up on the mechanics in an instant. There's barely a learning curve so those who want to get in and blast some baddies won't have to do a lot of tinkering. Everything is laid out in the HUD from your shield level, health, ammo and you even have an experience meter in the bottom portion in the HUD. While meandering about in Fyrestone, you meet the first quest giver - Dr. Zed who sends you on your way to meet more NPC's who are just as one dimensional, forgettable and talk in witty one liners (that are juvenile most of the time, but entertaining) as well.
Control wise, everything is pretty straight forward for a FPS game. You use your mouse to aim, and shoot and the WASD keys to move around. Holding down shift allows your sprint and space is your jump button. If you don't like the default layout, the controls are fully customizable. Something that should be allowed in any PC game. Playing the game solo gets rather boring and to be honest, quite tough. So, since a lot of my friends picked up this game as well, I hopped in with them and actually had quite a good time despite the fact that this merely a console port to the PC.
Time to get into the meat of the review. Borderlands seems to borrow a lot of elements from other games to combine it into a fairly unique game. The first tell tale element is the use of a Halo-like personal energy shield. Once the shield drains, it can be recharged if you hide somewhere safe from enemy fire and let it recharge.
You can't just pick up any ole weapon and expect to be an expert. Borderlands has you leveling up different weapon skills. You level up weapon skills by simply using them. For example, the more you use your shotgun, the better you'll be with it in terms of accuracy and damage dealing. Speaking of weapons, one of the games selling point is the "bazillions of guns." That might be true as every gun in the game has randomized stats from ammo capacity, damage and even elemental, incendiary and corrosive properties. On top of having fire arms and rocket launchers, you also have grenades. It's strange how they treat grenades in the game. To level up your grenades you have to find grenade mods. Different mods will give your grenade different properties such as explode on contact and corrosive properties to just name a few. You'll find weapons, a shield mods and other goodies randomly through killing baddies, opening lockers, rummaging through refuse piles and vending machines that are scattered across Pandora that makes me think of those vending machines from Bioshock. What's stopping you from just breaking the damn thing open and taking what you want is beyond me.
With "bazillions" of weapons at your disposal you're going to do a lot of killing, which in turns will give you experience that'll allow you to spend it on various skill sets. Each character class has three trees allowing them to specialize in specific areas for support, damage dealing and defensive skills. If you don't like how you speced your character, you can go go the "new you" stations provided along the perimeter of the maps to respec your character... for a nominal fee of course. The type of baddies you'll be killing will usually be in the form of alien creatures and psychotic raiders. There isn't a lot of variety to what you'll be killing but what is there is fairly unique and fun to kill.
Death and dying seems to take its cues from Left 4 Dead. While playing multiplayer, if you go down, you can be saved by a buddy if he or she gets to you in time. If the unfortunate happens and you do die, a new "clone" of you is spit out at the nearest "new you station". The penalty for dying is 5% of your cash. It's not really a penalty at first, but once you accumulate millions of dollars and see 20-30k deducted from your pocket each time you die (and if you get careless you can die a lot) it gets rather expensive. Of course, if you've spent all your money, you really don't have to worry about death other than the minor inconvenience of running back to your team mates.
The quest design leaves much to be desired. You're not going to have an excellent story or well thought out or developed characters. They're all forgettable and the quests usually boil down to you collecting something, killing someone or Fed-Ex a package to someone to progress to the next area. I know this is becoming common place in most RPGs as of today. I'm too used to anything with an "RPG" in a title allowing creative ways to finish a quest and character development. Some might argue that the quest marker/compass is the way of the game "holding your hand" but if you're playing this game the way it was meant to be played with other people, it really does help speed up game play. If you're getting sick of doing the main quest or need to "grind" like mad for money, gear and XP there are quest boards posted in Fyrestone and other areas of the game if you feel like doing some more tedious MMO style quests.
The textures of the game are amazing. The cell shading gives it that "comic book" feel that's reminiscent of Jet Set Radio. The voice acting is pretty good and they fit the characters perfectly. The scream of the berserker as he's going around crushing fools heads like the Incredible Hulk is always satisfying to hear. The ambient music is great and quickly changes over to a more tribal hard hitting track when combat starts up. The production value is great in borderlands, but it's not without it's problems when it's been ported over to the PC.
Lost in Translation
It's hard to not play this game as PC gamer, and cringe knowing this is a direct port from the console versions. If you want to save your progress, you have to run by a save point area, and it saves the game for you automatically. Anyone who's ever read my reviews knows that when you can't save, when you want is one of my pet peeves.
The biggest problem for this game on the PC is that there are no dedicated servers. So you better hope your friends have great Internet connection speeds and hardware. So you're going to run into problems forwarding ports if you're sharing your Internet connection on a router at home. What's really bizarre about this is that when you jump in game, there will be a delay that's dependent on your latency between you and whomever is hosting the game. There is no way to check your latency in any of the game menus by default. You can turn this "feature" on in the configuration files, but why isn't something like this already available from the get go? I don't feel like going through various files and change variables when all I want to do is play.
Speaking of editing configuration files, there are no "advanced" graphic options as well. You can change some stuff around a bit in the configuration files, but overall if you don't have the recommended hardware expect some serious graphical lag.