I was a little bit (read: very) late to the party to play on Borderlands, besides the brief play before release at the Eurogamer Expo, but after finally renting it last October I fell in love with it.
There wasn’t ever any doubt that I’d like it, but I didn’t know how much. I sank a fair bit of time into the Xbox version before releasing that it wasn’t the sort of game I should be renting, being a time vacuum and all, so I sent it back and planned on buying it. I finally got around to doing that a month ago, thanks to a rather irresistible £7.50 price tag for the GOTY edition on Steam.
According to Steam, I’ve played 24 hours of it up to now and I still have plenty to do on my first playthrough, but I’m still not sure what it is that makes me like it so much. In an effort do that, here are some good things in no particular order:
The art style
It’s a sad indictment on the gaming industry these days that any game that doesn’t aim to have hyper-realistic graphics suddenly stands out, but it’s not always a good thing. Thankfully, Borderlands went for an interesting approach; it’s almost like the original plan was to make a realistic-looking game but tried to make everything look cell-shaded afterwards. It works really, anyway. I approve.
Apparently, there are 17,750,000 different variations of weapons in Borderlands, spread over eight different classes. These figures are often thrown around as marketing tools for games, but I actually think this where a good deal of my enjoyment of the game comes from. Guns are scattered about all over the world and you can ignore a huge number of them, but when you find one you like something clicks and it’s fantastic.
There was a period a few hours ago when I was playing where I started to feel like the game had plateaued, and then I came across a new weapon. I fired a few shots, letting out a satisfying thud and taking down a nearby enemy, and I was in love again – it was that simple. I’d been carrying one particular gun around for ages and replacing it had just changed my experience, similar to how linear single-player experiences introduce new weapons at intervals, but these changes are much more gradual and down to personal preference in Borderlands. I’ve since found another two or three that I love and I’m having a hard time turning it off again.
This is actually the thing I’ve heard the most complaints about, but due to the nature of drop-in, drop-out multiplayer and the RPG-style gameplay, I think it’s absolutely necessary. Yes, they’re often very basic and lack a good deal of story, but the story hasn’t ever really leapt out at me anyway, so I just need the game to point me in a direction and let the fun commence.
I think this simplistic approach is what makes it feel so refreshing compared to so many games that try to do too much; Gearbox seemed to focus entirely on getting all the basic gameplay elements perfect and let everything else wrap around it. It certainly seems like the sensible approach to a new IP, even more so when you consider the reactions to Brink so far.
I’d like to say that co-op is one of the great features about the game, but I’ve not actually managed to get a game going with strangers that didn’t involve me essentially following them around, and I don’t have any friends with the PC version. My plan is to finish one playthrough and then play online with a different type of character.
This is perhaps not the best idea to write at this time of night, as I’m now desperate for another go and I have to be up nice and early for a driving lesson tomorrow. I’m all too familiar with the “quick go” on Borderlands – about 3 hours, give or take an hour.