Feb 012010

Borderlands

Borderlands by 2K Games is a unique mashup of and FPS and RPG. The game is rated M for a reason, there is nonstop killing and gore. If you liked Diablo 2, and enjoy FPS games, you’d love Borderlands.  They both have three playthroughs with the same missions, but higher difficulty. Also, the loot engine has random loot with 17,750,000 different possibilities. Part of the fun is the unending quest for better loot. Overall, the variety of missions is much more in-depth in Borderlands. You can play single player or multi, but with Borderlands your single player character is compatible with multiplayer games.

Last week I finally finished the first playthrough with a couple of friends that have mastered the game already. They were kind enough to start out with level 1 along with me and work through the story missions. One of my friends has beaten the game five times and still enjoys it. I think that is a testament to the quality of the game. Most of the missions are NOT just kill XX and come back, much like I remembered World of Warcraft to be. There are a few early missions like that, but overall most of them are much more complex.

I still think it is kind of funny that Borderlands takes place on the wasteland planet of Pandora. This planet is about the direct opposite of the Pandora from Avatar. Much of the landscape reminds me of Mad Max, and there are a few references to the movie it in the game as well. Another aspect that is different is that the gravity is lower. It takes a while to get used to the “moon jumps,” but you need to master them in order to complete some of the quests. There are quite a few that require some skillful hopping around to find pieces of loot. Located somewhere in Pandora is “The Vault” that only opens up every 200 years. Supposedly there is advanced alien technology, but nobody knows for sure. You play as one of 4 classes of Vault hunters guided by a ghostly girl that secretly communicates with you.

One frustrating aspect of Borderlands is that this is a console port. It is out for Xbox 360 and PS3, but this review is for the PC version. The UI can be frustrating for gamers that are used to playing PC games. If you have and Xbox controller for Windows, you can just plug that in and play without changing any settings. I’m a mouse and keyboard FPS player, so I did quite a bit of customizing. Hosting multiplayer games uses Gamespy for matchmaking, and it is rather difficult for users to host if they are not familiar with changing settings in routers. I found the following thread helpful for opening up the ports needed to host games. Some people simply aren’t able to open ports up, so that can throw in some snags. That said, hosting doesn’t work for me the first time in many cases. If I have been playing for a while, I have to exit out and re-launch the game and then my friends can connect. Also, it is not possible to join a private match on the host. They have to send you an invite, or you have to wait until another friend on your list joins, then you can join off of them. I’m sure this is a bug, and hope it is fixed eventually.

Another frustration is the game map. Having played Star Wars Galaxies in the past, I took for granted how useful an overlay of the map is. If you want to check where you are in Borderlands you have to pop up the map. If you are in a car, it stops you. There is a compass with a flashing diamond for your destination, but the terrain on most of the areas makes getting there anything but a straight shot. One workaround I found was to have a friend ride as a gunner to keep the map open and give directions, “Turn left, turn right, go straight.” It is kind of comical at first, but it works.

On the topic of driving, the controls are not anything like vehicles in other FPS games. It took a while to get used to, but I still find myself driving into rocks now and again, especially when using the turbo boost. If your car flips over, you have to hop out and melee and it to bounce it around and eventually flip over. Another quirk is that if you have 3 people and only 1 car, you can push the third person along in front of the car at full speed, and even boosting. The entertainment value of doing this doesn’t seem to wear off.

Borderlands car crash

One of our crashes

Aside from a few problems, the game is very well done. The multiplayer is balanced so that the more that play, the harder the enemies get. I only wish there was an option for more than four players. On many occasions I’ve had 5-6 friends on, and we can’t all fit in one game. The great thing about multiplayer is that each class has unique class mods they can equip that can help the team. Each mission is different, requiring a unique mix of skills and weapons. The format is fairly open ended, with main story arc missions spawning off smaller side missions. Also, you don’t have to do all the missions in order, just the main story arc ones.

As far as the graphics are concerned, I don’t think I have ever seen a game quite like this one. The environment is cell shaded with hand painted textures. The characters are not quite 3D, but also not 2D. It’s kind of hard to explain. Take a look at some of the trailers and you will see what I mean. The engine seems to run fine on my Nvidia 260GTX on full quality, so I don’t think it is quite as resource hungry as some of the newer games that have been released recently. I highly recommend this game. There are two downloadable content “expansions,” but I haven’t played any of those yet.

Posted by Stettin

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