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Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Vault - 6 - Past Decade Reviews: Borderlands

Game of the Year Edition

Title: Borderlands
Region: Americas
Genre: Role-Playing Shooter (RPS)
Stats: NTSC, 1080i HD, Subtitled, Cooperative Online Capabilities
Developer / Publisher: Gearbox Software, 2K Games
Released: 2009
Systems: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC

List Price: $38.99 [BUY AT AMAZON]


Most video games nowadays have a LOT of depth. Most games are so addicting and so full of things to do, you'll spend months just trying to accomplish everything. The Halo series and Call of Duty series are great examples of this, multiplayer-wise. Other games, without the multiplayer, continue to shock and amaze with nostalgia. The Fallout series is another good example of this. All in all, it seems that developers have gotten a clue and hooked on to the bandwagon. Other games are so incomplete and impossibly short that's not even worth a weekend rental.

There are huge games, games that can change the way you look at gaming. Forever. For example, Halo 2 was massive. It showed the correct way to make a game. Call of Duty 4? Also massive. Metal Gear Solid 4, Super Mario Galaxy, Guitar Hero 3, Grand Theft Auto 4, the list goes on. And somewhere in between everything, there's Borderlands.

Here's the thing: Borderlands, at my first view of it, sounded better on paper. A game with millions of guns, hundreds of quests, a huge level system, it sounded like a bad parody of Fallout 3. Considering the cartoony-style look of the game and the high promises made, and you've got a pretty skeptical view of it, I'd imagine. For the hell of it, though, look at how big Fallout 3 WAS. Or other RPGs like it. So there were good and bad aspects about Borderlands right before it came out. And yet, after a good, meaty amount of time with Borderlands, you'll realize it's a wonderfully addicting game with excellent game progression and a thorough amount of reasons to continue playing. And the replay value, mixed with the awesome DLC and various characters to choose from, is undeniably amazing.

Describing Borderlands is a hell of a lot easier than summarizing it, so let's start with this. You're a mercenary on the fictional planet Pandora, on search of something called 'The Vault', said to be filled with treasures beyond your wildest dreams. You pick one of four mercs on this crazy adventure: Roland, a former Crimson Lance (more to be explained later) soldier, Lilith, a Siren (some magical woman with odd tattoos), Mordecai, an expert hunter with a pet bird, and Brick, a clumsy, not-so-intelligent bulky dude, with fists for atom bombs. You pick one and set off on the adventure for this seemingly true fable.

On the way, you'll run into a huge group of Bandits and Raiders, who's job is to send out psychotic bandit midgets (that's right) to chop people up with axes and loot the whole town, Skags, who are supposed to represent vicious, wild dog-like creatures, the Crimson Lance, an expansive legion of soldiers with automatic turrets. Other enemies will come and go, but they're the core problems throughout Borderlands' vast world. Each one of the mercenaries has their own special abilities.

Roland's special ability is to summon a Scorpio Turret, which can rain support fire when you need it. Lilith's is the Phase Walk, which can make her turn invisible and walk 3x as fast to surprise her enemies. Mordecai's is to summon his bird to rain terror upon the peoples. And Brick... well, he just uses his fists.

As your character levels up, you'll have the chance to spend a skill point, which can be used to upgrade your health, weapon damage, special ability, your shield, and other various abilities your exclusive character possesses.

See, Borderlands is supposed to be complex, yet have its own understandable flow. Borderlands is, far and away, one of the vastly intelligent games to ever be created. The RPG system is brilliant, and focuses well. It will hook you from the first level to the last. And the items you can pick up. Oh, man! The amount of guns in this games are huge. It's all full of energy.

Borderlands follows a very subversive shoot-n-loot system. You level up, kick a bunch of ass, die a lot along the way, make some friends, kill some friends. The loot is very rewarding when your hard work pays off. There's hundreds of thousands of assault rifles, machine guns, submachine guns, sniper rifles, pistols, shotguns, even weird elemental weapons with incendiary, explosive, corrosive, and electric ammunition. The more guns you find, the more used you'll get to each of the classes. As I mentioned before, the skill trees also play a part in your weapon advances.

Fighting this guy solo is absolute suicide.

There's a lot of problems that come along with your constant ranking up. Some of the enemies are tough, and I mean really tough. Turret firing, people who snipe at you, ferocious birds that attack you from the sky, called Rakks. Just be prepared. Let me tell you, some of Borderlands' final bosses are some of the most difficult challenges I've ever come across in a video game. There's one particular boss in the DLC, Secret Armory of General Knoxx, that is so difficult, you need to be at the highest level with three other friends just to have a chance.

And another thing. The game's locations, visually and tonally, begin to change. From the beginning of the game
you're introduced to just cracked gravel, exactly what the desert offers. Later on, you'll go across into legion bases, various bandit-filled dockyards. When you pick up the DLC, you'll come across swamps, cities in the sky, and arenas.

One of the most interesting things in Borderlands is the use of travel. With such a huge world, and so many places to visit, you're going to need a faster route. In the Fallout series, you had your trusty Pip-Boy with you to travel. In Borderlands, you get something called the New-U station. This station allows you to fast travel to any location to take up or finish quests, or just go around blowing shit up. This also allows you to customize your appearance, though you can only change three colors in your character's clothing, and reset your skill points to create a new skill tree at your whim.

Vehicle combat is another thing that will spice up the frantic battles that oh so commonly take place in Borderlands. You start out with a simple car that you can design the color and switch it from shooting rockets to shooting with a machine gun. If you have the Secret Armory DLC, the number of vehicles improve vastly.

But the real addictiveness of Borderlands, is the amount of hours you will spend in online cooperative multiplayer. This is the meat and potatoes of this energetic game. Here, you and three other players can shoot and loot your way through Pandora. This is a great way to gain more companionship, to one up more people on Xbox Live (or Playstation Network for PS3 players). And, at times, Borderlands is breathtaking with friends. Teamwork and friendliness is vital in co-op. Battling the tougher enemies make it even more of an amazing experience. When you fight the toughest boss in the game with four other leveled-up friends, prepare for an experience like none other, that will change the way you look at gaming. Ever.

Another thing to enjoy about the co-op system is the ability to work together on quests. Having a microphone for your Xbox / PS3 is almost VITAL. You need to communicate in order to help. For example, I was online with three other friends. We were preparing for a huge amount of bandits. Through careful planning, we were able to plot out something to help us through the battle. And in doing so, we all took turns running for the objective, and we got it each time, while continuing to provide support fire and using our teamwork to push through. Doesn't that just sound wonderful? Well, wait 'till you experience it. Borderlands is made all the more enjoyable.

Borderlands is one of the biggest games to date. It's annoying and frustrating at times, but it is truly a subversive, lovable, and altogether near-flawless experience. With a thrilling co-op experience, expansive weapon system, a number of character classes to play through, a great level-up system, the amount of loot to find, the hundreds of quests to take up, the great travel system, all the teamwork involved, it's an experience that no gamer should miss. You should definitely buy this. At the very least, give it a rental. It may just shock you.


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