Yes, I know that this game is old, almost 10 years old now, but during a recent playthrough in a LAN party with Joe and Clarice, I had a few revelations that I wanted to share. The start of the hit series developed by Gearbox Studios is more than incredible, but how can a game this good have some glaringly big problems? By the way, this review will include spoilers, so in the unlikely event that you haven’t played Borderlands, don’t read further than this. Or do; it’s up to you.
Oh Pandora, you know that anywhere that has the name of Pandora, shit’s gonna go down. Taken from Chambers Dictionary (1998), Pandora means “Any source of great and unexpected troubles”. I think that explains Borderlands pretty well considering the plethora of enemies that you come across including bandits, Rakks, Scythids, and of course, Skags. Anyone who hasn’t deliberately swerved into the path of a Skag isn’t a true Borderlands fan. This is one of the things that I enjoy the most about Borderlands. The array of enemies and the subcultures of them, Badass Corrosive Skag anyone?
Borderlands isn’t just about mindless killing though. There is a storyline that is deeply ingrained all the way through the entire game. From the moment you step off the bus and are contacted by Angel through to meeting Patricia Tannis, to completing the Vault – I will admit that at times it may be a little hard to see the storyline through all the side missions, but besides helping you level up for the next boss, they do help the story progress. For example, Tannis enjoys leaving recorders lying around; these tell the story from her arrival on Pandora for the DAHL Corporation, the death of her team, the descent into madness and the discovery of the Vault. Then there’s just a mission to blow stuff up, like the mission to destroy Headstone Mine, it’s stupid and fun but does have a deeper purpose.
There’s no way we can be talking about a Borderlands game though and not be talking about the guns. Even on the box (Yes kids, we used to get a game in a box, on a disk rather than just downloading it from a crappy server) the game told us about the BAZILLIONS OF GUNS. Well maybe not billions of guns, but the game at one point had the world record for the highest number of guns in a video game of 17.75 Million guns… All of which were procedurally generated to make every playthrough different. An SMG with a Fire element that only shoots 6 bullets with some seriously high damage and a stupidly high fire rate; I’ve had that before, it wasn’t the most practical gun in the world. But the more practical guns you will find involve high accuracy Assault Rifles, Pistols with serious damage, and Rocket Launchers that hold massive amounts of rockets. Anything that you will really need for any situation.
Now we’re going to start moving into the areas that I have a few problems with. Firstly, the art style. Yes, it’s great, a brilliant mix between cartoon and simplistic while also having stupid amounts of detail… But while it looks great, it makes me feel ill. Not like I’m going to vomit… But more that It gives me a weird feeling behind my eyes that makes me need to stop playing every hour or so, and believe me, that’s the last thing that I want to be doing. This could be partly due to the FOV being rather closely zoomed in, but most of the time I just keep playing on due to the game being just so damn good.
The other thing about this game is that it’s actually surprisingly hard. When you’re on your own, enemies feel balanced as they spawn with guns and abilities that match your level, but when you start playing with more people, the difficulty starts to ramp up. The game takes the highest player level of everyone in your party, then gives the enemies health and weapons to combat them. For the player with the lowest level (Normally me due to the way I prefer to just run from point to point only killing what I need to, to get through an area rather than killing everything in sight) this can make some things a little difficult.
…And then we get to the bosses, where it’s a completely different issue. When you’re on your own, the bosses are fucking hard, like, aneurysm-inducing hard. Hiding behind every corner, running out of bullets, dying, restarting, etc… Until you happen to be lucky enough to complete it. While in a party, things become so much easier. To the point that while fighting Sledge, all it took to kill him was to have Joe and Clarice stand back shooting him and then me, as Brick, getting right into his face and start punching him to death while Berserking.
A fight that took me half an hour to solo took less than a minute in a party – It was so fast that the regular enemies that spawn around the boss to help distract you didn’t even have time to get into the arena to attack… This is because the bosses don’t level with you; they have a set weapon, set health and a set level. This just means that with more than one person, the boss just can’t decide which enemy to attack, leaving everyone else to attack without fear of being hurt. This is a trend that happens all the way through the game, even into the Vault.
So there we have it, a review of a 10-year-old game that still holds up in today’s standards of being a fucking awesome game. Seriously, if you haven’t played this game, get it, it’s cheap to pick up on steam and you don’t need a very powerful computer to run it. Or if you still have an old PS3 or Xbox 360 lying around you can buy a disc of the game in any trade in store pretty cheap. I give Borderlands 1 a: