Sunday, February 6, 2011

Borderlands (2009)

Important info here.

The plot. You are a treasure hunter fresh off the ship on a remote planet, when you're contacted by a mysterious woman, or rather the voice of one, that instructs you to find and open a thing called the Vault, which is apparently what most people in the region are after. The Vault is supposed to be something so awesome, all sorts of organisations want a piece of it.

General thoughts. This one is an interesting game. It is set on a remote planet called Pandora, which is, unlike the Avatar Pandora, a bandit-infested ruthless little place. Most of the planet seems to be desert-like and most of the inhabitants are not too friendly.
You start off as one of four classes (hunter, soldier, siren and berserker). I chose Mordecai the hunter. He is pretty much a skinny dude who prefers snipers and revolvers. And owns a hawk called Bloodwing, which you can use as a special power. Not too useful, but is fun to watch every now and then.

Anyway, you start off as one of these characters (or more than one, if co-op) and you appear to be on a quest to find an ancient Vault which opens once in two hundred years. You are also contacted by a mysterious woman, who appears only to you. She informs you that your task is indeed finding the Vault and opening it.
Now, what makes Borderlands so very different from anything else of the same type, namely open world RPG-s, is the peculiar style it's portrayed in. While the life on Pandora is very complicated and gruesome, the world and everything in it is drawn in a cartoonish style. This is a very interesting approach in a world, where every game is trying to get closer and closer to photorealism. The graphics of Borderlands are not bad, oh no, they're just a little bit on the weird side. It looks almost like the whole thing is drawn with a pen instead of 3D rendering. You get used to it really fast, though, so it doesn't affect gameplay in any way. A lot of the characters you meet are also drawn in this weird style and some of them look a little bit funny, even.
Games like these usually have some sort of funny characters to make an otherwise evil and depressing world a little bit more cheerful. In Borderlands there are a lot of little robots called Clap Traps, who assist you with information, finding loot, activating all sorts of devices and provide amusement. Clap Traps are small robots with two hands and one wheel to move around on. As the story progresses, you will encounter a lot of broken Clap Traps with side missions for fixing them by finding a box of tools. These are usually not very difficult and very beneficial, since every fixed Clap Trap gives you three additional storage spaces and they usually point you to some sort of hidden stash.

A nice touch, I think, is the separation of weapon stashes and ammo stashes, where ammo stashes are usually normal boxes, weapon stashes are more interesting and take a little bit of time to open. This gives a really interesting feeling of anticipation, as the box opens. You never know what you're going to find there.
A weird thing I noticed was the evolution of equipment. Now, the usual approach would be that the equipment gets better as the game progresses, but for Borderlands it peaked more than once. Somewhere around the middle of the game you receive a bunch of really good weapons and shields and then the game proceeds to hand you only bad stuff. I don't know what's up with that.
The ending of Borderlands was a little bit disappointing. I'm not going to tell you what happens, but prepare to be not amazed. At least you can keep playing once you've finished the main storyline.
If some RPG-s tend to feed you a lot of really boring side quests, I found most side quests in Borderland quite interesting. You get to do all sorts of things, mostly 'go kill that' or 'collect 10 pieces of that', but some of these are quite interesting. Also, since you're always on the lookout for better equipment, and side quests sometimes have bosses who tend to drop good equipment, the side quests are helpful there, also. I actually did about 90% of the side quests, which is really rare for me.
You also get to drive around in a weird buggy a lot and you can respawn them for free whenever you're in a car spawning station. Now, I was actually hoping for more of an evolution on the car thingy than just more armor, so if you're expecting to end up riding a tank, prepare to be disappointed. The buggy stays the same. You can choose either a machine gun or a rocket launcher to be the turret. Right from the beginning. No evolution there either.

The whole game took me around 30 hours to finish, so it's not super long for an RPG, but I think it's just long enough. Much longer would probably get boring. This game is definitely something completely different from the standard RPG we're all used to. And yes, Borderlands is a good game. I recommend trying it for anyone who is into RPG-s, shooters or sci-fi. The plot isn't exactly a masterpiece, but the interesting gameplay makes up for it.

8/10 Flogs

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