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Review: Borderlands (PC)

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With all the pre-release hype, everyone was comparing this game to Fallout 3 and at the time, it seemed like a fair comparison, but after playing Borderlands, it was clear that these two games just don’t compare. At a glance they have a lot of similarities, but they are still so different from each other that a comparison would not be fair to either game, but at the same time it’s not asking too much that some of the features be of the same quality.

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Borderlands takes place on the distant planet Pandora, which is ultimately a bandit and mercenary filled world. Throughout the game, you hear rumors and stories about this mythical Alien Vault which you eventually begin to seek out yourself with the aid of a mysterious woman that guides you through transmissions on your HUD. Rather than creating your character like most RPGs, you are given a choice of four different characters, each offering their unique skills, traits and appearances. Each character also offers a different core storyline drive.

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The beginning of the game is very slow to get started. It’s hard to keep interest because you’re given very little of the story or anything to hold onto until you’re several hours into the game. Luckily, if you’ve lasted that long, the story picks up.

With no anti-aliasing and a collection of clipping issues, the game struggles to impress you visually, but the overall visual style fits the game well. Like most open-world games, there is a day/night cycle, but it seems to just be thrown in without much thought. It’s not terrible, but the cycles are too short and the overall implementation feels lazy. If that’s not enough, the enemy AI is shockingly stupid at times. Often getting stuck on all manner of walls and obstacles.

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In traditional fashion of the RPG genre, there are boss fights scattered throughout the levels. While these often break the momentum, they aren’t unwanted. They make for a nice change of pace, even if the game does return to the old grind after the battle.

The characters often seem like empty shells. Most RPGs usually have a whole cast of likable or at least memorable characters. In Borderlands, some of them are memorable, but for the most part, everyone just seems empty and this really hurts the overall feel and immersion of the game’s world.

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The sheer choice of weapons is actually quite astounding. There are countless different variations ranging from pistols to rocket launchers, each with their own unique names and stats. The weapons really allow you to tailor the way the game plays based on your style. Ammo is in abundance sometimes, but other times you’ll struggle to keep a full clip. There are stores that allow you to buy and sell items including ammo. So if you have the money, you’re usually covered.

Scores

- Graphics: 8
Overall, the graphics are good by today’s standards. However, the lack of anti-aliasing is completely inexcusable in games nowadays.

- Storyline: 7
While it’s an interesting and game-driving storyline, the delivery of it is rather vague, especially at the start of the game when it’s needed most. Because of this, it’s hard to devote enough time to get past the slow beginning.

- Gameplay: 9
Anyone who hates games with lots of traveling won’t agree here, but Borderlands offers great dynamic gameplay coupled with an interesting (although empty-feeling at times) open world. The only thing I feel that it’s lacking is much in the way of consequences for your actions.

- Controls: 9
As with any RPG, the layout of controls can be daunting with all the different actions and menus, but Borderlands does a great job of keeping it simple and functional.

- Lasting Appeal: 10
While you may not be jumping to play through the game again right after your first time through, the character choice at the start of the game does offer a slightly different play depending on the character. And if that’s not enough, the game encourages you to play through it in co-op with your friends via LAN or online.

Overall: 8 Olives

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