Published by: Other
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: The last game that claimed to be a hybrid FPS/RPG was Hellgate: London. Suffice to say, I was not optimistic about Borderlands claim to be the next title in that narrowly-defined genre, but I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.
The story unfolds on the distant world of Pandora. In the reverse of the traditional Fallout storyline, you play a wanderer on his or her way to find a vault. The actual contents of this ďvaultĒ are unknown, but rumors and gossip claim that it holds just about everything an aspiring treasure hunter could hope to find. Luckily, you happen to have an ace up your sleeve in your own search for the vault, in the form of a strange woman who appears in visions and guides you to the vault. On the flipside, standing between you and the vault are hordes of bandits, indigenous lifeforms, and well-meaning rednecks.
Youíll be taking control of one of four unique characters who have come to Pandora for their own reasons, none of which matter the slightest in the grand scheme of things. The soldier fulfills the role of middleman, being adept at a lot of different areas without too much specialization. The hunter is all about sniper rifles and getting headshots. The berserker hauls around rocket launchers and occasionally punches things. Last but not least, the siren, one of only five female characters in the entire game, specializes in dealing elemental damage to enemies and being somewhat sneaky.
Further specialization comes from each characterís unique skill tree. Each is different, but they can be more or less broken down into three different categories: skills that enhance the characterís specialized weapon type, skills that help the player and the playerís party, and skills that enhance the playerís action skill. Ranging from setting down a turret to entering into a punching rage, the action skills are what really set the characters apart from each other. At the same time, however, I found that the combination of long reload times and relatively negligible damage from each action skill makes it far more practical to put skill points into skills that will give you an extra edge with whatever weapon type is geared toward your character.
Speaking of guns, youíll be up to your eyeballs in them not long after you start. The uses a one-or -two word description system similar to the one used in Diablo for naming weapons, with the addition of manufacturers to determine other characteristics, such as how high stats like damage and accuracy can be. Using a lot of guns by a single manufacturer will show up in your characterís profile, but that doesnít seem to confer any kind of bonus. Repeated use of a specific weapon type, however, will bestow small bonuses to things like reload speed, recoil reduction, and increased damage.
Itís no exaggeration when I say that Borderlands is the best combination of the FPS and RPG genres Iíve seen since Deus Ex. The skill boosts that come from gaining levels and using weapons for long periods of time blend together perfectly with the ability to use cover and score critical hits on enemies by hitting their weak points.
That said, there are a few blemishes on this shiny new take on the classic dungeon crawl, the most noticeable being replayability. The main storyline takes a fair amount of time to get through, and there are plenty of optional side quests along the way to make a single playthrough last somewhere in the area of 20-25 hours. Once youíve beaten the game, you have the option of going through again, only with tougher bad guys and better loot for your trouble. Itís a classic move for dungeon crawl games. The problem is that the game only allows you to do this one time, and during your second playthrough, youíll reach the level cap of 50 well before the end.
That means no more working for that next level and one more skill point, and it means the loot reaches a plateau as well. Think about Diablo 2 for a moment: You wouldnít be anywhere near the level cap, even on your third playthrough. Removing the level cap and improving the loot tables for subsequent playthroughs doesnít seem like it should be all that hard, so why limit the players like this? The cynical answer would be that the developers wanted to hold onto something like that for the DLC. Itís a shame because it really limits the amount of replayability youíll get out of Borderlands.
The other big gripe is the gameís ending. Iím not all that concerned about ruining the story, since both plot and character development are almost nil, but suffice to say, the ending is a big disappointment. No real explanation is given for one of the gameís big reveals, but worse than that is the final battle of the game. Without giving too much anyway, the game builds up to a big climax, then completely blows it. When I first came across it, I was astonished. I thought something was wrong with my copy of the game, but no, it was just an exceptionally lame fight.
The other gripe I had was with multiplayer on the PC. To begin with, the PC version requires you to manually port forward the game. It wasnít a huge inconvenience, but considering that every other modern game out there takes care of this for you, I have to wonder why this was left in. Worse yet, though, is the rumor that joining a game can inexplicably cause your skill points to bottom out for no reason. There is currently no patch for this rather substantial problem, one that was left in despite the delay of the PC versionís release.
Even so, the single player experience is still a fantastic one. Even when the game started to slow down, I still had no problem pushing through to score more loot and waste more bandits and such. The game has a really quirky sense of humor about it, and a style all itís own. There just happens to be plenty of room for improvement, too.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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