Me play Sandbox game 1/2: Borderlands

1 Feb

What’s the gist? You, a treasure hunter, end up on planet Pandora looking for a mysterious vault. Upon getting there you find it to be an arid Mad Max-esque hellhole. To find the vault (sorry, The Vault) you can team up with up to three online buddies with four different class types and go on a series of utterly unrelated odd-jobs for the Pandora’s lazy inhabitants whilst levelling up RPG-style and playing with fancy randomised weaponry.

Is it any good then? Most of the time, yes. Having a couple of friends on board can make it a complete laugh riot, especially when vehicles (chance of collisions: 100%) are thrown into the mix. There’s also a magpie-like drive to get new gear – the procedural creation of guns and stat-boosters means you can never be sure of having the best stuff. That said, it’s likely you’ll find a set you like best, and because of their uniqueness they feel yours – I named my favourite machine gun, rather unimaginatively, Whitey. Her bullets heal my teammates.

It also looks absolutely gorgeous – an animated version of the kind of art that appears in paperbacks read by people who angrily state they’re reading a “graphic novel” rather than a comic.

Buuuuut?…For every nifty innovation is an irritating or archaic design choice. Multiplayer is unquestionably more fun than playing solo, but if your mates are even three or four levels higher than you, you’ll just end up pumping endless bullets into maddeningly powerful enemies before watching your levelled-up buddy waltz all over them. Of all the games Borderlands could have reminded me of, I didn’t expect it to be the old Gameboy Pokémon games. Ever tried fighting the gym leaders with Pokémon several levels lower? Same thing.

Also, whilst Pandora is nice to look at, it makes such poor use of its open world it might have well have just been a corridor shooter. Too many caves and canyons are just plain linear, and when you do get to burn around a massive desert it’ll either be for the hell of it or to do a mundane ‘Collect five of these’ mission. Of which there are lots. And lots. Don’t go hunting for unmarked quests that reveal tasty morsels of backstory; there aren’t any. It’s a shame, because the slick intro movie and fancy crash-zooms and taglines of the first few characters hint at real character, which is promptly abandoned once you leave the first area. Hell, the number of characters with significant voice acting barely enters double digits. Fallout 3 this ain’t.

How’s the future looking? There’s already two bits of DLC out (I haven’t played them, admittedly) and a third on the way, which raises the level cap and generally looks a bit bigger and more interesting. That’s the hope anyway, because – hilarious car crashes aside – I’ve fallen out of love with it pretty quickly. I could catch up with my friends in time for the update, but the sheer repetitiveness of the quests and the baffling jettison of the first few hour’s charm  are more than a little off-putting.

On the other hand: Lightning cluster grenades.


One Response to “Me play Sandbox game 1/2: Borderlands”


  1. Borderlands: Now ace « The Talking Stove - March 3, 2010

    […] I might have been mistaken about how much fun Borderlands can be. Thankfully I’m not so incompetent as to mistake my own […]

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