Dec 292009

Borderlands Box Art


5 / 5
PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Dates:
Consoles: NA October 20, 2009; PAL October 23, 2009; JP February 10, 2010
Windows: NA October 26, 2009; PAL October 30, 2009
Gearbox Software
2K Games
FPS (First Person Shooter) / RPG (Role Playing Game) [See also Role-Playing Shooter]
100+ hours

I will say that I genuinely enjoyed every moment of this game. The fact that I can play through the game once, buy DLC the day it comes out, play through the game again and still come back wanting more is a testament to the quality of the game-play experience found in Borderlands. Though I gave the game a 5 out of 5, it is not without flaw. I experienced many a bug and glitch in my extensive play through of the game, but despite all its flaws I can say this is one of the best cooperative Role Playing Shooter experiences I’ve ever had.

The best analogy I can provide to describe the game-play of Borderlands would be to say that if Diablo 2 and Fallout 3 got together and conceived a child of a video game, the offspring produced would be Borderlands. Borderlands encapsulates the first person shooter elements and apocalyptic setting of Fallout 3 and the role playing, character advancement, item generation and inventory system of Diablo 2 and fuses them together to create a bastard of a video game that is nothing short of amazing.

The game is set within the world of Pandora where you assume the role of a treasure hunter who is seeking the fabled vault: a place that is said to hold a great alien treasure but is only accessible every 200 years. Game-play consists of completing main quest missions that follow the main quest story arc as well as optional side quest missions that are not required to complete the game. You can assume the role of 1 of 4 classes each possessing their own strengths and weaknesses and a special power intrinsic to that specific class. You gain the use of your special power at level 5 and from then on you are given a stat point at each level to assign to whichever skills you deem best all the way up to the level 50 cap. Each class skill tree consists of 3 main branches emphasizing a particular build of that character class; each build offering certain enhancements to that tree designation.

For example, as the Hunter you might choose to level up the branch of skills that enhance Bloodwing’s abilities; the pet that is called forth to attack as the hunter’s special skill. You do, however have the option to instead assign points that enhance your abilities with pistols, or your abilities with sniper rifles, or you can distribute the points uniformly across all 3 tiers. This flexibility in skill set attribution is a quality that is present in the Diablo series (hence the heavy comparison to that series).

Borderlands has a high amount of replay-ability as you have the option to play it alone, play on local co-op with a friend in split screen mode (Xbox 360 and PS3 only), or play it online amongst your Xbox Live, PS3 or PC friends. I chose, personally, to play through it alone the first time so that I could experience the entire game at my pace. In my second go through I often played with my Xbox live friends or on local co-op with my brother. Much fun was had by all.

If you are looking for a challenge I must warn you that the game doesn’t get much easier once you’ve hit the level cap. In fact it becomes much harder. And if you’re thinking strength in numbers will help you, you’re wrong. The level of difficulty in Borderlands scales with your level (and oddly above that once you’ve reached 50) and with the number of people you have joining your party. So the formula for eye gouging, head splitting good time is to arrange a party of 4 each at level 50 then have a go at some of the later missions within your 2nd or 3rd play through. I guarantee many deaths and much frustration for you and yours. But its all in good fun right?

I mentioned previously that Borderlands is not without flaw. I can say, personally, on the Xbox 360 build of the game that I experienced many bugs and glitches. For your consideration here are just a few:

    I had issues with getting stuck in the level geometry and having to reload the map in local co-op (not to mention this happening in single player mode and having to completely restart the game).

    I experienced strangeness in one of the missions where I had to completely restart the game after getting locked out of the world behind a sliding door in a “kill all these guys without dying” mission scenario.

    The final bug I should mention should probably be filed as a physics problem. In a co-op game with my brother I engaged him in a duel and ended up getting blasted off the map. After this first momentous occurrence we decided to play around with the glitch a bit seeing how far he could possibly blast me off the map. We found the best approach to achieve this was for me to stand at the edge of some square piece of geometry like a crate or box of some type. He would the crouch down below and aim the shotgun somewhere at my feet and blast me to ridiculous heights; often times outside the map bounds killing me instantly. We played around with this for quite a while and eventually ended up launching my character completely outside the collision bounds for the map resulting in my character falling through the level infinitely.

    [NOTE: In case you might wish to attempt to replicate this, my brother was considerably lower in level than my character maybe about 10 or so levels and he was using Sledge’s shotgun on my character in a duel scenario. We attempted to reverse our roles in trying to replicate this bug but I killed him instantly as I was a much higher level than he was. The key to this glitch is for the shooter to be a much higher level than the “human canonball.”]

I’ve mentioned some great things about Borderlands, and some not so great things (maybe even some shortcomings that one wouldn’t expect to see in a commercial game). Despite my opinions and my findings in playing the game, the fact that I can still with great excitement declare it to be worthy of a 5 out of 5 really says something about the entertainment value of the title. I can’t wait to see what Gearbox has in store for us in their next DLC update for Borderlands.  Hope you see you online when it comes out.  Thanks for reading!

Nov 252009

In my opinion, I would say no. I don’t believe we need an entirely different console configuration at this time. But, if current generation console features could be improved upon, I think that would be a move in the right direction. We are at a place, technologically, where the graphics capabilities in video games have the same effect in entertainment that movies do. We can tell a story and we can tell it well. We can, perhaps, tell a story even better than movies can because video games, by nature, are much more immersive than a movie can be.

With the advent of new technology also comes an awkward period for developers at the very beginning of a platform’s release. Developers are forced to learn, most of the time, an entirely new SDK (Software Development Kit) tailored specifically for the new hardware and the new technology used by the hardware. Aside from the obvious negative aspects that exist for developers, what does this mean for the consumer? This means that for the first few months or even a year or more after a console’s release there is going to be a dry period for game releases. There are going to be very few games released and the quality of each title will more than likely be under par. These are the costs of acceptance of emerging technologies. But, at this point and time are the costs of a new platform worth the benefits? That is the question that must be addressed. It is inevitable that new technology will be developed. I only wonder if we’re ready for it now.

It would seem that most console developers tend to adhere pretty rigidly to the release of some new console over a specified interval:

Nintendo Releases over 6 year intervals (approx.):

Sony Releases over 5 year intervals (approx.):

  • [1995] – PSX
  • [2000] – PS2
  • [2006] – PS3

Given current trends Microsoft is due for another console release. So far, Microsoft has consistently released a console every four years (Xbox in 2001, Xbox 360 in 2005). Now approaching the end of the 2009 year, one can only wonder what Microsoft has in store for us. I can only assume it to be their current R&D focus; Project Natal.

Project Natal might serve as a new and innovative platform (really no more than a peripheral for the current gen platform) capable of pushing both participation and immersion in video games to a previously inconceivable level. Will everyone jump on the band wagon and wait in line to get it on release day? From what we’ve seen so far, the platform seems to be targeted toward the casual gamer, or the “family” gamer. But with the introduction of this new input format or others like it, will the old input format, the controller, be supported still? Or will it instead become obsolete? What will become of competitive gaming if controllers that we’ve been accustomed to using for decades are phased out? These kinds of questions are important to a less represented demographic; the hardcore or competitive gamer.

Regardless of any of my previously mentioned opinions I actually believe that improvement of the Xbox 360 through development of Project Natal is a good move for Microsoft. As described previously Microsoft will avoid the overhead of a completely new platform while directing their current console iteration to a much larger demographic; the casual gamer.

Project Natal is also good for consumers for a couple of reasons. The new console “dry spot” will be avoided since the core hardware hasn’t changed much. While the influx of Project Natal titles might be limited at first, there will still be constant releases of Xbox 360 core titles (titles not utilizing Project Natal technology). The cost of new hardware will be reduced considerably as well since the price of a peripheral will always be less costly than an entirely new console.

Well, despite all of my opinions expressed here, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next. I’ll probably end up purchasing Natal eventually, but I’m in no hurry to get it on release day.

Thanks for reading!