Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Borderlands (2009) First Impressions




If only there was a post-apocalyptic, dystopian sci-fi, off-world Deadwood/Last Man Standing styled, with an excellent soundtrack, and inspired by kick-ass Heavy Metal artwork game...

Hmmm...

Oh wait, Borderlands fits the bill perfectly. Developed by Gearbox Software out in Plano, TX (the same folks who did the Half Life series and several of the Brothers in Arms games) this game has some serious love put into it. What could have been a knock off of Fallout 3 is most certainly not. There's a different sensibility to Borderlands. Where Fallout 3 is just kind of a miserable, radiation soaked hell hole Borderlands is more of a "no guts, no glory, winner take all and the loser takes a dirt nap" experience. I like it. Don't get me wrong, Fallout 3 will always have a special place in my heart but for now I'm rolling with Borderlands.

From the get-go you can tell that Borderlands is not a place for panty-waists. The game takes place on the planet Pandora, home unknown xenos-technology and vast power and wealth for those with the testicular fortitude to get it. It's a fairly dusty enviro (so far) with arroyos and cutbacks. I like the terrain because you're actually rewarded (tactically not XP or loot) by taking your time to recon pays off. In the early stages of the game, without a silenced weapon, I get one shot before every hostile in the area comes screaming after me.

As far as hostiles go, there's a lot of them. Granted I haven't seen anything big and pants-soiling yet. From what I've seen in the trailer that's bound to happen sometime. There's a solid challenge level that matches character development. Bandits that were barely armed in the beginning are starting to sport rifles and power shields.

Another kind of kick-ass feature that I am not used is level restricted weapons. I like it, though it seems like there might be a bit of inventory juggling in the future. Apparently the game is very proud of the firepower it provides and each weapon has a slew of stats to compare and look at.

One thing I kind of went...eh...about was the lack of character customization but honestly that's because I'm spoiled by Bethesda games. There are four solid characters to choose from at the onset of the game, Soldier, Tank, Sniper, Stealth Melee(?). I went with sniper (plus he has a bitchin' "Bloodhawk") each character has several specific skills that can be developed. Mine has sniping, bloodhawk/treasure hunter, and gunslinger. As you level up you're awarded skill points which you distribute towards whatever you want (I'm treasure hunter klepto man in RPGs so you can guess what I went for). The nice thing is, at save points if you so desire you can redistribute your skill points. I imagine a sneaky trick would be to switch your skill points to tailor your character to certain missions (not that I would ever do such a thing). Granted resetting skill points costs you money and I don't know how prohibitive the cost is.

Thanks to Gearbox's experience with FPS the controls are smooth and intuitive. Like I've said before, this is important to me. If controls are counter-intuitive or if I need to be a freaking octopus to play (Section 8) then I'm very likely to stop playing after an hour. It's a good thing the controls are smooth because combat is fast. You don't have the VATS crutch in Borderlands and enemies tend to swarm if they have the chance. There are also nasty airborne critters on Pandora which make me thankful I have Bloodhawk around.

So yeah, so far so good. I haven't had the opportunity to play multiplayer co-op (up to three other players) so if some of you XBOXers need a new game to play we can mob up or we can go toe-to-toe in the Arena. DOOM DOOM DOOM! Sorry, I just had to throw that in there. Now, do I really have to go to school today? I feel a cold coming on...*cough*.

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