Monday, January 02, 2012

Borderlands (2009) The Adventure Continues

Back in October 09 I did a first impressions review of Gearbox Software's Borderlands.  It's been almost two years since my last post about the game and I hadn't picked up the final two DLC installments; Claptrap's New Robot Revolution (09/10) and The Secret Armory of General Knoxx (02/10).  I recently picked the game up again a little over a week ago from a friend who had it on indefinite loan.  I went over to his place for Christmas cooking and gaming and after a few hours of Portal 2 co-op madness we co-op'd Borderlands.  I had forgotten how much I loved this game and what a joyous mayhem it was to play it co-op.  The difficulty level goes up exponentially the more players you have (up to four) and the gear gets better as well.  I'm also a huge fan of the fact that enemies are based on the highest member of the group so you can't easily power level new characters with your hulking level 50+ character.  It has been a little difficult trying to rein in my urge to bulk up my new character while soloing - in order to keep apace of my friends - but truth be told it's definitely given the game some legs as I revisit areas, loot, work on achievements, and grind weapon skills on low level spawns.  I've been using my main character - the old hunter - to battle through DLC and pick up loot to give to my friends to sell.

I cannot express how impressed I am with the DLC for Borderlands.  After the fails of Fallout 3 DLC (and their game breaking gear) I've been pretty wary of DLC because I've been disappointed and pissed off when I would spend money on new DLC only for a Game of the Year (GOTY) edition to be released with all DLC for the original price point.  I understand the business model but I'd rather just wait for a company to release a complete game.  Part of the reason I don't have my normal whining about DLC with Borderlands is threefold.

  1. In the DLC you cannot send in a new character to grab all the high power goodies because enemies start at a higher level, in some cases a much higher level.
  2. The DLC story arcs are as good, and in some cases better, than the standard game.  At the same time these arcs build and expand upon the main story.  
  3. The DLC actually expands on the game as a whole, with new enemies, vehicles, mods, and combat that requires new techniques.
Sounds pretty simple but why can't Bethseda or Bioware grasp these concepts?

As far as a review of the DLC goes, I've only battled through The Secret Armory which took me a power game day (12 hours+) to get through the main story.  I have in no way shape or form completed all the side quests and frankly some of them fucking hate me.  The difficultly is almost absurd for a single player (my lvl 62 hunter on a second play through).  I'm dishing out thousands of points of damage in some cases and barely being able to hold my own.  Not only that but the DLC spawns different enemies with different strengths and weaknesses so my standard set of weapons often requires switch out (a flaw in the inventory management requires you to enter inventory and switch builds, though truth be told the pause in combat has been beneficial at times).  The secret end boss is a brutal fucker the likes of which I have not seen since Final Fantasy VII.  And I love it.  After Skyrim (as good as it is) the sheer brutality of combat is refreshing.  There's no "I can one shot a dragon" bullshit and it's that challenge that draws me in and keeps me playing.  It appeals to that part of me that's still ten and filled with rage at Zelda II.  That stubborn, vicious true grit, rabid bulldog tenacity which most games don't inspire in me any more.  Hell, when's the last time you cheered after taking down a particularly bastard of an NPC?  I know when I did, last night after I emptied my last clip into General Knoxx's corpse, just out of spite (I also might have quoted The Exorcist, "Your mother sucks cocks in Hell!").  Then feeling full of piss and vinegar I tried to tackle the secret end boss and got my dick curb stomped into the dirt.  Ah, hubris.  But I'm gonna try again (and again).

I am impressed by Borderlands and its DLC.  Normally I power game a release and belch and look for something else to play.  Co-op has definitely given this game legs as much as the DLC.  If any of you folks are looking to play I'm in for a penny.


I've started playing the Soldier class and also spent enough time Siren to get her to lvl 20.  While I miss the loot bonuses that the Hunter class affords Soldier is a really fun class.  Kitted and skilled correctly Soldier proves not only an excellent support character (one mod allows you to give XP bonuses to team mates and one skill allows easy and rapid team healing) but allows you to exploit the flexibility combat rifles provide.  With extended clips and reduced recoil (stacked with skill and mod bonuses) even the shittiest heavy machine gun (incapable of short controlled bursts) becomes a viable combat weapon in close quarters and at mid-range.  I was lucky enough to come across a S&S with both a reduced rate of fire and recoil suppression and have been able to get more precision critical hits than with a Dahl.  Combined with a 125 ammo capacity and capability to free fire, if I do need to drop the hammer I can do that as well.  Unfortunately reload speed is shite and there have been one or two instances that I've simply swapped weapons instead of reloading.  A downside to combat rifles, is it's easy to burn through a lot of ammo unless you have a Support mod with ammo regen and/or a couple of decent weapons stowed away.  

The Soldier class has a skill (and Commando mod) which grants bonuses to shotguns but in my experience shotguns aren't particularly useful in Borderlands.  The revolver has a higher DPS and accuracy (in most cases) for your money.  Most repeater pistols aren't all that great either.  If you're looking for a high capacity, close quarters "spray and pray" weapon the SMG is a better choice though it's best suited for a Siren character (her skill tree has some awesome bonuses for the SMG).  I haven't really given Brick the melee/explosive weapons (rocket launchers, etc.) character much of a play but looking over his stats he could be a shotgun maestro if that's your style.      

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