While the 2012 summer sales were looming, I thought it time to play some of the backlog of games in my Steam Library. First up was Borderlands. Funny how one forms pre-playing impressions about certain games that end up being not what you expected at all.
The story takes place on a planet called Pandora, which seems to be a gigantic trash dump with populated outposts scattered throughout. Some time before your arrival, an ancient alien vault filled with advanced weaponry was discovered on a nearby planet and rumours are flying that another one exists on Pandora. This has attracted a lot of fortune seekers, including our character. The main quest begins when a mysterious woman contacts you via radio communications, charging you with finding this vault. In addition, there are many side quests you receive by means of the claptrap robots, NPCs, and bulletin boards waiting to be discovered in the Borderlands universe. You're adversaries are the native wildlife, bad-ass bandits and the occasional boss. A great part of the game consists of collecting loot.
You can choose from four classes of characters and I chose the soldier as this was recommended for single-player. Each class gives you one particular unique talent. As you play, you gather experience points that when accumulated, allows you to level up in your class. Leveling up and upgrading in single-player does have its downside as some of the choices in the skill tree are obviously geared to team play.
In addition to an unending variety of weapons, there are also shields, grenades, health-kits and class mods. You can find these by buying them or picking them up as they are strewn from the corpses of NPCs and animals. Corpses spew out all of these items as well as cash. The game seems to be intuitive and will drop and spawn items you need with the exception, perhaps, of the combat rifle ammo, which always seems to come up short. You can also find all of these things in chests, lockers, spoor piles and a variety of containers all over the map. These also re-spawn.
Borderlands is one of those games that seem to be perennially popular and so I seriously tried my best to love it. Unfortunately, it just didn't happen. Quite frankly, after the initial flush of discovery wore off, I found myself growing bored. You run around doing missions that will eventually lead to finding "the vault", but what makes it a grind is the repetitiveness of it all. Borderlands exceeds simple repetition by re-spawning all of the enemies you just cleared moments before. If you happen to go around a curve in the road and then come back, they are often all there again. Aside from that, collecting the rewards associated with the missions often requires travelling back to the place you received it. One wouldn't mind so much if the new missions that then pop up didn't require you to go back to the very same place you just left and to cover exactly the same ground and exactly the same enemies all over again.
A lot of people like this game because it's an open world environment and it certainly is that, but the problem is that no matter where you roam, it's often just more of the same. Is it a really bad game? No, I can't say that. The actual mechanics of combat and transport are great, as are the unusual graphics. Driving around in your vehicle and running over things is just plain fun the first x number of times, but eventually, the sameness of all this just gets monotonous. Even the unending variety of weapon choices begins to wear thin. At level thirty, I was also not seeing anything much new in the stores. I had grabbed specific weapons at one point earlier on and was rarely able to find anything better for a long time. The prices, although sky-rocketing, were really not indicative of better performance either. I also stuck with one regenerating health shield and when I tried switching to enemy appropriate shields, found myself getting knocked off easily. It then became debatable whether most of the stuff I was carrying around was really helpful. Although there are vast choices in shields and mods and grenades, I had my favorites and didn't really need to change them out very often. Level thirty did introduce another class of NPCs, though, who also had the turret gun and shield, so that was more challenging.
Interestingly, you can sort of choose how easy or difficult it will be to accomplish a mission. Each one shows its particular level in your interface, so that if you wait until your character is beyond that level to do it, it will be easier. You can also see what level an enemy is through your sights. Weapons also have levels, so don't buy those that are beyond your level of use.
I did really quite enjoy the style of graphics, which is decidedly comic book, but really well done. The gameplay is also very smooth and combat can be challenging if you take it on at your own level. Damage first affects your shield, which will regenerate according to its speed and will then affect your health. When near death, if you can manage to make a kill, you will receive a second wind. If not, you will re-spawn at a New-U station minus a certain amount of cash.
There are actually a lot of good points about Borderlands, but these are really undermined by its repetitive nature. I NEVER play more than one game at a time and always finish it before moving on, but in this case I just couldn't do it and played two other games in between breaks from Borderlands. The Goty edition includes dlcs, which suffer from the same problem. You can get a lot of hours out of this game, but if you're like me, they might be more enjoyable spread out in sessions or played with friends.