First Impressions: Borderlands
October 25, 2009
Warcraft with guns. The laziest summary for Borderlands, perhaps, but also the most accurate. Essentially a first person shooter, combined with an RPG, Gearbox has dubbed it’s creation an RPS – a role-playing shooter. Much like an MMO, you choose one of four classes, each with different abilities and level your character up by killing monsters and by completing quests. Each time you level up, you gain a talent point, enabling you to customise your character in different ways – perhaps you want to cause more damage, or regenerate some health. The level of gameplay customisation is surprisingly deep for a console game, but having only reached level 11 (out of 50) I can’t go into detail over just how much of a difference each specialisation makes.
The main draw of the game is the procedural generation of it’s guns (and, to a lesser extent, it’s shields and grenade mods). Each time you open a weapon crate, new guns are randomly generated, and colour-coded by their rarity. A white gun is common, whereas a purple is rare, and yellowish red guns are very very rare. World Of Warcraft players will recognise this colour-coding instantly – it’s been lifted wholesale from Blizzard’s insanely successful MMO.
Mechanics aside, Borderlands is a beautiful game. Rather than risking comparisons to other RPG shooters, such as Fallout 3, Borderlands has a almost cel-shaded aesthetic, favouring bright colours and bold outlines as opposed to hyper-realistic textures. It’s a refreshing change, and certainly sets Borderlands apart if it transpires after further play that it’s gameplay doesn’t.
So far, the quests have been pretty samey, revolving largely around the death of small rat-like creatures and screaming midgets. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the game, however, and I’m hoping later levels provide greater variety and better setpieces. Initial signs are good however, and hopefully Borderlands can find the sweet spot between twitch-gaming shooters and the obsessive-compulsive nature of RPGs.
The box art is cool too… 😉