Borderlands Review

The first question that comes to mind when most people see some screens from Borderlands or watch a trailer for the game is, "Is Borderlands an RPG or a shooter?" Well, that's not necessarily an easy question to answer. On the one hand, it's far more an RPG than a shooter with its classes, experience levels, skill trees, quests, and all of the usual trappings of an RPG. On the other hand, combat is not a slow-paced methodical affair, being neither turn-based nor a simple matter of selecting the attack button and letting the CPU roll the dice. You need to aim, move, strafe, and everything else that you need to do to survive in a first-person shooter. So what we have here may be one of the world's first shooter-RPGs. A hardcore RPG gamer may not appreciate the twitch-based combat, and a hardcore shooter gamer may be a bit put off by the fact that there's some dice-rolling going on behind the scenes (what do you mean I'm too low level to hit that monster???), but everyone else should have a great time with the game.

Borderlands takes place on the planet of Pandora, a backwater planet with a character that's a bit Mojave Desert and a lot Road Warrior. Pandora is the kind of planet that wouldn't garner a second thought from anyone anywhere else in the galaxy except that it's also home to The Vault. The Vault is an ancient structure left behind by some long-gone alien race, but it's rumored to contain treasure and artifacts of vast power. The presence of The Vault has attracted the attention of fortune seekers from all corners of the galaxy, in spite of all of the dangers on Pandora from the testy local fauna and aggressive bandit groups. You are one of those fortune seekers, and while it may seem that exploring The Vault would form the bulk of your adventure most of your efforts will be directed at just getting there - but that's alright because Pandora is a pretty interesting place in its own right.

Borderlands gives you the choice of one of four different characters, and unlike a full RPG there's not really much available in the way of character customization. There are four classes available, a soldier who uses all variety of weapons, a berserker who's basically a tank and can cause some serious damage with his fists, a hunter who specializes in sniper rifles and has control of an attack bird, and a siren who's a stealth-based character with the ability to turn invisible for short stretches of time. Each character provides a different experience, and that experience can be further tweaked by specializing in one of the three skills trees available to each character. While you can certainly complete the game as any of these four classes, it's when you play the game in co-op mode - either split-screen or on Xbox Live - that you'll realize how well-balanced a team these four characters make. And when you do play online, the story progress will be set to that on the host's machine but the level of the enemies will be adjusted to reflect the mix of levels of the characters taking part in the game.

One of the great things about Borderlands is that there is always plenty to do. In addition to the story missions there are always a number of other missions available, either from characters that you meet in the game or from job boards in the friendly settlements. Even after you finish with The Vault, you can return to the wastelands of Pandora and continue taking on side quests.

The developers of Borderlands must have spent at least a little time playing World of Warcraft, because they understand how much fun (and how addicting) it is to find a huge variety of loot. There are an amazing number of weapons in the game to be scavenged from defeated enemies, discovered in foot lockers, or pulled from corpses discovered in the wastelands. There are several classes of weapons such as pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, and sniper rifles, and they come in standard and rarer varieties. Each is rated on damage dealt, range, and ammo capacity, but some of the better ones will include the ability to use special ammunition like incendiary rounds, fire grenades, or even come with blade attachments to increase melee damage. You'll spend a fare amount of time in your inventory screen, deciding which combination of weapons to have equipped, which to save for later or to sell, and which to drop to make room for something else, but it's more a labor of love than a chore. The game is even kind enough to mark loot in the area with a small beam of light, and you'll more often than not decide it's worth the risk to fight through a group of enemies just to see what's sitting under that little beam of light in the distance.

Borderlands has a great look to it - it's not quite a fully cel-shaded game, but it has a distinct comic book look to it. The violence also tends toward a comic book style, and although it would be pretty graphic in a game with realistic graphics it comes across as slightly humorous in Borderlands and fits the game's dark, subtle, and subversive sense of humor perfectly. Pandora certainly has its own unique look and feel to it, and it stands out from the myriad of alien worlds that you've visited in countless other games before. And it's not just the look of planet that makes Pandora, Pandora - everything from your chipper robot guide to the colorful locals to the mysterious woman who appears to you in brief visions, makes exploring Pandora a very interesting experience.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 90%. You should make a run for the Borderlands...


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