Oct 21 2009

The Borderlands Journal: Day 1

Published by at 10:00 am under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

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It’s been a while since I’ve done my journal style of game reviewing, where I do a multi-stage analysis based on my gameplay over a period of time. I don’t do this for games I know I’m going to finish in ten hours like Arkham Asylum, Force Unleashed, and Halo Wars, but with games I know I’m putting in at least 25+ hours in, I think there is some stuff to be learned along the way, as well as after the whole thing is over.

Borderlands is one of the first games I’ve ever bought where I actually waited to see the reviews before I went and bought it. A Diablo-esque style of leveling and item drops sounds appealing, and an 87 Metacritic rating finally pushed me over the edge.

But it appears that pushed a lot of other people over the edge too, as the first two Gamestops were sold out, and I was reminded by smug employees “that I should have reserved my copy.” F*ck you, I don’t know every game I’m going to buy six months in advance.

I finally found one and have spent the last six hours or so getting acquainted with the Wasteland, err, sorry Pandora. Fallout 3 and Borderlands have a lot in common , and I’m sure you’ll see many comparisons throughout my review. The game has been described by its developers as “Fallout 3 without a stick up its ass,” though so far, I have yet to see that as the case.

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Go Team Anorexia!

Players can choose from four types of characters, a sniper who uses a falcon to kill enemies, a hot chick who can become invincible (or invisible, I’m not really sure), a large guy who punches things and a soldier who spawns turrets. In every goddamn RPG ever, I ALWAYS pick the soldier/barbarian/warrior class, so I decided to go a different route and pick the sniper (the guy on the right above), though I quickly learned that you can really be anyone and level up with any weapon you want, though I’m going to try and play it by the book, and snipe for as long as I can.

What I found about my class that I quickly regretted is that there is simply no stealth in this game. I can’t sneak around and silently assassinate a band of raiders, because that option doesn’t exist due to my barrel sounding like a nuclear bomb went off every time it fires, alerting the entire cast of The Hills Have Eyes to my presence. And further more, when half of the enemies are completely melee based, sniping goes right out the window and I find myself scrambling for an SMG or a shotgun to get these spiky rabid dog things off my junk.

The plot of Borderlands so far is simple, and after the intro cutscene, is practically non-existent. There’s a vault (really guys?) with magical riches inside of it, and I’m trying to get there. I’m guided by a weird ghost/angel chick who is somehow inside my head and will most definitely turn out to be a bad guy I’m sure, and on the way, I stop to do about fifty thousand side missions to level up so I don’t get absolutely mauled in the main story arc.

As of right now, I have many more complaints about Borderlands than I do praises, so let’s get the praise out of the way first. I love the cell-shaded animation, it’s gorgeous. I love the concept of random item drops in an FPS, complete with different uber-cool weapon effects. I love the way the game controls like an actual FPS, which is a drastic step up from Fallout 3. I like splattering people and animals in my futuristic Batmobile-esque four-wheeler. But so far, that’s about it, and the game’s flaws right now are gnawing at my nuts like a spiky alien dog.

And speaking of spiky alien dogs, that brings me to my first gripe: Enemy variety and AI. So far there are two types of bad guys. Raiders, who all wear masks and have machine guns or bladed weapons (sound familiar?) and spike dogs. I forget what they’re actually called. They jump across the map and hump you viciously until you die. Both types of enemies have different levels within them. A baby spike dog grows into a whelp, into an adult, into a badass (literally, that’s an enemy class type), then into an alpha. I believe I saw a “fire badass” at one point too, which is exactly what it sounds like. But they’re all more or less exactly the same, except different sizes and more likely to f*ck you up as their level increases with yours.

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One would never normally be scared in this situation, but you will be when it takes about dozen pistol shots to kill anybody.

The second problem with enemies rests in the AI. The spike dogs are psychotic, and will chase you to the end of the earth once they even get a whiff of you. The raiders, not so much. If you step outside their sight range, they completely forget you exist, even if you’re still clearly in view, just a bit far away. I remember raiding one base where I ended up fighting the world’s most idiotic boss battle. I stood outside the gate, sniping him in the head over and over with him not moving. Unfortunately he had such a quickly regenerating shield and I such an underpowered sniper rifle, the entire thing was a stalemate because I would run out of ammo before I could even come close to killing him.

And now we have my second gripe. Ammo. I’m not exactly sure how Fallout 3 did it, but with an hour or two, it never felt like you were starved for ammunition every two seconds, but in Borderlands, the stuff is harder to find than water. This might have something to do with the fact that since there are seven different weapon classes, there are seven different types of ammo, so you only have about a 15-20% chance of a dead enemy or a crate having the type you need.

Next comes the walking. Oh the walking. It’s amazing once you’re able to get a vehicle, and drive around the wasteland in a flash, but there are certain sections that force you to hoof it for massive distances, and there is no option to teleport back to a place you’ve already been. Fallout 3 may have gone overboard with quick travel, but a few key warp locations would work wonders for this game. And what makes this all the worse is that the game has decided to implement Call of Duty’s click-the-stick to run philosophy, so you have to do that the vast majority of the game.

So where am I now, after six hours? I’m stuck. Seriously. And it’s all thanks to the very worst issue I haven’t mentioned yet: respawning.

I’m in a dungeon, where I progress through 75% of it, then I run completely out of ammo, because it doesn’t drop fast enough. Then when I walk all the way back to go buy more, I try to go back to where I was and ALL THE ENEMIES HAVE RESPAWNED. Then once I fight my way back to the 75% mark, conserving ammo slightly better this time. I encounter an unbeatable enemy (a mere two levels higher than me), and he kills me so I respawn at the beginning. Respawning costs money every time you do it, as does buying ammo, so I’m broke, I don’t have any ammo, and if I want to turn around and go home, that requires me to trek 20 miles through raider camps and spike dog lairs which have now also respawned all their residents that I killed to get here. I’m quite literally not really sure what to do.

Come on Borderlands, let’s pick things up. This can’t be all you’ve got.

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This scene alone pretty much sums up about five of my last six hours.





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17 responses so far

  • mitEj

    From what I have heard the game is best if you play in Co op mode. So it may need 2 different reviews 1 solo one with others.

  • Napalm Clambake

    Yep. Cooperative is the way to go. I bought this with a buddy and we’re tearing it up. He picked the sniper guy you are using, and I’m the big roid rage guy. I wrestle with the dogs up close and my friend snipes over my shoulder. It’s a pretty sweet system we have going. He gets most of the ammo drops because I can kill most things faster with my fists anyway.
    I can only imagine the damage we’d do if we had a full four-man team…

  • SirVenro

    Just wait until you find the Fireants at about level 21 or so, you’ll wish the skags were back. I haven’t done any co op yet but if you get a friend to help it might make things a bit easier. There is a fast travel thing that gets implemented once you get to the second map/instance.

  • nobody

    I’ve been playing this too. One thing you should do to help you out is to buy upgrades in your ammo capacity. Also, if it’s taking all your ammo just to get through a dungeon, then you’re too weak. Go grind just like you would in an rpg.

  • Madison

    I was on the fence for this one, but I think the lack of enemy variety (so far at least) makes me think I’ll buy it in the used bin, if at all.

  • WhatItIs

    There are too many games out this last quarter of the year i really do want to pick this game up a couple of my co-workers got it and they seem to like it but i am still on Demon’s Souls maybe after i’m done with that i’ll pick this game up

  • Sephirothxx2

    this game is definitley one worth buying like was said before if you can’t get thru the dungeon go out and grind its an rpg after all.
    and coop is definitley the way to go my buddy is about 10 lvls ahead of me because I work a lot but when we play together he tanks the hell out of me and I get awesome loot

  • Gamer

    Thats good to hear that people are liking the co-op. I was wondering and was waiting to see what people said before I went and spent another $60. I have wasted money on terrible games before (Ghostbusters, Halo Wars, Halo ODST, etc…), but I would rather not be disappointed with what looked to be a sweet game. Thanks for the intial review, I might have to check it out.

  • Pingback: There's Hope for 'Borderlands' Yet |

  • Napalm Clambake

    I blew my Borderlands money on ODST as well. I think I’ve played Firefight like twice, and I lost interest in the campaign pretty quickly. It wasn’t worth the money to me at all. Shoulda’ gone with Borderlands. Either way, all my friends are getting Modern Warfare 2, and in a few weeks that’ll make me forget all about Borderlands. (Until the price of BL drops to $30…)

  • RobG

    Ahahahaha, it sounds like you’re retartedly bad at this game. I hope you actually realise that for your next post. I think in the OXM review they compained about it being to hard…. After they spent half the game avoiding enemies….

  • Pingback: The Borderlands Journal: Day 6 |

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  • dakota318

    im a level 50 soldier…the ammo problem goes away if your a soldier since he has character class mods that have ammo regens….there are also weapons that have ammo regens for that weapon type (smg with ammo regen fills smg ammo)…..solo mode is fun yea but its way better with friends playing along, better weapons and better sheilds drop, harder enemies and more exp…..the only problem i have with the game is that i bought a strategy guide so i could find the weapon boxes and the guide says once you hit level 50 the game “remaps” itself and all u find are level 50 enemies and level 50 weapons that are BADASS compared to everything else in the game….but i am level 50 and im still fighting level 44-48 enemies and not finding weapons that are any higher than level 45…if anyone knows thats up with this shoot me a e-mail and help me out at lyle_Asher69@hotmail.com……….also..if u wanna play on live with me and get some killer orange class weapons leave me your x box live gamertag and ill hit you up sometime

  • http://paul@unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    Yeah, that’s not true. I haven’t found any level 50 weapons yet despite being level 50 for about 1/3rd of the second playthrough. One of the game’s many issues.

  • JIM HAM

    after you complete the storyline in playthru 2, all enemies become lvl 48-51 and all items are max lvl 48, the eridian weapons can get up to 49 but thats all so far
    but yeah in conclusion, need to clock the storyline in second playthru to trigger the change and sadly there are no lvl 50 weapon/items in game yet
    - 49 for a green eridian an 48 everything else

    hope this helps

  • Scott

    I have both Borderlands, and Fallout 3 and honestly, the ammo thing is completely opposite. Fallout 3 quickly runs out of ammo, ammo is expensive, maintaining your armor and weapons is expensive and money is nowhere. In Borderlands ammo is found in trash piles(everywhere), dumpsters, and enemies. If you run out of ammo with one gun, USE A DIFFERENT GUN. Pick up ammo every chance you get and you wont run out, I haven’t yet and I barely ever had to resort to buying my ammo.

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