The Borderlands Journal: Day 15

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Read journals #1 and #2 here and here.

At long last (and I do mean long) my time with Borderlands has finally come to an end. Over the past two weeks, it’s become something of an obsession with my friends and I, with them coming over to put in a few solid hours worth of playing time every day, and me sneaking away from writing to play by myself with no one around.

I’ve sunk I’d say about 60 to 80 hours into the game over the past two weeks, and in my opinion, any game that holds my attention for over 30 is a success. So by that definition, yes Borderlands succeeds in being a good game, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without a heaping helping of problems., some of which I’ve discussed in past journals, and some which are still to come.

I’ve beaten the game no less than three and a half times at this point, two difficultly levels with my falcon-throwing Hunter, who I mainly used for single player, and one and a half with my skull-bashing Berserker, who was my co-op character.

What Borderlands does extremely well, perhaps better than any game that’s come before it, is the combining of live-action fighting and RPG elements. The first person shooting action is not quite Halo or COD, but it’s definitely not Mass Effect or Fallout, and combat is more often than not a whole hell of a lot of fun.

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And it’s way, way more fun with friends.

Also worthwhile is the different ways you can pimp out your characters skill tree, and the way you can equip him with an endless supply of practically never repeating weapons. One thing Borderlands does that I love is that it allows you to reallocate skill points after you’ve spent them. This is in contrast to say, Diablo, where you must level up the same character four different ways (spending 100 hours doing so) to even see if a certain build would work out well. Borderlands lets you do it on the spot, and instead of making you play through the game with six different character classes, four different ways each, it give you a much more manageable four classes, where you can rearrange them any which way whenever you feel like it, without six, seven or eight forced playthroughs.

Though the leveling system is very well done, it does a lot to point out that Borderlands in an unfinished game, or at least a poorly planned one. You beat the first playthrough at level 35, and during the second one, you hit the 50 level cap about half way through. Either the game needs to be about 30% longer, or it should have at least been divided into a 25/25 split. It’s quite frustrating to starting killing massively powerful enemies near the end of the game, and having the experience from them do jack shit for you.

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Side note: vehicle combat sucks a large amount of ass, when it looks like it should be a blast.

I understand that a large part of RPGs like this is repetition, but nothing is more frustrating than maxing out a level cap in a game in a relatively short amount of time, with nothing else to do afterwards. The end boss of Borderlands, besides being one of the easiest video game bosses ever created, disappears after you beat the game once, so there’s no point in continuing to play the last section of the game over and over doing Baal runs (Diablo reference). Once you hit fifty and beat the game, there’s nothing to keep you going.

One of the big draws about Borderlands has been the random item drops, where literally millions of weapon combinations can be found and utilized in the game. Only Borderlands doesn’t quite have the whole concept of random item drops down. Once you hit level thirty or so, there is no enemy in the game, including the final boss (ESPECIALLY the final boss for me) who drops ANYthing you will actually use. Rather, the best items are found only in chests, and so-called “magic finding runs” merely involve racing through levels to find as many chests as possible, putting fighting enemies squarely on the backburner. Also, I have yet to confirm the existence of the mythical rarest “pearlescent” class of items, said to be a level above burnt orange, but I have to say, if you spend 80 hours playing a game and don’t find ONE weapon of the rarest class, you’ve got your item drop settings a bit messed up.

Lastly, the story of Borderlands is almost non-existent, and the depth of your character and the ones you interact with is laughably shallow. Only about four NPCs in the entire game actually have voices, and the rest communicate via tiny text blurbs that only show up when you take or complete a mission. I’ve played through the game three times and only have some vague idea of what the hell happened. I’m a merc sent to find pieces of a key on an alien planet that opens some giant vault that’s supposed to make me rich and famous. Along the way there are crazy bandits from Mad Max and evil soldiers from Fallout 3 to make things more difficult for me. I open the vault and instead of getting rich, a giant vagina monster comes out, and I kill it and it never drops any good items. The end.

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Yes, I see the ass, but you have to make me care about the ass.

I have a feeling that the surely forthcoming DLC for the game will fix a lot of these issues I’ve mentioned (other than the lack of story). They’ve got to raise the level cap, and give me a good reason to use this giant alien shotgun I just found two minutes before beating the game for good.

Despite its many lingering issues, any game that hooks me in to this degree for a solid two weeks of my life deserves some pretty high praise. It’s stylish, it’s fun and I can’t wait to see more of the franchise in the future. It’s probably not game of the year, but it’s been a damn fine surprise nonetheless.

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“Cause there ain’t no rest for the wicked…”