Borderlands is the result of Gearbox Software’s efforts to revolutionize the FPS genre to create a hybrid of FPS and RPG games. The controls and perspective come from FPS, while the levels and quests are akin to an RPG game. The result is a game with unique gameplay and a distinct style.
The story in Borderlands revolves around the Vault Hunter’s journey in search of the legendary and mysterious Vault far in the future on the waste planet Pandora. There are four characters the player can choose to play. Whichever choice is made will make no impact on the story, only in character abilities.
The story is very linear, and as the game progresses, gets somewhat unimportant. Game progression is based heavily on quest completion. Most of the main quests are tedious “I-have-what-you-need-but-I-want-you-to-fetch-me-unrelated-stuff-first” kind of quests. Meanwhile, optional quests garner better rewards. The main quests then slowly become side quests and the story is quickly forgotten.
Borderlands uses cell-shading for its graphics. Using a post-apocalyptic, wasteland style, the game’s art is quite distinctive. Surprisingly, it doesn’t support anti-aliasing, making lines appear jagged, which makes for worse graphics considering cell-shading means a lot of bold lines.
Borderlands is primarily an FPS game with an RPG system everywhere else. It plays like an FPS in which player and enemies have levels akin to RPG. The action is quick and easy – just point at an enemy and shoot. It also supports multiplayer mode over LAN or Internet for up to four players.
A point of interest is the randomness of the items. There are millions of item variations that can be generated by the game. The difference between one item and the next may only be one point of stats, though. Yet this means that the items found will always be different each time played, even for quest-set item rewards.
The game’s replayability is boosted by the ability to start a new game with carryover stats and items. Games of the next play feature higher-level enemies and items, perfect for players seeking a challenge. There are also two downloadable contents (DLC) available that add new maps, enemies and an additional story.
Overall, Borderlands is a fair attempt to revolutionize the FPS genre. Sadly, its storyline is quickly forgotten and the quests are tedious and linear.
Its redeeming point is that the FPS part still works – and it’s fun to play because it’s quick and easy to get into the action. Just add three more friends.