Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Borderlands: Mad Max Rolls d10 For Massive Damage

So, I finished the story campaign of Borderlands last night, so here's my thoughts:

Borderlands is an extremely fun and addictive game, in spite of some flaws and short comings. The game starts off with you taking on the role of one of four treasure hunters that have to come the desert planet of Pandora in search of the mythical Vault, which is believed to hold untold amounts of alien technology, which would make any one who finds it rich beyond belief.

Fighting occurs in real time, just like any other shooter, there's no cover system though, and you'll spend a lot of time running backwards away from enemies while shooting them, at least in the beginning of the game. The game is structured much like World of Warcraft, in that you find someone who gives you a mission/quest which usually involves going to a particular location, killing something(s), or finding an object, then returning to the quest giver, and claiming a prize of experience points, money, and/or an item.

Here is where one of my few complaints with the game arises. There are no real story sequences in the entire game, your character is never really shown interacting with anything in the game, other than to kill it. Nintey percent of what you find out is from text in mission descriptions. It makes the story feel very flat, as though it really is nothing more than an afterthought "Hey, we've got a game with RPG stats and a neat way to generate millions of different guns. Hmm, you know, I guess we should try and come up with some sort of reason for players to be killing half the planet in search of guns."

I'll take a moment to go over the four different character/classes you can choose to play as. Each class has a specific ability that they all gain, and then after that, you're given the option of going down one of three paths of skills, you can choose to spread your skill points among all three paths, although this wouldn't work very well, because in order to learn the higher level skills in a given path, you have to invest enough points in the lower level skills.

Mordecai The Hunter - This is who I played as for my first character, his class ability is to sick a trained bird on his enemies, inflicting damage. His three paths are:

Sniper - Increases his damage and accuracy with sniper rifles in particular, but also increases overall weapon accuracy.

Rogue - This path focuses on making the bird do more damage, attack more enemies, and also increases the likely hood of loot being dropped by enemies.

Gunslinger - Increased speed and damage from handguns, as well as a lot of skills that kick in after killing an enemy, it's kind of like you're playing Chow Yun Fat in a John Woo flick.

Roland The Soldier - The soldier is an odd class, in that he is the only character that can heal his allies (aside from bringing someone back from the brink of death). But he's also capable of being the most like a traditional shooter character. His specific skill is the ability to drop an automated turret with a low force shield that he can crouch behind.

Infantry - This turns him into the more traditional shooter that I mentioned, it increases his abilities with assault rifles and shotguns, and just makes him do more damage all around.

Support - This one has some odd effects, it includes skills to make the turret cause anyone allies standing near it to regenerate ammo in their currently equipped gun, as well the ability to spit out pickups like ammo or healt packs later on.

Medic - This path allows the soldier to increase his health, heal teammates by shooting them, or even throwing grenades, and give the turret a healing radius to heal teammates.

Lilith The Siren - The siren is the closest thing to a spellcast class this game has, also she's the only female character. Her ability is called Phasewalk, and when it's invoked, she creates a shockwave that will damage nearby enemies, after which she will be invisible, and able to move faster, but only able to attack with her melee strike, after a short period, or after she uses her melee, she will generate a second shockwave, and reappear

Controller - The main ability of the Controller path is that various attacks will now have the chance to stun enemies.

Elemental - This path increases the likelihood of invoking the elemental effects that some weapons have, as well as increasing the strength of those elemental effects.

Assassin - The focus here is on the Phasewalk, making it do more damage, and giving such effects as regenerating health, a short period of invulnerability upon leaving it, and increased melee damagee.

Lastly there is Brick The Berzerker - Brick's a big guy, and his special ability is to go berzerk for a short period, where he is more resistant to damage, and instead of shooting his guns, he just pummels enemies with his massive mitts.

Brawler - Includes skills that are all designed to make his attacks while berzerk do more damage.

Tank - These skills are aimed at making Brick harder to kill.

Explosives - I don't think I got the name of this path right, but I'm not able to check from where I'm writing this, but you get the message, it makes explosives more potent.

At level five you're given one skill point, which you need to use to purchase your classes active skill, you receive a point for every level after that, which you can then assign to any skill you like provided you're far enough in the given path to unlock it. Scattered throughout the game are transfer/checkpoint stations, at which you can purchase a skill reset if you wish to focus on a different path for your character.

Aside from these skills, your character has weapon proficiencies, they all start off at zero for all classes, and go up whenever you use a weapon of that type, raising a level in your weapon proficiency makes all weapons of that class do more damage, and fire more accurately. So even though Roland doesn't have any skills for using a sniper rifle, if you use it enough, you will still gain proficiency with it.

A little ways into the game, you will gain a car, two or three times that far into the game, you will actually understand how to drive it. For some reason they decided to keep the standard first person shooter controls for the car controls, I won't say that it's completely horrible, but it does take a lot of getting used to if you're used to playing something like Crackdown, Mercenaries, GTA, or Saints Row, all of which manage to jump the hurdle of having different controls for on foot and in vehicle.

So, that's all of the ground work for the game, if you don't want any spoilers, stop reading here.

Pretty much the rest of the game involves you slaughtering your way across the planet, until you finally make it to the vault, upon opening the vault, some crazy giant monster that looks kind of like a Beholder that's been to the all you can eat buffet for the past millennia pops out and tries to eat you. It's not exactly obvious what you need to do in the battle at first, it's radically different from any of the other fights you've faced prior. You need to shoot the glowing spots in the monster's tentacles until they break and the tentacles fall off, after that, shooting the monster in it's enormous eye will net you a critical shot. Even knowing this, I still burned through all of my ammo on three different types of guns before I finally took him down. After which you're award with... nothing special really, all the other bosses in the game at least dropped some cool guns, but this guy's stuff is pretty standard fare. Also, the vault closes up again, not to be opened for another 200 years, the story says that the only thing in the vault is big ugly, and that you had to be there to stop it... for some reason. Aftewards you go to the vault expert who gives you a truly sizeable hunk of change, which isn't really that useful at this point, and then you can choose to play the game again from the start, only with all of the enemies getting a level boost. It's not a horrible ending, considering the story's pretty much lacking throughout, but in a game that's primarily about finding loot, I wanna get something cool out of the end sequence at least.

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