Borderlands Review

When I heard that a sci-fi co-op game was coming out that allowed four players to play, I was thinking "Awesome! The definitive sci-fi version of Diablo has finally arrived!" However, I admit there was a tiny bit of skepticism for whether this was going to be the first successful sci-fi co-op, by no means is Borderlands the first attempt. Restricted Area and Space Siege were both similar attempts at combining the addictive action-RPG gameplay of Diablo with a sci-fi setting but neither were really that good. So does Borderlands finally give the gaming community an extraordinary co-op RPG like Diablo? Almost...

Sound (2/5)
The game has reasonable sound effects and voice-acting is pretty good for all the characters in the game (but then again, how hard is it to do a yokel accent anyhow?). The only disappointing thing is that some of the gun's sound effects don't sound meaty enough.

Music (4/5)
Can't really fault the music, it suits the game very well. You'll be hearing a lot of Country and Western/Wild West ambient-style music that suits the desolate, frontier environment you'll be fighting through. There aren't really any themes to the game though (which I'm a sucker for) although the song in the intro is pretty choice!

Graphics (4/5)
The graphics for the game are relatively good, if you like cel-shading. This means the game appears almost like a well-drawn cartoon, except with excessive gore of course.

Borderlands - Gameplay Video

Plot (3/5)
The game sees you as an adventurer that has arrived on the world of Pandora searching for treasure, although many believe the existence of treasure to be fiction rather than fact. The world of Pandora is a dangerous, desolate, desert world populated by several kinds of aggressive creatures which makes life on the planet a harsh existence. Your role in the game is to search for this treasure whilst fighting several enemies which include the native fauna and bandits (which there are many of on the world). I have no real qualms about the plot and would go so far as to say it's a refreshing change playing a game set in the sci-fi/western genre. The terrain almost has a post-apocalyptic feel to it as well, so it almost feels like the producer asked "Hey guys, what would we get if we mixed Fallout 3 and Diablo together?"

Gameplay (2/5)
The gameplay is similar to Diablo in that it is a co-operative action RPG in where you play through a campaign to its completion. Unlike Diablo, the game is in a sci-fi environment and it's played from a first-person perspective. Since most of your weapons in the game are guns, the first-person perspective actually suits the game quite nicely and it might even attract more FPS players to the fray. However, it also somewhat falls over on this point since it won't feel quite right for FPS aficionados. The system doesn't beat what was used in Deus Ex. The problem lies in the two differing gameplay philosophies: RPGers prefer to plan their skills and proficiencies ahead, whilst FPSers tend to rely on their skill. The middle ground leaves a bitter sweet taste (although I suspect it's more skewed towards RPGer enjoyment).

The game allows you to pick four classes to play the game, the Hunter (who sports a sniper rifle and specialises in ranged attacks), the Siren (who is a bit like the mage class of the group), the Soldier (support class) and Brick (the tank class). A la Diablo (it's amazing how many times I make reference to Diablo in this review) you have skill trees that allow you to invest points into new skills (or existing ones) as yo gain more experience. Every class can use every type of gun in the game, whether it's a revolver, shotgun or rocket launcher, although only certain classes will be able to invest points in improving particular weapons (e.g. only the Brick can invest points into impoving rocket-launcher proficiency). Also to further distinguish each class from each other, each one gets a special skill that the others don't. There aren't really any complaints here since it's based off a tried-and-true model, except applied to a sci-fi shooter.

Replayability (2/5)
The game is about as replayable as Diablo, which isn't terribly replayable unless you want to keep scouting out for spanking new weapons and upgrades. I mean seriously, that's all there is to action RPGs like this isn't there? Besides trying out a new class there really isn't much else, so it doesn't really break any new ground here (except of course it is a sci-fi game, and there aren't many sci-fi RPGs).

The game has other features that help its replayability which it shares with Diablo, that being the ability to play through the campaign co-operatively and that the storyline is more-or-less linear, although you do get a lot of side quests in this game.

Also, without giving too much away, the ending is very disappointing - and this is perhaps where Diablo trumps over Borderlands.

Polish (0/5)
Sadly, I have to give this game the big fat zero for polish. I had a whole lot of trouble getting this game to work out of the box for multiplayer and it involved tweaking of my router. Even then there's a chance that I can sometimes not connect to games with friends, but I blame this on Gamespy servers since every game I've tried to play with friends on these servers (e.g. Company of Heroes, Test Drive Unlimited, etc.). Perhaps they don't have any servers located in Australia?

Also when the game was first released there were other annoying aspects, like not being able to skip the intro videos or being able to turn off the in-built VoIP chat (as this doubled-up on TeamSpeak which I already use as my VoIP program). Fortunately they did fix the VoIP problem in a subsequent patch by adding the ability to turn it on/off in the options menu, unfortunately you still can't skip intro videos which can be annoying if you've seen it before and you basically have to watch the thing for a few minutes... again...

Overall - 55%