Borderlands - A Belated Thumbs-Up

It's been a long time since we talked games here. In large part because posting frequency has gone way down (Hey, I've been busy), comment frequency is even lower, and because I hadn't really been playing much. Nothing exciting had come out and even the weekly multiplayer session had reached a threshold of "cancelled more often than not" for a while.

Borderlands has changed that though. I was suspicious of the game at first, reading it as a Diablo clone with a sci-fi Wasteland skin applied. This sounds fine to me but the folks I play generally oppose RPG trappings like character levels and skill trees. But Tony was persistent and then Amazon ran a sale letting me pick up a few titles at a discount so I grabbed Borderlands and I like it a lot. The multiplayer is fast and frantic and each class feels very different. I'm even playing quite a bit of the single player which the reviews were pretty down on.

As it turns out, the objections I expected to Borderlands hasn't materialized yet. I'm not sure how much of that is the fantasy trappings of Diablo (or a clone such as Torchlight) and how much of that is the change from 3rd person clickfest to the 1st person shooting, but the takeaway is that there's still a lot of interest in the multiplayer.

I like the single player because I can sit down and play it for twenty minutes, complete a mission, and then turn it off with a success under my belt. It begs some comparisons to Fallout as both can make some claims to being the spiritual heir to Wasteland from back in the day. My problem with all of the Fallouts has been the lack of story. They take the sandbox approach so far that you're just wandering a wasteland aimlessly, trying to not get killed. There is a story in them, but the main story is sort of just incidental to the bulk of the game. Borderlands has story missions and it has side missions, but they are pretty clearly distinct. It just turns out I like that model a lot better. Fallout 3 took me at least an hour to get anything done - I'd turn it on, review what quests were active, pick out something that made sense, hike around for a bit, maybe get sidetracked into something else and so forth. I had fun with Fallout, but I'd only dedicate the time to play it maybe once a week. I can play a couple of Borderlands missions in the time it takes to drink my first cup of coffee of the day. That's a big plus for me.

I'll knock it for one major stupidity: it plays in the first person and yet there are jumping puzzles. HEY GAME DESIGNERS: first person jumping SUCKS. It always has and I suspect it always will. This is 2009 now, you should have internalized the lessons of Half-Life 1 by now. (Even Bwana has played Half-Life 1 already!) But they are fairly intermittent and I haven't seen any that are "fall to your death" just "fall lower on the level and run around and try again". The latter still sucks but it's not a deal-breaker. It ends up being 2-3 minutes of annoyance, not 10-15 minutes.

Anyway, if you're a fan of multiplayer action RPG lootfests, you should definitely check out Borderlands. And if you get it on 360 let me know!