Do I like Borderlands?

Largely on the basis of reports of 36 Chambers’ own Kevin Feasel, I spent some time playing Borderlands on PS3 thanks to a pretty fair deal ($10 for Borderlands and Borderlands 2, sans DLC) and I’m honestly not quite sure if I like it or not.

If you haven’t played Borderlands, it’s Diablo with guns. (Or Torchlight with guns, if you’re anti-Blizzard for some reason.) You shoot stuff, they drop loot, you shoot stuff better. Now, Borderlands actually loses something in the comparison to Diablo, because Diablo has an incredibly convoluted mythology and has the whole “demon killing” thing to spice it up. The plot is clearly an important part of Diablo (as it is for all Blizzard games… damn you Brood War for making me cry), and it is just as clearly not an important part of Borderlands.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s charm and style in Borderlands. Some of the dialogue is very funny and the entire game is very snarky. It’s not meant to be taken seriously, and it isn’t. The Tannis audio logs are probably the highlight of the game from a comedic standpoint (although I admittedly haven’t finished yet, so more gags could be forthcoming).

I continue this post with a caveat — I’ve never played the game multiplayer, and I understand that is where the game truly shines. Take that as you will.

The good

— The charm. It’s got a very “Red vs. Blue” style of humor (which is a brilliant show, soon to enter season 13!).

— Easy to play. The initial learning curve is somewhat steep, but you’ll break through it in no time.

— Character classes which play differently. I will say Lilith seems overpowered, but I gather that’s something of an issue with most of the character classes solo.

— Some of the characters are great. Tannis is my favorite, by far.

The bad

— Repetitiveness. So many of the quests are MMO style (“fetch that” or “kill that”) that it becomes boring.

— The combat. Very much meh. It’s typical FPS, and the skills don’t seem to differentiate well enough.

— The RPG element. Weapon proficiencies are tricky to come by, but the skills don’t seem to pay off that well. Too many of them are clearly better than others.

— Bullet sponge bosses. Very few of the bosses have been very challenging tactically. Too many are just beefier versions of existing enemies.

The irritating

— Rewards seem light for some of the quests, and at a certain point, far too much of what you find is useless (which is forgivable) and the stores all suck (which is not). I can’t remember the last time I found something worthwhile at one of the stores.

— I am tired of subtitles continually being disabled. This is a minor nitpick, perhaps, but it’s a nitpick nonetheless.

— Travel is far too inconvenient. The ability to set your own waypoints is badly missing. Fast travel doesn’t give you enough of an idea as to where you’re going unless you memorize all of the names.

— LOADING SCREENS AAAAAAAAHHHHHH

— The shield jerks are jerks.

And yet…

It’s a tremendous time sink. It really is. Unlike some modern games, you can spend as little or as much time as you want to in it. (Usually more than you want to.) The MMO style quests, for all that they do, really do give you a constant sense of gratification (even if the rewards suck). I like open world games that give you the freedom to do what you want when you want. I wish there was more to do in the world, but perhaps the sequel improves upon it.

All in all, to answer my own question, I do like the game. I don’t love it, and if I’d paid $60 for it I would have been mega-pissed. The replay value (for single players) seems limited to how radically different the classes play, and so perhaps I’ll have to wait and see how that turns out. As it is, it’s usually a pretty good time, and I guess that’s all you can ask for.

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