Borderlands from developer Gearbox and publisher 2K has been a long time coming, but it is here and after a massive play-through whilst we waited for our review copy to turn up I can definitely say that for me, this is one of those must-not-miss games.Story
You are a Vault Hunter, one of four crazy characters who have heard of the Legend of the Vault. Upon the planet of Pandora is a legendary treasure cache that is said to contain wealth, alien technology and so much more. You embark on a wild ride to find this vault and along the way, youíre going to meet a cast of colourful characters, do a lot of quests and most of all find a lot of loot, weíre talking more loot than any other game before it.Gameplay
Diablo 2 with guns, a lot of guns, a planet-load of guns and gear thatís randomly combined using Gearbuilder, the procedural technology developed at Gearbox for the specific task of making weapons, shields, modifications and even putting together various enemies and creatures thanks to a set of very intelligent design tables that combine things in a pretty believable manner.
Borderlands is a Ďhybridí game that comes firmly from the First Person Shooter space and incorporates RPG elements into it. You have the typical FPS controls: crouch, sprint, throw grenades and shoot a lot. What sets Borderlands apart from the slew of FPSí out there is that it gives you four distinct character classes to explore the open world of Pandora with. Each of the four characters has three separate skill trees and when you reach 5th level you can open up their action skill and start to put points into the three trees. As you kill bad guys and do quests in Borderlands, youíll earn experience points, level up and collect loot.
Itís this delicious blend of levelling, looting and progression that allows you to create your own variant of the character and set them apart from everyone else.
The character classes are interesting, based on MMO-style concepts. You have:
Brick: the tank of the group, he has an action skill called Berserk and he can pound enemies into a bloody pulp with his meaty mallet-like fists. He takes a lot of damage and can dish out just as much. His three skill trees allow you to gain extra cash when fighting in Berserk or regenerate his health and so on.
Roland: Heís the soldier of the Vault Hunters, his action skill is a turret that provides fire support on the field, has a variety of additional powers unlocked through his skill trees. It can regenerate health, ammo of Roland or his allies for instance or Roland can gain healing bullets from his tree, shooting allies will allow him to heal them.
Mordecai: Heís the hunter and he excels at long-distance weapons, sniper rifles and scoped pistols are his forte. His tree allows him to upgrade his pet alien raptor, the Bloodwing (his action skill) to attack with elemental damage, multiple targets and to bypass enemy shields with a single shot.
Lilith: The siren, weaker than the other characters in terms of damage dealt and taken, she has her Phasewalk action skill. Phasewalk allows Lilith to warp into another dimension where sheís invisible and cannot be harmed. Her tree allows the player to add elemental damage to her entry/exit and shock damage whilst sheís in phasewalk, she can also be upgraded to regenerate health and shields.
These are just examples of the various things that you can do with the three skill trees; there are a lot of options and only 45 to spread around since the level cap for the game is set at 50 and youíll probably be around 35-36th level when you finish it.
Pandora is an open-world, with massive dogleg-like instances where you can spend hours roaming, looting, killing, exploring and questing. There are tonnes of side quests and the core story leads you from one place to the next, where youíll unravel the very secrets of Pandora and have a literal blast. Gearbox has thoughtfully provided you with Runners, vehicles that can make the long journey much quicker and allow you to partner up with a 2nd player as gunner. You can choose the colour and the weapon, from a machine gun to a rocket launcher.
Thereís also a fast travel/teleport system that lets you visit any previous New-U station. New-U stations are a place where you can respec your character for a cost and be rebuilt should a horrific death befall you, and since creatures/bandits and so forth have levels, you should be wary when going into battle against a superior foe. If youíre not up to the task then the game will show a skull icon on your crosshair, this enemy should be avoided until youíre equal or greater level. Of course, the rewards are always greater if you can take them down. You will get more xp since itís based on the level difference higher/lower between you and your target.
If you should lose all your shields and health, you have a small amount of time to kill something and gain a second-wind. If you finally succumb to death, well, itíll cost you a percentage of your hard won cash when you are rebuilt at the New-U station. It is a small price to pay really when you consider the reward of the Vault.