Wrote up some thoughts about why I want Borderlands otherwise see below and let me know what you think
87 Bazillion guns. Interested? Borderlands asks what if an RPG and an FPS had a baby? Well I’ve seen the result, and it was a hideous monster which cannot be unseen. Fortunately, Borderlands is only hypothetically asking the question, and the hypothetical answer is a combination of Fallout, Diablo and World of Warcraft: World of Fallblo. Sensibly, Gearbox shortened this to just ‘Borderlands.’
Randy Pitchford has tried to incorporate the addictive loot collection aspects and leveling progression of an action-RPG with the visceral, frenetic gameplay of an FPS. Add in a touch of stylized art direction and a busload of procedurally generated weaponry and you’re close to pinning down Borderlands.
While there are some relevant concerns, I’m confident given Randy Pitchford’s lineage that he can successfully craft a unique and rewarding experience.
I don’t know what the question is. The answer is ‘guns’
This game is at its foundation a first person shooter, and every FPS hinges on its guns. Borderlands uses a random generation system a-la-Diablo where most of the guns are created through an algorithm. While this naturally means that most guns will be of the ‘pea-shooters of craposity’ variety, there will always be the excitement of collecting a new weapon and hoping the dice-roll gods smiled upon you.
An additional perk of the random gun generation system is the introduction of a loot fetish to the run and gun gameplay, something traditionally only found in an MMO. The drive for ‘just one more quest,’ or ‘killing one more boss’ to potentially find that epic rare gun is compelling, especially when you have crippling OCD like I do.
The introduction of RPG-esque damage numbers for every shot really ups the ante in terms of damage feedback. When the occasional critical impact strikes and that huge number appears over the head of an enemy and a huge chunk of its health vanishes, you won’t be able to help feeling like you’re packing serious firepower.
Hopefully by the time you reach the limit cap some of the numbers will seem so obscene compared to the start of the game that you’ll gain perspective on how far you’ve come. This will imbue a sense of development that is frequently lacking in pure FPS games where the best they can do for progression is give you a slightly better gun.
Stylized? What does that even mean?
Although it was a late development, Borderlands’ new art style is a welcome one. While every FPS game these days is going for a gritty and realistic style, Gearbox targeted a mix between cartoony and lifelike graphics. Even if some cynical players suggest it was to simplify the graphics and improve performance, who cares? It looks great and it’s distinctive and it will hopefully stay fresh throughout.
Additionally, Borderlands possesses a comic style that is unique. When claptrap, the sarcastic robot guide featured in Borderlands’ promotional videos, asks his microphone operator ‘did your mom burn you with cigarettes as a child?’ or ‘who do I have to suck off to get fucking suicide bomber’s balls to drop,’ you know you’re in for an ‘alternative experience.’ Far too few games have a really cynical tone and although story is not central in Borderlands, hopefully some of that translates through into the atmosphere.
Ok, maybe pedigree is a strong statement given they’ve only developed Opposing Force and the Brothers in Arms series, but I have confidence in Gearbox. Opposing Force seamlessly built upon the Half-Life world and created a unique experience that dovetailed nicely with the original game. While Borderlands is a new IP and therefore won’t have a preexisting cache with gamers, there have been no crippling missteps from Gearbox in the past. There’s always a first time for everything; hopefully this isn’t it.
So it’s all sunshine and buttercups?
There are a few elements of Borderlands that I’m deeply concerned about, and it has to do with online behavior. Of course I’m referring to the great plague known as internet douchebaggery that is sweeping our great nation. There is no system in Borderlands for allocating loot drops in a group, it’s first come first served. This means that teams aren’t encouraged to work together and everybody will make a mad dash to scoop up gun drops.
In a game that is entirely about item collection and trading, this overlooked mechanic is practically deal breaking. The only reason I still hold out hope is that Gearbox will quickly realize how foolish this omission is and release a patch. It seems so easy to implement. I’m sure there’s a coder somewhere with a spare cocktail napkin on hand to pound this out.
Another concern is that Borderlands will seem to be just more of the same. The post-apocalyptic environment in which the game takes place is a bit overused these days, especially after the exhausting coverage Fallout 3 received last year. Hopefully there are enough distinguishing characteristics to keep the environment unique and original.
Notwithstanding these few concerns, I’m extremely excited for Borderlands. Many game types have been mixed before: action-adventure, puzzle-platformer and sports-game-FMV-hybrid, most notably in the late great ‘Madden’s revenge.’ The closest the FPS and RPG have come to really being integrated are games such as System Shock 2 and Deus Ex without fully fleshed out leveling mechanics. Borderlands could inject some much needed originality into these genres.
Best of all, we don’t have long to wait until we can get our hands on this bad boy and its 87 bazillion guns! Who else is excited? Hit up the comments!