by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
Talk More (cntd)
The majority of dialogue is displayed as text during mission briefings, which makes it extremely easy to skip over and ignore. Thus, it is easy to construe the cohesive main plotline as a series of random and unrelated quests.
The conclusion of Borderlands compounds upon the game’s poorly presented story by completely disregarding the main premise. Gearbox leaves many questions unanswered, as if the company simply ran out of time and/or money during the development process.
Given the arid and desolate nature of Pandora, there is certainly no shortage of grays and browns throughout the landscape. However, Borderlands includes some vibrant accent colors and an artistic style comparable to cel-shading, but with greater depth and a more realistic feel.
While standard bandits wear clothes mostly in brown, other antagonistic creatures can have skins of bright orange, green, yellow, or blue. Weapons also come in a similar variety of colors depending on the presence of elemental effects from fire, corrosive, explosive, or shock damage.
Beyond the color palette, subtle touches add a great amount of flair to Borderlands’ visuals. Gearbox framed absolutely everything in the game – from the environments to the weapons to the characters – in black outlines. As the character moves closer to any object, the object’s outline becomes thinner and less noticeable. A hill’s outline completely disappears as it lowers beneath the horizon and blends into the surrounding terrain. The effect is subtle yet mesmerizing.
Overall, Borderlands is a stunning artistic achievement. The varied color palette and unique design ensure the visuals never feel repetitive.
Unfortunately, after prolonged exploration, Pandora can feel like a very lonely place. Vast open environments and aggressive enemies are constants, while friendly faces are non-existent. As a result, Borderlands’ drop-in, drop-out multiplayer can increase the game’s enjoyment exponentially.
Fighting alongside a friend greatly increases the game’s difficulty. Enemies scale to the number of players, which causes firefights to be much more intense, and require an increase in tactical prowess. Multiplayer sessions even improve available loot. As the difficulty of enemies increases, so does the value of the items and weapons they drop.
Despite being one of the game’s strongest assets, the multiplayer implementation is also one of its most problematic aspects. There exists no internal mechanic for evenly distributing loot amongst fellow vault-hunters – whoever gets to an item first, keeps it. If Player A wishes to give Player B an item, again there is no convenient method. Player A must simply drop the item for Player B to pick up.
Borderlands’ multiplayer implementation is even problematic outside of the game itself. Hosting or joining private games on the PC version is impossible without forwarding specific ports – a bizarre technicality for any software to possess.
Play the Game
Borderlands is a mix of great ideas and inadequate implementation. Fortunately, Gearbox’s great ideas far outweigh any of the game’s faults. The story and multiplayer implementations could definitely use some improvement, but these are minor concerns compared to the immensely satisfying combat, the addictive looting and leveling systems, and the gorgeous art design.
Oh, and the reference to the Jaynestown episode of Firefly is brilliant.
Satisfying combat and the gorgeous art design.
The multiplayer implementations could use some improvement.