By Nickolas Brooks
(SPOILER WARNING! Do not read this review if you are interested in playing this game for yourself!)
Borderlands is an open-world, action role-playing, first-person shooter video game, developed by Gearbox Software; Gearbox has also developed games such as the Brothers In Arms series and Battleborn. They also assisted in developing games with Valve such as Half-Life: Opposing Forces, Blue Shift and Decay; Counter Strike; and currently hold the rights to the Duke Nukem series.
Borderlands was published by 2K Games, best known for BioShock, Civilization, Mafia, X-COM and their two sports series, NBA 2K and WWE 2K. The game was initially released in North America on Oct. 20, 2009 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was released six days later for Windows, a year later on Dec. 3 for Mac OS, then released as a “Game of the Year Enhanced” edition on April 3, 2019 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One following the announcement of Borderlands 3. The first game received positive reviews by critics and fans for its gameplay, visuals, take on role-playing games and treasure hunting, but was criticized for its story and predictable AIs.
In a post-apocalyptic, wasteland planet called Pandora in the year 2864, four vault hunters named Mordecai, Lilith, Roland and Brick (you get to choose which hunter you want to play as) are on a mission to search for “The Vault”. Once the hunter is dropped off at a town called Fyrestone, they receive weird messages and instructions from a woman called the “Guardian Angel” regarding this vault the hunter is after. In this town, they meet a robot named Claptrap and a doctor named Zed who help the hunter build a reputation by taking down several bandits and creatures seen throughout the map. This will lead to the hunter taking on quests and meeting characters throughout the game.
The gameplay for Borderlands is a little simple, but enjoyable to a certain level. Pun intended here, since you have to level up the character if you want to progress through the game and take on higher leveled tasks. As you level up by killing bandits and non-human enemies, you start to take on bigger, more difficult enemies and bosses. You also earn money and skill points to upgrade your character. It can be a pain to do, but in the end, it is satisfying and it makes you feel like you accomplished the most difficult task in the game.
Each character has their own unique ability and specific style in using weapons. Mordecai is experienced with firearms such as sniper rifles and revolvers. Lilith can turn invisible and cause a damaging shockwave called Phase Blast. Roland has a sentry gun called the “Scorpio Turret” which can help him kill enemies and it provides a shield for cover. Brick has a “Berserk mode” where the screen turns red and he kills his enemies with his fists in a blind rage, gaining resistance and his health regenerating quickly. For this game, I chose to play as Roland.
In this post-apocalyptic world, there is a lot of loot to collect, use and sell. It is necessary you take as much loot as you can. They range from weapons, to medkits, to grenades, to ammo, to money. You can find this loot in lockers, boxes or even in a pile of bones. When you find a weapon, like an assault rifle, a shotgun, a sniper rifle or a rocket launcher, they have statistics on how powerful they are and how much range they have. They also can be used based on how high your level is.
While you can play the game solo, it does encourage online gameplay, considering the type of role-playing game this is, which was the biggest con when the game was first released. Luckily, for the Game of the Year Enhanced edition, that was fixed to where you are able to do a solo play more enjoyably.
I can see why the story for the first Borderlands game was criticized compared to the other games. Without a doubt, it is very paper thin. While the characters have personalities in their own ways, they do not apply much to what the main story is about. Although, I like to think of the first game being a journey-type game and not about what the destination is. It is mainly about the quests and the visuals of the open world, rather than why these vault hunters are trying to find what they are hunting for.
As cartoony as the game looks, it still brings something to the table. If you like the movie Mad Max, or video games like Fallout, then you will certainly love the design and the atmosphere of Borderlands. Everything looks like just one, big scrapyard, but people live in that scrapyard. I played the Enhanced edition with the graphics as optimized as possible, and it was worth it.
I am going to give Borderlands a 7.5/10. While its paper thin story and somewhat copy/paste AIs may cause it to fall flat a little, what brings the game back up is its gameplay, side quests, visuals, treasure hunting and its soundtrack, which is something I loved the most. Post-apocalyptic movies and video games seem to have the best soundtracks. Borderlands “Game of the Year Enhanced” edition is currently available for PC/Mac, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One if you want to try it out for yourself.