Star-Fired Beef


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Steam Challenge – Borderlands

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

Time played: 30 hours

Borderlands does stand out from the rest of the FPS pack. The art style is really cool, the added RPG elements give it a bit of a twist, and it has a killer soundtrack. I’m still not entirely sure that it is a game for me, though.

Now, despite all the problems I had with it, I enjoyed Borderlands. Some of the humour was great, the story was decent, and the enemy design was both contextually suitable and unique enough to be refreshing. I liked the talent system and the fact that each character has a unique special ability.

However.

I’m not sure that I like the way they brought RPG elements into an FPS. Even from the start, it felt like I was in the introductory zone in a new MMO, with the attendant breadcrumb quests and xp padding via bland sidequests. It was a little too in my face. Especially the practice of sending me to the other end of a zone – or to another zone – for the hell of it in order to pick up the thing or destroy the thing. The game world feels huge until you realise just how much of it is there simply for the quest objective padding.

Respawns started to annoy me too. Being careful and taking down an enemy much stronger than you is a time-honoured FPS technique, but when it takes a long time (as it does and should) and you start facing respawns because of it…well, it gets old fairly quickly. And that brings me to the gear system.

Sometimes it is impossible to kill an enemy because of your level, since the level disparity makes them take vastly reduced damage from your brand spanking new OP weapon. Just like in an MMO. But I hate that in an FPS. These games are supposed to be about twitch skills, not stats. Most of the time you don’t notice the system, because the game gates you pretty well so you tend to not face higher level enemies. But when you do…oh, man, it is frustrating.

The loot system was also a bit of a drag after a while. They tapped into the MMO crowd psyche again with the colour system to indicate quality (common, rare, epic, legendary), although it became clear that the level of the weapon was much more important than the colour. As such, you couldn’t help but go back to pick up all the things just in case. I burned through the last couple of zones once I decided to abandon this approach and just go with what I had in hand. Much more satisfying. I just don’t feel like the gear system added anything positive to the experience. I would have been happy enough with just the talents on offer.

The story actually made me angry at the end. It was so abrupt, so unapologetic, so unsatisfying, that I felt robbed of the time I’d spent getting that far. The premise was pretty good, but the way they ended it…ugh.

Finally, I found it a tough slog through the latter half of the game due to the setting. I know the story reasons for it, but I was bummed out by the constant, unrelenting wasteland desert full of hostile inhabitants. They did a great job in creating the wasteland, but it was draining for me to be in for any length of time. That, combined with the anger at the way the story ended, made me abandon my plans to play through the DLC content.

Borderlands is undoubtedly a quality game, great production values and well polished. On balance, though, I can’t say I’d give it the accolades that most people have over the years.

Champion – No Heaven