Kombo’s Review Policy: Our reviews are written for you. Our goal is to write honest, to-the-point reviews that don’t waste your time. This is why we’ve split our reviews into four sections: What the Game’s About, What’s Hot, What’s Not and Final Word, so that you can easily find the information you want from our reviews.
What the Game’s About
Borderlands is a mix ‘n’ perfectly-matched adventure that prides itself as being a hybrid of multiple genres. Developers Gearbox Software, notably known for their Brothers In Arms franchise, has crafted a title that pretty much crosses boundaries in terms of role-playing games and first-person shooters.
All about the thrills and frills of loot hunting, the game is based around just that: hunting for the big Kahuna. While there isn’t a great deal of narrative to be found, there is a reason why you’re in the desert-centric area in the first place. You’re there to find an elusive treasure dubbed “the Vault,” and this is what essentially drives the game forward. Choosing one of four badass mercenaries, each with a different class, you’ll find yourself grinding for grenade modifications, more than a gajillion lethal guns, and skill points to invest in your class type just to get to the next quest. Oh, and it’s basically Left 4 Dead meets Fallout 3.
It’s a no brainer that the artistic vivacity in Borderlands is, well… flamboyantly vivacious. Picture the Capital Wasteland back in Fallout 3, shoved in a cesspool of funky grit, purple-colored haze and potent pish posh. Grip it by its neck, take it out of the mind-tripping tanker and there you have it: a celebration of cerebral colors, outrageous character designs and artwork that dares to stick it to the man. Yes, it’s cel-shaded, but it actually works. There’s been quite a bit of stress on the importance of realism, which in the past years has tried to push creativity into obscurity. Borderlands distances itself from this desire, and so it should. Shooting the most defunct monsters, bandits and other gnarly things in the game’s planet, Pandora, wouldn’t be quite as charming if it looked like Call of Duty’s Berlin. It’s this exuberant excess of wild arts in a Mad Max-like world that really emphasizes the true appeal of the game.
Grinding for experience points is actually an enjoyable festivity in Borderlands. While the idea may seem daunting at first, there are two reasons why you essentially may end up falling head over heels with it. First, you’ll want guns, big guns. Not only will you want big, bad, behemoth-like blast cannons at your disposal, you’ll probably want the abilities that come along with experience points as well. From turning invisible to whipping out a Scorpio Turret, combat is amplified and ultimately made enjoyable through using these unique skills. The other nudge the game will give you is that the firefights actually feel intense, removing any snoozefest scenes that might have you walking from A to B just to get ammo. For an action RPG, the gunplay mechanics are polished from top to bottom. Borderlands plays out like a natural FPS, and for a role-playing game, that’s really an achievement in itself.
Apart from its looks and gameplay mechanics, gamers will undoubtedly flock to Borderlands for its multiplayer. Boasting a co-op mode that allows for two-player split-screen offline and four players to wreck havoc online, the game never feels like an “RPG first, FPS second.” While character progression and stat-building holds great weight in how you take on psychos along the journey, Borderlands never takes itself too seriously. Online, it’s enthralling stuff once you find a varied team that’s willing to â€“ you guessed it â€“ cooperate for the good of the team. Once the ugly monsters, crazy bandits and deranged psychopaths all rush at you, it feels a lot like Left 4 Dead, only this time with special skills and about a thousand more customizations to your array of arsenal.
There’s not a lot that Borderlands does wrong, as it probably ticks nearly every box in the How-to-Exceed-A-Game’s-Hype checklist. That said, there were some quirks here and there that could’ve been ironed out. While single-player mode does its job, you can’t help but to feel that these quests were designed specifically for co-op in mind. Traversing through Pandora alone may feel Fallout-esque, but that doesn’t stop it from being a little on the way too quiet side. The game being so heavily promoted as a four-man adventure, it was disappointing to realize that there were no A.I.s to accompany me in my solo playthrough. You only get to see these other, well designed characters online, unfortunately. It could’ve been something to see the team hold conversations, cry for help and joke around while pillaging a whole bandit town. But as it is, it’s a missed opportunity that could’ve fleshed out the single player mode.
And there you have it. Gearbox has conjured up something special, and it’s not just another Brothers In Arms sequel. Being a new intellectual property, it could’ve had a rough start in the games industry as an experimental hybrid, but lucky enough, it definitely has strong enough legs to stand on its own. While there are faults in the game, they are few and far between. The unique visual feast, co-op multiplayer reminiscent of Left 4 Dead and outstanding amalgamation of RPG and shooter mechanics all work well like a cracked out Fallout 3. Seriously, what more do you want?