Borderlands: Mixed Messages

 By Shamus Nov 16, 2009 65 comments

I feel like the guy in the Monty Python skit who is trying to bad-mouth the Romans.

Borderlands is an outstanding game and is incredibly enjoyable and I hope everyone-

The rocket launcher sucks!

What?

It shoots right through people! Half the time splash damage doesn’t even register.

True, true. That’s a fair point. But aside from the stupid rocket launcher-

And the sniper rifle!

Yes. The rocket launcher and the sniper rifle. But aside from those-

And repeaters.

Well, obviously repeaters. I mean, that goes without saying. Nobody even bothers with repeaters. But aside from the rocket launchers, sniper rifles, and repeaters, its a lot of fun to-

Unless you’re fighting Mad Mel!

Yes. That one was an absolute bastard, wasn’t it? I thought I was going to tear my hair out.

And the giant Rakk. The one where you light the torches and fight it from the car?

Yeah. That was either impossible or piss easy and boring. But still, once you get past the starting area-

The whole world is mud and rust!

I guess that does get a little old. But other than the broken weapons, the difficulty spikes, the bland visuals-

And the stupid story!

The lazy ending!

The plot holes!

Don’t forget the broken matchmaking!

Yesyesyes. Look, all I’m saying is that-

Friendly-fire vehicle damage!

The same six enemies over and over!

But…

The overlong tutorial!

All those unskippable splash screens!

Don’t forget Gamespy!

I still like-

The loading screens!

Etc.

I’ve been trying to write my Borderlands review for a couple of weeks now, and I keep starting over. They problem is that I want to tell you how fun this game is, and I end up cataloging annoyances and shortcomings.

I want to go over how fun the gunplay is, and then end up with these big digressions on the broken sniper mechanics or how stupid the rocket launcher is.

I want to talk about the fun ideas in the story, but I can’t very well do that without admitting the whole thing runs aground and ends up spinning its wheels even before the end of the first act.

I want to go over the fun of teamplay, but that must be balanced against the brokenness of the matchmaking on the PC. (Xbox players shouldn’t have any problems, though.)

I want to talk about how wonderful and engaging the art style is, but end up on a tirade against the pervasive rust & brown motif, which quickly becomes monotonous.

The quests are fun and varied, but often spoiled by inexplicable difficulty spikes.

What is a reviewer supposed to do in a case like this? “The game sucks but you’ll like it anyway?” Or, “The game is awesome but deeply flawed? “How did all of these favorable review run without mentioning all of these flaws? Why has interest in the game vanished so quickly when it’s so much fun?

What I’m seeing is a game which offers intense fun at first, followed by disillusionment, followed by waning interest. And yet I still say it’s worth a look. But get the demo.


202020565 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.


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  1. Malkara says:

    Have you heard about the fact that anyone, including people who pirated the game, can fully play the multiplayer because it’s run through gamespy without any validation? :p

  2. Robyrt says:

    May I suggest a Kotaku-style list of pluses and minuses? For a game whose every engaging quality is balanced by a glaring flaw in that quality, it seems natural to have a two-column format.

    Borderlands in particular seems like its good qualities are intentionally crafted to mask the bad qualities, or perhaps vice versa. Generic brown colors? Add black outlines to make important objects pop out of the scenery. Severe balance problems? Make the remaining weapons / characters / skills incredibly satisfying, so that you feel like the number of viable options is larger. Difficulty spikes? Add a bunch of optional fetch quests so you can grind some more before fighting that boss we couldn’t really get right.

  3. Shrikezero says:

    Oddly enough, I’m running a soldier with 3 sniper rifles. 1st playthrough by level 10, I could kill almost anything with one sniper shot. Nothing except bosses took more than 3 shots. Anytime I try to use anything except the sniper I end up running and healing… alot. I even use the sniper for close in fighting.

    Overall I have the same issues you do Shamus. I love it and hate it all in a big confusing jumble. No matter how much the mechanics or the art or the difficulty/lack thereof annoy me, I keep coming back.

    The part that scares me most is that this is the exact same feeling I had with Hellgate.

  4. Heron says:

    This is exactly the sort of feeling I’ve been getting from the reviews I’ve read. People who are playing it keep telling me “it’s really fun, you should get it”, but “fun” in and of itself isn’t enough to get me to spend $50 on a new game… I need an engaging experience, and preferably a good story. Glaring balance problems and other bugs remind me that I’m playing a game (and a broken one, at that), and that doesn’t make for an engaging experience.

  5. timmins says:

    Yeah, I really think a demo sells this game.

    It is what it is. It has a lot of big problems, especially at launch. But I like the shooting, and so I feel it is well worth my money (to be honest, best game I bought this year for me, and that’s against arkham asylum and dragon age).

    I think you have to focus on what it is like to play the game, so that when people are deciding if they want this game, they don’t just decide based on if it’s good, but rather if it’s good for them. I wanted a shooter with tight gunplay, and a nice open empty feeling, and was willing to put up with meaningless multiplayer with bad support, and a nonexistent story.

    Leave the problems and nitpicking till the end, so that it doesn’t interfere with letting people know what actually PLAYING the game is like. Because that’s what people do with games, and while it’s nice to know rocket launchers don’t work, it’s very easy to get 60 hours out of this game without caring.

    I too wish they didn’t do that tutorial sequence. It was slow on playthrough 1. It’s ridiculous on playthrough 2.

  6. Freebeema says:

    I thought the variation of pixel shading and rusts and browns was relatively refreshing. It’s also the first game where my friends and I actively organise to play online together (360 version). However, I am afraid that with Dragon Age and COD MW2 out, Borderlands may take a backseat unless the DLC is ground breaking.
    Its got it’s flaws, but so did UFO Enemy Unknown (XCOM) and that was the best game ever. Sorry, but whenever I post anything I have to mention that game. Jeese, that game would make an awesome XBL arcade game.

  7. pnf says:

    Sounds like a “Let’s Play Borderlands” format would work very well for your take on the game, if you wanted to go to the effort.

  8. wildweasel says:

    I actually didn’t find the rocket launcher to be that bad of a weapon. Honestly, it’s about on the same damage level as the other weapons as far as stats and fire rate are concerned, but as you progress you’ll start finding all kinds of kick-ass ones just lying around. Also, if you’re a Berserker, you can do even more damage, especially if you’re putting points into his Wide Load skill (adds 1 to rocket launcher clip size for every point).

    I at some point found a spread rocket launcher (the kind that fires a few rockets for every click in one big burst), but only when I fired it did I realize that it fires a burst of FIVE rockets in the space of a second. With my Wide Load skill maxed, I could fire TWO such bursts before needing to reload. Then I discovered how blazingly fast the reload was (I had also been putting points into Berserker’s skill which allows him to reload any weapon faster).

    This weapon not only rips the Bruisers apart, it’s also great for softening up groups of bandits before running in with a good shotgun, machine pistol (yes, the repeaters DO have a use, look for the ones with a blisteringly high fire rate and magazine size) or SMG. Also, since you don’t suffer splash damage while you’re crippled, if you’re surrounded by loads of enemies and trying to get your Second Wind, just pull out that rocket launcher and start aiming it at your feet. With a good, fast spread rocket launcher, you’re pretty much guaranteed to kill most weaker enemies within a second, bailing you out of pretty sticky situations.

    Also, the best way to take out the flying Guardians later in the game is to get a (relatively) accurate launcher and wait for them to hover in place, then start bombarding them. Sniper rifles can probably hit them at range, but they won’t do enough damage because their weak spots are so hard to find.

  9. glassdirigible says:

    The story didn’t seem entirely empty. I would’ve liked more closure, but I was engaged by wanting to know who the Guardian Angel was.

    What was wrong with sniper rifles? The headshots could burn through anything wicked fast, but so could chaining headshots from a corrosive weapon.

  10. I dunno, Shamus. I get what you’re saying with each complaint, but you need to balance it with there are guns in this game that will let me set stuff on fire.

    I’ve sunk roughly 30hrs into this game, haven’t hit the end yet, and am having a blast. I can’t wait to hit the end of this play through and do the siren next…

  11. StainlessSteelRat says:

    Have just finished Borderlands (playthrough 1 at least). I agree with the love hate thing, although on balance it was more love. I’m curious as to why you had problems with the guns though, as I found everything connected, particularly the sniper rifle which became my weapon of choice (on the PC version). In sum it wasn’t Fallout 3, but in a way it was a great antidote to Fallout 3.

  12. radio_babylon says:

    borderlands has major issues. MAJOR issues.

    and yet… i cant. stop. playing.

    like i told a friend of mine this weekend who asked if he should get it: its the suckiest game youll ever love.

  13. Robyrt says:

    After maybe ten hours of Borderlands co-op, my brother turned to me and said, “At first I thought the Siren class was overpowered. Now I realize it was just my Dual Anarchy SMG that was broken.”

  14. TehShrike says:

    When I quit playing the game, it will be because I’m tired of wrestling the quest list and full-screen map into telling me where I should go next.

    But that time hasn’t come yet.

    The weapons are fine with me – I accept that I need some altitude to be able to make use of my awesome rocket launcher (whose splash damage heals my teammates, hellz yeah).

  15. bbot says:

    Huh, I did the same in my “review”, except, without any pretensions at objectivity or coherence, I just complained about it, and said you should buy it anyway.

  16. utzelgrutzel says:

    We finished the game yesterday on LAN the first time, and it is really fun, the next session for the second playthrough is in the planning phase at the moment :)

    I played as Sniper, no problems found, our Brick never complained about his rocket launcher although he mostly went Berserk. That’s the one thing I didn’t like, his explosive artifact successfully clouded my screen with explosions :D

    But although it is fun I can support most negative points. Add to the list:
    - Consolized interface, especially comparing items
    - Savegame bugs (one friend had to host (of course the one with the worst hardware…) because it never saved for him when someone else was host. We noticed this on level 20

    Every PC player should try this tool:
    http://gbxforums.gearboxsoftware.com/showthread.php?t=85874

  17. EmmEnnEff says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the horrid feedback-less UI.

    It seems to be Diablo II, all over again – despite of how broken the game’s been, and how slow Blizzard was to resolve those issues, people wouldn’t stop playing it.

  18. Matt says:

    I think you may be over-analysing Borderlands. The game is a Diablo ‘clone’ with the major difference, of course, being the 3D viewpoint.

    It is what it is. And it’s fun.

    It’s not trying to be the next Planescape or Arcanum – if it was then surely it’s well within anyone’s rights to tear it a new one. It’s a go-nuts-click-everything style game which lets you turn off your brain and just go with the flow of it all – which isn’t such a bad thing to do every once in a while.

    This same issue has come up in Au’s main PC gaming mag (6/10)

  19. ccesarano says:

    Part of the waning interest is a product of the current games industry. Or at least the season. Everyone gets energized for a year of hype only to play a game for a week, cast it aside and play the new title that they hyped on about for a year.

    I had friends playing Halo: ODST until Brutal Legend released. Then Borderlands came out. Then Dragon Age. Now Modern Warfare 2. This week will probably be Left 4 Dead 2, until there are more folks like me that would rather get a sure fire improvement like Assassin’s Creed 2 than the first game with new toys but the same gameplay.

    Each time people are shouting “GAME OF THE YEAR!” until the next big hit splashes. And you know what? No one even remembers that Resident Evil 5 released earlier this year. “What? Wasn’t that 2008?”

    Not that RE5 is GotY material. Fun, but RE4 was miles better.

    Still, I haven’t played Borderlands, but I never had much interest in it overall. From my very, very critical friend it sounded as if I’d enjoy the game for a while but it’s flaws would have gotten to me. Still, I can’t help but sigh as everyone slobbers over Borderlands and an innovative title like Too Human becomes pissed on.

    Man, I hate hype, gamers and the industry…too bad I still love games.

  20. Sheer_FALACY says:

    Wait… you were supposed to fight that stupid bloody giant Rakk quest from your car? The car whose turret can not, in fact, aim upwards?

    I killed it without the car, and I died like 20 times to do it. That jackass could 1 shot me.

    I find the same issue – any explanation of how good the game is turns into “It’s a great game, really! But…”

    And that ending really was quite horrific, though the silliness at the end of the ending got a laugh out of me.

    And you can skip the unskippable splash screens by editing a few .ini files, just like you can fix that the game doesn’t tell you everything about items by editing some random localization file.

  21. ima420r says:

    I don’t get it, I have none of these problems. There is the occassional shot from a vehicle that hurts another player, but those are few and far between. And I suppose it would be nice to skip the opening when starting a new character.

    My only complaint is playing online with 13 year old idiots and modders.

    I am playing on the 360 though, perhaps there are less issues than on PC.

    And that Raak that you fight after lighting the torches was easy. Had 2 of us fighting and we each found cover, places with a roof, and we would come out and shoot when the raak was attacking the other. The roof over our heads was the life saver. Much easier than trying to kill it while driving around.

  22. B.J. says:

    Huh? What’s wrong with the sniper rifles?

  23. acronix says:

    The difficulty spikes is what killed it for me. My weapons weren´t damaging enough. I always found myself with:

    a) No bullets
    b) No shields
    c) No health
    d) No car
    e) All the above

    Based on the fact that I hear people saying the game was “too easy”, I m quite sure the difficulty of this game depends enterely on getting a weapon that is overpowered. Or better said: it depends enterely on NOT getting an UNDERpowered weapon.

    @BJ:
    Dunno for the rest of the world, but for me, sniper rifles had the problem that, if you didn´t had one that killed the target in one shot, it was wasted amunnition, specially on shielded enemies.

  24. Andrey Shchekin says:

    Fun game. The bad stuff is so obvious but so irrelevant to the overall feeling. Mad Mel is extremely easy after first death — just shoot at him without going over to the arena (from the border, you do not even need car).
    And Rakk can be killed if you fight him from the other (higher) place and can aim shotgun predictively (that’s the fun part).

    I do not think the game is *deeply* flawed. It is somewhat flawed, but these flaws and disbalances are part of the charm, like being able to go out of level bounds in serious sam.

  25. Andrey Shchekin says:

    What did actually annoy me is that forced cuteness of Claptraps. I liked Rakk Nest much more and felt regret for killing it. But I never really liked the robots.

  26. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Hum…

    I remember a game. A game very unforgiving. No tutorial. Clumsy controls. The ennemies could 1-shot your squads very easily. It happened often that your soldiers started shooting each other for reason you didn’t knew. The graphics were horrible and repetitive.

    But fun as hell. X-Com : UFO Defense

    I remember old games. These were bad, but awesome. I never succeded playing Ultima 7, but everybody say it is an awesome game (and I trust them, I just never got around building ennough patience for it). I don’t think there wasn’t a game issued without breaking gameplay elements that you had to muddle around.

    When did we became so critic that we cannot look aside breaking faults, and these become an immediate game-breaker? Borderland is ripe with defaults, so what? Tell ahead how much you enjoyed playing the Game (or loosing the Game)! Faults are part of life, part of games.

    When you think about it, X-Com was great not despite its faults, but BECAUSE of them. Such edging gameplay put us into an awesome feeling. In some way, I am sure the faults of Borderland might make its charm?

    Dwarf Fortress also has its faults, but all the more enjoyable because of them. The whole point of the game is to fail while learning. And to learn while failing. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you get so much pride out of the mental effort you had to churn out. The first time you design a clever complex mechanism (like diverting a river), you really feel proud of your creation.

    I am sure you enjoy a lot out of playing trough the bad aspects of that game. Yhea, it’s not perfect. But why do you enjoy the game? What’s so good about it? If there wasn’t any gamebreaker, would it keep all of its current charm?

  27. JKjoker says:

    i think you guys are looking in the wrong direction, you need a context to get into the game, true, but the heavy story is not absolutely necessary in a game and sometimes it might even work against it

    Diablo 1 rocked and the story was paper thin, just enough to give you an excuse to go into a monster genocide frenzy (you had some lore to read about in books and talking to characters but it was completely optional and it was better than Diablo 2 for it)

    Diablo like games are meant to be replayed, lots and lots of times, the story will not change, if its not optional/paper thin it quickly becomes torture

    just compare the process of starting a new game in both of them:

    in Diablo 1 you start, choose your character, walk to the dungeon, take the completely optional butcher quest, take the stairs and you are already into the action, took 20 seconds

    in Borderlands, unskippable intro, skippable bus part, choose your character followed by 30 minutes of following claptrap though the first part of the tutorial, then you got to do like 5 quests running out and into town, go meet assface, more running around, then a dungeon, kill 9 toes, go back to town, do a few more quests and finally you get the car and the world opens up it takes like 2 hours

    i think what disappointed me the most about Borderlands was the illusion of being in an open world just to find that there are actually pretty well defined “invisible walls” made with higher level enemies that just eat you if you try to go that way before you are meant to (it gets better after the first area tho)

  28. Davie says:

    I’ll be getting it tomorrow. I’ve heard such mixed reviews, but from what I’ve seen, it looks like one of the most fun games ever.
    And what’s this about a demo?

  29. Damian says:

    Nothing wrong with describing a game as “awesome but deeply flawed”. Other titles of this ilk: Fallout 3, X-COM TFTD, etc.

    There is only one criteria for whether I play a game or not: fun. If the flows don’t prevent the fun, then recommend away. With caveats. And sarcasm, preferably.

  30. Pickly says:

    In addition to computer games, there are plenty of movie reviews as well that go something like “Here’s what doesn’t make sense/is goofed up in the movie, but it’s still quite fun to watch”, so the precedent is certainly there from other forms of entertainment.

    For me, personally, there are a lot of games I’ve played that where a lot of fun when I played them, but that still had a lot of problems. Usually with me, though, I tend to switch to playing a game that avoids the issues, and don’t often find the originals as fun when I play them again.

    Each time people are shouting “GAME OF THE YEAR!” until the next big hit splashes. And you know what? No one even remembers that Resident Evil 5 released earlier this year. “What? Wasn’t that 2008?”

    Man, I hate hype, gamers and the industry…too bad I still love games.

    I can agree with a lot of your last point as well.

    It’s also interesting to me how few of these big hype games seem particularly long lasting gameplay wise. (Lots of RPG and shooter type games, but not a lot of 4X’s, for example.) Sort of like how hit movies are expected to be, which seems sort of interesting.

  31. Sheer_FALACY says:

    Uh… Dragon age is 90 hours or so of gameplay =P. Borderlands is pretty huge too if you go through playthrough 2 and/or try different classes – you’re going through the same content again either way.

  32. Nazgul says:

    “Xbox players shouldn’t have any problems, though.”

    Peace? Oh, shut up!

  33. General Karthos says:

    Well, as far as the color scheme goes, at least you could get a mod for it.

    Oh… wait… that’s right… No dedicated servers.

    Welcome to eternal purgatory. As a Mac user, I know EXACTLY how you feel. I’ve felt it for the last ten years.

    There is no escape.

  34. timmins says:

    SolkaTruesilver I wouldn’t say that dwarf fortress is good because of it’s flaws.

    Do you really thing that the lack of proper mouse support is WHY dwarf fortress is good? or is it good IN SPITE of it’s flaws. It’s steep difficulty and complexity aren’t flaws, those are design choices. It’s clunky interface is a flaw. Not being able to set designation anchors or indicate squares with mouse clicks doesn’t make the game better.

    Oh yeah, and sniper rifles are NOT weak in borderlands. Tough to use, sure, and unforgiving if you aren’t good with cover, but they can really pay off if you pick one that is suited to what you want to use it for.

    Sure, they aren’t great on paper. But that +150% damage on criticals is HUGE. Everyone’s aiming at heads when possible, but a sniper rifle gets paid for it. And if you have an elemental weapon, it’s nice that that first shot removes shields so none of your burn damage is wasted on the enemy shields.

  35. Phil says:

    And now, rather than play Borderlands (which I haven’t), I want to see Life of Brian again.

  36. Rosseloh says:

    @Phil:
    I was just thinking the same thing… Man, I wish the Pythons were still all alive and working. But I guess people need to retire sometime.

    You should just write both the good and bad in your review. I would like to have your take on this game….Since I won’t be playing it myself anytime soon. My schedule is full with Dragon Age, LotRO, L4D2, and Assassin’s Creed 2.

  37. JKjoker says:

    @timmins: they say that they suck because they dont work as expected, players want sniper rifles that kill with one head shot and rocket launchers to do big splash damage killing masses with a few shots (and explode when they are supposed to), in exchange of their lower ammo stock, slower fire rate, longer reload times, and harder aiming (maybe if the enemies reacted better to being shot instead of just shrugging them off until they die they might look better without having more power but right now they *feel* weak)

    they dont “suck” (that much) but they really have no advantages over other weapons, in fact a Siren with a SMG or a soldier with an auto rifle (or even a shotgun if enemies are at close range) can do far more damage per second than any sniper or rocket launcher and they have a lot more ammo to do it with, also you should consider that the way special effect bullets work is biased in favor of high rate of fire

    it seems they never asked themselves the “why would i use X type weapon instead of the rest ?” question during design

  38. Freykin says:

    ccserano: Too Human, innovative? Maybe in how long you’ll spend watching a death animation. That game was absolutely terrible for the amount of effort and time they spent on it. Lackluster combat, autoleveling enemies (killing any sense of progression until you hit max level), an awful healing system making it so only one class was viable if you didn’t want to die every other combat, and no way for the other classes to heal status effects that tended to do 1/2+ your hp. Not to mention bad camera controls and that it came with FOUR LEVELS that weren’t randomly generated in the least.

  39. A Reader says:

    Ahh, this reminds me of splunky which you have to spend money on checkpoints and they cost a lot so if you want to get past the first area you have to complete it multiple times (this can make the number of deaths you have skyrocket).

    EDIT: also the shops have overpriced items which are pathetic
    and if you want to steal you have to kill the shopkeeper and deal with a shopkeeper at the end of every level and all the normal ones attack you, oh , and your weapons are pathetic too.

  40. Nighty says:

    Personally, I would love to see a Let’s Play of Borderlands. It’s not perfect, it certainly has its flaws, but it’s still the most fun game I’ve played in years.

  41. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Reminds me of heroes of might and magic 4.It was such a broken mess of code,with numerous bugs and balance issues.However,even in such a broken state,I and many others have enjoyed it very much,and have been playing it for years.It really does say something about a game when people are enjoying it for years even though it is broken as hell.

  42. Jattenalle says:

    Horrible game. Any game that has grinding as a main part of gameplay is inherently flawed. Having it in a singleplayer game is just pure stupidity, spawned in the mind of a moron dipped in failure.

    Not to mention the interface is designed for people who just recently learned to read. Huge letters, few words.
    An entire screen of text in Borderlands contain less information than the description of a single item in [Insert some PC RPG here, such as Dragon Age]
    In fact, the interface is so overly huge and poorly designed it doesn’t even list all the bonuses an item gives you.

    I have yet to hear of anyone managing to play multiplayer on the PC.

    The field of view setting is horrible, making you spin around needlessly trying to find whatever is at your feet doing minimal damage over and over and over…

    The graphics are neat, but as pointed out they get bland and boring fast. Not to mention that at a distance, the huge black outlines of every single object makes a big black blur… And in the middle of it is a dude with a sniper shooting at you. ENJOY!

    End rant!

  43. glassdirigible says:

    I got the multiplayer to work on the PC without any issue. So did my friends, but we are all on the same college campus.

    Sniper rifles were only not highly effective for me as a siren when one of the following was true:
    A) It was Co-op and monsters had tons of extra health
    B) It needed upgrading (which happened once, after about 5 levels of use).
    C) The monster ignored the shot because it was not aware of my presence… but only sometimes

    My first attempt at a certain tentacled creature was brought down almost exclusively by my sniper rifle, the length of the fight was about the same as when I used mostly an assault rifle on the second and final attempt. Had I realized that there were sniper rounds sprinkled all over the floor the first attempt would’ve been the last.

  44. Martin Annadale says:

    I love Borderlands. Now I don’t know if its because there hasn’t been a game that has captured my attention quite like this in a very long time, or if I’m just blind. But I can’t see the flaws you point. Logically I know you’re right. But I just don’t notice them when I’m playing. I’m just having too much fun.
    Last night I picked up a really awesome repeater pistol (I’m leveling pistols on my siren). Its got the now required x4 fire damage feature. Its got a boatload of damage. Its got high elemental chance (which hopefully stacks with my Siren’s Spark ability). Its got a large magazine and awesome fire rate. And I’m as excited about it as I’ve ever been about picking up a good gold or green item in Diablo2.
    I’ve been calling friends to tell them about this gun. This game is really taking over my life.

  45. John says:

    As with any game, a person’s level of fun with it is individual. I’ve enjoyed a few games that weren’t highly rated or recommended, but they appealed to me. On the whole though I mostly go for games i know I’ll really like, or try a demo, see a friend doing it etc.

    Given the amount of borderlands ranting going on I just wanted to throw that out there. And personally I loved the game, and mostly didn’t have any of the complaints Shamus or other listed with the exception of the rocket launchers (no splash damage) and the lazy ending. (I wanted to get in the vault and score uber-loot.) I wouldn’t say the story is “stupid” but I will definitely say its quite thin. It had some interesting moments and if they fleshed it out more it would have been quite good.

    All other weapons worked fantastic for me. I almost exclusivly used repeaters for several levels, and even at level 40 I have an excellent repeater I use with my Siren. (High fire rate, 80 clip size, high damage, x2 acid. Burns through the Crimson Lance soldiers like anything.) Sniper rifles I never expected to be one shot kills, that would be overpowered in my opinion. You could kill just about anything in the game from a huge distance and never get touched. (minus closed or indoor areas.) I don’t use them that much, I mostly use shotguns and smg’s and pistols. But I always keep one for some use. (I prefer the liquid sniper variety for the high fire rate and clip size.) My friend is playing the sniper class and has gone through the game using snipers and revolvers almost exclusively. He never complained once. Both of us are long time (15 years) FPS fans as well.

    The difficulty spikes I enjoyed, because overall I found the game actually too easy. Whenever there was a difficult part, it was where I had the most fun, which only occurred in about 4-5 areas (or a quest) throughout the game.

    I don’t know who tried to fight the giant Rakk from the car? The guns don’t aim that high, so I didn’t even bother. I managed it on foot without dying. Actually it got me crippled in the end but I killed it and got second wind.

    The connectivity could use some upgrades, but so far i’ve managed to LAN with my friend a bunch without trouble. Every now and then he would get booted from the game, but he could just rejoin a moment later, so no real trouble.

    I would say the grinding, which is in the game is more optional than necessary. If you just follow the main story quests, there is little to no grinding involved. If you do all the side-quests though, or “farm” areas (crystal cave, old-haven, end game areas) then yes, its grinding. But they don’t force you to do it. At least thats my take. I like to do all side-quests so I did, and it did strike me that yes, it was a bit of grinding. But it was never boring because I enjoy the shooting, and you have the chance to get some better loot. (which I did.) I have to say though, the best gear I’ve bought, rather than found. The gun-shop in the middle of old-haven seemed to have some exceptional items after a point, and I picked up several.

    Anyway I wanted to put some positive thoughts on this because I like it so much. Everyone has their points, but in the end its an undeniably fun game that’s at least worth checking out if you haven’t.

  46. Bonus points for making me remember the Roman sketch from MP’s Life of Brian! :)

  47. ima420r says:

    There’s a PC patch out now.

    http://www.gearboxsoftware.com/games/borderlands/

    Or if you got it from Steam or the like, just update through them.

  48. Pickly says:

    Uh… Dragon age is 90 hours or so of gameplay =P. Borderlands is pretty huge too if you go through playthrough 2 and/or try different classes – you’re going through the same content again either way.

    That’s not very long at all compared to good strategy games, or even some RPGs.

  49. Sigma says:

    I agree 100% on the rocket launcher issue, even worse, I have a rocket launcher that shoots three rockets in a neat little helix, but the distance between them is so much even a Bruiser can slip through them with ease.

  50. Cloud Divider says:

    Each of the weapons seem to have a pretty good niche; the only problem is that occasionally, the opportunity to exercise it is relatively rare.

    Finding a good specimen of a given type can make a huge difference as well. For example, my Hunter heavily used repeaters for the first several levels (after getting Clipper), again in the late teens/early 20s finding a Double Thanatos in the shop, and after getting a 90-damage scoped Thanatos up around 31. The high rate of fire, huge ammo clip made for a fun weapon. Good close-to-mid range weapon.

    Revolvers don’t seem to show up very often in the early game, but they seem to be fairly more effective than their stats would indicate – they seem to have a higher Critical chance. I ended up using a Masher (one with lower damage but a multiplier but no elements) revolver almost exclusively the first run through Old Haven. Plus, with a scope, it’s almost like a sniper rifle. (and I found one that does about 850 damage a couple nights ago)

    Couple both of those with a Gunslinger Mod that has you regenerating ammo almost as fast as you can shoot it, it’s fairly…wrong. But so wrong, it’s just gotta be right…:)

    Shotguns are a little wonky, and there’s a bunch going on with the different modifiers (accuracy, multiplier, # of shots). But they too seem to have a pretty sound place in the mid-to-close range engagement envelope. Oh, and of course you can’t forget the sheer fun of the rocket-shooting shotguns. Yeah, the accuracy and rate of fire usually suck. But holy crap! It shoots rockets! Goofy-grin time fun.

    Rifles are sort of the go-to for mid-range. There’s some good tradeoffs to make between a high-ammo/damage, but low accuracy/rate of fire gun, or one of the 12-to-18 rd high-accuracy/rate guns that do (only) burst fire. Some are almost usable as fast-shooting sniper rifles (high-accuracy Stompers, generally)

    Sniper rifles are fairly straightforward. But again, there’s a lot going on in some of the sub-modifiers. Reload rate, ammo capacity, and zoom are the key features. Some have “too much” zoom for most of the environments…but if you had an open field and bandits waaaay out on the horizon, they’d be great.

    SMGs and Rockets are the ones I’ve probably used the least; SMGs seem to overlap with repeaters and rifles, and it comes down to which one you’ve found a better specimen of. The hit detection (looks like no proximity fuzing here…) on Rockets is fairly poor, so you’ve all but got to aim for the ground rather than the target. But the ability to hit multiple targets comes in handy, too. They also seem to do a good job on vehicles/emplacements.

    All in all, I’m really enjoying Borderlands. Coop either splitscreen or over the network (XBL in my case) is pretty good, though I’ve only really played with people I know or splitscreen. I really like the cooperative nature of a lot of the abilities.

    And you know, it’s just really cathartic to run around shooting people in the face with an assault pistol or rocket shotgun after a rough day at work.

  51. LintMan says:

    I just read the PC Gamer magazine review of Borderlands, and the review mentioned a couple of your issues, and I think he had the same difficulty you did in trying to describe the fun while also mentioning the flaws.

    Overall, in the review the game comes across as fairly flawed yet still addictive. IIRC, they gave it an 81%. Definitely not the gushing blind enthusiasm some of the online reviews have.

  52. Sheer_FALACY says:

    That’s not very long at all compared to good strategy games, or even some RPGs.

    Uh… I don’t know what RPGs you’re looking at that last longer than 90 hours. That’s way up at the high end.

    As for strategy games, sure, if you count multiplayer. And if you count multiplayer then Counterstrike and Halo and CoD are as long as whatever RTS you mean.

    Sure, there are people who have clocked more time in Diablo II or WOW than there could ever be in any single player RPG made by anyone. But that’s just a pointless comparison.

  53. I would just like to add that I am still playing Borderlands a couple times a week. It, and Dragon Age, have knocked DDO out of my rotation, and I love DDO.

    My friends and I play every Tuesday night, and then I play one or two more nights. Then y daughter plays on another night or two too.

  54. Pickly says:

    As for strategy games, sure, if you count multiplayer. And if you count multiplayer then Counterstrike and Halo and CoD are as long as whatever RTS you mean.

    Civilization type games, space empire type games, definitely last longer.

    Sure, there are people who have clocked more time in Diablo II or WOW than there could ever be in any single player RPG made by anyone. But that’s just a pointless comparison.

    It is a worthwhile comparison, actually, since in those games, people are doing the same sorts of stuff that would be done in a single player game (Leveling things up, trying out different characters, etc.), and they almost always last a long time, if they are fun to play.

  55. randy says:

    I think a reviewer should say “Randy Pitchford is an arrogant dick”

  56. Alex says:

    Shamus, you have just described what it’s like for me to talk about Left 4 Dead. My reception deteriorated the more I played, and as such I’ve reviewed it possibly more than any other game. I still play it now and then, so there must be SOME merit to it. But it’s packed to the brim with some of the worst, most inexcusably easy to fix game design I’ve ever seen. It is actually worse than games with literally no redeeming features, yet still I return to it. I keep THINKING it’s a good game when I’m not playing it, but once I get in I’m bombarded by awfulness from every angle.

    I think that says more about me than the product. But if Borderlands is any way an emulation of that RAGEQUIT-inducing madness like you say, then I want no part of it. Thank you for the warning. Life is too short for that.

    In the immortal words of Jerry Holkins:

    “Maybe it just sucks really well?”

  57. Zerotime says:

    I’ll nth the inexplicable difficulty spikes on quests.

    Playthrough 1 with Roland, it took me about four tries to beat Sledge because I kept getting swamped by the bandits that keep spawning from the side rooms.

    Playthrough 2, I pressed the button to start the fight, dropped the turret, and lit up a nearby bandit with my Hellfire SMG to get the +30% fire rate bonus when I’d killed him. The turret had somehow managed to burn Sledge down by its self before I could kill the bandit.

  58. Daran says:

    To me Borderlands is ‘Fallout 3 for console gamers’. Not quite a compliment, but if it fits your playstyle certainly good fun.

    An additional positive point for me is that the game only crashed once on me (and that was after 12 hours of play or so), something a lot of other new releases don’t manage easily.

  59. Sheer_FALACY says:

    Civilization type games, space empire type games, definitely last longer.

    Maybe a single playthrough takes 50X as long. But that actually results in more playtime for the FPSes, you can just play 50X as many games and you can fit it in places where you wouldn’t be able to play Civ.

    It is a worthwhile comparison, actually, since in those games, people are doing the same sorts of stuff that would be done in a single player game (Leveling things up, trying out different characters, etc.), and they almost always last a long time, if they are fun to play.

    So no RPG can satisfy you unless it’s an MMORPG. You were really expecting the length of Dragon Age to compete with forever?

  60. krellen says:

    I bet 90 hours for $60 is pretty comparable with an equivalent amount of play out of an MMORPG. Unless you play 6 hours a day or something, you crazy person.

  61. Pickly says:

    Maybe a single playthrough takes 50X as long. But that actually results in more playtime for the FPSes, you can just play 50X as many games and you can fit it in places where you wouldn’t be able to play Civ.

    Where exactly did this logic come from? Civilization games can be saved, you know. Plus, there are quite a bit more factors that can be experimented with in a civilization type games. (Certainly, the civilization types games I’ve played, and they are many, have generally lasted quite a lot longer than 90 hours. These games are probably the best value for money out of just about any game, which is the main consideration here.)

    I bet 90 hours for $60 is pretty comparable with an equivalent amount of play out of an MMORPG.

    A game like D2 or Guild Wars can last quite a long time without using subscriptions. (I’m not in the mood to do the math here to determine how much time is actually needed for the prices to be comparable, but I do also know that these games have lasted quite a lot longer than 90 hours as well.)

  62. Sheer_FALACY says:

    Alright, you can stick with games that last forever. If you consider Dragon Age too short at 90 hours, those are the only games you’ll ever be playing. Those of us who enjoy single player games will keep on playing those, and, while we will spend far more money than your one time payment of $40 (Diablo ii + expansion), the 56 cents an hour I paid for Dragon Age is good enough for me.

  63. Citadeljoe says:

    On the killing the giant Rakk from the car issue, if you get the car with the machine gun instead of the rocket launcher, and get waaaay far back to initially lock on to the thing, you can just hold down the fire button and drive around in circles under him until he dies.

  64. Drew says:

    Borderlands was made for us who have been playing Diablo for years while waiting for D3 to finally arrive… its made for “scavengers.” I can spend hours on end searching for an even better gun than the last. Hell, every time i see the new items available in shops message, I go on a teleporting frenzy to every decent weapon shop in the game, hoping for a better Hellfire SMG or Pestilent Defiler revolver. Every time I start the game back up, I go through a routine of hitting up every weapons chest I can think of before starting any missions.

    That being said, most of these complaints though seem to come from simply sucking at the game. Granted, the rockets do suck in comparison to any other type of weapon in the game, but its still not all that difficult to get through both playthroughs with one. Other than the rockets, you can find a godly weapon of each type, which is where the scavenging fun comes in (I don’t understand the stupid sniper complaint, one shot of my volcano sniper and i can kill 5 enemies). If thats a problem for you then this is probably the wrong game. Mad Mel and the giant Rakk were two of the easiest bosses in the entire game seeing how they took very little time and you had almost no chance of being hit. Those of you asking how to use the vehicle on the Rakk, just auto aim on it then drive in a figure eight with the machine gun vehicle and he’ll die in a minute or two… really easy if you dont have a good gun to shoot him down with.

    I really don’t seen any problem with the variety of enemies… almost every shooter I have ever played has a small group of enemies. Hell, most of the shooters are war games which leaves you with only one type of enemy but nobody is going to complain there. And the scenery seems to fit the game perfectly… Pandora is a fucked up place that nobody wants to be on except your group of badass treasure hunters. That also addresses your “stupid story” line. You are simply treasure hunters trying to get rich… did you expect much of a story from that? It’s just like diablo in that you go on this big quest that leaves not much of a good story and absolutely no gain in the end except that you now get to try again with harder bad guys and even better loot.

    Oh and I didn’t even know about the friendly fire vehicle damage after all of my time playing and I must say that you must really be awful if you’re blowing up your buddy’s fast moving vehicle by accident.

    All in all, if you like shooting and looting then get the game. If you want a story then open a damn book.

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