Saturday, January 8, 2011

Borderlands...a year(+) later

On Sunday a friend at work asked me if I had ever played 'Borderlands' and I assured him that I had, but it was some time ago. (yes folks, I was at work at 5:15 AM Sunday 1-2, while you were all still in bed)

This has made me reminisce about the game, both good and bad.

When all is said and done, I liked the game, but didn't love it. I'd rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

What I liked:

#1 I really liked the idea of 4 separate classes, and of those classes I REALLY liked 3. I never cared much for the tank. Each class having a supernatural (for lack of a better word) ability was very fun. Again, 3 of the classes had great specials, while the tank's special seemed kind of meh to me.

#2 I though the mix of shooter and RPG elements was handled very well. It never took me outside the system or caused me to think 'oh, I missed because of my stats rather than my aim' (although sometimes I did curse and blame a miss on the stats of my gun) I liked idea of the tech tree, but not all the details of the implementation. (in general I don't like tech trees where in the end you have maxed out 2 of 3 branches. I also like each branch to be a bit more focused)

# 3 One thing I always think about when rating a shooter is how the ammo supply and health supply feel. I always want to have a LITTLE concern about both. No one likes to be crippled by the shortage of bullets or drugs, but too many games have them given in such bountiful quantities that there never seems any need to conserve. This game hit that balance just right.

#4 I thought the vending machines were a wonderful decision for that world. They were great fun with random items, 'specials of the hour' and clocks telling me when to check again. Their presence also helped with the ammo/health supply issue. If I chose to shop (or scrounge) I could always start a mission with full ammo stocks, and generally finish it with half my ammo depleted if I was careful.

#5 I found the grenade mods to be a nice touch I hadn't experienced with any game before. I hope other games copy this feature. The shields were fun, both when worn by me and the enemy. I normally hate games where you can duck under cover and quickly be healed, but for me it just seemed different when I made the conscious choice to wear a shield that would heal me vs a shield that had more strength or faster rebuild times. Bonus points for having the enemies who would drop the shield to actually be wearing them during combat (and wielding the guns they dropped) The class mods were okay, but not a big deal. Maybe by the time I bumped into the first one I felt I had enough on my plate juggling the tech-tree, a couple different weapons, a pair of different shields, usually a pair of grenade mods, etc.

What I didn't like:

# 0 Character customization: I liked the basic look of each character but the degree of customization (changing the color of 10% of the character's outfit) was disappointing. (This isn't really enough of a complaint to warrant a number.)

# 1 Storyline: What? there was a storyline? It was paper-thin even for a computer game storyline...and it was stupid.

Solution: spend more than 3 minutes on creating the storyline.

# 2 The "Madder than Mad Max Mutants" look wasn't great to begin with, and got old FAST.

Solution: I'd have loved to have seen crazy-punk-rocker-mutants in a few areas, but in other areas see folk similar to the Sand-men of Star Wars, etc.

# 3 The place was too empty of people. I think part of the plot was you were supposed to care that the Crimson Lance was going to take over. Take over what? All the towns were empty except for very rare annoying mutant nut-balls. The few 'real' people you met were all grade A assholes. Okay lots of shooters and RPGs have this problem, but it was worse here.

Solution: they at least could have had your fist arrival into a town coincide with the last of the normal residents packing up and departing rather than face the increasing mutant threat or the Crimson Lancer's marital law. Then populate each 'town' with a few wandering normals, like maybe the town drunk or the old man who has buried his family here and doesn't care if he lives or dies, he "ain't leavin"

# 4 The Technicals were too powerful, you could drive over any threat you didn't bother to auto-target with your unlimited ammo rocket launcher.

Solution: give us dirt-bikes, dune buggies, or just the same outrunners without guns. The player can do fun jumps in, travel from spot to spot, and for the most part speed past threats. Give us access to the Technicals only in the spot where vehicle-on-vehicle encounters are to be had.

# 5 The Guns. There were two problems.

A. There were too many of them. Way way way too many of them.

Too many "layers" were in the creation program which meant that most guns dropped by bosses or in crates or whatever were not something I was interested in. If you DID find a combination you liked, too bad, you'd never find it again. Main complaint is the frequency of a contradictory mix. You can have a 'Variety' (Cobra) that is improved accuracy at the sacrifice of damage but it's "Body Type 3" (AR-Cobra) which means it sacrifices accuracy in the name of improved damage. And when 6 'layers' are used to create the gun, it just gets messy.

Solution: Variety X cannot access body type 3 or 5 as they are contradictory, and repeat this for manufacturer, body type, material, manufacturer, add-ons, . OR...allow a player to pay to 'clone' his gun just sliding it up the level scale by 10.

B. In the end I did not care for their elemental system. In the end, it seemed like two identical weapons, one 'vanilla' and one 'elemental' the vanilla one did 125% the base damage of the elemental. But as unimproved elemental damage was supposed to give you about a 125% damage increase, it was a total wash. Using the 'perfect' elemental type against it's intended 'best foe' type (i.e. Corrosive vs Armored, Lightning vs Shield) gave a benefit, but it wasn't a big enough benefit to justify swapping away from your best gun. However, if your best gun WAS an element type and you happened upon a creature using that same element you were really hamstringing yourself.

Solution: Make element ability matter enough that it is tactically useful to swap to a slightly inferior gun of the perfect element type for your target. This way you don't NEED to have one weapon of each element in your backpack, but keeping around that Lighting X-3 revolver for when you encounter a shielded opponent is a smart move.


cardinal23 said...

That's a pretty good post-mortem, Andy. I am mostly in agreement with your points, and I also thought it was good but not great. I look forward to Borderlands 2.

andrew said...

I'd be interested in hearing which points you agree/disagree with and which of my likes/dislikes you found irrelevant to your enjoyment.

w1ndst0rm said...

~Yeah, but what about the graphics?

Anyway, there were some interface problems with 2P split screen that I got over so I wont complain about that any more . . .

Even with a group of 4 peple running around the world was very empty; I agree with you absolutely there . . .

Being in a 4p group with Gus at the wheel kind of sucked whatever depth the game had right out of it. He had a system where one person would go turn in the quests, one person would go sign up for more quests and the others would get started on the new quests that would pop up. Wolf would have hated it. No time to read the quests. Just fulfill the objectives in the hopes of getting that god drop gun. My joy or sense of accomplishment over the new guns never lasted more than a few minutes either. (gun-cup porn bender)

I felt used and dirty.

My favorite part of the game was the boss with the Imperial Walker body and the vagina head that birds flew out of. I was scared and amazed instead of frustrated at the boss element v. gun power mechanic that was the norm.

The final boss was a chump. I hid behind a rock and shot the tip of one of his tentacles that never moved.

The final boss was a chump and I was a cheater.

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