Bordering on Worthless

Never before has the box art of a game so concisely conveyed what I wanted to do to myself for spending $60 on something.  By the way, if you want to play this  game, get used to seeing this dude.  Like, a lot.  Also, I hope you’re a fan of the desert and shooting dogs.

As you can plainly tell, I’m not a huge fan of Borderlands.  I normally wouldn’t knock a game just for being bad, because the game industry serves up more disposable nonsense than a politician.  No, this game pisses me off for two reasons: 1) It got great reviews, and as a result, a sh*tload of media attention and 2) I bought the damn thing based solely on reason number one.

When you get right down to it, the game isn’t even that bad; it’s just mediocre with a great marketing campaign.  It’s main selling points are all hollow, ultimately pointless things that have been done waaaay better before.

First, the one thing that really caught my eye: the ridiculous number of guns in the game.  The game’s claim that there were hundreds of thousands of them should have been a red flag.  The huge variety of guns here is similar to the huge variety of Honda Civics out there.  Some are different colors and some have power windows and locks and some don’t but they’re all essentially the same car.  In Borderlands, you will pick up the same damn gun a million times, but sometimes it’s pink instead of green (nothing makes you feel more bad-ass then wielding a pink derringer). Sometimes it will have a different type of sight on it. Or sometimes it will shoot acid bullets that do SLIGHTLY MORE DAMAGE TO ENEMIES.  I CAN’T HANDLE ALL THIS VARIETY!

Yes, they have a lot of different cool names and stats and grades and a damage per second rating.  Yes, developer Gearbox put a lot of work into it. But in a first person shooter, the first concern should be how fun it is to shoot the g*ddamn thing. In doing research for this article I checked the Borderlands Wiki site (just being on this page made my skin crawl for some reason) and found this quote about Damage Per Second:

In the image on the right we have an Assault Rifle that deals 56 Damage with a 8.8 Rate of Fire, plus a x4 Incendiary elemental effect.

Using the method above; 56 x 8.8 = 492.8 DPS.

Add in the elemental effect; 492.8 x 2.00 = 985.6 DPS.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz wha-wait, what?  Oh, yeah. Sorry. The quote.

Although likely inaccurate, we now have an idea of the relative effectiveness of the weapon, which can be used to compare it to other weaponry more easily.

Another formula could be expressed as:

((Damage)*(Accuracy/100))+(((Damage*(Magazine-1))/(((Magazine-1)/Fire Rate)+Reload)*((Accuracy-Recoil)/100)))

Holy sh*t, nerds.  Did you guys even fire the guns or were you doing stat math the whole time? I’m a nerd, too, but I don’t play games to do math, especially FPS’s.  That’s what FPTPS’s (First Person Tax-Payer Simulators) are for.

 

pew pew!

Truthfully, I cannot blame these guys for focusing solely on the more accountant-y aspects of the game because there isn’t a whole lot else going on here.  Honestly, I put about ten hours into it and I spent about six of it shooting space-dogs.  Like, a sh*tload of them.  Occasionally, it would throw a big one at me or sometimes a pterodactyl, but that was the extent of the alien life I saw here. The other four hours were spent either wandering around the desert (more on that later) or invading enemy strongholds, where I would shoot endless clones of Mr. Boxart up there. Oh, some don’t wear masks, and others are midgets or super big, but yeah.  Same dude.   And the guns I was firing at these guys never had a good feel to them, anyway.  The sniper rifle and shotguns had some nice satisfying heft to them, but everything else gave off a pea-shooter vibe.

Lastly, we have the environment and characters.  The environment is all desert all the time. There are craggly rock parts and some withered oasis’, but that’s about it. Imagine if Star Wars took place entirely on Tatooine. Yeah, like that, except, unlike Star Wars, there really are no memorable characters.  You are introduced to yourselves (you can pick one of four people) at the beginning, but after that you lose any semblance of personality or humanity. You are just reduced to stats and levels.  The characters you meet along the way are standard NPC tropes (oh look, a curmudgeonly shop-owner) who send you off on impersonal menu-organized missions.   The story is something like “You are on an alien planet something something hidden treasure, go find it.” (Whoever picked this planet to bury the treasure on deserves a kick in the space-junk)  You are then introduced to a “wacky” robot sidekick character who makes me want to go spend time with Short Round, Jar Jar Binks, and that retarded guy from 8-Mile.

Yeah, there he is, in the middle. The f*cker.

I was hoping there would be solace in the driving parts of the game, but no; the vehicles have weird, floaty feel that sucks the life out of them.

In the end, Borderlands never gels as a cohesive whole. Just a disconnected set of bullet points on which to sell the game.  And I feel like action games nowadays are moving a little to close to missing the point of stats and levels; they are there to augment the gameplay, not replace it.

Some games make this same mistake with story as well.  I recognized how well written the characters and universe were in Mass Effect, but the gameplay itself was little more than an awkward third-person shooter.  If you love that game, that’s cool. It had a lot of good elements.  I’d pick an engaging story over lame stat building any day of the week. But I can see a cool story in a book or movie, and I can do my taxes if I want to crunch some numbers.  But these are games, we’re talking about here.  This is where I come to play.

General Thoughts

  • If you tell me that ten hours wasn’t enough time to put in before the good stuff, then go f*ck yourself. It’s a game, not a relationship.
  • Don’t tell me that four-player co-op makes it any better.  Swimming in a piss-filled pool isn’t any better because you brought along three friends.
  • What does the title mean?  How can an entire planet be a border?
  • I know this game is over a year old, but I’m still pissed.  Which reminds me…
  • Why do so many games that came out in the same year get to release a Game of the Year edition? Isn’t this sh*t standardized?
  • Play Fallout 3 again instead. It does all the same stuff so much better.

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