02 November, 2009

Review: Borderlands

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, November 1, 2009

Developer: Gearbox
US Release: October, 2009
Price Paid: $50
My Score: 4 of 5

Price Paid is a new thing. I used to try and call out when I felt that the price paid was important to my experience, but it's simpler to just include it in the heading and let you make up your own mind. I do not include tax, but I do include shipping.

Sooo tired.

Borderlands is absolutely a "just one more" kind of game. Just one more mission. Just one more side quest. Just one more fight. The game is built for addiction. And when playing with others, it's amplified because I don't want to let the group down, and I don't want to fall behind. Last night I was up until after 6AM. (Perhaps it was after 7AM. There was a time change.) So maybe this isn't the best time to write a review... But as the title song says, "there ain't no rest for the wicked."

Before anything else, I'm going to say that the PC networking for the game has definite problems.

I was forced to use an old GameSpy profile (instead of the one I used for Unreal Tournament 3 and Saints Row 2) for no apparent reason. Despite being perfectly capable of configuring my router, I was unable to host a game. I later learned that you sometimes have to invite people from in game. But sometimes that doesn't work and you have to invite them to a lobby first. It's just random. And since the best part of the game is multiplayer, that sucks.

There were problems with the in game voice chat that can't be turned off, but the Penny Arcade forum community posted a workaround (editing a configuration file to disable it) before I managed to get multiplayer working.

There were also other bugs. In multiplayer the game may permanently erase skill points, hamstringing your character. Also, it overwrites your configuration files on the first game start after a time change, so I had to change all my controls today. Why on earth would you write code to do something like that? How does that make any sense at all? A patch is being worked on, but this is how the game launched on PC (nearly a week after the console release and more buggy).

Industry standard PC woes aside, the game is certainly fun. The guns and their effects are satisfying. Learning which weapons to use with which elemental types on which enemies keeps things interesting. And the random loot means that the next guy you kill or next chest you open may give you the super weapon you've been waiting for.

And in co-op it can be even better because there are four characters you can play, and running with a balanced group means almost every great piece of loot is usable by someone. And when you use your special abilities to help each other out, you can kick major butt.

In case you can't see, that's a lot of large bugs, many of which are already dead.

The game has rough edges. Some special abilities (both skills and on weapons) don't work. Damage and health don't scale properly on the second playthrough. The randomness of the items you find sometimes mean finding what you want is nigh impossible. I could go on, but overall, I've had a lot of fun with game and expect to continue having fun with it for a long time.

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