A Love Letter to Borderlands

To be a true Retro Gaming Universe, I actually need to write about more than a single retro game per day.  Therefore, I will attempt to post at least one non-RGotD post per week.  So let’s start with this:

I love Borderlands.

“Wait a minute.  You love Borderlands?  The modern game?  It came out in 2009!  How do you love Borderlands?”

It’s not true that I dislike every single game made since 1995, first of all.  There are a handful of good games that have been released since then, and I do play them.  It’s just that there is a huge difference in the number of games I like pre-1995 and afterwards.  And when I say huge, I mean there are probably fewer than two dozen games released 1995 or after that I think is as good as hundreds and hundreds of games released before 1995.

And Borderlands and its sequel Borderlands 2 are two of those games.

Borderlands is, at its core, a first person shooter combined with light RPG elements.  But unlike many RPG-light games that combine with other types of games (Mass Effect, I am looking at you), Borderlands doesn’t weigh you down with endless, pointless dialog options, cutscenes that take away from the gameplay, and clumsy gameplay that feels like an afterthought.  The gameplay in Borderlands is smooth, intuitive, and feels just right, and the massive amount of guns with a near-endless variety of statistics, modifications, and special abilities creates a very deep gunplay system where you actually want to take the time to explore and find the best weapons you can while going through the game, though it’s not necessary like many other games that require you to grind for gear/levels to proceed through the game.

And while there is a story going on, it’s a very simple and straightforward one that perfectly blends with the gameplay.  At no point do you really feel disconnected from the action by some cutscene that has something going on that you’re not really a part of, and best yet, there are only a few cutscenes at all, most being character introductions.  Everything else — dialog, story, updates, and so on are done through a communications system that pops up on your HUD if you are not close to the person talking to you, letting you get on with what you’re doing without waiting for some talking head to spout endless lines of dialog at you before you can actually play the game.  What a concept, right?

Sure, the game isn’t perfect.  I don’t like the scaling enemy levels, and as a result, damage can get very cheap at certain points with you falling to an enemy attack very quickly (at least you can get back up if you kill an enemy in a short amount of time, which is nice), but a couple of minor gripes about a game that has so much to it and so much replayability, which is nearly absent in the vast majority of modern games (my rule of thumb: if you beat a game and don’t want to play it through again, something’s wrong with that game).  There are several characters with very different play styles in each game, and I find myself wanting to finish the game with every one of them.

Thank you, Gearbox Software, for making a game even this old gaming curmudgeon can enjoy.

Now if I could only make Claptrap shut his mouth.  Tiny Tina in Borderlands 2, also.  Gah.