Borderlands - Agree to Disagree

An Agree To Disagree review

TheMorty and FBT take a trip to Pandora. While TheMorty gets robbed and leaves a negative review on TripAdvisor, FBT gets a Claptrap figurine and a tattoo from Mad Moxxi.

Vault Hater - TheMorty

Borderlands. Bore-derlands more like. Never have I played a game with so much promise that delivered so little. For a game given a sequel, a pre-sequel and a TellTale spin-off, it must be good, right? At the time of release, there was only really the Fallout series in terms of post-apocalyptic RPGs and Borderlands offered a comedic alternative where you could just have a blast. I was full of hope. Not just from the fast-paced, hell-for-leather trailer detailing an hilarious, action packed comedy, but this was in FBT’s top 5 of all time! What higher honour could be bestowed upon a title? Sadly, the slow and repetitive gameplay, the uninventive antagonists and a variety of weapons that you simply couldn’t use was a major let down and made Borderlands less of a gore-fest and more of a snore-fest.

The game starts with giving you four seemingly great characters to choose from. Your friendly bus driver gives you some god-awful advice that brute force won’t cut it in Pandora and you must be smart. So, I figured, okay, I’ll pass on the walking tank, the hot-shot sniper, the jack-of-all-trades soldier and go for Lillith. The girl who’s about stealth and whose special power is to Phasewalk to go invisible. What. A. Mistake. I had made such an error and by the time I realised how bad her power was, I was hours in and couldn’t stomach a re-start. Borderlands is not a stealth game and what I had was essentially a twilight-tween who glittered whenever trouble was near. In arena type battles her power was useless and put me at a serious disadvantage. By the time I realised how maniacal the game was, it was too late. I needed brawns not brains and I was stuck getting battered like a cod.

Borderlands is so generic with the character choice that bar that one special ability, the differences between who you play as are irrelevant. Sure, there’s the odd one-liner and the QuickTime of you getting in and out of a tank, but otherwise there’s nothing that showcases personality or that tailors the gameplay to the character you choose. The replay value really is minimal. Take Lilith, she’s portrayed as the sexy siren, but not once does she use her beauty or allure to get results and without the 3rd person view of her scantily-clad design, you might as well be playing as Princess Peach. To put it bluntly, would you play a first-person Tomb Raider? No. Because that’s just Mirror’s Edge and no-one wants to play Mirror’s Edge.

Something else that hacked me off was the lack of game saving ability. Sure, there’s a Save option, in which you can bank your XP whenever you quit out. But be warned, the next time you load you’ll be back at the beginning of the level and all the enemies will have re-spawned (oh, and they’ll also have levelled up, just to make it a bit more inconvenient). I lost count of how many times it got to 2am and I was still battling past hordes of henchmen trying desperately to complete the level just so that I could finally get some kip before getting up at 6 to go to work the next day. Borderlands isn’t a game you can just dive in and out of, having a quick 30mins blast to kill some time here and there. Playing Borderlands is a slog in which setting aside nothing less than an entire day to play will cut it. Traversing through a wasteland for hours just to ensure that you get to that heavenly safe spot coveted more than Pandora’s Vault itself is really your true goal – just to avoid tediously re-doing the same level all over again the next time you pick up the controller. While that’s not something new in gaming and you’d expect it from Destiny or any online session game, it’s far too much for an offline Role-Playing Shooter that marketed itself on being “Fun”. The beauty of games like Bulletstorm is that you can dive in, have a blast for as long as you want and then quit out. With Borderlands, it just feels like more work than it’s worth.

Its not just the characters that are one-dimensional, the missions are too and often you find yourself in a state of repetition, having to clear the same areas again and again. Meeting residents of Pandora that give you the same old mission time and time again…

Dr Zed: Alright mate, I need you to kill this bloke in Skag Gully, Nine-Toes

Me [4hs later, tired, covered in blood, all ammo spent]: It’s done.

Dr Zed: Thanks, have a crappy pistol from the vending machine.

Me: You’re kidding… That’s it? What’s the next mission?

Dr Zed: Can you get me this key?

Me: Okay, sure. Where is it?

Dr Zed: Skag Gully

Me: Oh FFS!

Worst part of it is that when you eventually Kill Nine-Toes for Zed, he has the audacity to demand that I buy HIM a drink? The cheeky bas-

There’s 87 bazillion guns apparently, at least that’s according to the sticker on the box. Though, you can only carry a handful. The best of which you can’t use until you level up another 20 times so best to sell everything you find. Meaning that you’re essentially a scrap man, trawling around the streets in your van asking the residents of Pandora if they’ve any old iron. If not, kill a few Skaggs and you’ll find they’ve swallowed a gun that can be ground down and sold for next to nowt. It goes on and on and on, constantly exploring the same bit of map where all you get is guns you can’t use and the same villains to put down. Think it’s a good money-spinner? Think again, it’s rare you’ll survive without a respawn or two which, naturally, takes a tax on your hard-earned cash. The more you have, the more you’re taxed meaning you don’t really get a great deal out of playing the boring missions. Literally, just XP.

The comedy’s decent, I’ll give you that and the comic-book style of gameplay was certainly unique on its release. However, if you’re looking for a cross between Fallout and Bulletstorm, you’ll be disappointed. It’s more Starship Troopers meets Beyond Thunderdome where giant insects and overtly camp topless dwarves in hockey masks run amuck. Maybe one day I’ll dive in, play as Brick and enjoy it, or maybe I won’t. One things for sure, not only are the titles in my Top 5 safe as houses, it’s not even troubling those in my Top 50.

Vault Hunter - FBT

Borderlands separates the men from the claptraps. It’s a leveller, a palate cleaner (with bleach), a reset on every game that ever put a gun in your hand. Go big or go home.

The best way to play Borderlands is the way the raiders in Borderlands play Borderlands – run straight at an enemy laughing. It’s designed to be played with a death wish, every encounter a breathless Second Wind followed by a ‘fuck that was close’. Try playing it like Fallout and you’ll be back at a cloning station quicker than you can say ‘now come on, that was just unfair’. It’s a RPG for those who don’t give a shit – once you get your head out of the RPG space, Borderlands becomes something very special. There’s side-quests and a larger story but really, you’re after fame and riches. TheMorty can sit there planning his approach – do you have a good spread of weapons, are all the elements covered, what kind of shield do you have – and I’ll launch myself into the fray like Leroy Jenkins.

Having a quick save just removes all that intensity; saving is for pussies and it’s about the visceral moment not incremental baby-steps. The creatures only respawn once a day; if you get put back at the beginning and they’re back too, you’re too slow. Borderlands is head-long or head-off. It’s all in the reflexes - you’re Jack Burton and you’ll not get through it without a hefty dose of bravado. A couple of skags aren’t going to stop us. Unless you’re TheMorty

No character? Your lead isn’t lacking in personality, they’re lacking in morals. Lilith often dissolves into giggles after kills or asks “that was it? Well it acted tough”, and she pays no attention to anyone’s plight – even the mission-givers are selfish, like Scooter asking you to save a guy so he can kill him later (because he “ruined my mama's girl parts”) or people stiffing you on the reward – everyone’s out for themselves and life is cheap.

Even money’s cheap. The counter goes up to $9,999,999 and you still earn more. It’s everywhere. Sure, it’s galling to get charged a mill after getting offed because bullshit, but it doesn’t actually matter - there's nothing to buy except bullets and medkits and they’re like $40. Only cowards buy guns. Play the gun-hand you’re dealt and dig up something better. There’s a bazillion weapons, another bigger, better, madder gun is just around the corner letting you evolve your approach, and winning a high-powered corrosive revolver, a rapid-fire sniper or a rocket-firing shotgun keeps the battles fresh and gets you excited about the next fight; I wanna shoot something with that! Both weapons and missions are locked by XP, so stop fannying about and go out there and get some level-ups. They represent confidence; soon you’re laughing at the Skag Pups you ran from a few hours ago – now you’re facing huge Elemental Alpha Skags like they’re no big thing (They’re always a big thing but the mad fight and huge XP bump is worth the blood). Start building your skill tree, find some brutal weapons and go from Welp to Warrior, pushing until even Lilith can punch out a skag without breaking a sweat.

How can I even be friends with TheMorty, slagging off my girlfriend like that? Lilith is a beauty to behold and to play. She’s not stealth, creeping about like a wuss is not going to impress Lilith. Her phasewalk is only for retreating at first; she is under-powered early on, but that just forces you on the offensive. Get in there, get her hands dirty and once her skill tree start to warm up? Whoa. She goes from Valley Girl to Sarah Connor faster that you can say “I have angel-wings that set people on fire as I pass by?” Lilith’s phasewalk starts killing people, she can strike while invisible, enter and exit with elemental powers, absorb bullets and shot them faster; all automatically - she’s brutal. She’s the most constantly evolving, rewarding lead in a shooter I might have ever played; if you come out swinging instead of sneaking. You become a God, instead of just shooting more bullets than everyone else.

Borderlands is for the fearless, but it’s also just for fun. Once you start seeking out the worst that Pandora has to offer, you really get into the lawless, Tom & Jerry tone of it. Whereas Dark Souls thinks it’s funny to kill you, Borderlands lets you die laughing. You’re not saving the world like in a regular RPG, you’re looking to own it. TheMorty says Borderlands would never land in his top 50. I’m betting he’d never survive level 50 (let alone Mad Moxxi). I could go on but this response is longer than he lasted in Skag Gully. And that’s just the tutorial area; let’s not even tell him about Playthrough 2.

2009 | Developer Gearbox Software | Publisher 2K Games

genres; shooter, RPG, Sci-Fi

platforms; Win, X360, PS3