Thursday, February 25, 2016


The Borderlands series had never seemed too interesting in the past but I decided to buy the Humble Borderlands Bundle last summer regardless. I even paid for the full package because I like my games complete. The bundle did not include the third game, however -- only a coupon for it with a pretty short expiration date. I decided not to use it as The Pre-Sequel! will probably be on sale later on and I should play the two games first to see how much I even like them.

Borderlands ended up being pretty much exactly what I thought it to be. Unfortunately that means I did not find it the most entertaining experience. By the time I was finished with the game I had had quite enough. Too bad I still have Borderlands 2 to play through.

I believe my enjoyment was mostly limited due to playing the game in solo. BL is obviously designed co-operative gameplay in mind. 'Fight for your life', for instance, is clearly a moment meant for your partners to revive you. Getting second wind by yourself with a kill is clunky and I ended up just respawning more often than not.

I found BL to be rather difficult as well -- or at least until I was at level 25 or so. With hindsight, my playstyle was maybe a tad too aggressive for a low level character. My favored tactic was simply running into the middle of things to take stuff down with a shotgun or SMG. I think putting points in Inner Glow (healing while phasewalking) was one of the things that helped most later.

Higher weapon proficiencies definitely aided too by reducing reloading times. 2+ seconds is just way too long to fiddle with your gun in the thick of things. BL also has this odd feature of playing the weapon's arming animation after every action. It follows weapon switching, meleeing, and even after closing the menu. It really hampers the gameplay. I cannot fathom how they thought it was a good idea.

Another weird thing is how the interact button reloads your weapon if you press it while not targeting anything. It is apparently a remnant from porting the game from the console version where reload and interact are on the same button. The vehicles also have an unconventional control scheme -- you steer by moving mouse instead of using the A and D keys. It took a bit to get used to that.

Otherwise being a port did not show too much. The options menu lacks a few things, though, and I ended up downloading a very handy third party tool that allows you to configure some advanced settings for the game. Among other things, it has an option to enable a hotkey to increase your field of view.

A hotkey is needed as evidently changing FOV permanently is not possible and the game resets to the default every time you switch to first person camera when exiting a vehicle. Pressing F10 so often got bothersome but I continued doing so. Not because I was getting motion sickness but because one appears to move faster with a wider FOV. I recently learned about this when reading some discussion about racing game FOV. Going back to the default FOV from 90 always felt as if the game had become sluggish.

To me the most distinct feature of Borderlands might be its art style. The game uses a rendering technique called cel shading which gives it a comic book -like appearance. While not the first game to use it, BL is the first thing I think when I see something drawn in similar style. The art style makes the series very recognizable.

Borderlands uses the good old Unreal Engine 3, meaning it ran very smoothly and stable on my machine. Well, apart from the issue of crashing when it tried to give me the control of my character. Luckily I had again read the forums beforehand and knew exactly what file it was missing. Fixing the problem was as simple as making a copy of cudaart.dll and renaming it to physxcudart_20.dll. I am not sure what was up with that. Why did the game not come with it?

I think tedious is the word I would use to describe many things in Borderlands. For instance, I do not like how many games, BL included, have enemy spawn locations that blob out mobs one by one. When a game's main focus is killing stuff, such waiting is unbearable. I think in BL there might be some optimization involved too, but I would rather have all the enemies present at once. At the least their bodies do not disappear right away to break immersion. Bosses also took way too long to kill when my character was not yet that great.

Having more interesting skill trees would have easily made the game better. In addition to the colors of the item names, they seem to have copied the boring passive talents from vanilla World of Warcraft. Having only one active skill is also terribly dull. It does not offer enough variation to carry through a lengthy game such as this. The loot drops could also be better suited for the character you are playing. After experiencing Diablo 3's loot 2.0, it is hard to tolerate getting random crap all the time and useful upgrades only scarcely.

I also played through all the four DLCs the game has only to find them hardly worth it. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned was the best of them as headshotting the zombies was fun and much easier than the regular BL enemies. Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot on the other hand was the epitome of tediousness, though I did like the music and Brina Palencia's voice work as Moxxi.

The Secret Armory of General Knoxx and Claptrap's New Robot Revolution both felt largely like re-hashed content. Of the two, Secret Armory probably wins in bad design department. I do not get why there could not be fast travel hubs in the DLC. Instead you always have to drive yourself from one end of the maps to another along the long roads. You only get a slow vehicle at the start too. I sure do hope Borderlands 2's DLC are more inspired and better designed. I dislike the thought of having paid the full bundle price just for more recycled stuff.

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