Fireside Discussion: Chapter 3: Fire-fight at the Border

Nov 15, 2012

Chapter 3: Fire-fight at the Border

No one here cares about claptraps, in fact other than the first 3 seconds of endearingly annoying voice acting, you just want to shoot these things, in fact now we know why the bandits are so mean to em. Borderlands has created a world in which we are familiar, a desolate wasteland filled with disease, bandits and plenty of bullet casings. Fallout, The Book of Eli and the outskirts of Las Vegas all have these traits :), but what niche has Gearbox carved out? To me, nothing save for the colorful humor.

Metacritic as of today, gave the original Borderlands an 81, which I think is a fair score. It’s good, far from the legendary scores IGN was giving it at release, I think like 9.75 if memory serves, but feel free to correct me if I am wrong(it has been a long time). The reason there is such a discrepancy I can’t tell you but I can tell you that what it has going for it initially should have been improved upon in their second installment, Borderlands 2 or so you would hope!

I am going to take a step back first, before I get into the second one and give you a little background about my Borderlands 1 experience… the good, the bad and the unfortunate! I began Borderlands about a week after it’s release seemingly at the same time as all my friends and family members. Loaded up a Mordecai, which is basically a Sniper class and went to town surgically removing limbs and mowing down hordes of alcohol and blood-crazed bandits. The one liners were amazing as dialog back and forth between you and the enemies took place during after the last man standing. Heck they even taunted me to come at em as they were falling to the ground. Quests got repetitious fairly quickly but never the less it was an FPS/RPG of sorts so I found a familiar strength to dig deep and find things I liked about RPG’s, to block out the obvious parts of the game that were lacking and believe me, some of those are harder to swallow than others.

First off, the questing. Most of them were fetch style quests either to gather an item, hit a series of switches, collect parts to a gun or kill a particular enemy. As I said above it just gets old, you find yourself venturing out into unfamiliar territory, to look for cans of irradiated meat all while trying not to get shot, eaten by a Skag or die from exposure to the harsh atmosphere. To some that may sound fun but to me it sounds more like a junior high student wrote the quest line. Why would you do something so foolish just for a crappy supply of food that wasn’t even for you? That’s right, you wouldn’t!

Next on the list is the odd placed collectibles around the game world. Everything from ammo boxes to money, found in and around everything, plants, toilets, random dunes, bones etc. I know what they were trying to get at here but it wasn’t done well and here is why. In a world like Pandora, (where Borderlands takes place, not Avatar :), there is enough civilization and expansion to warrant the notion that alot of the areas you venture into had already been picked clean and that those resources should be stock piled. That was a large disconnect for me.(Why are these containers still containing so many valuables?) The only time it made sense was in areas that had no bandits and no settlements, because those littered items have no value to the beasts that inevitably ate the unlucky travelers whom lost their items amongst the bones and sand.

Lastly is the underlying plot to Borderlands. First off, you begin as a hunter, seeking a long lost, ancient and also fabled treasure supposedly located in a mysterious location… a vault 🙂 wow! Anyways, the game is basically silent in terms of plot generated or dependent content until about the last 3 hours of gameplay which is unfortunate in it’s own right but the bigger sin is the end of the game. Now, it’s been long enough since most people have played this so there is going to be a “spoiler” for the sake of the word.

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The Vault was actually located and guarded by many advanced beings and weapons which was cool. They moved and fought very different from anything up until that point and just getting into this place required infinitely more precision than the entire game put together which was appreciated on my part. However the last boss reminded me of some “mindless” monstrosity out of Contra. Regardless of the bad design choices for the boss, here is what got me. The entire premise of going into an “open world”, looking for crappy items and eternal glory and fame by opening up the vault was based on a lie from an unknown source that seemingly sent you to die or achieve victory by a narrow margin against this inter-dimensional nightmare, either of which is a horrible plot and whoever put this into motion should be fired. Now what would have made this pill better would be if they had eluded to her treacherous encouragement several times and given you an opportunity to act differently and thus change the ending or have a unique experience, save succeeding where 2,000 previous vault hunters perished <—- all the loot that drops, which in all my attempts sucks!

The one redeeming factor to gameplay is as I said the humor and of course the only way to play this game, multi-player! With a buddy, the crappy story and quest lines are masked by the insatiable desire for carnage as you tear through Pandora aboard a friggn’ tank with mounted rocket launcher and gatling guns! The rides, destruction and chaos get even better with the DLC.

Multi player is the strongest aspect to this game as a whole and should not be ignored if you plan on playing it for the first time or beginning a new character after a leave of absence. The cooperative game play, mixed with the extra difficulty and various ways to assist your team against the enemies is far more rewarding than single player and far superior to the game world and story.

I know it may sound like I had no fun with this game and that is simply not true. It is a good game and as I said above, I think an 81 is a fair score for it, but my point after that rant is to tell you that what could have been a 95+ ended up falling short because either the studio didn’t have enough support from the higher-ups, not enough time to develop or worst case lacked the depth in leadership to look past the superficial “18-year-old-bait-design” that attracted such a huge following it’s almost as sick as honey boo-boo! With a little more attention to detail, deeper story, better item distribution/crafting, this game could have been up there with some of the best games made this decade. Which leads me into our conversation from earlier, did Gearbox fix the issues or shortcomings of the first game and capitalize on all that made it stand out in the world of brutal FPS titles? Read on!

Borderlands 2 in the eyes of many critics was a good game, maybe even better than the first one but seemed to be a rehash of the same stuff, even down to the playable classes and NPC characters, which even in short without getting into the meat of the issue is sad. Yes developing a big title in an already present IP, with time constraints and expectations is perhaps more difficult than creating an IP for the first time but one wonders if it is just a void in creativity. Just a reminder, but the makers of Red Dead Redemption didn’t make a name for themselves for attempting to create a game that would make them the most profit, heck thats a sad story in Halo and Call of Duty, but instead created an experience that was present in all their games and a unique, maybe even twisted experience at that. My hat goes off to a studio that takes more than a financial risk to create entertainment and art for so many to enjoy!

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Run for the border 2.0:

Borderlands 2 was gifted to me and to him, my buddy in Cali, thank you! First off I enjoyed the game and look forward to playing more multiplayer and hopefully earn a Platinum trophy.

The graphics got a small improvement as well as the character models, the characters, their customizations at creation and unlockables bring a new layer to your play experience. Although I thought this was a cool idea I never really took alot of time to change my appearance. I also got a code to join the premiere club, which gives you some added content, weapons at start-up and a golden key for a chest that drops awesome items (of which I haven’t touched yet) <–waiting for level 50.

You begin again amongst your buddy the claptrap, clad in gear, weaponless and buried half dead in the snow from an accident brought upon you by the villainous, Handsome Jack. (why are you in the snow… because there wasn’t any in the first game) ..smirk

The story is more or less the same in this game as it is for the first. You are yet again set out to uncover an even more legendary and secret vault with untold power and glory in it. Now since it is still fairly new, I won’t spoil anymore for you, because you will find this out as soon as the game starts. But I just want to say, wow, surprised they would rehash this and also many other things.

The biggest difference to gameplay is the Badass system and it is fun to an extent but at the end of the day it’s still a system that was created to add complexity to your character experience but was done incorrectly yet again. There really isn’t anything or I should say, most of what you do really isn’t badass in the since of the word. You unlock these by completing challenges, just like the ones in the first game. With those you gain levels and with each new level you gain a point to spend on stats you want to increase. The good move here is that they made your score and bonuses useable and permanent by all classes regardless of level. In other words you can have a score of 8,000, start a new character and still progress from that score to more rewards for the new character as well as the one that earned the initial 8,000 badass score.

Many notable NPC’s make an appearance and some new ones all of which are fairly humorous. All in all this is better than Borderlands 1, but not by much and many of the  drawbacks listed above haven’t been improved upon, it is as the critics have said, a well polished re-hash of Borderlands 1 with a few new features. Too bad that it wasn’t specialized enough to set it apart from the game that set this one up to sell so well and give Pandora fans more reason to convert members to their cell-shaded cult. Perhaps Borderlands 3 will take place in a beautiful mountain scape deep in the misty peaks of Asia and invite players to find an even “awesomer, more secret and infinitely more powerful vault”…. gearbox may need a new transmission.

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