I used to love first person shooters (FPSs). I think there was a stretch of a few years in my life where there were the only type of game I was playing: Qauke 2, Unreal, Half-life, Unreal Tournament , Quake 3. Even before FPSs went 3d I routinely played through DOOM, DOOM 2, and Heretic. At some point though FPSs started changing, they started taking themselves too seriously, perhaps? This is probably Half-Life’s fault, with the the Call of Duty and Halo franchises being responsible for carrying it forward, poorly. Too much focus on (a crappy) story line and attempting to portray a real world-setting didn’t set well with me. Neither did all the limitations designers started putting on the player: two weapons only, generic ammo, a non-numeric life-bar now accompanied by a non-numeric recharging energy or shield bar. The move towards recharging health and limits on weapons also meant that managing health and ammo was no longer part of the game. Ammo was picked up from fallen enemies and levels changed so that ammo dumps and arsenals were no longer part of the game, some how this also translated into the removal of secret areas on the map as well. Levels were no longer part of the puzzle to be solved merely the background canvas on which the player painted murder. As these changes were implemented and the focus moved increasingly from single player to on-line multi-player I found myself wandering away from the genre… *rant off*
I don’t quite recall how Borderlands caught my attention in 2009. Perhaps, it was the touted ‘loot’ system so similar to how Diablo and Diablo 2 distributed weapons and armor? Or maybe I picked it up on the recommendation of friends over at Talking Time (I’m sure it was the latter.) I picked the game up hopeful that my fondness for the genre could be rekindled but prepared to be disappointed. As I had been with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (a franchise that now embodies everything I’m not looking for in an FPS.) Borderlands is a delightfully dark and playful FPS, much as its early progenitors were, in which you explore an alien planet with a Western ethic. This world is large populated by monsters, thugs, bandits, frontiersmen and contains a surprising number of secrets. Tasked with finding and unlocking a legendary treasure trove, players will have at their disposal an near infinite variety of small and large arms. There are seven types of guns one can use but they all have modifiers of quality and elemental damage, as well as stat and to-hit bonuses. I’ve been playing for 20+ hours and I don’t think I’ve seen the same gun twice.
The game succeeds by successfully marrying fast-paced FPS game-play with an inventory/loot system that kept me opening every crate, chest, and locker in the game looking for the next amazing gun. The game does keep many of the now “standard” elements of FPSs, despite them I find myself smiling and looking forward to the sequel that is coming later this year.