Borderlands Leveling 1-13

I don’t want to make any final judgements on Gearbox’s Borderlands, but I thought I’d post an update with my impressions through the first 13 levels of leveling in the game. It often takes me longer to get through games like this as my personality makes me want to see all classes of a game before I commit to one.

First, you should know, the game’s art direction is superb. The opening sequence with all its cel-shaded, “Ain’t-No-Rest-for-the-Wicked” goodness is truly a beautiful tone setter for the game. Little bits of humor, other than the first skag (a sort of alien hyena) roadkill, accentuate the character introductions. Each of the four characters displays their “actual” name and their “character” name, such as “Roland as ‘The Soldier’.” The last character, however, the large brutish fellow who is a heavy gunner and berserking fist fighter, is simply “Brick as Himself.” Really. With a name like Brick and his design, you don’t need much else.

Gameplay so far is fairly standard first-person shooter fare with four “classes” to add customization. The soldier specializes in assault rifles and shotguns; the hunter is your sniper and so on.

The shooter aspects feel a little loose to me. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not the greatest FPS player in the world, but I feel even more inaccurate with all the classes.

I really enjoy the fact that each class has a special move (though, truth be told, I wish there were more skills of that sort). So far, I’m partial to the hunter’s bird, which he sends out to fight opponents, and the soldier’s turrent which shoots enemies but can also be specialized to heal party members or regenerate ammo.

I do have a beef with the game. The RPG elements for specializing your characters are just too weak. I feel like I’m looking at World of Warcraft talent trees (a fact made painfully obvious by the fact that they’re set up nearly identical to WoW’s system). These incremental boosts to my character are nice, but they’re not the substantial type of reward that makes me desperate to attain the next level.

Really, the way this game is meant to be played is cooperatively. I’ve been playing with my on-again-off-again roommate both split screen and over XBox Live. It’s quite a bit more fun this way and the loot the gets dropped tends to be much better.

Oh, that’s another high-point to the game. The sheer number of guns that can spawn is really daunting. The only downside to this is yet another WoW comparasin, the loot is color coded to let you know its rarity/power. White is common, green is slightly more rare, purple is rarer still (epic, if you will) and orange is hardcore (I’ve not seen an orange drop yet).

As a UX specialist for Web sites, I understand the necessity of using conventions such as these (links being a different color than regular text, navigation being grouped at the top of a page), but as a gamer, I want new and original, not rehashes of other properties.

As a whole, I’m digging the game, and I definitely can’t wait to dig more into the story, I just wish the RPG elements were deeper than the FPS elements and gun creation.