Borderlands Hands-On PreviewBy Brian Leahy - Posted Jul 28, 2009
If you haven’t been following the changes, Borderlands may look a bit different from when you first saw Gearbox’s newest IP. But the dream of procedurally-generated guns is alive and well. In fact, the developers have lost track of how many guns can be created with all the combinations of effects and stats. I wasn’t able to experience very much of the story, but my eternal love of loot burned with the intensity of a thousand suns as I shot bandits and found weapon caches, striving for even the slightest stat upgrade on my weapon.
Let’s Hope You Can’t Shard a Gun
If you’re a bit confused here, I’ll take a moment to explain how weapons are created in Borderlands. Put simply, it’s Diablo-style randomization implemented into firearms. The impressive part is that the weapons are visually constructed according to their stats. If you pick up a rifle that has a scope as one of its randomized bonuses, you’ll actually see the scope on top. Weapons with fire effects will be red, acidic weapons sport some green tinting, and shock weapons get some purple coloring. Items also follow the now solidified World of Warcraft color-quality conventions with blue being better than green being better than white. I’m not sure if we’ll see any purple items, but I can only hope.
In addition to weapons, players will also be picking up shields that act as armor and grenade mods. In Borderlands, players will loot all-purpose grenades that are modified by drops that are equipped. This way, there’s no micromanaging the vast amount of grenade possibilities. Oh, and one of the grenade mods makes them teleport in a straight line toward your enemies. Yes, that’s right, teleporting grenades. These are the grenades of the future. These are the grenades that my grandchildren will be throwing at the evil robots in the coming wars.
The story of Borderlands revolves around four characters (a soldier, sniper, stealth-user, and a melee brawler) that also serve as the game’s player classes on the planet of Pandora, a desert-filled wasteland. There are tales of a hidden vault containing alien technology and the players are on a quest to find the cache. Gearbox promises around 20-30 hours for the main quest, with co-op missions and side quests bringing the game up to around 60 hours of content.
Screw the Hippocratic Oath!
I was able to check out some of the game’s first quests as the soldier, who gets a deployable turret at level 5 that can further be upgraded with skill points along three different skill trees. These trees also contain general upgrades including my favorite: the ability to heal your allies by shooting them! On the turret side of things, players can set it up so the turret does more damage or even heals allies that stand nearby. Think of it as a deadly medkit. Ironic!
Thankfully, the game handles very well and while it is a “role-playing shooter” it plays closer to a true FPS than Fallout 3. Skilled players can line-up headshots with ease and score critical hits like crazy. Keep in mind, though, as an RPG there will be enemies that take a lot of punishment. Sure, headshots will give you bonus damage, but one-hit kills will go away when you confront some of the tougher enemies. I’m told that enemies can also be randomized for encounters akin to champion, elite, or the named monsters of Diablo II.
As for online co-op, I didn’t get a chance to try it out at this time, but I’m told that players will be able to hook up with friends and collect experience and items, which can be brought back into their singleplayer game. You’ll be making characters that persist across the different modes in Borderlands. The co-op is also drop-in/drop-out, so someone can join you at any time. The difficulty will scale up with more players connected, but the rewards will also get better.
While the quests I was able to check out were pretty generic (kill X of these, bring this object to an NPC), I wasn’t really bothered by this. I’m hoping in the later stages of the game the quests get a little more complex, but it isn’t going to ruin my enjoyment of the game. Diablo II’s quests were this way as well: kill this named enemy, find this item, and activate these things… I’m going to play Borderlands to collect loot and shoot things with my awesomely randomized guns. Anything on top of that is a bonus, as far as I’m concerned.
Borderlands has been a long time coming, but it’s received a release date of October 20th for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 and it’s got strong potential to be a solid release from Gearbox.