Borderlands Preview


posted 9/15/2009 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
One Page Platforms: 360
This preview is built on a press build of the game that 2K Sports sent us about three weeks ago. The game wasn't optimized for performance yet and featured only part of the final game. I logged about 10 hrs in the build and played through all of the content available in the game with the soldier class (I got him to Level 17 in that time period). I also spent some time with the berserker and sniper classes.

This is a picture of Kyle Yan, John's son. Kyle is a little over three years old and fun kid with a great sense of humor who really loves his dad.
Unfortunately for Kyle he's going to lose his father in a month or so to Borderlands. I honestly feel bad for John's wife because she is going to have to change two sets of diapers when the game comes out as I don't think John is going to be able to tear himself away from the game and honestly neither am I.

If you're wondering how I know this it's because John loves two types of games, First Person Shooters and Diablo style role playing games. Borderlands merges these two genres together into a Reece's peanut butter cup of gaming goodness. Gearbox then took that delicious combination and added four player co-op, further enhancing the potency of the game for a Left 4 Dead addict like John.

Borderlands is set on the remote planet of Pandora (No, it's not the same Pandora as James Cameron live action Fern Gully). Pandora was colonized and civil at some point but has gone to hell in a hand basket as the planet has been overrun with bandits its the native life forms. While this hasn't been a problem in the past, the recent revelation that their might be a significant alien technology vault buried on the planet has sparked significant interest in the planet and that's where you come in. Despite the sci-fi setting, there's a decidedly western feel to the game that will remind a lot of folks of Firefly which I'm guessing is not unintentional.

The game opens on a truck bound for the town of Firestone, and it's here where you pick which character class that you want to play. You can choose Mordecai the sniper, Lilith the Siren, Brick the Berserker, or Roland the soldier. Each character has their own special ability that augments their weapons specialty. Brick has a souped up berserk attack which allows him to pummel creatures with this fists instead of guns, Mordecai can launch a bloodwing (a hawk like creature), Lilith has a magical speed attack, and Roland can setup a turret and shield combo. As you level up in the game you upgrade these abilities to augment not only your character but the rest of your squad.

Each of these abilities is grouped into three groups, essentially creating a subclass for each character. For example, I leveled Roland up to level 17 and spent most of my points building up his abilities with shotguns and rifles (mostly because at the end of that chain the turret got a missile launcher) but I also tossed a few points into the healing tree so that any team members near the turret would be healed by it. If I wanted to I could have built that up area even more so that the turret healed faster or put some points into the supply tree so that the turrent provided ammo to teammates. The feature really increases the variety of the game as you can have multiple people play different builds of the same character.

After you are dropped off in Firestone you are greeted by Claptrap, a single wheeled robot that walks you through the tutorial level of the game. Claptrap also provides a great deal of comic relief as you might have seen in the first developer diary for the game. He introduces you to the basics of getting around and how the save system works (more on that in a bit) and then starts you on your way. Claptrap, like the other denizens of the game, oozes with charm and personality. It's rare that I crack a smile at a joke in a game but I was grinning through large portions of it as the writing was that good. I'm interested to see if Claptrap becomes as much of an Internet meme as GLADOS and Big Daddy as he really sticks in your head when you play the game.
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