Sunday, December 06, 2009

Games of the decade: Borderlands

Part of a series of subjective looks at my favorite games of the decade.

(2009, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC)

On the long list of reasons why I don't play World of Warcraft, near the top are these two:
  • The gameplay does not look interesting
  • I am afraid it would consume my life
Borderlands takes the WoW formula and couches it in a more comfortable first-person shooting framework, and, yes, it has consumed my life. Gearbox's FPS bona fides are in order. Borderlands plays much like Halo, with the same floaty jumping physics, a rechargeable shield like Master Chief's, and even a Warthog-like vehicle. But it's also an uncommonly accessible RPG, with character progression that doesn't require a Ph.D to figure out, yet is robust enough to allow for an endless variety of builds.

It's worth mentioning the importance of cooperative play. This is obviously a personal preference, but competition for competition's sake isn't enough to keep me interested in a game. I'd rather have a tangible goal beyond winning, and I'd rather be playing with friends than sparring with douchebags. Borderlands is terrific for this kind of play. It's very long, there's tons of loot to find, and the different ways in which character classes can interact is always surprising. With the right class mods, you can have a party whose health and ammo are constantly regenerating, whose action skills cool down almost immediately, and who rain destruction on Pandora like the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

I'd almost always rather have a game with a good story, but in this case I think it would just get in the way. In fact, I barely knew Borderlands had a story until the very end, when I realized I'd been handing pieces of a key to somebody. I knew I was trying to open a vault, but the actual objectives had gotten lost amid all the grinding and looting. That's just right for a game like this. Stories have to end. Borderlands doesn't.

More on Borderlands:


Gary A. Lucero said...

Okay, here's a game I consider to be very good.

I can't tell you the number of times I preordered then canceled it, and finally I just bought it used from Gamefly.

I don't play multiplayer games but as a solo only game (again, I haven't tried co-op and don't ever expect to) this one just works.

Balance can be a bit quirky as you go from under powered to over powered and back, but the missions, gun play, vehicles, graphics, loot, etc., all just work.

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