Catching the Bus to the Borderlands

When Borderlands first released back in 2009, I was still too wrapped up in Halo 3, Uncharted 2 and Assassins Creed 2 to care much about Gearbox’s goofy looter-shooter. I looked at it as a novelty rather than the prototype for the modern live service game it turned out to be. So, I missed it. I also mostly missed the bus when Borderlands 2 dropped in 2012. I picked it up a few weeks after my friends and enjoyed it, but I’d once again missed out on all the co-op goodness that the series has become known for. So when Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition released for PS4 a couple of weeks ago, I jumped on it. I didn’t want to miss my chance to experience the original while people were still playing it. The results so far have been…kinda mixed.

Visually, the game has aged very well. Gearbox did a great job bumping it up to a solid 60fps and improving the texture work for a modern console. It’s a bit drab due to the wasteland/desert locations, but it still looks good overall. Gameplay is a bit of a mixed-bag on the other hand. I can definitely see how this would have been received as fresh and new back when it originally released, but today it’s very obvious that Borderlands is the initial shakedown run for the series. Quests mostly consist of shooting dudes to get to a bigger dude, shooting dudes to collect stuff, and shooting dudes for the sake of shooting dudes. Yeah, there’s quite a lot of wandering around and shooting dudes in Borderlands. By itself it’s fine, but there’s very little here in terms of reasons to do so. Good thing the loot and co-op is still fun.

As old as it is, loot in Borderlands is still more exciting than in even most modern looter-shooters I’ve played. Truly, the only game that got me noticeably more excited about my finds is Destiny 1. Borderlands does its loot right for the most part. Every weapon feels unique, has an interesting model, has real strengths and weaknesses, and the game throws tons and tons of them at you. Every find is exciting because you never know what you’ll get, and there’s plenty of reason to keep changing up your play-style in order to better suit the new gear. The low-cost of respeccing your character also means there’s plenty of different combinations to play around with. Even ten years later, I’m really enjoying this as someone who never played it the first time around.

Cooperative depends heavily on who you get matched up with but is generally more fun. The enemies grow in strength and number depending on how many people are playing, so getting through challenges is often a matter of effective coordination with one’s partner or teammates. This part of the coop experience has been pretty good, even with most random players. There is still the issue of loot, however. If you get matched up with one of the more selfish players out there, there’s a good chance of coming out of the session with barely anything to show for it. Live and learn, right?

Overall, I’m pretty impressed with how well Borderlands holds up right now. The desert is a bit bland, mission design is basic and some online players can be jerks, but it’s still probably more fun than it should be. There’s just something so satisfying about how the guns feel when fired that makes what should be a bland and boring loop into something fun and interesting, especially when playing with friends and constantly collecting new weapons. Definitely try it if you missed out the first time and find me online once Borderlands 3 drops later this year. Now that I’ve gotten a real taste of the original, I definitely can’t wait to catch the bus to the newest entry!

Did you play Borderlands when it first released? What do think of it now?

Lede image from PSN product page