BioWare’s Mass Effect became a smash hit with its hybrid shooter/RPG gameplay, so it was natural for there to be imitators, among them being Gearbox Software’s Borderlands, released across multiple consoles. This review covers the PC Game of the Year version, which proves to be a solid experience despite some technical flaws.

One main difference from the Mass Effect series, particularly if players choose the single player experience, is that there is one controllable character that can equip a variety of firearms whose proficiencies gradually level up the more the player uses them. Pretty much the only form of companionship players receive is a turret that they can summon, which fires away at the enemy for a limited intervention before disappearing, with the player afterward needing to endure a cooldown period before being able to resummon it.

Killing enemies nets the player experience for occasional level-ups, with the player able to invest skill points into various abilities such as increased life or reduced cooldown time for their turret. Enemies may also drop new firearms, ammunition, defense shields, and health recovery vials, although the player has a limit to inventory space that they’ll frequently reach, in which case they can sell unused items at special vending machines, from which players can also purchase new gear.

Borderlands interestingly handles death that occurs whenever the player completely runs out of shield power (which gradually recovers after a few seconds, much akin to the Mass Effect games) and life, in which instance the player has a few seconds to kill an enemy and revive with some shield power and health, although failing to do so during the near-death period will result in the player’s resurrection at the last-reached revival point with a fraction of their money lost.

In the end, the hybrid RPG/shooter gameplay for the most part works well, with a fair difficulty level for the story missions that the game actually tracks with indicators including Trivial, Normal, Tough, and Impossible, with plenty opportunities to complete side missions and acquire more experience, occasional money, and maybe supplemental items. The main faults are the choppiness of the gameplay on slower computer systems, along with slight repetitiveness when dying frequently, although the game is playable nonetheless.

Control is decent for the most part aside from the repetitive inventory management, what in particular with an excellent direction on where to go next in a mission, with waypoints for the most part doing a nice job guiding players in the right direction, along with solid, if choppy, keyboard and mouse controls.

The story of Borderlands isn’t much to write home about, what with weakly-developed heroes regardless of whom players choose, along with an equally-weak central plot. The dialogue does have its humor and profanity at times, but otherwise, the game is more about its gameplay than its narrative.

The music is also nothing significant, with no memorable tracks and an overreliance upon ambient noise, although the sound effects and voice acting are top-notch.

The graphics are near-perfect aside from some choppiness on slower systems and blurry textures the player will notice on weaker graphical settings, with a nice cel-shaded style for character models.

Finally, the game is fairly lengthy, with the player needing to take a little over forty hours to finish, even longer with the endless sidequests that provide plenty lasting appeal.

Ultimately, despite its technical issues, Borderlands is for the most part a solid Western role-playing game, what in particular with its solid shooter/RPG hybrid gameplay; its success would unsurprisingly spawn a multi-platform sequel.

The Good:
+Solid shooter gameplay and control with open-ended world.
+Humorous dialogue at times.
+Great visuals.

The Bad:
-Gameplay can feel choppy on a slower computer.
-Can be repetitive at points.
-Forgettable music.

The Bottom Line:
Great shooter/RPG hybrid.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PC
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 5/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Medium
Playing Time: 40-60 Hours

Overall: 7.5/10

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