Saturday, 16 January 2010

Borderlands, Borderlands

Alright, haven't done much lately. I edited the last of Bionic Commando in case I find a good host for walkthroughs, and in any case I'm not deleting hours of footage I saw so much trouble recording.

I have also played Borderlands through once now. My Mordecai is lvl 37, and I'm trying my best to mop up the trophies I can get without co-op play. United We Stand (beat a boss in co-op) and There's No "I" in Team (finish 15 mission in co-op) have to wait until I dare to go online.
Borderlands is a fun, original and stylized game and surely entertains anyone who likes to shoot up shit with friends and collect guns, but trust me, it has enough minor (and a couple of major) problems to prevent it from ever getting the full recognition the original idea behind the game would've deserved.

Glitchwise, one of the most notable bugs is losing you precious items in co-op. No, you don't trade or sell them, they disappear on their own. You can prevent them from being erased completely if you quickly equip same type of items as they first only turn "invisible" and will turn up in your backpack if you switch them with other items before they've actually vanished. Since the theme of the game is looking for great stuff you use and sell the rest, losing your precious, overly powered stuff can get more than  a little annoying.
The game autosaves ALL THE TIME, so if you've been hit by a bug in the game, it's saved with you. Funny enough, the constant autosaving is not at all as needed as in many other games, as Borderlands doesn't seem to ever lock up, but several other recent games autosave rarely or even never and have a habit of locking up. The game also alaways saves when you exit to main menu and there's no possiblity of loading a save mid-game, so if you fuck up badly, you have to quit the game from the PS button screen (what's it called?) if you don't want to suffer the consequences (or if you just want to milk the best random items at a few key points in the game).

There's also the most unnaturally weirdo graphical bugs I have ever, EVER seen in a video game, ever. The skies and land starts to turn into the colors of the rainbow and get pixelated... I've had it happen to me twice, and at first I thought it had something to do with the story, that the big plot twist at the end is that you're in the Matrix and not a real planet, but forget that, it was just a bug. Don't last long, but it sure is trippy.

My original complaint about a couple of unmarked missions has also changed to a complaint about markers being WAY off their spot. At first I thought that the 6-8 missions you just randomly stumble upon that are not marked or announced in any way were just some bad joke from the guys at GearBox, but three times I've actually noticed there being a Bounty Board marker on the same map where you accept those "hidden" missions, but the markers are on the wrong end of the entire map and point to NOTHING. I can pretty much  vouch that the markers don't point to extra missions that would get unlocked later, since I already have the Made in Fyrestone and Made in New Haven trophies and the story complete.
Finding the missions was a pain, I tell ya. Well, not really, since most of them I actually found accidentally while exploring anyway, but I had to resort to using a walkthrough with the 3 bandit brothers (and the subsequent X marks the spot) mission as there's nothing marking the place where you start them. Ever. Not even after completing the main story. On the same map there's a useless ! marker though, on a completely empty spot on a wall. Same thing happened in Arid badlands and Dahl headlands also, "hidden" missions and an extra marker on a wrong spot somewhere. Perhaps when the guys made the game, the missions were supposed to be started on a different spot but they forgot to change the map.
The maps are messed up anyway, and tell you nothing much about a specific area. You have to go look at every nook and cranny yourself if you want to know where you can drive, where there is a slope and where you can enter a walled-off camp, since the map often deceives you.

The enemies can also often attack through cover. The action is largely based on shooting from cover and ducking if things get too hot, and you can't really run and gun through the game unless you're overpowered compared to the opposition, but it starts to get annoying when you duck behind a wall to wait for your shield to recharge and somehow the enemy shot you through the wall and you lost 15% of all your money. The final boss was especially annoying and I lost a lot of money from the constant dying (I even died 7 times inside 20 seconds thanks to it sending me off a cliff), as it's attacks went through walls.
It's bad enough the last boss has arcing attacks that can hit you behind cover legit, but when it's purple death ray whatever shoots through cover (and I actually saw the beam pass through rock and I took damage) and his stomp move that shouldn't pass through objects but still goes through the other rock formation the beam can't seem to pass and throws me to instant death that resides behind that otherwise perfect cover, it gets insane. Add to the equation no ammo refills and consider the fact that the last level most likely drained all the ammo already (not mine, I legged three quarters of the final area), it gets insanely frustrating.  I was lucky the boss eventually stopped attacking through walls, after regenerating all the health I managed to take away with all my main gun bullets, of course. It was a weird fight that got rather hairy thanks to bugs.

The loading times are absolutely atrocious and are so long you will always feel thrown out of the game. They really break the chain of fun, and the only way I got ANYTHING done without smacking myself in the head constantly was accepting ALL missions in one area at the same time and then finishing all possible missions in one map to minimize the times I have to load a new area as missions are often started in a different area than where you actually do them. The loading times fucking up the feel of the missions is even more annoying because it would be far more fun to just focus on ONE mission at a time, not juggle 3-4 completely different tasks in the same area. Mechanical completion of given tasks at optimal speed isn't as much fun as having fun.
The game's strong point is the rewarding exploring, but the loading times always makes you think twice before you explore a new area or go back to empty the last. You end up asking yourself if you really want to sit through the loading screens to get 50,000 dollars from all the hidden guns in the map you've done every mission in already? Perhaps you'd just rather do the next missions in the new areas instead.
How much time spent staring at loading screens is 50,000 dollars worth anyway when you'll have at least 2 million before the credits roll for the first time and most likely 4-5 million soon after the credits have rolled... good music during the credits, by the way.

I also feel the combat suffers from it's... umm... simplicity. There's not a hint of stealth involved, making the action somewhat similar to what any regular FPS game would be with Serious Sam enemies, with the ducking behind cover when you run out of shield/health gimmick infused with enemies that beeline to your location (Borderlands also has the kamikaze crazies you never liked to hear coming in Serious Sam).
I mean, apart from the stupid AI being sort of locked to it's own area to avoid different types of enemies constantly fighting each other in the small maps (seriously, warring groups can live right beside each other most of the time), enemies see you in the narrow areas as soon as you're in shooting distance.
You fire your gun, be it a sniper rifle from far away or not, and everyone's onto you and if there's nothing blocking the way of the AI, they often run straight at you with the occasional scaredy-cat grunt running from behind a fence to behind a boulder and back again, yelling at you about there being no escape from them. The enemies sort of sense your presence even if you occasionally manage to get behind someone, and running around obstacles never fools them.
Enemies are also apparently unable to distinguish a shorter path to you sometimes. Especially if you've opened a door or some sort of quick route that skips most of the level, they can't use it. Instead they circle around half of the level through the "normal" way and dangerously hit you in the back. They don't get behind you because they're smart, but because they're dumb as bricks.
They also can't use stairs if you're on top of the stairs. If you're a bit to the side, they use whatever complex route they need to, but straight up walk stairs right to you... nope, avoid the stairs at all costs. I found it annoying since the Psychos always end up under the stairs and I want their heads right infront of my gun barrel.

Regardless of all these and more problems the game has, it's still highly recommendable. Yes, even though I think I made it sound like shit, the game has enough positive qualities to counter the negative aspects and leave a better than averige game on the table. I'm not going to write a review of the game and talk about the good sides too, though, since I only wanted to steam about all the negatives here.
Don't be scared, Borderlands is fun despite all the shit you can find to complain about.

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