In which I hate Borderlands

I took a brief vacation from being Geralt, the horny card collecting Witcher to check out Borderlands. I wanted to play this game for a while, mainly because I expected it to be a dumbed down Fallout 3 with less story, but more vehicles. Imagine my disappointment when I found myself playing a single player version of a MMO.

Yes, yes – I know what you are going to say. This game is much more fun when you play with your friends. Fuck that! I am an antisocial introvert and when I play my video games I want to be alone. I have to deal with people and their bullshit all day long at work. When I come back home and sit at the computer, I don’t want to be social. If I wanted to be social I would call some friends and go out or something. Sometimes I need my alone time though.

Also, I asked Ark if he wanted to play it and he told me to shove it. Actually, at first he was ok with it, but then he found out it was pretty much a MMO and decided he wants nothing to do with it. He still makes fun of me for playing WoW for like a month, before I got so bored doing repetitive quests that I wanted to puke.

This is sort of the point though. I played the “ultimate” MMO out there (at least with respect to the user base and the amount of money it makes). It was fun for a little while, and then it got tedious and boring. And the only reason why it was interesting at first was because of the setting. Well that and the fact that I was experiencing first hand all the stuff people have been referencing on the inter webs. WoW is unique in that playing it is a prerequisite for understanding a large fraction of jokes and memes out there. Sadly, once you have played one MMO, you essentially played all of them.

Let me put it like this – the whole MMO experience boils down to this:

  1. Approach quest dispenser NPC
  2. Obtain a quest (skip reading the bullshit fluff text, just look at the TL;DR objective and reward lines)
  3. Travel to quest location which may or may not be instanced area
  4. Kill designated enemy or enemies and loot their bodies
  5. Return to quest dispenser for reward
  6. Rinse and repeat

This is pretty much Borderlands in a nutshell. All characters you meet are essentially vending machines that dispense quest cards. You don’t actually get to talk to them. You just walk up, push a button and get a dialog screen from which you can shop for quests or turn them in. They are immortal and immobile and about as much fun to interact with as furniture. When you first meet them you get a cute cut scene which their name appears on the screen with some funky side effect. It’s like “Boom! Introducing: Quest dispenser #4”.

Hi, I am a quest dispensing vending machine. Push on my belly to receive bacon... I mean quest.

Of course most MMO’s try to mix the quest dispenser boxes with static non-quest dispensing characters. So when you go to a “town” there are some people there just hanging around, pretending like they live there. Borderlands doesn’t even bother doing that. Towns in the game are completely deserted, containing maybe one or two quest giving NPC’s. It sort of gives you an impression that this whole damn planet is populated by respawning bandits and mole rats (or whatever the dog things are called in this game).

I swear, every time I left the starting town, I would get attacked by this idiot and his friends:

Hi, I just spawned around the corner. You want some XP for shooting me?

Invariably, our encounter would end like this:

Thanks! See you again in 5 minutes.

This would happen every 15 minutes or so. Every time I got back to the town to turn in a quest he was there to greet me with his bullets. Every time I left to get my car and drive to the next boring quest location, he would make sure I get some points for driving over him. In fact, I sort of felt bad for him. I would try to avoid the repetitive firefights most of the time, but he would spawn as soon as I was outside of the town gates. It can’t be easy to die every 15 minutes or so, can it?

Speaking of cars, I made my ride to be raging pink for no reason whatsoever:

This is how bored I was in this game!

This was to go with my raging pink costume of course. This just goes to show how bored I was with this fucking game. If you know me, you know I’m all about the stetting, and the story. I actually get into these games, and role play my characters. I don’t usually make them look ridiculous on purpose. But since Borderlands has neither setting nor a story I could follow, I was getting restless. Hence, overabundance of pink.

The playable area is huge, but you can’t just drive around and explore it because it is neatly partitioned into level appropriate content. You are supposed to stay in certain zone until you run out of quests, at which point you ought to be the right level to move to the next questing area. If you ignore your quests and go exploring you will encounter one of the following:

  1. High level enemies just waiting to bum-rape you on sight
  2. Closed gates that insist you are not awesome enough to access what is behind them
  3. Insta-kill turrets

As far as I could tell, the enemies didn’t change much with level. I was able to get myself into areas where the bad guys were about 15-20 levels above me and they were still the same bandit and mole rat models. Then I went to some high level instanced area, only to find more rats and bandits. The game is not very big on variety. The terrain is pretty much the same generic “Mad-Max fucks around in the Thunderdome” inspired desert wasteland, complete with weird cars and crappy, ramshackle buildings. It’s not even an expansive, open ended world as you would expect from this type of game. The terrain is closed off, claustrophobic labyrinth made out of cliff walls. All the towns and quest areas are neatly fenced off and protected with knee high barriers that will prevent you from driving your car inside.

Of course every once in a while you will see some expansive open ended terrain in a distance. I almost got excited once thinking that this is how high-level areas look like. I assumed that the labyrinthine canyon ville I was stuck in was just an extended tutorial area and once I hit certain level I could go out into the open desert. Then I realized that this was an “off map” area and any attempt to approach it would trigger the insta-kill turrets:

No, you can't go there! Go back!

The turrets are kinda neat variation on the border patrol theme. I actually spent a good deal of time trying to cheat these damn things by hiding behind rocks and other terrain elements. Unfortunately these things don’t actually need to shoot you. If you venture far enough you will just die instantly even if none of these things has a clear line of sight to you. Sigh… Yes, trying to outwit the turrets was more interesting than the game itself.

Now don’t get me wrong – the game is actually quite pretty. Take this screen shot for example:

It's not a moon! It's a texture!

The unique visual style is definitely a strong suite of this game. It is a neat combination of 3d models and comic book/cartoon style. It very much reminded me of XIII which used a similar approach. But that was 7 years ago so no one will probably remember that game.

The whole running around and shooting things bit is also fun. It gives you about the standard regulated dose of FPS joy, augmented by the fact you get to level up and collect weapons. It’s almost like an RPG. Almost. You know what ruins it though? Claptrap.

Motherfucking Claptrap is officially the worst part of this game. If you haven’t experienced that piece of shit robot yet, imagine taking the worst qualities of Jar Jar, Scrappy Doo and the Adoring Fan from Oblivion and rolling them all up onto an annoying robot character. I fucking hate claptrap! This game would be so much better if you could actually kill it. Alas, you cannot:

What makes this guy worse is the fact that he is not just one solitary character. Claptraps are everywhere. Every town, every menu screen. Hell, he even shows up on the main menu. They are really pushing this character down your throat and it is just not working.

To say I was disappointed with this game would be an understatement. Borderlands is just as dull and boring as any MMO out there – you know, just without the “massive” part. Doubly so because the game setting is rather bland and uninteresting and contains way to much of Claptrap. Then again, if you generally like the sad-boxy, aimless MMO game-play you can enjoy it. Especially if you an play it with some friends. It is not for me.

Oh, and before you say anything – no I am not going to try playing it online with some random ass people. If I wanted to play a co-op game with random strangers I would just launch L4D2 which is actually much, much less boring and does not contain claptrap.

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11 Responses to In which I hate Borderlands

  1. k00pa FINLAND Opera Windows Terminalist says:

    I find borderlands boring, but not as that boring :P Missions are boring, leveling up is boring, most of the weapons are boring…

    Meh, so only thing that makewme play this game is the chell chading look or what ever it is…

    I don’t either play it online because the gamespy sucks, and the people playing it online are usually idiots.

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  2. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Mozilla Firefox SuSE Linux says:

    Well to play it alone is boring for sure. I liked it, but with my antisocial nature and no friends it’s not that good.
    As for MMO’s you should try EVE online :) It’s way more than quest giving npc’s. It has probably the best community of any online game. And if you happen to be in a nice corp, there’s much fun to be had.

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  3. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I would have played with you, but I sold the game long ago. It is quite repetitive and generic, in each and every aspect, but it remained fun enough for me to see it through to the end twice, one time solo and a second (much faster) time with a friend.

    The shooting gameplay worked well for me, it was fun to play either Brick and go berserk, or Lilith and deal huge elemental criticals. My friend played the hunter and his pet was a weapon of mass destruction. You eventually hit a town with quite a few people, some of them not related to any quest, and there is a story, although it plays little part in most of the game, but become more important later. The ending is very abrupt though, so don’t get your hopes up if you decide to keep playing.

    The best and worst aspect was definitely the loot. There’s just way too many guns to pick up and 99.9% of them are worthless, yet you still have to check them all in case you miss an awesome “white” shotgun that deals 50×11 damage each shot. However, what joy it is when you find some terribly overpowered orange gun.

    Eventually, the constant respawning and lack of diversity of the opposition made me stop.

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  4. JKjoker ARGENTINA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    i absolutely agree, the second paragraph specially, ive never liked multiplayer, i play sp almost exclusively and it pains me to see how brute forcing multiplayer into games complete destroy any fun i could have with them (Resident Evil 5 is the worst offender i can think of) and game genres other than straight action do not work well as multiplayer, you cant buy stuff or check out skills, read descriptions on items/spells/etc or upgrade or meet characters or take in any kind of story when there are one or more ppl screaming at you to move on.

    ah, Claptrap, that freaking thing and its equals in other games, features some dev was so enamored with he just had to FORCE the player to “enjoy”… many, many times …. are among the things i hate most in this world, Splinter Cell Conviction has those damn “questioning” scenes, it has like 15 in a 5 hour game, they all play out the same and by the second one you cant take it anymore…

    and btw, be honest with me, you fired up Borderlands for the very first time, you get your first gun, the whole place is a wasteland, the only moving target is Claptrap… what did you test your weapon with ? how many of us did not shoot Claptrap the first minute of the game ? how the hell did it get past Q&A that Claptrap does not even flinch at those bullets ? make him at least say “ow!” and some curses, 1/8 the time and money they spent with that UNHOLY “im dancing” routine would suffice

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  5. kmac AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I liked Borderlands, but i think it was mainly because i had no other games to play at the time. I usually played solo, sometimes with another friend, but rarely with more than that.

    With your list of games, i can see why borderlands wasn’t very appealing. After reading past articles of yours i think i may go back and replay the witcher. A game which i really liked and put a lot of hours into, but never finished.

    Thanks for the informative posts, they all seem to be related to my interests and i will definitely frequent this blog now =D

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  6. copperfish Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    I liked it. And I only played single player. Yes the story was crap and uninspired and the ending and final boss weren’t great, but the FPS mechanics were spot on. And sadly I did get attached to some of the guns ;)

    Sometimes a bad game can still be fun. *Disclaimer* I played the Xbox360 version.

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  7. Alex Ion BELGIUM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I second Liudvikas: you should try Eve Online – playing for the last 3 months and enjoying it. On Borderlands… MEH

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  8. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ k00pa:

    The cell shaded look is fairly neat but IMHO it was mostly wasted on rendering endless brown desert. It’s like playing a very, very boring version of Fallout 3 with all the fun taken out of it.

    @ Zel:

    I picked the hunter and was a bit dissapointed with the bird’s path finding ability. I would unleash it from behind cover only to watch it flop around for like 5 minutes before deciding to swoop down and kill something. :P

    Respawning killed the game for me completely.

    @ JKjoker:

    I know, right? I was like:

    “Am… Am I supposed to shot… You?” followed by “Man, this thing is annoying. I’m shooting it”

    Also, every instance of “I’m dancing” was as met with a burst of automatic fire or a grenade toss. I wasted so much ammo on that guy it is not even funny.

    @ Liudvikas:

    Psst, I actually tried Eve once. I got bored with it before my trial ran out.

    @ copperfish:

    That’s true. But I usually find it hard to get into the game if I don’t like the setting or the story. Borderlands seemed bland, generic and unoriginal to me.

    @ Alex Ion:

    See my comment to Liudvikas. I got bored with Eve within a week. :)

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  9. Chrissy UNITED STATES Google Chrome Mac OS says:

    I’m going to assume you did not go on to finish the game, otherwise you probably would have ranted about it ;)

    So if you happen to think about doing so, I don’t recommend it, It is quite anticlimactic. I still finished the game after I watched my husband play the ending, mostly because I wanted the achievement points, but also because I did somewhat enjoy the game.

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  10. I started to play Borderlands for some hours after playing a bunch of new good and other not so good or new games, and I had fun with the other games that I picked the Borderlands box and put in on the xbox, lets give a try I said.
    Ok, I was playing about 4 hours when I realized I was not having any fun!
    Go here, go there, kill that guy, go again with that blind guy, return again with the Doctor. Yeah I got some guns updates and everything, money, etcetera, but this was absolutely robotic, following orders like an slave with no sense at all. So I found myself bored! I said, wait a second, Im not having fun at all, what am I doing? So I put the game dvd back on the shelf and put my Modern Warfare 2 for some instant and desintoxicating gaming.

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  11. Tim UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I’ve never seen the Borderlands franchise advertised as anything but an FPS Looter. So a first person Diablo 2, with guns. Skipping quest text is how you make a game’s story seem flat and un-interesting, though I agree the ending was bland. Also, don’t let your experience with Borderlands 1 stop you from considering 2 or the Pre-Sequel, both of which feel more engaging to me, and have their mechanics better balanced. They also have more varied scenery. The one caveat I’d give for 2 is that the DLC is where a lot of the interesting stuff in the setting lives.

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