The week of RPGs continues into September, today I want to talk about another really awesome series that I’ve been a huge fan of for a few years now, the Borderlands games. I missed the first game at launch, but was able to pick up the Game of the Year edition back in 2010 and really enjoyed the game, and was also able to get my roommates at college to buy the game so we could play together.
At their core, the Borderlands games are actually a little tough to define – they are both solid RPGs and at the same time, the shooter elements are a major focus. It’s a pretty even split between the two genres, but I think that they are best defined as RPGs. Leveling your characters, building your skills just the right way, and grinding out the best loot to tackle the raid bosses all play into making them more akin to an RPG than any shooter.
The other integral part in any RPG is strong characters – while the story telling in the series isn’t the most robust or in depth around, each of the player characters has a totally different feel. In the original game, the four characters hit the major pillars in RPG games – a long range nuker (Mordecai), a tank (Brick), a ganker (Lilith), and a support (Roland). The second game brings in a bit more versatility in the characters, mainly in the skill trees. While the action abilities have some ties to the original – Axton and Salvador in particular have very similar skills to Roland and Brick. And while Maya’s Phaselock is way different in execution than Lilith’s Phasewalk, the in-universe explanations are the same; while Zer0 and Mordecai have the basic idea behind their abilities, a single powerful attack (Mordecai has Bloodwing, Zer0 has his Decepti0n) that can be upgraded to allow for multiple attacks. With Borderlands 2 though they also have added in two extra DLC characters that have much more in depth skills – Gaige’s Anarchy stacks and Kreig’s Bloodlust stacks. From what we’ve learned about the upcoming Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel the new characters have very similar ideas, with a lot more variety in the skill trees that add in lots of different gameplay options.
The other major draw about the Borderlands series comes from the fact that they are built to played as a four-player team. Much like the Diablo games, playing in a party makes the game not only more fun, but also more challenging. The characters all have skills and upgrades that are designed with co-op in mind, skills that might offer damage buffs, accuracy buffs or crit damage buffs, and in the second game the variety in the weapons and other items further increases the focus on co-op. I still think that the between the two games, the changes made are a perfect example of a developer taking the feedback from fans and critics to heart, and changing only the things they needed to, while keeping the core features intact.
The pedigree for the series has been at a high level ever since the first game came out, garnering multiple Game of the Year awards, for both entries, as well as producing solid, extensive DLC packages. While there are a couple other games this fall that might have a bit higher profile like Destiny and Call of Duty, the upcoming Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel I think will also be a pretty big player in the market, especially considering it’s coming out for last gen consoles. The instal base is already there, so the market should react accordingly. Plus you can play as Claptrap – which might be the best selling point for a game ever.