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Borderlands Preview

In recent years developers have tried combining multiple genres with varying degrees of success. Gearbox Software's Borderlands is the latest to fuse two genres together in the form of an FPS/RPG hybrid and from what GameOn saw today, it works.

Borderlands Screenshot 1

Borderlands is set on a distant planet located towards the edge of the galaxy known as Pandora. The planet attracted people to it when word spread about alien technology and resources, yet in the end neither materialised. Most people left the planet, leaving only a battered group of misfits to fight over what little there was.

However, the main player characters of the game are all searching for the mysterious "Vault". The Vault is a legendary mystery, a location somewhere on the planet which is said to house enormous amounts of wealth and technology. The ultimate aim of the game is to find the Vault and to work out how to open it. This quest forms the main series of missions however a plethora of other tasks are also available. Gearbox mentioned that there were around 160 missions at the moment and it is estimated to take around 40 hours to complete all of them.

Borderlands Screenshot 2

The game itself is an interesting fusion of styles and genres. The visual look of the title has undergone a fairly radical change since the early screenshots were released and now has stylised and bright overtones. Silhouettes are very noticeable and most characters and objects have black outlines accentuating their profiles. It is a little hard to get used to at first, but by the end of the preview I was impressed and it is different from anything I've seen before.

The combination of role playing game and first person shooter is also surprising as there don't seem to be any concessions in either genre. The shooting seems fluid, developed and meaty whilst the RPG elements are obvious with a multitude of on-screen statistics and menus. To begin with it is a little intimidating having numbers and phrases popping up frequently but it soon all clicks into place and never looks cluttered.

Borderlands Screenshot 3

Borderlands can be played in co-op with up to 4 people either online, split screen or via system link. There are four characters to choose from all of which have different roles in the party. Brick is the tank class, strong and powerful but slow with an emphasis on hand-to-hand combat. Mordecai is the sniper specialising in more long range attacks and augmenting the group's abilities. Roland is a more general soldier class with a mixture of damage and the ability to heal the party. Finally, there is Lilith who possesses some more sci-fi abilities such as "phasing" where she can temporarily turn invisible.

Combat is certainly a heavy part of the game and it is either against the hostile humans left on Pandora or a variety of aggressive indigenous species. There are raider parties left in traditional post-apocalyptic wasteland style with plenty of Mohawks and leather. The hostile wildlife is varied, ranging from aggressive and toothy lizards to "spider ant" enemies with frontal armour plating.

Borderlands Screenshot 4

Arguably the game's main feature is the large amount of randomisation. All enemies and guns are randomised to help keep things fresh and interesting. Enemies can vary in size, what weapons they carry and what effects those guns can have. For example you could find yourself facing a vicious lizard, called a Skag, which could potentially be on fire or charged with electricity. Similarly you could also come face to face with a shotgun wielding midget or a gigantic towering meathead. The variation is intense and throughout the preview there were no two enemies the same.

This randomisation extends into the weaponry and there are literally thousands upon thousands of different variations. In the demo guns ranged from an elementally charged sub-machine gun to a drum-fed shotgun: the numbers on offer were simply staggering. Weapons are also graded on a scale with the rarest weapons having a different colour making it immediately obvious if you get something valuable and unusual. Weapon trading will be possible in any of the co-op modes to allow you to maximise the effectiveness of a gun by giving it to the individual with the attributes best suited to it.

Borderlands Screenshot 5

In true RPG style, experience is awarded upon quest completion and on killing enemies, allowing you to further develop your characters by selecting special skills from a special development tree. This means you can tailor the experience even more to your specific play style which is all the more useful when playing in a group.

The preview only scratched the surface of what is clearly an enormous game and there is far more that I could mention. Vehicles are available to traverse the 4 huge open game world environments which each have separate areas for further exploration in RPG dungeon-crawling tradition. Friendly-fire is very much a danger, but if you find yourself face to face with an annoying player you can challenge them and enter into a duel to settle the matter once and for all.

Borderlands Screenshot 6

Borderlands will be available on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC towards the end of the year and its interesting combination of genres makes this one to watch.

evilgiraffeman | 3rd June, 2009
djburty's picture
looking good - I think I prefer the stylised look rather than the previous more realistic look of the previous trailer. It would be nice to see another attempt at a FPS/RPG fusion that was so successful in Fallout 3. A great preview that has really sparked my interest after I had, in my mind, consigned the game to a middle of the road sci fi FPS.
djd4ws0n's picture
Those cel-shaded graphics seem like a mix between Gears of War and XIII. I'm a sucker for cel-shaded things tho. It just looks cool.

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