“So much loot. Such little time.”
I’ve played a ton of Borderlands in my life. Since first being introduced to the shoot-looter on PS3 back in 2011/2012, hours upon hours have been spent in Pandora and beyond.
I simply had to sink my teeth into a portable version upon release.
This is some of what I think about the Switch version of the first game in the series Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition.
DIABLO, IS THAT YOU?
I’m pretty sure every comparison between Blizzard’s esteemed Diablo series and Borderlands have already been made. And guess what? I’m here to continue reiterating that. The shooter action-RPG immediately creates an itch in the gamer that it is more than willing to scratch.
‘Collect as much equipment as you can’—in the form of epic guns. That is your prime directive, aside from the hundreds of questions/side-quests to complete.
Diablo perfected the grind for loot in “Diablo III“, as players would need to invest substantial time into collecting pieces of gear required for specific set effects. The gameplay loop remains obsessive and exhausting to this day. BL1 mimics this loop and does an outstanding job of hooking you with the promise of loot.
This expectation is even subverted at times; which I am a big fan of. The developers know you want the cool guns and they will tug on your puppet strings to make you do stuff.
Dark design, anyone?
BL1 is more of an RPG than FPS, again supporting the Diablo argument. Each of the four playable classes has a unique skill tree to slot points into over time. Typically, a single point is awarded per level up and can be allocated to a skill of your choice [in three different ‘legs’ of the character’s skill tree]. Each class varies enough to make them feel special; but this progression aspect reveals the ‘vanilla’ nature of the game.
The rarity scale employed in BL1 is decent—with guns ranging from common (white) to legendary (orange). No two guns feel the same, even if a unique legendary item upscales when you level up. This means that the legendary gear isn’t necessarily one-of-a-kind, as multiple iterations of these items can be accrued at various stages of gameplay, but the rarity ensures these are hard to acquire. Overall, I enjoyed hunting for legendaries and found them to be much better than most other weapons in the game. Shoutout to “Hellfire”: a fiery SMG that burns your enemies to ash. I must have used this specific gun for about 40% of my two play throughs.
Getting to level sixty nine (the level cap) took upwards of sixty hours in BL1. That’s a lot of time to spend focused in a first-person shooter. Be sure to Rest your eyes!
The visuals in BL1 are perfectly acceptable for a game that originally came out eleven years ago in 2009. Cel-shaded aesthetics hold up, and the performance on Switch is decent-to-good. Enemies are identifiable, even in handheld. Draw distance can hamper proceedings at times, but nothing too game breaking happened during my runs. This is good. This is fine.
I will, however, protest that Joy-Con drift is a terror that should be done away with ASAP. It is near-impossible to play a first-person shooter when your right analogue stick is moving independently in any-which-way. Nintendo of South Africa have done nothing to help me repair mine, and I am left with a bitter taste in my mouth. FIX YOUR DAMN PRODUCT, Ninty!
CRASH CAR BURN
Vehicular combat in BL1 is utter roadkill. From getting stuck on uneven pixels on the road, to controlling the direction of a chosen vehicle with the right analogue stick—this aspect of the game reflects poorly on the experience, and really takes the fun out of traversing Pandora. Fortunately, I can confirm that zipping and zooming around the place is much more enjoyable in subsequent Borderlands releases.
Do not be too disheartened.
Difficulty spikes are also prevalent. I’ve seen the “Fight for your Life” screen more times than I’d care to admit here, and dying can often feel unfair or unwarranted. Sometimes going into a gunfight slowly can save you both time and frustration. So be warned.
SHOOTY AND TOOTY
I prefer playing any and all games in the Borderlands series with a friend: specifically, my wife. We’d usually play together on a single system using split screen (PS3 and PS4). This time around, however, we got to experience these games on our own screens and on our own Switch systems.
Enemy levels are bolstered when playing cooperatively, ramping both game challenge and rewards in the process.You’ll probably be saving your partner a lot, but the gameplay loop of (1) ACCEPT QUEST, (2) COMPLETE OBJECTIVE (kill sh*t), (3) COLLECT REWARD (gunz, bro) is even more entertaining with a buddy. I would recommend this mode of play (local co-op) if you have a pal with a console and a copy of the game. It is always a good time, whether you invest two hours or twelve into a given play session.
Prognosis: Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition is a fantastic FPS role-playing game. The experience is fun and engaging, albeit vanilla in terms of gun variety/function/design when compared to later entries in the popular series. I would certainly recommend you start with the second game in the franchise if this is your first time wetting your appetite with the gun hoarding gameplay loop on offer; but this iteration of the game is as complete and compelling as any other, especially with a friend in handheld mode.
BORDERLANDS: GOTY EDITION
- Kick ass gunplay
- Heaps of content
- Cool character classes with varying skillsets
- Great performance on the Switch
- More fun in co-op
- Difficulty spikes
- Vehicles. Damn vehicles
- Pretty vanilla and bland in comparison to other games in the series