Do you love loot? Do you get all excited over comparing weapon stats? Does stealing gear from a player who rightly earned it make you giddily jam the ‘run’ button to intercept? Before Borderlands those kind of compulsive hoarding tendencies were pretty much exclusively reserved to Fantasy MMO players; the Warcrafters, Aionites, and LotROtters of the world. What Gearbox did with Borderlands is take the most addictive bits of an MMO, strap them onto a first-person shooter and let up to four friends grief each other all over the results. Oh, and then they threw out the art assets and coated everything in a Crackdown-esque graphic novel style.
The visuals don’t really matter one way or the other though, in fact, nothing about Borderlands really matters outside of the obsessive search for loot and the grind for more Experience to reach new Levels. This was fine in the beginning as I’d never extensively experienced any of that MMO type stuff before and it sucked me in just as Gearbox had designed it to. Katy and I (playing split-screen) would eagerly assault anything that moved and look for the promising flashes of color that indicated they had dropped loot. We’d stand, side by side, in the middle of a dessert, surrounded by more groups of enemies and patiently let each other compare Power, Rate of Fire, and a dozen other stats before amicably agreeing that “you should use this” or “you can sell that, I’m fine”. It’s impossible to calculate just how much of the 27 hours we put into the game were spent bartering over guns like persnickety old Scrooges at a Farmer’s Market on its last day in town. This, was shameful behavior.
Shameful, but fun… at least for a bit. It didn’t take long before I felt the grind set in and even with an underhanded boost from a friend (who spoofed some of his crazy guns and gave us infinite cash) I was getting bored. A story would’ve been nice but outside of a few cryptic and ghostly messages from a girl the only exposition comes in the form of forgettable text that describes the next selected mission. Borderlands caters to those MMO impulses at the expense of everything else and while it’s proven successful and addictive, it’s like caffeine to me; a drug I’ve never gotten much of a buzz from.
I really do like soda a lot so I guess I am addicted but my analogy is falling apart here and I’ve got more appealing games to go play. I see what all the fandom is over Borderlands but it’s just not my thing. Give it a try but be warned that if you fall under it’s spell that may wind up being the most expensive rental since you checked out that N64 and never got your deposit back.