Borderlands stirred up a few waves on the Internet a few months back with its new art direction. Apparently the guys at Gearbox felt the previous combination of grey and brown was just a little too depressing and ugly. This lead to a new cel-shaded look that manages to both hold on to the wasteland aesthetic, but also show off its fun, colorful side. As you can probably tell by the screenshots, the game look great – but that’s all you’ll hear from me on the subject. I like the new look, but for me, Borderland’s combination of RPG and Shooter elements are far more attractive.
In Borderlands, you play as one of four “Vault Hunters,” mercenaries who search the ravaged wastelands in search of treasure. You’re not searching for just any old uber valuable trinket or long-lost stockpile of gold, you’re going for alien treasure. It seems there’s a story going around the wastes (called Pandora) that aliens kept a bunch of powerful artifacts locked in a vault somewhere. The story was always considered an urban legend, but clues have begun to surface suggesting otherwise.
The influx of people into the wastes is great for struggling businesses, but has pissed off the bandits. After overrunning Pandora a few years ago, the bandits have ruled the roost. Now, with a bunch of new people coming in and trying to take over, their place at the head of Pandora’s dinner table isn’t as stable.
Each of the four characters has their own skills. The classes should be familiar to players (soldier, sniper, etc…) but Borderland’s skill trees offer a different, more personalized slant on each. Each class has three unique skills in addition to their base class. Base class skills are unique to that class. During the demo, one of the handlers played as a Tank character and activated a frenzy ability that let him deal massive amounts of damage to enemies with his fists.
Unique skills, on the other hand, provide attribute boosts to any class and allow you to customize your character to fit your play style. Certain gun certifications offer different types of ammo (fire, electric…) or the ability to power-up turrets. The Medic class heals, but also lets you turn turrets into health-spewing turrets. I wasn’t able to see all the trees in action, but the skill trees should offer some interesting tactical considerations online.
Characters are persistent across play modes, so the character you develop in single-player is the same one you’ll play online. Up to four players can take part in online co-op games. During the demo, the two handlers joined two other players to tackle a mission involving a bandit hideout. When joined by other players, enemy difficulty and experience rewards scale to fit the group. Transitioning from single to multiplayer was smooth and the game looked like a lot of fun.
Gameplay takes the best parts of Diablo and pairs them with a great shooter. Enemies and loot are both randomly generated, and some will even acquire special “badass” monikers. These guys are much tougher than other members of their species but worth killing since they’ll usually drop some of the better loot. That’s right, “Loot Whores” have a lot to look forward to with Borderlands. Loot is randomly generated, so you’ll see all sorts of specialized rifles, armor and other items. One of the benefits to playing with friends is that you can trade items between games. If your friend picks up a sweet sniper rifle in his game, he can give it to you the next time you play online together. Gearbox is still working out how many items you can store in your pack (it will be a “1 to 1” slot to item system though), but the game will keep track of what you have and automatically drop all the “crap weapons” when you come across better items.
Gearbox hinted at a demo sometime in the future (when and what it will involve was met with a simple, “We’re thinking about a demo”). Gearbox is also thinking about DLC once the game releases this October.