Posted: December 11
My Borderlands 1 Review
Borderlands 1 is an awesome mix of FPS and RPG; Taking a procedural weapon system like Diablo then adding in a tactical FPS system like Stalker. After having played Borderlands 2 then going back to Borderlands 1 out of nostalgia, I can say this game feels much less polished. While still a pinnacle gem of its time, Borderlands 1 now feels more like a beta engine containing the prologue to Borderlands 2. This prologue still has much to offer, but read on for details on my opinions of some of the game's features.
First issue I had coming back to Borderlands 1 is the FOV [Field of View] on my 1080p monitor. The FOV defaults to 70, which long ago I didn't notice was so bad on my 1440x900 16:10 monitor I used way back when. On my new HD 16:9 1080p monitor it looks like I have training goggles on that are creating tunnel vision. I had to search the web to find workarounds for this issue, but could only come up with a quick key binding as a solution. Unfortunately, my FOV continues to reset to 70 every time I mount a vehicle or gun placement. Borderlands 2 doesn't have this issue and allows FOV adjustments in the main menu settings.
While innovative at the time with plenty of stat variation, weapon brand names were not as distinctive in Borderlands 1 as they are in Borderlands 2. Most of the weapon models felt reused constantly no matter what the brand was. The weapon mechanics and procedural system mostly made brand name a stat adjustment. So going back to Borderlands 1 with some brand loyalty didn't lead to any feeling of distinction or difference in tactics. The lack of brand distinction made Borderlands 1 weapons rather shallow with no lore behind them.
Finding new weapons in Borderlands 1 was a rather odd ball inconsistent process of trial and farming. I didn't realize this at the time, but it appears that even a level 21 bandit can drop a level 4 standard weapon. At least in Borderlands 2, the loot drops were very close to the enemy's level rather than so far away. The feeling of reward vs. difficulty in Borderlands 1 is not as good as Borderlands 2.
There is a slight bug that causes weapons to appear lower in level when equipped. Looking into it further it seems to be related to the proficiency of the weapon type. From what I hear, this is residual left over code from a feature that was canceled at launch that allowed players to equip higher level weapons as if they are lower level. The change has nothing to do with the weapon's function, which concerned me at first when I started noticing it.
STORY AND QUESTS
In a lot of ways, the content of the story and the way quests are handled felt very much like Stalker-lite, but without the immersive element. Voice acting was limited and the way quests were logged was a bit too simplistic. The compass tracking system was almost useless to me along with feeling clunky. Navigating the map in the menu was also clunky due to how it handled the current active quest. In Borderlands 2 this was considerably fixed up and even optimized.
The plot was all over-the-top brutal humor with a ton of awkward fun. But was only skin deep, consisting of some villain monologue [which was always hilarious], but mostly instructional dialog by various characters you meet. The characters you meet didn't offer much beyond their initial introduction. There's really no emotional attachments to be had with any of the NPCs. The lack of NPC interaction beyond getting some transmission chatter kind of made Borderlands 1 feel lifeless, which was an issue that was addressed with Borderlands 2.
COMBAT AND AI
My first impression before Borderlands 2 was actually quite good [and still is], but I've played a lot of games before coming back to Borderlands 1. I notice things now... things I didn't see before that are important to me.
I've always been annoyed by horribly inaccurate weapons that give me that "Naked Gun 2 1/2 - Gun Fight" feeling. I am especially annoyed when an enemy that is dead center on my scope takes a missed shot to the point of emptying my "sniper" rifle. It doesn't help when you stagger from every single hit you take even if it's a distant glazing blow impacting upon a fully charged shield. Much like Stalker, weapons in Borderlands 1 can be weird and misleading when it comes to accuracy through aiming. This issue was fixed in Borderlands 2 since you can see the crosshair shrink for a moment as you focus in allowing for a more precise experience with an aimed weapon.
Enemies in Borderlands 1 can also feel a bit awkward, but they still have that signature hilarious dialog that leaves you giggling hysterically while trying to shoot straight with an already inaccurate weapon. AI navigation is a bit more problematic as midgets have a much harder time moving up ramps or even around corners to charge at you. If the navigation was any worse, you would think that you were playing with Doom 1 AI programming. Even AI vs. AI interaction was sketchy at best as the AI would prioritize the player at random intervals without ever checking line-of-sight. Some modest improvements were done to the AI in Borderlands 2.
The enemy spawn rate is very aggressive in Borderlands 1, giving players no real opportunity to truly clear an area before another wave of enemies hit the field. This was a double edged sword as leveling and finding loot was easier to do in Borderlands 1 because of the aggressive spawn rate. On the other hand, if you were struggling in a large area while trying to escape back to the fast travel station, you would be in for a constant wave of ambushing on the return trip. Borderlands 2 toned that spawn rate down quite a bit.
There is one big problem that has not been address in Borderlands 2. There are a ton of bad navigation issues that involve getting stuck on terrain and being blocked by invisible walls on ramps. On several occasions, I'll get stuck on a hill of loose debris or the corner of a small ramp while attempting to kite an enemy. I really wish Gearbox took the time to smooth out their levels before launch.
You get to pick a different color for your character and vehicle. That's it. You don't even get to view your real model when you do the customization - just a 2d portrait is used. Thus another thing that was totally fixed in Borderlands 2.
Still addictive and still playing despite its flaws, but will likely be logging more hours into Borderlands 2 here soon.