My Love/Hate Relationship with Borderlands

I know I’m late on this, because it’s been about four years since the last actual Borderlands game, but the Borderlands 3 is coming out in September, so maybe this is very timely. Or that’s what I’ll tell myself.

I’m actually playing through Borderlands 2 for the first time right now, so this is a very immediate experience for me.

Okay, I tried to play through it a couple of years back, but left it before even getting through the introductory part (in this case before getting the special power of my class>).

The Love

There is so much to love about these games.

The basic gameplay is just fun. You run around shooting things. Sure, you can plan things out, but at the same time, if the area is new to you, there are going to be surprises, which will destroy your carefully laid-out plans. This is actually part of the fun. It’s chaotic, but you can try to control it.

I also love the world. It feels very lived in, but also in a very particular way. There’s just trash everywhere, the society is very fragile and Mad Max -style gangs are everywhere. But at least the gangs are humans. The absurdly inhumane corporations are ever-present, but mostly as products. Their insignia can be seen everywhere. Your inventory will list a number of different logos attached to each item. Even those legendary weapons you come across are actually branded.

The playable characters are very iconic and cool. I’ve only played a few of the characters, but they’ve all been fun. I guess Lilith is still my favorite, but the characters I’ve tried all enable quite different playstyles, even though I tend to err on the side of sniping, no matter who I play.

Many of the other characters are very memorable as well. They are usually more of a parody then the playable characters, but it works well in the context of the world.

The humor is often stupid, but in many places it’s written surprisingly well. There’s a joke about a woman giving birth to twins and how she needs to choose between them, as she’ll lose one of them, told by an artificial voice in a very cheerful way. It completely caught me off-guard when I first heard it.

I also love how the game makes me think about money. You don’t hoard it, because if you die, you lose part of it. Therefore, it’s often better to spend it. And I spend a lot of it. I don’t know if this was the actual intent, but I do like it.

The controls are great. Especially when driving. Compare to something like Arkham Knight where I just sighed every time I had to step into the Batmobile (although apparently it’s better in the console version), here it’s always just fun to drive around.

So yeah, there is a lot to love. Which brings us to…

The Hate

There’s some problems like certain things attacking too randomly. Why all the Rakks (birdlike… things) just seem to come out of nowhere at the most inopportune moments, which would be a nice addition at planned moments, but they are just random things that screw things up.

There never seems to be enough ammo. I’ve run out of ammo in bossfights and lost because of that. That should never happen. When I need to conserve as well as deal loads of damage all the time, it just isn’t a good equation.

The biggest is however this: The game can be very frustrating. I mean, very.

The most grievous example I can think of right now is the Gluttonous Thresher. I’m not going to explain, so as not to spoil anything, but threshers are these beasts that travel underground and come to the surface to attack. Generally they are not too bad, but in this one instance, it’s just way too strong.

Okay, I just need to level up. I mean, it seems kind of stupid that I can’t kill it when I need to when I’m at the level suggested by the game. So, I looked around. How did other people do this? I found several videos on this specific fight, where the maker told me this is the easy way to do it. They just didn’t seem to be doing anything differently from me. The difference was that they were some 20 levels above me and had much better weapons.

Yes, killing anything is easy, when you are 20 levels higher than suggested, so these weren’t very helpful. I decided I need to level up too. It just happened that at this point I had no side missions available, so I just ended up going through a couple of areas over and over again on a killing rampage trying to attain a couple of more levels.

I would try to kill the Thresher a couple of times each level, but things didn’t seem to change. I wasn’t able to get better weapons either.

Eventually, it just died. I mean it’s pattern changed. It no longer came closer and I was able to snipe it from a distance safely. I think it was bugged. No matter the reason, this basically robbed me from any sense of accomplishment.

Yes, a certain amount of frustration is actually good, because it’s actually needed to give you this sense of accomplishemt, but there are also limits to this. This didn’t feel like something I could beat by being better than it. I felt like I just had to level up and use my power to defeat it. No cunning, no planning, no actual skill. Just power.

The Thresher isn’t the only or even the worst offender. I think that’s The Sentinel from The Pre-Sequel. Or it’s second incarnation, whatever it’s name was. It has these area attacks, which you apparently can’t even dodge and it raises stone platforms, which actually quite effectively prevent you from getting second winds.

There just isn’t anything you can do better. You just need to know that you need to shoot it’s face and then you just need enough health to survive long enough to kill it. Who designs these things? Does anyone test these?

Sure, it would have been easier, if I had better weaponry and there’s all sorts of ways you can get that weaponry, but the thing is, I play games for fun. I do have a life outside of these games and I don’t want to dedicate too much time to grinding (quite literally in the Pre-Sequel) for better weapons, when I should be able to just play through the story. The story itself begins to waver, when it doesn’t have any kind of meaningful structure, when you have to go outside of it to just run around to gain experience or find better weaponry.

I mean, I’m not even paying them monthly fees or anything, so they are not even making money by stealing my time. I guess they attempted this with SHiFT, but I’m not paying them to get to the content I already paid for, but I guess that’s a trend these days.

There’s also a minor thing about the graphics, which tend to make it hard to spot the opponents, but you get used to that. Also, the Rats, fuck Rats.

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