After investing a few more hours, I still found myself unmoved. Hoping to gain some insight as to why it has been so popular and how I could come to love it myself, I decided to take to Facebook and Twitter to ask friends, family, colleagues and associates the following question:
Do you love/like/hate Borderlands? Please tell me why!
@TheL4stQuestion: Best played with friends. Solo, it's a bit meh. Good to just zone out and grind, but becomes another beast with co-op.
@GarciaINCIDENT: It was good for a bit and then got repetitive and grindy to me. Nice ideas though. Kinda fun with other people at least.
@RaygunBrown: I loved the art style & guns. Hated that quest givers were basically cardboard cut outs. Story/world felt lifeless.
@shiggyninty: Becomes better when its Broderlands. But I loved it. Art was different and loved the guns.
@neinhandle: Art, guns and loot.
@JoelGreenius: Borderlands is amazing when playing co-op with some mates! You'll like it soon enough :P
Alex Connolly: I like Borderlands. Actually, I quite like Borderlands...just needed a little more NPC action and non-enemy life out in the wilderness.
Reuben Damen: I like because its the best RPG fps, many hours playing LAN co-op, very awesome game.
Blake Thompson: I liked it, was a fun FPS to play more than anything. I can't stand most of the CoD/BF/CS games in comparison.
Matt Pfingst: Love. Awesome 2 player, graphics are brown, the end.
Lincoln Damen: Hate. Complete lack of plot/story, crappy controls and soulless environment and repetitive missions. Liked the robot.
Jason Stubbs: Like. It just feels kind of pointless after a while though. Very cold. But the gameplay makes up for it. It could be likened to a one night stand.
Sam Phillips: Loved it. The mix of cell shaded graphics and hyper violence had me hooked. The dialogue was funny enough to make up for any lack of solid well defined story line. Like Reuben said, we spent alot of time shooting skags in their mouth flaps and being freaked out by the maniacal panting of those little midgets.
So for those in the love/like camp, a very strong theme was apparent: I should be playing with friends or, if that wasn't possible, with others at the very least. This observation troubled me somewhat, as I've always played Borderlands in public lobbies and very often with company in tow. Granted, very rarely was I playing with friends, but most always I had a few randoms along for the ride. Art direction was another much-applauded aspect of the 2009 release, and I'd agree that the cel-shaded look suits an apocalyptic wasteland quite well. Finally, the lovers and likers seem to have great affection for the copious amounts of loot (specifically: guns) on offer to players throughout their respective adventures.
The haters and the indifferent have all brought up the same issues that ultimately ended my last three attempted playthroughs: it's repetitive, it's (invented word time) grindy and the game's story elements felt lifeless. If you can't find good company for your journeys through Pandora, you're left with an inhospitable wasteland with few redeeming features.
Equipped with knowledge of what to look for and what to avoid, I returned to Pandora with a renewed sense of purpose. I played from an open lobby for seven hours and saw of lot of what people liked. I saw, collected and sold an impressive cache of guns and equipment. I found an explosive pistol that helped me rack up many a satisfying kill. I played with a diverse range of characters: some who helped with my quests, some wandered off and acted without rhyme or reason, none were known to me personally. I meandered throughout the great expanse of Pandora and let time pass me by on what was -- outside of the world rendered on my laptop -- a miserable, rainy day. It wasn't entirely unenjoyable.
I was still able to see those flaws, however. They were still obvious to the point where I can say, with confidence, that I'll never be able to love it like a great many of my friends and fellow Bitmobbers. The quest radar is just plain useless: I lost about forty minutes searching for an item that the game was telling me was really close by. I battled scores (and scores and scores and....) of skags. I "interacted" with no more than three NPCs, all through the use of menus and with a bare minimum of spoken dialogue.
I'll admit that even now, Borderland's visuals hold up really well. The unusual style isn't processor-intensive (I'm playing on PC nowadays), and it looks just as clean as more recent FPS releases. I'll probably even buy the sequel at launch and try once again to fall in love.
A quick thank you to all that responded, and here's some follow-ups for you readers:
- Do you love/like/hate Borderlands? Tell us why?
- What about Borderlands did you love the most?
- Did you buy any/all of the DLC packages?
- Are you picking up Borderlands 2 in September?