Geeking Out Hard – Borderlands
No interview this week, but not to worry. I’m rarely short of things to discuss.
The first game was released some time after a wave of games attempting to blend the best of the western gaming market’s favourite genres, the First Person Shooter and the Role Playing Game. The most famous game of which was Bioshock, another 2K title which arguably fell a little heavily into the FPS category. The most famous flop was Hellgate: London, which attempted to bring a Diablo-like feel to the combination, and while the gameplay was sound it was also dull and little awkward.
Borderlands was heavily compared with Hellgate, and caught a little rough press, and not without fair reasoning. Early game combat is a mixture of the same two enemy types, bandits and skags (a lizard/dog creature) with a few flying enemies thrown in, fighting them was fairly standard FPS fare, and much of the actual storyline takes place off-camera. So why did this succeed where Hellgate failed? And how did it blend the genres better than Bioshock?
Borderlands was a game for gamers. From the infuriating companion character to the unapologetic fetch-quests, the game left players with a near-constant feeling of “I see what you did there!” Reference humour is all pervasive, and couples at times with childish glee at exploding heads and other slapstick moments. The vast array of guns could not only change the way you play, but also plugged deeply into the obsessive looting instinct that lurks in the heart of a real dungeon crawler. Every new skill unlocked had instant effect on the game, and tantalized us to push for just another level. The only thing that left a sour taste was the rather disappointing ending, mercifully offset by a few DLCs which each added an extra layer of depth to the world of Pandora.
In comes a welcome sequel. Borderlands 2 presented a new cast of characters, as well as bringing in some old faces, and some of the action we’ve already grown so accustomed to. The trailers promised more diversity and more diversity we had! More guns, more playable characters and more variety in landscapes and enemies, and more – much more – of the same parody humour. The storyline driven by an antagonist that you could really enjoy hating as he spouted arrogant insults and shared his delusions of heroism across the radio with you. Borderlands 2 is a masterwork that put pay to any criticism of it’s predecessor.
Or does it? Towards the end of the game, enemies begin to get repetitive again, and you find yourself gearing up towards some rather predictable (but no less difficult) fights, and an ending scene that’s similarly predictable. But it must be said, the narrative is not without it’s twists and turns, and I have yet to defeat the final enemy….
I admit, I’m currently cramming the ending of Borderlands 2, and trying to get the Dungeons and Dragons styled DLC – Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep – under my belt ready for the next addition to the series, but I’ll get to that later.
Like most games, the Borderlands series has dabbled in comic books, but they haven’t stopped there. ClapTrap, the irritating companion character I mentioned earlier, hosts a series of “Making Of” videos on youtube, done as though the games were a film series, and he were the director. Some of you may also have missed his personal sidekick, Steve, who struts onto screen with a cheery “HAYOOO” before shooting awkward actors in the face. He also crops up in-game from time to time, and guest stars in Telltale games‘ Poker Night 2 alongside ClapTrap.
Telltale are currently working on an episodic story series, “Tales from the Borderlands” which will present an all new tale from Pandora with it’s own characters, and currently scheduled for release some time this year. Only a few screenshots and a trailer that gives nothing away are out at the moment, but I already can’t wait.
In September, the third instalment will be released, sitting squarely between 1 and 2, and giving us the chance to play some characters we already know. 2K’s Australian office are leading the charge on it’s development, and have not been shy in giving us a lot to look forward to, while simultaneously, cruelly holding so much back. Now they have the formula that sells, it looks like they’re ready to start shark jumping, but not because they’re running out of ideas. On the contrary, it looks as though they’ve barely begun, and they’ve got an entire zoo to jump over before they’re through!
So how bad has the series bitten me? Well, I’m currently prototyping my very own tabletop version of the game. I’m making my own world, my own story and factions, and many, many of my own guns. My players gave me their own character designs, and I’m applying rules to them, using the same knowledge and experience that I’ve been using to write DMing 101. This is my first attempt at writing my own ruleset, so having some established gameplay to build from is a major boon. So why go to all this trouble?
Well, it’s what we do. We are nerds. We love what we love and we throw ourselves into it with a passion. And I have enough free time on my hands to do it without wanting to bite the barrel of a Jakobs Ornery Longrider.
So here’s my question to you wonderful folks! What are you geeking out about right now and how are you sharing the love? What else have you fallen deeply into over the years? Comment down below, or write your own Geeking Out Hard blog! Get involved you beautfil, beautiful people!