Throughout the many booths of E3 2009, you're bound to run into a few games that you've seen in years past. Some look identical, others are given a total overhaul to the point of being unrecognizable. While we were given a quick look at Borderlands last year, its appearance at this year's event surely puts it into the latter category.
Designed by Randy Pitchford, the mastermind behind other Gearbox software games like Brothers in Arms, Borderlands is an RPG shooter that owes more than a passing debt to classics such as Fallout 3 and Diablo.
As you begin the game, you choose your character from a variety of classes like a mage-like siren and a barbarian type solider who causes massive damage with his fists. The player will have a choice of four characters, each with unique backgrounds and talents.
Even Pitchford himself talked about the Fallout inspirations, saying that he "loved the game, but [he] wishes that [he] could play it with friends." In a way, this is where Borderlands comes in. The game takes place in a post apocalyptic wasteland populated by mutants and fierce wildlife. The plot involves the main character(s) searching for a hidden vault that contains untold riches. Standing between you and the vault is a huge open world and creatures that level up as you do.
Borderlands has been built around multiplayer action, and uses a similar system to Diablo II. Your character is yours consistently throughout your entire game experience, and can jump from game to game with your friends or on joinable games via Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. Also like Diablo, the strength of your enemies are based heavily on the number of characters in your party at any given time. When one of the remote players dropped from the game, a message popped up informing the demonstrator that the creatures in the world have weakened. Those who are all about Player versus Player will be able to "demand satisfaction" from other players at various arenas strewn throughout the game world. "The arenas are just like thunderdomes from Mad Max," said Pitchford.
The whole game experience is built upon an experience system that allows the player to customize the character any way they deem fit. Each character has their own skill tree that allows you to level up your character and make them truly your own. Much like other RPGs, taking on side quests from NPC characters makes up a big chunk of gameplay, in addition to a long main quest.
One aspect that makes Borderlands extremely enticing is the sheer amount of randomization. The game will constantly randomly spawn different enemies with different classes. Those familiar with World of Warcraft will have a good chuckle when they see the "badass" midget psycho, an awesome play on the "epic" class of enemies.
The randomization doesn't end there however. While the major cities and main storyline quests will stay the same for every playthrough, all the areas in between are subject to randomly placed bunkers, caves, and even traps.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the randomization system is the loot that can be dropped. The system allows for a staggering 650,000 different weapon variations. For example, you may find a revolver with heat-seeking explosive rounds, or a rifle with homing darts. The possibilities are mind boggling.
Borderlands also features a stunning art style that's unique and eye-catching. They game looks somewhat cel-shaded, but that description sells the look short. The game is certainly pushing lots of polygons around, and every character has a thick black border silhouetting them. The closest comparison I can think of is Street Fighter IV's art style, shoehorned into a very different genre. Even the more impressive is the lack of loading zones. Gearbox is promising that there won't be any load times beyond the initial load upon startup.
Borderlands is certainly looking like game that should appeal to Fallout, Diablo, Shooter or RPG fans. The game is slated for release in October 2009 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.