Why Borderlands 1 Was Such a Success

Well Borderlands 2 is upon us, and as the biggest release this September, it deserves a certain level of attention. As I have not played the sequel yet, which, if you are counting, is far from being able to post opinions on it, I thought we should look at the original Borderlands today, and see why it was such a hit. Gearbox was able to do what so few developers succeed in: creating a unique shooter. With military shooters desperately trying to imitate Call of Duty’s success nowadays, the Bioshocks and Borderlands of the world that try something different should be lauded. As a game, Borderlands was able to bring a very unique take on the genre, which obviously struck enough of a cord with gamers that Borderlands 2 is the major release this month.

I’m not sure that’s how guns, or fingers work.

If there is one game that you can count on for pure addictiveness, it is Diablo 2. As I pointed out in this post, the Diablo series was pretty much made to hopelessly addict gamers en masse. Many games have attempted to copy the Diablo series’ amazing loot mechanic and most of them fail miserably. The successes or partial successes tend to grab people, just ask the soon to be released Torchlight 2. Borderlands was one such success, but unlike Torchlight, which is one of the most shameless Diablo clones around (Still a great game), it decided to be a little different. By taking the Diablo loot mechanic and applying it to guns in a first person shooting environment, Borderlands had a very unique system even if the bare concepts were stolen from Diablo 2.

Three skill trees with skill points gained each level? Never seen that before

As part of the Diablo 2 thievery, Borderlands decided that it would not be enough to be a shooter with a lot of guns. More RPG elements were required, and the inclusion of multiple character classes and skill trees seemed like the most obvious solution. People criticize the inclusion of RPG elements in every game, but the fact of the matter is that it works. Rage wouldn’t have been such an amazing yawnfest if it hadn’t decided to skimp on the RPG elements. The reason that RPG elements are so effective as constant rewards from leveling and customizing characters is just as addicting as constantly getting new loot. More character classes just amp up the amount of replayability depending how unique they are from one another.

This got boring really quick

Of course, simple addictiveness is not enough to make a game a hit. Truthfully, there wasn’t much more to Borderlands at launch. The story was one parts crazy and five parts boring as sin. The environments were generic, and the sidequests were basic stuff. The weird combination of serious and wacky comes from a major development switch up, which was an effort to not be a generic shooter like everything else on the market. This led to some funny characters such as Claptrap, Marcus, and plenty of Road Warrior references but the bulk of the experience was still generic. If the game was so bland, why did so many people latch on to it?

Old Knoxxy here is a major highlight.

The answer, internet, is DLC. Borderlands remains my number 1 argument as to why DLC can be an amazing addition to the gaming world. The Borderlands DLC was a fully realized vision unlike the main game. What I mean by this is that, unlike the main game’s inconsistent tone, the DLC embraced the lunacy and provided some of the funniest experiences available in gaming.  With interesting ideas, settings, and characters, the DLC, particularly The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, and The Secret Armoury of General Knoxx were absolutely amazing, so much more than the main game itself. If the main game’s core concepts were addicting, the DLC is what made Borderlands endearing, much more so than run of the mill shooters or RPGs.

Finally, the last big reason that Borderlands 1 was a success is that the game was entirely co-operative. Multiplayer is currently mandatory for all shooters for better or for worse. The downsides of that is that most online multiplayer is repetitive as sin, and the singleplayer gets shafted. Borderlands took their multiplayer ideas from, surprise, Diablo 2 and made the game a fully co-operative affair, where four players could ravage psycho midgets together. While the co-op is cumbersome at times due to how enemies level, even the tiniest amount of co-op can make a mediocre game (Dead Island) into a major success.

Co-op we can be proud of.

So what are the ingredients to success? In the case of Borderlands: addictiveness, strong gameplay systems, endearing content, and an effective co-op focus that does not hamper the singleplayer game. All of these things make Borderlands a solid game with bouts of greatness. This makes it kind of a roller coaster ride. Sometimes the game would be boring, but other times the game would be insanely inspired. Most of the downfalls were fixed in the DLC, which means that it is very likely that Borderlands 2 will be brining the series in the right direction, and it is likely that it’s only going to get better from here.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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