Strip the flesh! Salt the wound!
During the second year of my undergrad degree, a lot of my time was dominated by one particular game: Borderlands. I was drawn to its unique artistic aesthetics, the plethora of weaponry (I’ve an unhealthy obsession with knives and guns), and the game’s overall “screw you” attitude.
A few months ago it came to my attention that Borderlands’ bigger brother was on his way. He sounded like more of a badass with more intelligent weapons, a host of characters who gave a lot less of a damn than the first lot, and an antagonist who no-one would get tired of shooting at.
I was excited. So excited, in fact, that I bought a new television.
When BL2 plopped through my letterbox I dashed downstairs, ripped the paper and cellophane off, stuffed the disc into my PS3 and collapsed onto my beanbag with giddy anticipation.
I sunk hours and hours into this beautiful, darkly-humoured powerhouse of a game. I traversed lush, craggy, mountainous landscapes, fought slag-infested purple lizards that vanish mid-battle, head-shotted hundreds of nomads, psychos, marauders, and oh-god-not-you-again varkids, drove around like a maniac in suped-up jeeps, explosive barrels mounted to the back, decimating all in my path. My armoury grew to rival the size of the entire US army, air-force and navy put together. I was a walking god of destruction, as is the custom when you play Borderlands. It’s just what happens.
And then, one day, I thought: “Can I be bothered to continue?” I’m about level 35 out of 50 (Gearbox will probably increase the maximum cap with some DLC), and I’ve reached a saturation point.
The appeal had, dare I even dream it, worn off. Sure, the game will always be a visual feast for the eyes. But the gameplay, like Skyrim, got repetitive: go there, kill that, come back. Kill the previous target’s harder brother, come back. Go back and kill the harder-than-the-first-target’s even more badass grandfather, come back, and be rewarded with something that, frankly, 99% of the time I’d sell quicker than I’d put to use.
Maybe it’s not the game’s fault. Maybe it’s me. Maybe my attention-span or expectations were out of whack. I think Gearbox built up the finale way too much. I’ve no real intention to finish off Handsome Jack, even if I did dispose of BNK3R, dodge all his mortars, and waste half his army of robotic maniacs and engineers, snipers, and the god-awfully-irritating constructors.
Essentially, nothing new happens quick enough, especially towards the end. Returning to areas you’ve recently cleared means you have to deal with the same string of enemies again or run’n’jump your way past them. Neither method is fun unless you’re looking to loot for ammo.
Three things I loved about BL2:
- Games are works of art in themselves, yes. But BL2 exceeds that. It strives to be an outlandish, loud, in-your-face poster-paint painting and succeeds. My eyes scoured every pixel of environment and loved them all.
- The dialogue and character personalities are hilarious. They’re so over-the-top but so uniquely Borderlands that they’re acceptable and a pleasure to listen to.
- The weaponry and random loot system kept me surprised and forced me to choose whether to keep a gun I loved using, or sell it on to make room. It’s something you never normally consider, but BL2 makes you.
Three things that put me off (eventually):
- The repetitiveness. I know, I know, it’s bound to happen in an RPG. It was more subtle in Skyrim, but it still occurred.
- Game progression got too slow and then predictable.
- Constant running and gunning killed being able to keep up with the story. I’d find myself in a fire-fight and need to re-read my objective after each one. Sort of a “now, where were we before we got so rudely interrupted?” scenario.