October 24th, 2009 by Potato

“LOL. Buy a new TV, newb.” — Microsoft.

I got Borderlands for my birthday, and it is a fun game. I can’t wait for some of my friends to pick it up so we can give this co-op mode a whirl. Indeed, that’s the part I’m looking forward to the most: I remember playing Fallout 3 and wishing the whole time that it had a multiplayer component. I was all keen on Borderlands for that very reason. I even got it for the 360 instead of the PC because I figured there was a higher chance that my friends would go for the 360 version.

There isn’t as much depth as with Fallout — instead of a nearly infinite number of possible player character attribute combinations, caught deep in the uncanny valley, you have your choice of 4 characters, each with 3 talent trees (WoW players will be very familiar with this levelling scheme). Each character is pitched as having a preferred set of weapons, but so far it seems that once you get past the first little bit of the game, everybody can pick up whatever weapon they want and it works equally well in their hands.

The game so far is a lot of fun: set on a barren, nearly abandoned planet, you seek out treasure and infamy amongst the rusting remnants of civilization. It’s got a fun post-apocalyptic vibe to it, though it isn’t as tongue-in-cheek as Fallout. For the most part it plays like a first-person shooter, and there is a lot of shooting to be had.

There are a number of points that bug me though:

– The fonts are way, WAY too small. It’s like Microsoft is sitting there telling me to buy a new TV. I know, the Xbox was designed to take advantage of high-def, but there are still at least a few people out there like me with old TVs trying to game. They could have the fonts scale if the Xbox is set to output standard def… but even then, I think the fonts should be bigger: even with a better TV, I’d still have to squint to see what’s on screen. There are some things that I simply cannot resolve on my TV, and so even if in high def those at least become theoretically legible, it’s ridiculous to give people that much eye strain when they can just have bigger text and have the windows scroll…

– Speaking of scrolling, even with the tiny text, the mission description windows still have to be scrolled through. And what buttons did they choose to use to scroll? Not any one of the three direction pads, nor the “A” and “Y” buttons which are in an up/down configuration… no, they chose the most unnatural, unintuitive pair: left and right trigger. What were they thinking? [maybe this wouldn’t have been so bad if we could read the instructions that say to use the left and right trigger on our TV]

– Similarly, there are a few button choices in the control scheme that make me shake my head, and wish there was the option to reassign buttons. Melee attacks — something I find I have to use far too often, given that many of the beginning enemies have a bite attack, and thus like to get to close range — are activated by clicking the right direction joystick. That is one of the hardest buttons to mash with any kind of accuracy. Meanwhile, changing guns gets two buttons assigned to it — “Y” and also the direction pad (similar to Gears of War in that respect). “Y”, or one of the other four lettered buttons, could easily have been an acceptable melee attack button.

– The four lettered buttons are arranged in a cross: up, down, left, right (Y, A, X, B). Quick: what’s the button for duck? “A” you say, the one in the bottom of the cross? No, sorry, that’s jump (rather than “Y”, at the top). Duck is “B”. I’m fine with reload/grab as “X”, but I really think “A” should be duck, “B” should be melee, and “Y” should be jump. This isn’t that much of an issue, but I really think that the weapon change should only live on the direction pad, and melee should get a real button or the option to auto-melee with the triggers (or hey, RB could be melee, and “Y” or another letter could be grenade throw).

– Perhaps because the game was built to do co-op all the way through, it does not pause when you check your map, talk with an NPC, or use a vendor. I found that to be a nasty surprise when I was at a vendor and the screen started shaking. Turns out some nasty biter had run into town and was merrily chomping on my ass while I browsed for goods. It would be nice if the game informed me of this beyond the subtle screen shake and the depleting health bar.

Anyway, it is a fun game, once you get past the lengths the designers seemed to go to make the controls unintuitive. Even Wayfare likes it, and she can’t stand first-person shooters.


One Response to “Borderlands”

  1. wayfare Says:

    I also don’t like games with that many buttons and I *still* like it.