Final Glimpse: Loot, new skills, leveling up...wait what, this is an FPS?
The first-person shooter genre is the fighting game of the modern era; everyone is doing it, and the genre as such has become so diluted and watered down with few standouts anymore. You've got the Call of Duty, the Halo, the Killzone, and the Resistance, but everything else is second rate. Gearbox, developers behind the Brothers in Arms World War II series, is looking to do something about it with their latest game, Borderlands. A wholly original game in their own universe, Borderlands is an FPS at heart, but with elements taken from another popular genre: the role-playing game. In fact, one could say this is an RPG with gunplay instead of the other way around, but with a nearly infinite amount of guns and a heavy emphasis on combat, it's a shooter. Play it alone or play it cooperatively with friends, either way Borderlands is shaping up to be a new, fresh take on the shooter genre, and the pedigree of the team makes it highly possible that it'll accomplish just that.
Borderlands takes place on a distant planet called Pandora. Initially, it was found by colonists and the hope was to build a new civilization, but the place was pretty much a dump ? it looks about as barren as the Capital Wasteland in Fallout 3 ? and most people bailed out. The remaining colonists, who either stayed voluntarily or because they simply couldn't leave, tried to make do and it turns out the planet had a vast collection of alien relics and technology ? not to mention lots of guns. Unfortunately, the place also contained a ton of creepy things that enjoy killing people, making those guns a valuable commodity. The main quest deals with the whole ?alien technology? thing, as there's some kind of sealed area that supposedly contains valuable items, but of course, the people who found this area wound up dead. The four main characters of Borderlands have to brave the abandoned planet, deal with what's there, and ultimately discover what's inside this place that clearly was closed for a very specific reason.
At it's heart Borderlands is a first-person shooter, a team based one at that. There's four main characters, each with their own class; Lilith is the stereotypical female character that's not known for brute force but because of her unique skill as a Siren, can use magic and other tricks to get a leg up on...everything. Brick is the typical brute, the ?Berserker? class that uses pure strength to get the job done. Mordecai is the long-distance attacker, using sniper tactics, and Roland is the typical FPS character who uses good shooting, and even better, he has the gift of infinite ammo, thanks to a special bandanna. No wait, wrong game. Actually it's some kind of bottomless backpack. He also can earn new skills that don't just benefit himself, but the whole party ? be it increasing their total experience, health regeneration, and even the same infinite ammo skill he possesses. If you plan on playing alone, there's a lot of choice in how to play, and even if you play cooperatively with friends, there's probably a character you're going to want to stick with the whole time.
So wait. This is an FPS, you use guns. Lots of guns. There's millions of guns in the game, and that's not hyperbole. But skills, experience? Yeah, role-playing elements. They're here, they're ready to roll. Each character has their own specific skill trees, and as they level up in standard RPG fashion, you can pick and choose what skills you want to use. In addition, the game plays out like an RPG; you go around and accept quests from people. There's about 30 main story quests, and well over 100 sidequests to tackle, so you'll be busy for quite a long time. The great bulk of the game is still shooting stuff though; enemies of both human and...other varieties will stand in your way, and taking these out will net valuable experience points. In many ways, Borderlands is the opposite of Fallout 3 ? instead of an RPG that has access to guns, the game is a FPS that carries RPG elements. A unique take on a genre that's growing tired goes a long way, and Borderlands is looking to do just that.
The most unusual, and oftentimes disappointing aspect of Borderlands is what Gearbox calls the Procedural Content Creation System. Basically, as you play, the game will randomly generate weapons, scenery, and enemy encounters. Basically, as you wander through the wastes of Pandora, the place will be subtly different every time. It's doubtful the whole area will be completely different; just things like landscape and the like. This is most evident in the weapon system; there's millions of gun types, but they're mostly riffs on a core model and they randomly appear when wandering around. It's cool in theory, but games that depend on randomly generating stuff can be obnoxious in practice, so hopefully Gearbox is making sure it's not so blatant that it makes remembering places frustrating.