Friday, June 4, 2021

Deep Look: Borderlands Legendary Collection

A Legendary Experience

The Gearbox-developed Borderlands series began back in 2009 with its inaugural entry released for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and computers, combining first-person shooter gameplay with roleplaying game elements such as leveling through killing enemies and acquiring experience. The franchise would come to encompass two numbered sequels and an interquel, the second game and interquel released in the same generation and the third enumerated installment the following console generation. Various collections of the games would release, the latest of which was the Borderlands Legendary Collection for the Nintendo Switch, mostly a solid trio of titles.

The first three games the gaming community has dubbed “looter shooters,” with an emphasis on the first-person use of firearms, up to four eventually equippable in each game and of various types such as pistols, rifles, and bazookas. All games also have some form of equipment, including shields that serve as buffers against eventual damage to health and grenade modifiers that provide various effects to the player’s grenades. Different characters are playable as well, each with their own unique skill tree into which the player invests points gain from leveling to provide passive and active effects.

In all games, players can expect to die frequently, although each shares the mechanic of a near-death sequence where characters can score a kill against the enemy to revive with restored shields and some health, and should the player eventually encounter genuine death, they revive at the last checkpoint with a small proportional monetary penalty and the damaged enemies having their health fully restored. The game mechanics very much serve the collection well, with minimaps keeping track of nearby adversaries, although players may need to partake in the countless sidequests to acquire the experience and levels necessary to survive the story missions.

Probably the weakest aspect of the games, however, is area design, most having multiple levels that the in-game maps, otherwise helpful in keeping players going forward, don’t distinguish, the award for worst levels going to The Pre-Sequel, given its occurrence in space and dozens of tricky jumps. There’s also a limit on inventory space, although this isn’t terribly problematic since players ultimately can increase this capacity. Other control quibbles exist such as the lack of in-game measurement of total playtime, but the interaction aspect of the games in the collection could have certainly been worse.

The writing of the games, however, is a high point, with plenty of humor in the dialogue throughout all of them, with their setting being the distant world of Pandora where evil corporations reign, and Handsome Jack serves as the main antagonist. The sidequests also add brilliantly to their narratives, making the gameplay feel somewhat rewarding at times, and there are plenty of quirky characters such as the mentioned villain, the robotic Claptrap unit, Sir Hammerlock, and so forth. Granted, the stories somewhat feel forced down the player’s throat given the typical Western game issue of unskippable voiced dialogue, sure to alienate hearing-impaired players, but are otherwise enjoyable.

As with most Western RPGs, the collection’s games are largely devoid of memorable music, but their voice acting, even if forced down the player’s throat given its unskippability, largely compensates, with some solid performances like Handsome Jack, Sir Hammerlock, and the Claptrap unit.

All three titles sport cel-shaded visuals superficially pleasant, but there are glitches and imperfections such as poor collision detection, pixilation, choppiness, etc. Still, the graphics hardly mar the experience.

Finally, the collection will last players a while, somewhere from a minimum of four days total worth of playtime (the second numbered entry being the longest and taking at least two to finish), although the side content can easily boost that interval to somewhere around twelve days in all.

In the end, the Borderlands Legendary Collection is definitely one of the much better videogame anthologies available, given each game’s solid looter-shooter gameplay, even if there is slight repetition and the need for a steady trigger finger, the humorous writing and dialogue, the excellent voice acting, and the decent cel-shading, even if it still suffers from technical hiccups characteristic of most three-dimensional visual styles. The weakest link of them is their level design, not to mention the general absence of memorable music, but Nintendo Switch owners will likely have a fun time with the collection and get a good bang out of their gaming buck.


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