Genre: First-person shooter
Format: DVD, digital download
Developer: Gearbox Software
Mac Port: Feral Interactive
Mac Publisher: Feral Interactive
Minimum Requirements: Mac OS X v10.6.4, 1.8GHz Intel processor, 1GB RAM, 128MB VRAM, DVD ROM
Review Computer: 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 iMac, 4GB RAM, 512MB Radeon HD5670 graphics card
Network Feature: Yes
Processor Compatibility: Intel Only
ESRB Rating: T (violence, language)
Availability: Out now
Two things should tell you that it doesn’t serve much purpose anymore, reviewing games from Feral Interactive. First, they know what they’re doing. Feral selects only the best games to bring over to the Mac; those that hold up well despite their age. Second, right there in the title it tells you that this was once “game of the year.” And having now played it on the Mac, I can see why.
Borderlands is based on the somewhat endearingly naive premise that a planet with hidden riches could be left alone for fortune hunters, mercenaries and bandits to loot. If there’s treasure to be found and lands to be conquered, corporations would be fighting for control, not tourists with big guns. But forming small teams to fight alien creatures and looters just slightly more corrupt than yourself is probably more fun than fighting Halliburton, so on to Pandora we go.
Borderlands starts quickly, allowing you to choose between the soldier, hunter, siren and berserker. Each character is customized to a specific style of gameplay, so choose wisely based on your usual strategies. I took Roland, the soldier, because I generally do better with well-balanced characters, then set out on mission after mission to clear an area, flip a switch or find some specific treasure, hopefully finding some loot for myself along the way.
These missions build nicely, allowing you develop and master new skills to fight the progressively more challenging enemies. The action starts off and progresses a little too slowly, but the mysterious woman who keeps popping into your head keeps things mildly interesting. After all, you didn’t really think this is just about killing skrags and finding the Vault, did you?
These skills you develop as you play are carried with you into the multiplayer battles, so your character really does become unique amongst those of other players. And that’s important, because Borderlands is meant to be played cooperatively. Yes, you can work all of the way through it on your own, and that’s fine. But it’s also slow and lonely, as there aren’t many NPCs to meet along the way.
In cooperative mode—in which teams of four players work together—tearing through enemies and completing the missions moves at a much quicker pace and is much more rewarding. In other words, it’s more fun. However, in order to experience the whole story, you have to either work together from start to finish or you have to host all of the games yourself (mission data us determined by the host).
Multiplayer is also important in that it distracts from the lack of depth when it comes to leveling up. You can find better weapons and increase your skills, but don’t expect full-on RPG style character traits from Borderlands. The rewards are in the action and in finding more treasure and bigger guns and vehicles, not in developing your character.
The graphics in Borderlands have a unique, sort-of-hand-drawn look them. At first, it seems lazy, as if the thick, black outlines around your characters just made it easier to develop. But once you get used to the style, it’s actually kind of cool. Your friends and your targets stand out more against the rough terrain, bringing a weird sense of comic book color and life to the game.
Yet despite this somewhat simpler look, there will be times when the game stutters and the animation gets a bit choppy. It doesn’t hurt the experience too badly, but be ready to dumb down your settings if you’re hovering just above the minimum requirements.
The Mac version, because we’re getting it late, has the bonus material built into it. Four add-on packs further the adventure for single players, but more importantly, open up new areas for multiplayer exploration.
In the end, then, how you feel about Borderlands Game of the Year Edition will depend upon how you feel about getting bigger guns and killing bigger enemies. The story is fine, I suppose, but it never tries to be Bioshock. This is an action game meant to be played with friends…or with total strangers; whoever you can find online, I suppose. It exists for the thrill alone, and personally, I’m thrilled we’re starting see more games like this on the Macintosh. Although I’m more of a solitary gamer myself, I totally get what makes Borderlands great.
And it is great.