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Games of 2013: Borderlands 211:23 PM -- Mon January 6, 2014

Hey all! I am back on the blog, with a new year full of punch and judy (whatever). Actually, for the entirety of 2014, I have been sick. That's pretty lame. A whole year. Well, sorta. I still feel quite tired and bluggy, but I'm going to start off a short series today.

Games of 2013 is where I'm going to throw out some sort of info about the video games that I played in 2013. Not all of them, of course, or even necessarily the ones I played most. But probably the ones I played most, because the ones I'm going to talk about are the ones I remember. And I think that's the best criteria anyway - there's gotta be a reason it sticks in your head, right? This isn't gonna be a review, just more of some different thoughts about the games and thoughts they have given me in general.

Borderlands 2

So to start off with, the game I may have put more total hours into than any game ever, with the possible exception of Diablo 2. Borderlands 2 is the sequel to another game (you'll never guess what it was called!) which I spent hundreds of hours on as well, and my experience with it is similar. The Borderlands series is an RPG-FPS. It's Diablo, but in first-person with guns. And with a really rough sense of humor and a lot of visual style.

In both Borderlandses, I enjoyed them from the get-go - give me random loot, and I am happy. But they both have you leveling very slowly compared to almost any RPG I've ever played, which really puts a damper on my interest. So I kind of lost interest, both times, after an initial burst. Like with any game, I began by making one of every character and trying them out. That's an absolute rule with me, not one I have to enforce, more of a rule like gravity is a rule. It happens. And in both games, I ended up latching onto the guy who drops a turret as my initial hero of choice! I do like pets. So I'd get a ways into the game, basically into the beginning of the second "area" of each game, and then I kind of lost interest and went to other games and other parts of life. Were that the whole story, these games would not be memorable at all.

But it's not! In fact, in both games, I ended up coming back to them months later when my friend talked about his experience playing them, and I said "Yeah, that was fun, I'm gonna catch up to you and play online with you!" only to promptly surpass him by a dozen levels because he has more of a life than me. I find it nearly impossible to play any game online with non-random people, even ones where you can just drop in and out. Our schedules just don't align. In Borderlands 1, the story ends about there. I gradually battled my way to the end of the game, won it, and kinda quit. I still liked it, I wanted to do more, but I did have better things to do.

Then Borderlands 2 came out, all that stuff above happened with it, only it didn't stop there. No sir. Once I got back into it after the long break, I stuck in hard. I have all 6 character classes (2 of which were DLC) in Borderlands 2 leveled to varying points between 30 and 50 (there's kind of a nasty cut-off at 50. You can level higher, but only if you like pain or play with friends). I've also grinded for various legendary weapons (that Bee shield is amazing), and completed all 4 of the big DLC adventures a bare minimum of twice each. Other than a couple extra character slots way back in Guild Wars 1, it's the first game I've ever bought DLC for. So yes, hundreds of hours invested. Too bad it doesn't show a number, because it would be a shockingly large one.

Now, I haven't played it in about two months, I'd say, and I may be free of its grasp at last. But I do kind of wish I could go back. It's just that there are so many other games out there, how can I justify eking out bits of joy from one game when hundreds of others demand my love? So what kept me going for all those hours anyway? Well, it's the formula that works on me: action-RPG gameplay, leveling up, randomized loot to compare and choose from, cartoonish graphics, and humor. Which by the way is the best I've seen in a game. Borderlands 2 is legitimately laugh-out-loud funny, and consistently so, for large stretches, even on multiple playthroughs. And like Futurama, the funny is full of heart too. Maybe not FULL of it. There's a little heart and pathos buried in there. It's much much funnier than Borderlands 1. Handsome Jack is the best villain in a video game ever, and Tiny Tina is the best character in a video game ever. And Mr. Torgue is the best whatever-he-is too.

What more could you want out of a game? These things:

1. Faster leveling. It simply takes too long per level in this game. At reasonably high levels (not tippy top, but like 20+), it's easily an hour of gameplay to gain a single level. I want to be picking my skill points often! It's fun to pick skill points.

2. Less of a brick wall when you hit the third difficulty. Not just a brick wall - it's a brick wall that grows taller the stronger you get. If you level up past level 50 before trying the third difficulty, you will actually have a harder time, and could easily reach a point where it becomes impossible to do. I tried it for about 10 minutes and called it impossible enough for me when I was 50.

3. Less repetition in the repeating. Like Diablo before it, Borderlands has a structure where you play the story through once, reaching around level 30, and then you start it over for level 30-50, and a third time for 50+. This is fine with me, but games (ahem, Diablo 3) need to learn to make concessions for this and let you skip story nonsense for the repeats. There's an odd element in this game where you get to skip the beginner bit of the game which is pure tutorial (literally beginning with "Hold the stick forward to walk forward")... but only on the third runthrough. Why you don't skip this on the second time is unfathomable. Or skip it anytime you choose - With 6 characters, I've played through this entire story nearly 12 times at this point. Of course I also like/prefer/love when you have alternate ways to advance instead of just repeating the story ad nauseum - Marvel Heroes is amazing in this regard. It contains the repeat-3-times structure, but you can skip it entirely with alternate arcadey modes instead, or mix and match as you please.

So I don't know what all I said in there, but that's basically my experience with Borderlands 2. I highly recommend it, I love it, and I am greatly looking forward to Borderlands 3, whenever that happens. I'm tired.
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