Borderlands: Game of the Year Enhanced Edition Review — A Precursor to Greatness
Borderlands: Game of the Year Enhanced Edition reminds us of the magic and creativity of last generation's loot shooter.
I played the original Borderlands when I was fifteen years old. At the time, it was one of my favorite games ever, thanks to an identity and personality I had never seen before in games. The art, the writing, the humor; it was all new to me. I knew that the game was unique and one that no other game would ever be able to replicate.
With this new remaster of Borderlands: Game of the Year Enhanced Edition for current-gen consoles, I feel like I have stepped into a time machine. Not one of pure nostalgia, but remembrance in what it was like all those years ago and how much my life has changed since.
Borderlands is recognized as one of the games that started the “Looter Shooter” subgenre, one that has been toyed with consistently ever since. Franchises like Destiny and Tom Clancy’s The Division have put their own twist on it, but to this day, I believe that no other franchise has done it better than Borderlands.
For those who have never played the game, you play as a Vault Hunter. Vault Hunters travel across worlds to search for riches beyond their wildest dreams. The Borderlands franchise has focused primarily on a planet called Pandora. Known mostly for its dusty environments psycho bandits, Pandora has a variety of people and creatures that you can befriend or destroy. You have four different Vault Hunters to choose from all having a different “Action Skill,” as well as preferred weapons.
Each skill has three different trees in which you can customize your Vault Hunter. It was great to go back to the original four from so long ago. On my playthrough, I played as Lilith, the Siren class. With her Phasewalk ability, I was able to shift into another dimension, being able to create an explosion in and out of her skill while also dealing elemental damage to my foes. Roland, the Soldier class, uses his Scorpio turret to shoot bad guys while providing cover as well. Mordecai is the Hunter who has a pet named Bloodwing that can deal damage to enemies. Lastly, there is Brick, the Berserker class, who lets his fists do the talking clobbering anyone or anything in his way.
Borderlands provides a large variety of weapons spanning from weapon type to damage type consistently changing the way you play. You are always receiving new weapons whether it be from quest rewards or by killing baddies so do not be afraid to experiment. Each gun will always be different in some way from the last. Guns are not the only thing you will be finding from dead bodies and treasure chests. You will also find different shields that will protect you from taking damage with different effects.
Different item modifiers will help boost either your existing skills or the abilities of your grenades. The Transfusion mod, for example, will seek enemies and drain them of their health to be later transferred to you. Or the Rain mod, where your grenade will launch in the air and rain down upon whoever is in your way. Expect a large variety of loot across the board as you travel through Pandora.
As you progress in Pandora, you are going to run into an odd bunch of characters from right where you start. The now well-known yellow squared robot Claptrap sets you off on your journey after a repair is needed of him. While progressing through the game, you will run into other little Claptraps just like him who are also in need of repairing in which you will be significantly rewarded for. Patricia Tannis is a scientist whos audio logs you find across Pandora. Hearing her experience on Pandora doing research about the Vault and listening to her slowly lose her sanity. These are just some of the interesting characters you will find throughout the world.
Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition brings what one would expect from a remaster. Of course, there are the gorgeous updated graphics, but developers Gearbox and Blind Squirrel Games added some excellent quality of life changes that old Borderlands players will welcome with open arms. That being said, there are some buggy, janky bits that I experienced throughout the game that I remembered clearly from the original all those years ago.
The Golden Loot Chest has been brought from the franchise’s newer entries back to this remaster. It is a chest that must be opened by Golden Keys that you can’t obtain in the game. Social media sites for the Borderlands franchise like Facebook and Twitter post “SHiFT codes” that generally give you five Golden Keys to open the chest and rain down legendary equipment.
Additionally, there are more customizations for your character similar to Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. When killing enemies, there was a chance that a cosmetic head would drop as loot, allowing you to change what your head and hair looked like. In Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition, you can also customize those features, but you do not have to work to unlock them all. They are all unlocked from the beginning of the game, which allows you to have your character look the way you want when you first start playing. Another nice little gift that you get from the start of the game is a combat rifle and repeater pistol that was made explicitly for this version of the game.
One of the biggest critiques of the original Borderlands was that the final boss was uneventful and just plain easy. Fixes have been made to the boss to make it more of a challenge but people who haven’t touched the original in a decade likely wouldn’t be able to spot the change.
There is never going to be a remaster that will fix all the bad things that were in the original. The “Runner” is the vehicle that you use to travel across the world, and the driving mechanics and sensitivity are still not great. If you overextend most turns you will find yourself stopping in place, rolling over, or running into something. If you run into nearly any inanimate object, it will stop you dead in its tracks no matter how big or small it is. On top of that, you can experience your vehicle ending up on top of something, forcing you to get out of your Runner and melee it to knock it off so I could continue driving. And sometimes you can’t even do that.
There were also other minor bugs I experienced such as enemies getting stuck in buildings, bullets not hitting walls, spinning endlessly in my final stand mode, and a quest or two not loading the first time I enter a new area of the world. The thing is, I wasn’t phased much by these small bugs. They add to the game for me in a weird way. It fits the odd aesthetic and humor of Borderlands to the point where you think to yourself “I could see that happening in that world.” When you see an enemy stuck in the wall you just look at it and laugh because, for one reason or another, it is believable. What other game has the charm to make someone feel that way?
The original Borderlands — what is captured in Borderlands: The Game of the Year Edition — shows of the magic and creativity of the last generation. A unique, unusual comic book-like art style, with adult humor, and a story that sets up a universe with an infinite amount of possibilities. There are many imitators, but none as genuine, creative, or momentous as what initiated the Borderlands series. And if you are at all excited about playing Borderlands 3, this is required playing before it releases.