Tag Archives: Borderlands

Reaching for a Good Pun to Use as a Title

Well it certainly has been quite a while since my last update. Unfortunately I don’t have any great excuse for why I haven’t posted in the last 2+ months but honestly writing for this blog is probably one of the lesser of responsibilities I’ve shirked recently. Perhaps one possible explanation is that I haven’t done a lot of gaming during this time, and indeed I’ve done (relatively) little, yet all together I’ve certainly done more than enough to report on:

Enjoy General Knoxx's millions and millions of miles of less than scenic highway!
“Enjoy General Knoxx’s millions and millions of miles of less than scenic highway!”

I worked my way through both The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned and The Secret Armory of General Knoxx expansion packs for Borderlands via local co-op. Other than not realizing I had to manually select to go back to “playthrough 1” which resulted in us having to replay the first 10 minutes of the single player campaign, and then have our brains instantly devoured by living dead who horribly out-leveled us, Zombie Island was pretty fun. Perhaps a bit monotonous, but no more so than the rest of the Borderlands tends to be to me. General Knoxx was a little more fun, or at least it would have been if it weren’t for the obnoxious driving requirements in lieu of the absence of fast travel. I appreciate them wanting to put more emphasis on vehicles for that expansion but since I generally consider the vehicles in Borderlands to be godawful, the effort seems to have been a bit of a waste. I’d wager that even if you somehow enjoyed the vehicle sections of the game the lengthy back and forth travel required for many of the quests combined with many long, road centric areas and annoying, respawning enemies probably at least grated on you a little. We never got around to going after Crawmerax (our characters are still relatively low level) but we’ve still got a Robot Revolution to possibly investigate sooner or later. Despite all my seemingly negative comments I’d say that if you’re any sort of a Borderlands fan you should probably own all of these, period.

No stupid caption, just Jun looking like a badass.
“No stupid caption, just Jun looking like a badass.”

What else? I’ve started playing World of Warcraft again way too heavily which has included me finally getting my “main” to level 80, making several new “alts” (including one who I’ve been leveling exclusively via the Random Dungeon Finder) and even making it into the Cataclysm closed beta for some so, so sweet early access to these hotly anticipated new changes and additions. More on WoW later in some separate updates but hopefully I won’t burn myself out again before I get too far into the proper release of Catacylsm next month.

Finally, and most importantly for this update, Halo: Reach has fallen from the heavens into our unworthy hands. Being a Halo fan since playing the first game on my brother’s newly purchased Xbox back in 2001, and continuing to enjoy the latest additions to the franchise in the form of Halo 3 and ODST, I was definitely anticipating Reach. Of course it was also an insanely safe purchase to make both because of Bungie’s great track record and the Halo franchise’s long, long legs on Xbox Live.

Us owning some Covenant in the campaign.
“Us owning some Covenant in the campaign.”

It has been such a long time now since it was released that my analysis of the game is going to be a bit more muted than it might have been if I had actually posted about it in a bit more of a timely fashion. I’ll sum up the single player pretty quickly though: continuing Bungie’s high level of production value and polish combined with improvements made from lessons learned in all previous Halo iterations, including ODST, yet never straying all too far from the conventions of the series, Halo Reach is almost certainly the best of the Halo single player campaigns so far. It may not be my personal favorite campaign (Halo: Combat Evolved holds a lot of fond memories for me and I’m idiotically nostalgic after all) and I might have been a tiny bit disappointed that I didn’t get the Rainbow 6, Ghost Recon, or SWAT style squad based, tactical experience that my imagination ran wild with when we got our first glimpses of Reach early on, I do concede that it might be the best Halo yet. The action, story, variety and the pacing, etc. – it’s all awesome. That’s not to say it is perfect – we had some pretty funky AI issues with the other Noble Team members in particular when playing the game via co-op, and some other bizarre occurrences, but I chalk most of those up to Halo charm rather than any sort of real annoyance.

Jet pack melee kills are one of my favorite additions!
“Jet pack melee kills are one of my favorite additions!”

The aforementioned Xbox Live goodies are amazing too with Bungie continuing to raise the bar on console multiplayer experiences. The changes, as subtle as many of them probably seem to casual fans of the franchise, make a huge difference. The changes to Halo 3’s equipment being the most notable, particularly with the addition of the ever popular jet pack. Once you start to master the use of some of the new items you’ll probably wonder how you ever stood playing Halo 3 and who doesn’t love jet pack stomping on someone’s face? Bungie also took some nice cues from Call of Duty 4 and Modern Warfare 2 (amongst others, of course) with their persistent stat tracking and career advancement and, while it isn’t as over the top as it is in those games, it is definitely an improvement. The new Forge (and Forge World) is incredible as well – I personally spent a few hours in it recreating a very sad approximation of one of my favorite old Doom deathmatch maps (available here!) I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth with the multiplayer alone and I’ve barely played any of the new Invasion mode and haven’t even tried the new Firefight yet. Awesome!

An interesting facet of the release of the game that has almost nothing to do with the game itself is that fans of the series are now left to wonder about both the future of the Halo franchise now that Bungie is doing new things, and exactly what new things Bungie will be getting up to. Rumors of MMOs and perhaps returns to older franchises (Myth, mainly) abound, but in any case it is definitely going to be a fascinating few years while we watch both situations unwrap.

More posts soon!

Unlocking The Vault

So, after a pretty sporadic schedule of playing I finally managed to get all the way through my first Borderlands co-op game, finishing the story and every available side quest at around level 36.

If there aren't really roving bands of angry midgets bandits in the future I'll be soooo disappointed.
“If there aren’t really roving bands of angry midgets bandits in the future I’ll be soooo disappointed.”

The ending was a bit of a let down – if you’ve ever read any forum threads or news comments on the game then you’ve probably already seen a bunch of people complaining about it. I didn’t think it was that awful though I suppose I didn’t exactly have high expectations given how bad the game seemed to be at narrative throughout. Without spoiling anything let’s just say that the ending isn’t what most people would expect it to be, and even the best explanations of what went down still leave various questions on the table. The best and most likely explanation is that the story parallels the myth of Pandora’s Box but even that isn’t extremely fulfilling. Like I said though, Borderlands isn’t exactly a game you play for the story. The silly blocks of quest text coming from mannequin-esqe NPCs would have left much to be desired if shooting and looting weren’t so much fun.

Much less fun when you're on the receiving end.
“Much less fun when you’re on the receiving end.”

I wasn’t super happy with the loot system. It’s pretty badass, no doubt, but from the mountains of loot we got it seemed like I rarely ever found an item that was a worthy upgrade. I would have preferred finding “good” items just a little more frequently. It just needs to be tweaked a little. I never did find a support machine gun with both high damage and a good rate of fire, and it took 10s of levels between each of my shotgun upgrades, for example. It kind of left me itching to play Diablo 2 yet again, to be honest. 😉

I have some other complaints about the game too, but nothing too major. It was a fun co-op experience, fun enough that I wouldn’t mind experimenting with second playthroughs and other classes if some parts of it weren’t so tedious to think about replaying. When I get an upgraded hard drive for my 360 (sometime very soon, I hope) I’ll definitely be buying and playing through the Zombie Island and Secret Armory DLC expansions. I’m actually probably more hyped up for the possibility of a proper sequel.

As usual for 360 games, not my screenshots. Pretty sure these are from some official PR releases.

March?!

Damn, it seems like it has been an eternity since my last update. I guess it has been almost a month already. I guess time flies when you’re not having much fun too.

First and foremost after finishing up with The Ballad of Gay Tony I started playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on my 360. I wanted to go ahead and start playing it right away to capitalize on the massive buzz surrounding its much lauded online multiplayer.

There goes the neighborhood...
“There goes the neighborhood…”

I played my share of Call of Duty 4’s multiplayer and liked it a lot. Modern Warfare 2 is more of the same, only now cranked up to 11. Of course adding more rewards, perks, unlocks, challenges, etc. does tend to change the game quite a bit despite the similarities and I’ve talked to a fair amount of players who prefer COD4’s less insane (and possibly more balanced) multiplayer to that of MW2. Still, MW2’s increased focus on rewards succeeds in achieving an almost MMO level of addictiveness that is hard not to appreciate. In fact I had a hard time convincing myself to play the single player while the multiplayer was there, calling out my name. It isn’t usually the most tactical or cooperative of online military shooter experiences but it is definitely a hell of a lot of fun and has become my go to “kill a few minutes” online game on console.

I did eventually finish up the single player campaign on “hardened” difficulty and unfortunately enjoyed it about as much as I enjoyed Call of Duty 4’s. Most of the observations I made in my write up of COD4 a few months back remain true in its sequel. It’s a highly polished experience but I’m just not a big fan of the whole “get funneled around the map while running and gunning through hordes of enemies” thing and would rather be granted the freedom to use some actual tactics to complete my objectives. I suppose the checkpoints are a little better this time around. There have also been claims that there are now always a finite number of enemies so you can never run into nigh impossible situations facing seemingly infinitely spawning enemies that you often could in previous COD games. While this may be true it is honestly hard to tell as the unpleasant, often controller-smashingly frustrating “meat grinder” sections of old are still alive and well here. If you don’t care about the additional achievement and this frustration doesn’t sound like your idea of fun then do yourself a favor and play it on one of the easier modes and for god’s sake stay the hell away from “veteran” difficulty.

Boom! One of the first of MW2's innumerable huge explosions.
“Boom! One of the first of MW2’s innumerable huge explosions.”

While I’m bitching the plot of this one makes the COD4’s story look like a classic war documentary or something. It’s completely over the top and full of weird plot holes. Games Rader has a pretty funny article about it. I really wonder what happened over at Infinity Ward to make them go from writing stories more or less based on real life WWII events to the bizarre shit they’ve given us in the last two COD games. It doesn’t bother me that much – it’s more amusing than anything. These stories at least give us plenty of opportunity to shoot stuff which I suppose is their primary purpose.

As a complete aside I’ve always liked the way Infinity Ward handles first person cinematics and the perspective in general. The spacewalk scene and the flare popping scene on Whiskey Hotel’s roof both come to mind from MW2. There are others as well. They might not always look accurate but they always look cool and feel fairly immersive. It’s too bad they never actually do anything with it by venturing outside of the usual FPS gameplay conventions.

This mission makes it disturbingly clear that someone at Infinity Ward hates waiting in line at the airport.
“This mission makes it disturbingly clear that someone at Infinity Ward hates waiting in line at the airport.”

Oh, before I move on let me reiterate a piece of advice that has been passed around a lot since it was first announced that Party Chat wouldn’t be supported in some of MW2’s game types. Its usefulness goes far beyond replacing Party chat though and finding it isn’t nearly as intuitive as it might sound.

How to mute everybody, all the time on Xbox Live: Hit your guide button. Scroll to the right to the “Settings” section. Select “Profile”, “Edit Profile”, and then select “Privacy Settings”. Select “Voice and Text” from the menu and change it to “Friends Only”.

This will make it so that you can ONLY hear people on your friends list in chat (and vice versa so you won’t be spamming public chat with weird half conversations.) It’ll also block that ever so pleasant after match hate mail you might get from time to time. It can allegedly have some odd effects in some games but for the most part muting all of the insufferable shitheads that plague Xbox Live is easily worth any negatives I can think up. I just wish it were a tad more accessible so that one could simply toggle it on and off for those moments when you might actually want to work together with your teammates and the like but I guess that might go against the spirit of everyone having voice on Xbox Live. *shrug*

Molgrun the Wary at level 7.
“Molgrun the Wary at level 7.”

On the PC front I really haven’t been playing much lately. I grabbed a copy of the collector’s edition of Lord of the Rings Online for dirt cheap and decided to check it out after not setting foot into (onto?) Middle Earth since beta. Other than the utterly ridiculous patching system I had to endure I had fun. I still contend that it is an excellent game but it definitely feels “slower” and a little bit less exciting than some of the other post-World of Warcraft MMOs out there. Actually, it very clearly feels to me like a good pre-WoW theme park style MMORPG that they’ve bolted on lots of WoW influenced features to, which I suppose is probably pretty accurate. That said like Turbine’s other current MMORPG offering, Dungeons & Dragons Online, I could easily see myself playing LOTRO if I had a regular, small group who I liked to run instances and the like with. I played my Dwarf Guardian for just 15 or so levels before I felt WoW itself calling me back.

It has been quite a while since I’ve really played WoW besides occasional romps with some low level characters some friends and I play but as I mentioned before I finally purchased the Wrath of the Lich King expansion recently and have now finally decided to start working my main character up to level 80. I’ve only been playing it very sporadically when the urge and/or boredom strikes and it has been working quite well for me so far. The new content is, for the time being, pretty fun (if not more of the same) and no matter how sick I get of it I always find it hard not to appreciate what Blizzard has done with WoW over the years. It still feels like the most complete, most polished, and best bang for your buck MMORPG out there.

Borderlands: not your kid's cartoon violence.
“Borderlands: not your kid’s cartoon violence.”

Speaking of MMORPGs Star Trek Online was a game that I was pretty hyped up for around this time last month but unfortunately due to waiting on some features and fixes I wanted patched in and the horrible stability of the game servers during the first few weeks after launch I really haven’t played much STO since it officially launched last month. I’m sure I’ll get back into it sooner or later but for the time being Cryptic kind of missed the boat on hooking me in.

Finally, back to the Xbox 360 I started playing Borderlands. I’d had my eye on Borderlands since first hearing about it but when it finally came out it just didn’t seem to equal the sum of its parts. Of course, next thing I knew peer reviews started rolling in and people loved it. When I heard how good co-op was in particular I knew I had to grab it to play through.

It is very much a traditional FPS combined with the quest, skill, and loot systems of an MMO. Actually, I’d probably equate the loot system with more loot centric games such as Diablo and its ilk. It sounds kind of disjointed and odd but it actually works well enough. The game definitely has some issues (which I’ll probably expand upon more in a later entry) but the combination of the random loot-a-thon treadmill and the furious combat is fun and very addictive. In fact I think I may need to cut this short and continue the hunt for more purples…

As usual my Xbox 360 screenshots were shamelessly swiped from elsewhere. The LOTRO one is mine though! 😉