Borderlands: Looting and Shooting at its Best
Over the last few years, there have been numerous games that combine the satisfying loop of finding epic loot in role-playing games with dynamic gunplay. These games have been labelled “looter shooters” and have quickly cemented themselves as a staple of the future of video games. Even though they started before the huge boom of looter shooters, the Borderlands series is still unsurpassed as some of the best looter shooters ever made.
The key aspect that makes the Borderlands series as a whole different from other looter shooters is their focus on single-player content. With the games initially offering 4 characters that each have 3 unique skill trees that the player can invest points into, there was much room for customization in how each player wanted their character to play. With stories that took over 25 hours to complete, hundreds of side quests and lengthy post-game content, a single game in the series can take months to complete 100%. This set up contrasts heavily with how most modern looter shooters are focused exclusively on multiplayer content with compelling stories being more of an afterthought. The Borderlands series allows for every mission to be played solo while giving players the option to make things easier by inviting their friends. Other looter shooters like Destiny and The Division heavily discourage playing solo with raid bosses and events that require large parties to enter.
The focus on single-player content also extended to how the downloadable content(DLC) was handled. The DLC for each game nearly doubled the amount of content available while also delivering side stories that didn’t detract from the main adventure. These DLCs could be ignored without feeling as if something substantial was missing from the base game. This type of approach to DLC has largely been ignored with modern games locking important story content and loot drops inside of DLC in order to force them to buy it.
Another reason that the Borderlands series is still fondly remembered is its overwhelming sense of personality. The game series is known for its mix of goofy and dark humor and its entertaining characters. The games make every character stand out through their unique designs, mannerisms and way of speaking. Even the dozens of enemy types that players encounter throughout the games have distinct personalities. The standout character of the series is Handsome Jack, a maniacal, charming dictator who takes over the entire planet of Pandora. Despite most of his screen time being used to berate the player, his overwhelming charisman allows for him to be an entertaining villain with a sympathetic backstory and motivation. The games’ personality is accentuated by the bold cel-shaded art style that they use. Borderlands’ style is eccentric when compared to modern games like, Anthem and Destiny, which focus most of their resources on ensuring the game looks as pretty as possible.
Though the original Borderlands was the progenitor of the modern looter shooter, its sequel refined the games’ glaring problems and supplanted itself as one of the best games ever made. Every game in the series is amazing but Borderlands 2 is generally considered the best in the franchise. These games perfectly encapsulate what makes the looter shooter genre so successful.