Gaming's Defining Moments - Borderlands

We look back at the loot-shooter that played a pivotal role in shaping a new sub-genre.

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If you're a Borderlands fan you'll no doubt have heard that not only was Borderlands 3 finally confirmed at PAX East recently - perhaps the worst kept secret in the industry - but that there was a slew of other Borderlands reveals to go with it. Gearbox is bringing the rest of the series up to date with Ultra HD Texture Packs, and for the 2009 original there was something special in store; a re-release in the form of a Game of the Year Edition, coming to modern consoles and as a free upgrade for PC players.

But why has this decade-old game persisted in popularity even after all these years? Well, in some ways it was ahead of its time. The concept of getting multiple people together online for a campaign as open as this is one we've seen a lot of in modern times, like with Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Dying Light, and Far Cry 5. Now before you go quoting examples as to why we're wrong, we know there were other examples of this like the Saints Row games, but there's a reason why Borderlands feels timeless enough for a re-release in 2019. As the wise man Todd Howard once said, "it just works".

We say this because of the emergence of loot-based shooters as well, and it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that Borderlands laid the groundwork for others like Destiny, The Division, and Anthem to come along - games where you're always looking for that incremental upgrade where one weapon might be just one measly point higher than your current one. This worked again in Borderlands 2, and it sure as hell works 10 years on from the original release. The randomly-generated nature of the weaponry coupled with the fact that there are plenty of elemental effects means that you're always chasing that elusive better weapon, and fighting your friends for the best gear.

The various characters allow for role-playing and a class-based focus as well, allowing for certain upgrades, abilities, and weapon preferences. This gave an element of ownership to the experience and the sense that you brought something to the table that nobody else in your squad could. It was a tight and focused multiplayer experience where your choice of vault hunter mattered, and you weren't just a generic soldier who could wield any weapon. There was flavour and personality packed in there as well, which is invaluable for ensuring a game remains memorable for a long time to come.

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In fact, the whole of Borderlands oozed personality and charisma. Gearbox wasn't afraid to push the boat out with this game, and all of it is outrageous and off the wall enough to separate it from a deluge of other multiplayer/open-world games. From the Psycho that adorns the front cover to the talkative Claptrap that we all love to hate, this is a welcome change from some gaming worlds that have been accused of being lacklustre and uninspired.

It all looks gorgeous as well and is perhaps the most iconic example of cel-shading from the world of games. Why would you not want this on modern TVs then? Visuals have come a long way in 10 years, and with 4K and HDR displays this classic could pop like never before, whether that's the bad guys or the lovely glow of the loot on the ground as you all scramble to pick it up.

We're also very pleased to see that Gearbox hasn't forgotten about some of its shortcomings from 10 years ago either. The final boss is something that was criticised by many, and this is just one of the elements being changed, and many of the quality of life improvements from the sequel will also be added in here to make it the most polished version of the experience to date.

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Essentially, we and many other gamers were captivated by the world of Pandora and were hungry for loot when we first played Borderlands either alone or with friends in 2009, and it's a testament to the strength of the core concept that many of these features hold up enough to justify a remaster in 2019. It can compete with the other multiplayer loot-shooters out there, and with a third game in the series on the way and updates to the rest, this is the best time to head back into the fight once more to dish out some damage and see what all the fuss is about with Borderlands.


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