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22Jan/102

Borderlands: No Heaven

borderlandsFirst off, if the title of this article doesn't make sense and you haven't seen the original gameplay trailer for Borderlands, go check it out. The music is the song No Heaven by DJ Champion. It's not the kind of music I usually listen to but the trailer had it stuck in my head forever.

Now then, it's been a couple months since I mentioned looking forward to playing Borderlands, so I thought I should post a follow-up. I played the game pretty intensely for a while, running through two playthroughs on my first character, a Siren, once as a Soldier, and a little as the other two classes. Most of my gameplay was single player but I got in quite a few multiplayer sessions with a couple of my friends that were a blast.

From skag hunting to fighting off the denizens of the Eridian Promontory, the game as a whole was extremely fun. It wasn't without its issues but unfortunately that seems to be standard for PC games nowadays. Regardless of some of the minor issues, I got more than my money's worth on Pandora.

For starters the mission-based system lets you hop in and out of the game for shorter sessions and still feel like you were accomplishing something. It also meant a fairly steady influx of quest XP so you never really felt like you were stagnant. Between the short quests and the fact that enemies respawned, you were always able to just go out throw lead around whenever you felt like it.

The ability to rearrange your character's skills and the ease of doing so (it just costs money, which is plentiful) really let you play around with customizing your character as you go. There was more than one occasion where I'd find a weapon or class mod that suited a certain playstyle so would just re-spec and switch over whenever I wanted.

It's hard to find a Borderlands forum where people aren't complaining about the end of the game. I admit it's the weakest point of the story, but Borderlands isn't about telling some grand epic, it's about giving you a gun to go shoot things and take their stuff. It's unabashedly a bullet-driven character-building engine, and in that regards it succeeds at its goals.

The biggest problem with Borderlands on the PC out-of-the-box was its multiplayer capabilities. It uses GameSpy as its multiplayer client, which caused all sorts of headaches for my friends and me. I heard many players using third party VPN-like products to get multiplayer working, but proper port forwarding fixed our issues, though it was still a hassle that we shouldn't have had to go through.

The first two DLCs for Borderlands were released a little while back, and there's where you start to see the problems with the game - or more likely the publishing company. The PC version was delayed for some time (as were patches for the base game) and when it was finally released, it included SecuROM. In fact, the latest Borderlands patch on Steam actually installed the Borderlands SecuROM files on your computer whether you wanted it or not, it just left them inactive until you added the expansion pack.

That was pretty much the end of Borderlands for my friends and me.  With other games being released that we wanted to play, we didn't really see the need to mess with SecuROM.  SecuROM itself isn't a dealbreaker for me, but there are so many other options out there at the moment that I don't have to mess with it to be entertained.  It was the last straw for the two gamers I usually played online with though.  After struggling with their multiplayer connectivity issues SecuROM was enough for them to bail completely.

According to Steam I've logged over 100 hours of Borderlands, and I've enjoyed every minute of it.  The game isn't complex and the story isn't deep, but it's just fun.  My only concern is that Gearbox seems to be looking to continue released DLC for it and if they want to succeed, they're going to need to make sure that they can ditch the SecuROM that's been convincing players not to continue to buy their products.

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  1. Your experiences very much mirror my own. I bought the game as a preorder on the PC through Steam at the same time as a few other friends. The actual gameplay was enjoyable enough that I played through it three times–twice as a Siren and once as a Hunter, but after a while all the negatives of the game started to irritate me enough that it lost its appeal.

    It’s very very clearly a port to the PC–the menu controls are counter intuitive for a PC and the fact that you have to use Page Up / Page Down to scroll through some of them instead of the mouse wheel is bad design.

    There’s also some issues that you wouldn’t even know about without digging into config files. The font size for the item cards that display stats is so large by default that you can only see 4 properties, even if the item has more. I tweaked the font size so that 5 were visible, but found out the game was hard coded to only display 5 properties, even if the item SHOULD have more. That was kind of annoying.

    The built in VOIP chat was poorly implemented as well. It was always on and had no mute or volume controls, so my buddy and I just disabled it through config files and used Ventrilo.

    I had an unbelievably hard time playing the game with my friend. At first, I was able to host a game that anyone could join–except my friend. Then, without any explainable reason, I was unable to host games for anyone else either. I also couldn’t connect to anyone’s games, so I figured it had to be some setting on my end. I spent a few days forwarding ports (which is the norm for a lot of games and I’m able to set up pretty quickly), messing with modem settings, and messing with VPNs before we were able to find any combination that worked. I finally had to use GameRanger (which I read as GamerAnger the first time and felt it was a pretty appropriate name to the solution of my multiplayer troubles) to just be able to connect to my buddy’s game.

    The game itself is fun, though. If these bugs and annoyances were fixed, I’d definitely be more inclined to play the game more. As is, especially after this SecuROM nonsense, I’m going to uninstall it and just stick with other PC games.

    On an unrelated note, I hope you plan on painting/photographing more WM/H miniatures in the near future. I admire your work and enjoy seeing them. 🙂

  2. I had forgotten about the text size fix. It wasn’t hard to do but it definitely should never have been necessary.

    Thanks for the compliment on the minis. 🙂 I’m actually way behind on taking pictures of miniatures. Still discouraged of my results as of late, but I need to get back into it. I’ve been tossing around the idea of what to do with my gallery as well as trying to get time to photograph everything I’ve done lately and I keep putting it off. I’ll try and make a concerted effort to get to it in the near future.


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