The First Hour Of... Borderlands [Part 1]

Borderlands is an intriguing mix of first-person shooter and role-playing game from Gearbox Software. Essentially it plays like an open world shooter with MMO-style quests. It also has four-player co-op.

I took delivery of a preview build of the Xbox 360 version and have played through the opening hour of the game. Here's my diary of what happened.

Oh, and since this post turned out a lot longer than I expected, I've split it into two. This post covers the first 30 minutes of the game; tomorrow I'll cover the rest of that first hour. Enjoy!

00:00 - It starts on a bus. As it pulls into the settlement of Fyrestone, the driver asks who wants to get off. This is where you pick your character from the four disreputable types sitting up back: the Soldier, the Hunter, the Berserker and the Siren (pictured above). I opt for the latter because a) she specialises in "deception and trickery" and b) I always play as a girl. But let's not analyse that too closely. 00:03 - Disembarking, I'm greeted by a chirpy little droid who hands me some sort of communication device. This brings up the HUD showing my health, ammo count on my SMG, experience progress and compass. He asks me to follow him. 00:05 - Looking around, Fyrestone is closed in on all sides by towering rock formations. Power lines and windmills suggest some form of inhabitation, but currently no one appears to be home. I'm struck by how well the art and audio direction combine to evoke a feeling of living in a frontier world. It's got that Firefly-style mix of seriousness and humour; that sense of desperation mixed with the knowledge that you'll be able to get by. Borderlands really does have a character that is truly its own. 00:07 - I wander around the grotty settlement for a few minutes, poking through a deserted shanty to find a pistol in a dumpster, some cash in a safe buried in a pile of debris and some bullets in a toilet. I like how when you're picking up several bits of loot you can hold X to instant collect all loot of the same type rather than having to pick up each individually.

00:10 - The droid shows me how to customise me appearance (red hair, purple top and black pants, kthx!) and then lets me into Fyrestone proper. Just as he does, a gang of "bandit thugs" come from nowhere in their desert buggies and attack me. When targeting an enemy you see their class type and health bar displayed. I tried aiming at different body parts and notice headshots, while not instant-kills, do result in criticals. I kill them and loot their corpses for ammo and money, then do the same on some nearby rubbish piles and another toilet. 00:14 - Another couple of bandits attack me and I accidentally shoot an explosive barrel right next to me, nearly dying in the process. Beyond that I find an equipment crate containing two more pistols. One does more base damage than my current pistol and carries a bonus damage modifier, while at the same time offering reduced accuracy and firing rate. The other is more accurate, has a recoil reduction modifier and a greater zoom, while doing less damage and a slightly slower rate of fire. If choices like that get you excited, then you'll be in a constant state of arousal playing Borderlands. I opt for the more accurate BLR Swatter, but take the other pistol to sell later. 00:17 - Pushing through Fyrestone, I encounter a tougher "bandit raider", realise the benefits of crouching behind cover to reload then popping back up while the enemy reloads, find a medical vial to recover a small amount of health lost in the exploding barrel incident, and feel pleased I opted for the Swatter and its lovely scoped zoom. A woman contacts me over my communicator, saying something mysterious about me being the one she is looking for. I scratch my head and level up, granting a permanent increase to my health and damage dealt. No skill choices though... yet.

00:21 - After battling my way through Fyrestone, I finally clear the place of these bandits and meet up with a friendly NPC, Dr Zed. He's got a vending machine that sells medkits and armour, and he gives me my first quest: to kill the skags who have set up home just outside town. It's a familiar RPG trope, really, hunting down and killing a certain number of low-level critters, all in the name of teaching you how the quest system works. 00:23 - The skag nest is literally right outside the town gates. I dispatch the first few with some well-aimed headshots from distance before nailing the others at close range with my SMG. They have quite a ferocious charge on them, leaping straight for my head once they get within about ten yards. Quest complete, I return to Zed to collect my reward and secure another objective. 00:26 - This time I need to track down a power coupling, install it in his med vendor and then purchase a shield. Fortunately he tells me there's an old vending machine again just outside town that I could salvage the part from—and he's right. What he didn't mention was the second skag nest nearby, but—hey—I made short work of them. Back in town I plug the power coupling in and buy a shield and some medkits. Similar to Halo, the shield gives you a rechargeable buffer before you start taking damage to your health, encouraging you to take cover during a firefight. 00:30 - Zed offers me another quest, this time tackling a nearly settlement full of bandits who are apparently spying on the operations of Fyrestone. I have to clean them out. I accept the quest then head out of town once more, following the dusty road west along a canyon to the bandits' fort. The sun's now setting and the whole world is bathed in an indigo glow. It's beautiful.

Stay tuned for part two...


    "I kill them and loot their corpses for ammo and money, then do the same on some nearby rubbish piles and another toilet."

    Uhm... why were you killing and looting the corpses of rubbish piles and a toilet, David?

      That toilet looked at me funny.

    Great Part 1, David. Looking forward to Part 2 tomorrow.

    I always play a girl too. I'm curious to know what it means.

      You want to feel pretty, i for one, have no objections :D

      Because it feels weird staring at the ass of a man all game long.

        Whoops! That only counts for 3PS not FPS, silly me.

    Boo! I want to hear the conclusion of whether its any good or not - post part 2 now!

    I am very keen on this game, and I think only a torrent of bad reviews could stop me buying on release.

    Really like these articles Dave. Great insight in the story line to be a little familiar before the game is released. And is a semi-review of the game. By the sounds of it, it is visually 'stunning'.

    Just a few Q's.

    How many weapons thus far can you carry at once. Is there a limit in terms of, so many heavy weapons or assault rifles, pistols, shotguns? Or can you carry all assault etc... you should understand what i mean.

    Is trading/selling/buying weapons, from what or IF you experience in the first hour or so, easy to understand & use. The thing i liked about Fable is the easy to understand system. Some games have a very technical menu type approach.

    Anyway, eager to read Pt 2.

    it's a really fun game! very beautiful too,
    -you have inventory space for a bunch of things, but can only have (to start) 2 equipped guns
    -the system to buy/sell weapons isn't that complex, select item, click buy/sell. you can use (for computer) [E] to compare the stats of two weapons, and there's handy arrows telling you which stats (fire rate, power, accuracy etc.) are better on which weapon

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