Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's Playing: Borderlands and the Mad God

 Despite several posts explaining that the life of an unemployed geek isn't all web browsing, collecting unemployment and playing video games, I do manage to play quite a bit. The last week or so there have been two games that command a lot of the time I allow myself for computer gaming. One of the offerings is a completely free MMORPG (kinda, it'll need some explaining,) the other has been out for a while now, but I noticed how cheap it was on Steam and parted with a few dollars.

Since I'm going to be talking about games I like, it is only fair that I declare my usual bias. I usually play PC games, with a focus on RPGs, and I'm not a huge fan of modern first person shooters. I grew up on Wolfenstein 3D, Doom1&2 and Duke Nukem, so seeing all the new brownish-grey FPS games starring nearly identical space marines or WWII soldiers makes me turn up my nose saying “Eh, I played that game back when it was GOOD.” I also prefer single player or co-op to multiplayer deathmatch.

My bias means I've never played Halo 3, it also resulted in a 100% decrease in being called racial slurs on X-Box Live.

Because of my bias, most shooters have to have something else there for me. I loved Bioshock and Left 4 Dead, and it took me a long time to get around to picking it up, but I'm now really into Borderlands. Steam had the Game of the Year edition, packaged with all 4 pieces of DLC for $30, so I took the plunge. Borderlands basically is what happens when Halo and Diablo have a baby and send it to finishing school at Mad Max Academy. 4 character classes, with experience and levelling, a WoW-like skill tree and a very, very Diablo approach to loot. Guns drop off of enemies of varying quality, color-coded and with variations in gun manufacturer (affects a weapon's base stats somehow), clip size, damage, rate of fire, reload rate and possible elemental/status effects making the randomly generated possible guns somewhere in the hundreds of thousands.

All four of the misfits you cam play in your search for the holy macguffin, in this case, a Vault. So if you watch this game backwards, it's Fallout 3.

The world is post-apocalypse sci-fi with a dark humor bent, and lots of quests, vehicle combat a la Halo, interesting boss fights and drop in/out cooperative online modes give the base game a lot of bang for the buck. The 4 expansion packs add a zombie/tongue-in cheek horror with The Zombie Isle of Dr. Ned, Arena “game show” style survival combat and a bank for those extra guns in Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, and two raises to the level cap and more guns in the last 2 pieces of DLC. To be fair, I haven't played very much of either Claptrap's New Robot Revolution or The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, but I understand that the latter focuses on vehicle fights. So far, I've started playthroughs with Mordecai the Hunter and Brick the Berserker.

The other game that has claimed quite a bit of time is harder to categorize, but I'll try. Realm of The Mad God is a free 8-bit mmorpg with unlockable classes, gameplay that feels more like an old school shooter (more Gradius than, say Contra) and PERMANENT DEATH. You start with simple controls, each class has 1 special power (priests heal, wizards fireball, etc) and can equip 3 types of item. Game play is fast-paced, with quests basically being “Look, that guy over there! Go kill him!” Leveling up and getting better equipment happens faster in a group, and some of the big challenges can only be assaulted with a large team. Once 25,000 monsters die on a server, the Mad God teleports the entire server to his lair where everyone tries to kill him, and a few of the survivors get some very nice loot.

The game goes quickly from "Cool! 8-bit Pirates!" to "Ohmygodohmygodohmygod."

The speed of leveling up takes some of the pain out of death, which like in the “roguelike” rpgs that obviously inspired this outing is permanent. You die, you lose all your stuff and can make a new level 1 character. You can, at any time, hit F5 to teleport to safety, leaving those around you to a possible grisly end, though lag spikes can and do kill characters. Depending on how far you got before you died, you accumulate “fame” when the character dies and this affects the maximum possible stats on your fresh character. It looks like the optional “pay us money” parts of the game are truly optional and purely cosmetic. I played this game a little and watched hours just melt off the clock. Very addictive.

Are there any other great rpg/shooter hybrids you love that I forgot to mention, or maybe don't know about yet? Let me know in the comments. Also, don't expect any April Fool's Day Pranks in tomorrow's post. I don't think I've been doing this nearly long enough to pull that sort of malarkey.
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Justin said...

Good reviews, I'll definitely look into these.

YourArgumentIsCurrentlyInvalid said...

awesome review

G said...

you mentioned my fave - fallout 3!

Jay.CA said...

thanks for the tips, ima check out borderlands.

Stare Dad said...

great! Thank you so much :)

Patti D. said...

Great review

BrAd? said...

Nice reviews, will check 'em out.

Conspyre said...

I did the "I played this when it was good" thing for a long time- my advice is to skip the Treyarch-produced Call of Duty Games, and the core Halo series (1-3). Halo3:ODST did some really interesting things with the storytelling (and has Mal, Wash, Jayne, and Number Six voice acting), and Reach feels like the culmination of the Halo combat system. It's a little sad, now that I finally have a PC that can run FPS games properly, I'm used to playing the damned things on the Xbox.

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