There’s a large audience out there that will drop $60 at the mere utterance “It’s like Diablo.” With its addictive gameplay and focus on replayability, Blizzard's influential RPG has inspired gamers and game developers alike. In Borderlands’ case, the promise was “Diablo with guns,” a mixture that has been attempted in the past, but has usually ended in disappointment. However, being developed by Gearbox, the only developer Valve has ever entrusted the Half-Life name to, gives the game a chest full of potential, and it appeared as if the combination could, at last, be perfected.
The game’s opening does a great job at establishing a mood. Set to the sounds of Cage the Elephant’s “No Rest for the Wicked,” a bus speeds through the deserts of Pandora, smacking into a wandering animal. The view shifts inside the vehicle and introduces each of the four playable characters, going through a simple animation describing exactly what it is that each one does. There’s Brick, the Berserker, who brings melee abilities; Lilith the Siren, who can become invisible with Phasewalk; Mordecai, the Hunter, who can access a bird that can take down enemies behind cover; and the Soldier, Roland, who can drop a turret to grant cover and additional firepower. Since it was revealed that the game would feature four classes, it has remained one of the most perplexing choices in the entire game. There’s no real physical customization in Borderlands beyond tweaking some color options. It seems like the obvious choice would have been to allow players to create their character and choose their own stats, and different shields modifying the characters’ appearances would have helped in lieu of some sort of armor system. Instead, the only way to tell characters apart is by what gun they’re using.