Borderlands GOTY Enhanced Edition Review – raucous, edgy, fun

Game: Borderlands GOTY Enhanced
Developer: Gearbox Software
Review platform: PC
Game provided by developer: No

Along with the much-anticipated announcement of Borderlands 3, Gearbox released Borderlands Game of the Year Enhanced Edition which is a free 4k upgrade to the original Borderlands title for those who already own the game. It can also be purchased separately if you never had the chance to get down n’ dirty in Pandora.

Catch a riiiiiiide!

Borderlands GOTY Enhanced is the same game you know and love from a decade ago with brand spanking new 4K HDR graphics, features and performance improvements, so grab your closest friends and prepare to fight over non-instanced loot like it is 2009 all over again.

Jumping head first in to Borderlands GOTY Enhanced was a nostalgia-driven ride as Cage The Elephant’s Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked blasted over that all so familiar opening scene with the cheeky humor of Marcus careening four vault hunters in to the quaint town of Fyrestone. It is here the journey begins by selecting one of the four playable classes; Soldier, Hunter, Siren or the Berserker, all with their own abilities and skill tree’s that allowed me to build my Soldier to my exact specification. I threw all of my skill points in to the infantry tree of my Soldier so that by the time I was level 21 I had a turret that periodically fired rockets. Level 21 is still fairly early in the game and by focusing on this particular skill tree first I was able to equip my character with +25% shotgun damage, -25% shotgun spread, +15% bullet damage and a skill class cooldown every few seconds that I was raining bullets down on enemies. I then focused on the medic tree which allowed me to use my turret as a healing station, increase my maximum health by a certain percentage and even heal allies and co-op partners with my bullets, grenades and rockets and eventually generating HP on enemy hit.  The versatility of character builds will severely impact the overall gameplay, something which I found really enticing. If anything, I wish skill trees were larger to allow for even more customization.

Sadly, Borderlands does not offer nearly enough character customization.  It is possible to change the name of a character and browse through a couple of different heads/accessories for each as well as modifying the colour of the clothing from a bunch of preset choices. This is a looter shooter with lots of personality and a focus on co-op multiplayer – let me customize my character!  I don’t want to play with 3 other soldiers with similar looks.  I can make the character feel and play how I want so I should have the ability to play dress up and make my soldier the prettiest boi if I want dammit.

I understand that Gearbox has a clear design and path for each character class in the game, but even if I was able to colour more individual parts of my character or to earn hulking cosmetic shoulder pads, badass helmets, hats, belts, etc to show off in multiplayer with randoms or when playing with friends.  Kind of like a hey look what I accomplished, type of thing.

1.jpgExploring Pandora is an aesthetically pleasing experience as the distinct Borderlands art style holds up well and is only buffed further by the work that Gearbox  has put in to ensure everything is pristine and fresh but still familiar. However, there is a lack in location variety as I worked my way through brown, brown and more brown at just about every area in the game. This is disappointing as a game like this could really have showcased its beauty with anything other than a desert – How about some sun-soaked volcano lands or a rainforest that has been ravaged by a wildfire?

Gameplay revolves around travelling from town to town scooping up quests from a cast of edgy and funny characters who more often than not go off the deep end as sexual innuendo’s and even incestuous comments are squeezed in at every opportunity. The quest system works for what it intends to do; provide some story and give the player an objective to complete while guiding them to different areas to progress through the main, overarching story of finding a long-dormant vault seemingly teaming with treasure.

I was left yearning for more lore and information about the inhabitants of Pandora as I was completing every side quest that became available. Sadly, most of these did not offer any indication of who posted a particular quest on one of Pandora’s many bounty boards unless they specifically stated their own name. Having the names of those who are tasking me with some difficult challenges would make the world of Borderlands feel more alive, with the potential for some deep references for future games.  For example it would be neat to complete a seemingly minor side quest in Borderlands with a name attached to it and seeing that character fully realised as a NPC in the upcoming Borderlands 3.  It would reward longtime players with a nice nod to previous titles.

On your journey you will encounter a whole host of enemies from the mutated-dog-like skags to a crew of psychopathic bandits and even an organised military unit armed to the teeth with advanced armour and weaponry. Taking advantage of one of the many, many guns, elemental effects and abilities ensures the combat never feels old – utilize shock weaponry to remove enemy shields or use your scoped pistol complete with fire to burn human enemies.

2.jpgSpeaking of guns – there are a lot.  Like, millions. You will find guns sifting through piles of skag shit and vomit, in chests, exploding from enemy corpses and launching across the room as you defeat a boss. Like most looter shooters all weaponry is on a tier system with grey being common and gold showing a legendary weapon.  Each one is complete with its own stats like damage and accuracy and will often pack-a-punch with elemental effects like explosive, fire, corrosive or shock. From pistols to combat rifles, snipers to rocket launchers – there is a gun and a playstyle for you. I was constantly hoovering up all the loot I could find, comparing it to my own and adjusting my loadout accordingly before selling my unused loot at a vendor. Borderlands GOTY Enhanced comes packed with even more weapons for you to blast your own story in to the history of Pandora.

Gearbox implemented the beloved SHiFT system seen in Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel. This system allows the player to use golden keys to unlock a premium chest which more often than not, spouts out some pretty nasty weaponry. In Fyrestone, when I was level 2, I used a key and received a 3-burst combat rifle with 400% crit damage with the explosion elemental effect as well as a shotgun that had additional fire damage. I felt a bit overpowered, but as I progressed through the game a few hours more these guns became a bit irrelevant.

Using weapons increases weapon efficiency which will provide increased stats for that particular type of weapon – e.g, critical % chance, damage, magazine size, recoil, damage boosts and more – continue using your favourite weapons and they will become more powerful over time thanks to this system.  This is one in a long number of ways that Borderlands GOTY Enhanced allowed me to play in the way I wanted to. My character was mine and they were unique to the way I had been interacting with the game world.

The most important thing is that the combat feels excellent – each gun type and even individual guns for the most part, have their own feel.  I was truly feeling the oomph behind each shot of my explosive combat rifle as I popped the heads of those who dare stand in my way as I collected stolen cans of food or searched for underwear, y’know, the important things. This makes the game even more fun to play as finding different weapons is always a joy. Borderlands GOTY Enhanced is loot done right.

This planet smells like hemorrhoids wrapped in bacon

I found myself fully exploring every nook and cranny as the lust for loot consumed me. Borderlands really rewarded my curiousness by placing side-missions that helped to increase inventory space and loot chests full of goodies or even tougher enemies for me to best in out-of-the way places.  This encouraged me to keep exploring rather than blasting through every quest as soon as possible. A fast travel system becomes available after completing several of the main story missions making it easier to get from A to B, which I was thankful for as an overwhelmingly large proportion of quests required me to revisit areas I had just been in and without the fast travel system I would have become far more frustrated.

Another way to travel through the lawless planet, ravaged by bandits and vault hunters is to spawn vehicles at one of Scooter’s very handy vehicle stations. Despite being a vastly superior way to travel than on foot, driving mechanics are dreadfully bad. Every vehicle handles like the hovercraft I used to cheat in to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. They can only be described as floaty and almost too responsive as turning can cause the car to flip or uncontrollably roll on the floor like a toddler being rejected for a snack request. Travelling at breakneck speeds? Best watch out for that tiny rock that will send you catapulting in any given direction as you trundle through the air like a drunk gymnast. As a result any quest that required the use of vehicles or anything with vehicular combat instantly turned me off that particular portion of the game. Which is quite sad really, as there is an entire DLC dedicated to vehicles, for some reason.

While we are on the topic of vehicles, lets just get one thing out-of-the-way; The Secret Armory of General Knoxx is one of the worst pieces of DLC I have played. Period. It serves as a continuation of the story and offers compelling and downright hilarious characters like General Knoxx and gives an introduction in to Athena and a nice lore background on the Crimson Lance. However, the entire DLC is focused on vehicles and the driving aspect of Borderlands, which in my opinion is arguably the least attractive and weakest feature in Borderlands GOTY Enhanced. It focuses on vehicles so much that Gearbox decided to rip out the fast travel system which forced me to use their unbelievably bad driving mechanics to grind my way from area to area, back and forth, dragging my heels as I am moving down a barren highway on a set of unimpressive new vehicles. Yes, even to hand in mere bounty board missions I was driving back and forth between 3-5 zones just to hand in a mission or get a new one. It was easier to just straight up exit to the main menu and reload my save as I would be placed back at T-Bone Junction, the DLC’s main hub. The removal of the fast travel system which was in place to save me time running back and forth through areas I had already conquered served as a way to waste my time and there is nothing I despise more in a video game than engaging with a mechanic that is purely installed to waste my time.

3.jpgSome characters, especially Tannis are surprisingly deep despite nearly every piece of dialogue protruding from the game attempting to be edgy or humourous.  The first time I interacted with her in a mission I was collecting ECHO logs, basically voice playbacks of Tannis chronicling her time on Pandora as a lead scientist at a digsite.  She gets increasingly sociopathic with each passing audio log, going from a naive and excited scientist to someone who suffers loss, becomes isolated and truly understands sacrifice as her colleagues are torn limb from limb on top of her by skags.  She shows no remorse and actually quips that she is glad one of her colleagues was eaten as she can now transition to using his more comfortable chair.

This type of character building wasnt something I was expecting from Borderlands but it was something I came to love. Yet, the character is still humourous as she discusses her colleague, Chimay, being crushed and bleeding to death in front of her eyes – Tannis notes this is the last person she will be able to talk to for a while, so she savours the interaction before smothering her to death so she can continue her research.

4.jpgThis release of the looter shooter classic has some quality of life improvements like a FOV slider, automatic money pickup and a more informational mini-map.  The FOV slider made this version of the original Borderlands more playable for me as the original release invoked feelings of motion sickness. Unfortunately, there are some gnarly quirks here that sullied my enjoyment in places.

During my 40 hour playthrough I suffered several instances of texture pop-in and severe frame hitching which was frustrating when I was engrossed in battle as it hindered my ability to shoot making for some frustrating situations. There is also no aim down sight toggle, it is not something I use but it is a strange omission from a PC shooter.

I found no way to remap keybinds which I find pretty inexcusable on a PC release – I have the entire keyboard and a mouse with several buttons that I would love to map something more comfortable for me.  In any game with a melee button I always map it to my mouse rather than the usual default v key – I couldn’t do that here so I just ignored that melee was even a part of Borderlands GOTY Enhanced.

Likewise, it is impossible to use the mouse wheel or WASD to scroll through the text in the quest logs as it is mapped to page up and page down by default which is inherently strange keymapping anyway as my hand is not on that side of the keyboard.  This game is on PC, why can’t I either remap the text scroll or simply utilise the mouse wheel? Baffling.

Borderlands is a series that focuses on co-op multiplayer and experiencing the chaotic evil of the world with friends, gathering loot and taking down the big bad. On release, multiplayer is broken and really removes a fundamental part of the overall Borderlands experience. Push to talk does not stay at the desired setting; this is something I had to alter in every multiplayer lobby I went in to.

Weirdly, connection stability appears to be tied to the framerate of the host. My friend uses a 60hz monitor while I am on 144hz and he was experiencing severe lag spikes in our co-op lobby.  After further research this is tied to framerate – I would need to drop my settings to 60fps rather than my desired 144fps to ensure connection stability, which is a real shame.  I have played on a 144hz monitor for so long that it is quite jarring to drop back down to 60fps.

We had issues with quests not completing for my co-op partner despite both of us being in the game when the quest was picked up and worked on. We actually both started fresh characters and had issues with the first set of quests from Dr Zed; I was able to work towards their goals while my friends progression didn’t ever move. This then rendered it impossible for him to collect future quests as he couldn’t complete the pre-requisite ones.

Verdict

Playing Borderlands GOTY Enhanced is a fun, edgy nostalgia-driven trip that would best be experienced with friends, if the game permitted it.

This package includes all previously released DLC, new guns, SHiFT keys and chests and some nice quality of life improvements like a FOV slider however the accessibility options are non-existent as keymapping is not included.

With a cheeky, over-the-top story and characters that don’t take their self too seriously, a great aesthetic and good feeling combat Borderlands is as good as it has ever been in this 4K HDR upgrade.

This is the perfect way to jump in to the Borderlands series whether it is for the first time or to serve as a reminder of how good a looter shooter can be, Anthem.

SCORE: 4/5

 

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