When you hear Gearbox Software, one thing should come to mind: first-person shooters...and lots of them. Gearbox has worked on franchises from Half-Life to Halo to Brothers in Arms. As opposed to working on a pre-existing franchise, Gearbox, with the help of 2K Games, will be bringing us an all new first-person shooter for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC with Borderlands. But will this FPS bring something new to the table?
With an emphasis on variable generating content, Gearbox sure hopes to bring gamers a different kind of experience, as opposed to other FPS games. Random generation will include levels, weapons, items, and armor. Just how random will the generation be? Gearbox has claimed that the gamer can expect as many as 500,000 different gun variations, in addition to 500,000 different item and armor variations - from those two elements alone, a total of 1-million variables exist.
Level generators will create alternative stage layouts and objectives, which should help keep the gameplay feeling fresh even with multiple playthroughs. The randomization will not include towns and the main roads that connect them, but rather just the areas where combat will take place. The game will generate placement of bunkers, towers, caves, enemies, among other objects, all the while doing it without any loading screen interruptions. Some examples of randomized weaponry you'll come across includes a sniper-rifle that fires rockets, or a revolver that shoots shotgun shells. It sounds absolutely nutty, but I'm sure we'll be seeing even nuttier things when we get some game time with a playable copy.
The game's story takes place on the planet of Pandora. A group of colonists setout to explore the planet in hopes of discovering a new world in which resoures are abundant and up for grabs. The colonists were told that Pandora would be the ideal place to explore, but those words were misleading. The planet is dry and barren, and the population is lawless and chaotic. Seven years in Pandora equates to one cycle, from winter to spring - and the colonists just so happened to arrive during this transition. Unknown creatures are awakened as they come out of their hibernation, and so the colonists must now survive and get out by finding a vault full of alien technology and using it as a means of defense.
Three playable characters will partake on this adventure with you, all of which boast unique skills, abilities, and, of course, backgrounds. Role-playing elements will differentiate Borderlands from other FPS games, perhaps making it feel more like Fallout than anything else. One element specifically will have your characters constantly leveling up as you make progress in the game. Leveling up includes increase in health, ammo capacity, and increased accuracy.
The three characters are: Mordecai, Roland, and Lilith. Mordecai's quest to Pandora is to find a man named Quinn; he is the loner of the group, with a preference to long-distance firing/sniping. He has a special ability that allows his team to increase damage inflicted to enemies, as well as temporarily increasing their accuracy. Mordecai can also befriend creatures and have them fight alongside you. Interestingly enough, I'm curious about Mordecai and why Gearbox chose such a biblical name to give their character. For the curious, Mordecai is believed to have been a prophet, as written in the Talmud. The name can also be loosely translated as 'the devoted' - so I'd certainly like to see if there are any biblical references between the character and his nomenclature.
Bible lesson aside, the next character is Roland, a former soldier. He is a highly trained operative who seeks vengeance in his search for a man he swore to kill. Roland believes this man resides in Pandora and is in charge of a large private military faction there. In addition to being an all around powerful adversary, Roland has the ability to heal his team, in addition to allowing them to deal heavier weapon damage, and regenerating ammo.
Lilith, perhaps another biblical reference, is one of six Sirens, a group of people with immense powers that are hard to control. She agrees to visit Pandora in hopes of finding another Siren and finding out more about herself. Lilith is much like a mage, as she can cast bumbles around enemies to slow them down, help speed up her teammates, or increase the team's rate of fire. Lilith's description of being a Siren and her in-game powers match the Biblical interpretation quite a bit. We'd say that it's more than just coicidence.
Gameplay will boast single-player and multiplayer modes, which include a co-operative campaign good for up to four people. Now, with four-player co-op capability and only three characters revealed, we expect to see, perhaps, a fourth character for the final game. Vehicular combat will play a role in the game, as vehicles will be customizable for the purpose of confrontation. And as opposed to a linear experience, gameplay will progress on a quest-by-quest basis, with the completion of each quest boasting various rewards.
Borderlands is in development utilizing Unreal Engine III, and is currently scheduled for a Fall 2008 release.
9/29/2008 Arnold Katayev