Thu Nov 12 19:39:39 EST 2009

claptrap? mo' like craptrap

So I've been playing the hell out of Borderlands, and not getting enough sleep, recently. You should buy it, right now, before you read the rest of this post and conclude that it's another Fallen Empires: Legions.

Let the nitpicking begin.

Firstly, as noted by Shamus, the co-op implementation and GameSpy "integration" are incredibly incompetent. The multiplayer lacks basic, basic features, and the decision to use GameSpy networking code is brain dead. If I was a Gearbox shareholder, I would be suing right now. I know half a dozen people who own Borderlands, but I have given up on co-op play entirely. It's just not worth it.

But if the mentally deficient multiplayer is worthy of a lawsuit, then the Claptrap is a crime.

People. Did you play this game, at all, before releasing it? Do you have ears, with which to hear the unendurably bad dialog? Eyes, to gaze upon the "groin thrust" animation?

The animation?

Of a robot doing groin thrusts?

So you make desperately unlikeable character, and then you make interactions with e required for inventory upgrades, (which are critical in a first person looter like Borderlands) and also have e call you up whenever you enter a new area, to inform you that quests are available.

This happens a lot, since Borderlands has a fast travel system, but doesn't integrate it with the map at all, and lists them by order of discovery in the fast travel menu. So when you're at point A, and are trying to get to point B quickly, you have to hop at random around the world map, hoping you'll end up near your destination. And so, at every hop, Claptrap informs you that you have quests available from NPCs Alice, Bob, Charlie, and Delta.

Every time you fast travel.

Of course, the only way to clear the new quest notifications are by accepting them, at which point they'll clutter up your quest log, since there's no way to delete any of them.

When you give up on fast travel, you'll end up driving around a lot, which means you'll be enduring the zanily broken vehicle physics and overloaded "vehicle collision" noise. Tap a mailbox while just barely moving? Mild crunch. Smash into an enemy vehicle while afterburning? The same mild crunch. Scrape along a wall? Crunch, crunch, crunch.

And then there's the ending. Let's recap the plot:

You are one of four vault hunters, hunting, unsurprisingly, the Vault, a fabled treasure trove full of alien technology and untold riches. While on the bus into Fyrestone, an "angel" appears in a really lo-fi vision to the player, informing them that the Vault is really real, and that she will lead them to it.

The four different playable characters have no backstory, and pretty much no character, besides a shared enthusiasm for murder. They get off the bus in the starting town, and immediately start killing at the behest of the quest givers. Which is cool, I'm down with that. It's a Diablo-em-up, it's supposed to be about the loot, not the story.

The vault hunters rampage across the land, killing dudes and taking their stuff, incidently picking up pieces of the Vault Key, which is needed to enter the Vault.

Very, very incidently. This, is, without a doubt, the best part of the game. The humor is actually fairly well done, with the monstrous exception of the Claptraps. Most importantly, the plot stays out of the way. There is quest text, and careful examination can reveal which quests advance the main plot, but there's no point in reading the text, since there's zero roleplaying, and you really, really don't want to advance the plot, since that gets you closer to the end of the game.

After the player assembles the vault key, interplanetary jackass Commander Steele of the Crimson Lance shows up, takes the key, shuts down the FTL radio network, starts blowing up various towns, and heads off to open up the Vault.

The game changes tone entirely at this point. It stops trying to be funny, and mostly succeeding, and instead tries to be dead serious, failing entirely. The player is supposed to care that the inhabitants of Pandora, a collection of one-dimensional jokes and murderous sons of bitches, are being terribly oppressed under the jackboots of Commander Steele. It doesn't work, at all.

After reactivating the ECHO network, and fighting their way through the Guardians defending the perimeter of the Vault proper, the player arrives just in time to watch Steele open the Vault.

This is a terrible cliche. Just, ugh.

On opening, the Vault releases a tentacled horror called the Destroyer. The angel informs you that it is immortal in its native realm, but can be killed here.

Apparently, the point of the entire game was to kill the Destroyer... except it was already imprisoned. If it was such a threat, why not just leave it alone? Or find one of the pieces of the vault key, and destroy it, preventing the key from being reassembled?

After defeating the Destroyer...

This is a really trivially easy bossfight. Hang out at the side of the arena, where its shockwave can't hit you, and dodge into cover every time it charges up the beam attack. It's pretty much five minutes of poking it in the eye with rockets. It also drops crap loot. Seriously, seriously, weak loot, I tell you what.

... the Angel congratulates you on your victory, and the camera pans out, way out, to reveal that the Angel visions originate from a Hyperion satellite. Fade to black, credits roll, but not without a brief cameo by a claptrap, as a final "Fuck you for playing".

Hyperion is one of the arms manufacturers, like Atlas. Atlas runs the Crimson Lance, who Steele is a member of. Concordantly, this can be interpreted as a proxy war between Hyperion and Atlas, except that doesn't make any fucking sense. If the Vault was actually full of riches, then Hyperion would have a plausible reason to block Atlas from gaining it... except that all it contains is a Cosmic Horror, something Hyperion already knows. They would directly profit from Atlas sticking their nose into the vault, and indeed that is what happens. Hyperion doesn't prevent it at all!

So, what, Hyperion goes to the great trouble of leading a group of adventurers to the Vault, just out of pure benevolence? How does defeating the Destroyer profit them at all?

So, in conclusion. Great game, hampered by an incomprehensible plot, and moronic multiplayer "support".

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