Borderlands is a science fiction first-person shooter with RPG elements that was developed by Gearbox Software for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It was first revealed in the September 2007 issue of Game Informer magazine. The console versions of the game were released in North America on October 20, 2009, and were released in PAL countries on October 23. The console version release for the Japanese market was made available on February 10, 2010. The Windows version was released on October 26 for North America and then on October 29 internationally.
Borderlands is a first-person shooter that includes character-building elements found in role-playing games, leading to Gearbox calling the game a "role-playing shooter". At the start of the game, players select one of four characters, each with a unique special skill and with proficiencies with certain weapons. The four characters are: Roland the Soldier, Mordecai the Hunter, Lilith the Siren, and Brick as himself. From then on, players take on quests assigned through non-player characters or from bounty boards, each typically rewarding the player with experience points, money, and sometimes a reward item. Players also earn experience by killing foes and completing in-game challenges (such as getting a certain number of kills using a specific type of weapon). As they gain levels from experience growth, players can then allocate skill points into a skill tree that features three distinct specializations of the base character; for example, Mordecai can become specialized in sniping, gunslinging with revolvers, or going rogue and using his pet Bloodwing to assist in kills and health boosting. Players can distribute points among any of the specializations, and can also spend a small amount of in-game money to redistribute their skill points.
Players start the game with the ability to use two weapons, but later gain up to four weapon slots, as well as slots for an energy shield, a grenade modification, and a class modification. Items collected but not used can be sold back at vendors for money that then can be used to buy better items. One of the key features of Borderlands is the randomly-generated weapons and items created either as dropped by foes, found in storage chests about the game, sold at vendors in the game, or as quest reward items. The game uses a "Procedural Content Creation System" to create these weapons and items, which can alter their firepower, rate of fire, and accuracy, add in elemental effects such as a chance to set foes on fire, and at rare times other special bonuses such as regenerating the player's ammo. A color-coded scale is used to indicate the rarity of the weapon or item. It is estimated that the random system can generate over 17 million variations of weapons. The Procedural system is also used to create the characteristic of random enemies that the player may face. This allows for enemies of the same species to have widely-varying attacks: for example, variations of "spiderants" in the game could leap around and would jump onto players' faces, while another variant can roll up into a ball and attack people, depending on the content generator.
When in combat, the player can take damage if their shield is depleted, affecting their health. If they lose all their health, they must either wait to be revived by another player or attempt to kill an enemy to achieve a "second wind", or otherwise will be regenerated back at the last "New-U" station that they passed, losing a small percentage of their money in the process. Players eventually gain access to two-passenger vehicles, and can engage in vehicular combat with other enemies. Eventually, a system of fast transit points between the game world is available to the player; until then, players must walk or drive between areas to get around.
The game can be played alone, but also supports two-player cooperative play through split-screen (on consoles), and up to four players playing co-operatively online or over a LAN. The game follows the progress of the host player, rewarding the other active players for completion of quests for their characters. If the other players are doing the same quests in their campaign, the completed quests remain the same in their campaign as well as the host's. When more players are present, the game alters the statistics of the generated enemies, balancing the game due to the larger number of players. Players can partake in one-on-one duels anywhere in the game world to win a small amount of money, or can visit arenas in the game world to participate in free-for-all or 2-on-2 combat battles with their fellow players.
Borderlands is set on the planet of Pandora. Lured by its apparent vast deposits of minerals, several colonization ships journey to the planet and create a society there. However, they soon discover that there is little else of value on the planet except for the presence of alien ruins. Those who are rich enough to do so left the planet, leaving the rest of the population to scavenge for themselves. While some isolated settlements were formed, much of the rest of the colonists became bandits, living out in the barren wastelands or trash heaps across the planet. Further investigation of the alien artifacts leads to the discovery of "The Vault" – a supposed treasure trove of alien artifacts, technology, and of insurmountable wealth – but those that had discovered it were wiped out by a protective force, leaving few clues as to its location or purpose but creating a myth of its marvelous treasures.
There are four playable characters in the game; though they are given default names by the game, the player can opt to change their names or appearance of their outfits at "New-U" stations throughout the game. Brick is a Berserker, a tank that is strong in melee combat with the special ability of entering a berserker rage mode to rapidly punch the enemies. Lilith is one of only thirteen known Sirens, beings with superhuman powers but with no way of controlling them. Lilith's Phasewalk ability allows her to temporarily enter another dimension and then exit within a group of foes, causing a shock-wave blast that harms them. Mordecai, a Hunter, specialises in using Sniper Rifles and Pistols and is aided by his pet Bloodwing which can be used to assist in his long-range attack skills and scavenging, Roland, a former Crimson Lance Mercenary, is able to deploy a turret to help with close-range combat.
Borderlands begins approximately 200 years after the discovery of the Vault; seeking the Vault, several fortune seekers, including the player, are drawn to Pandora. After arriving at the town of Fyrestone, the player sees an image of a mysterious woman, the "Guardian Angel", aware they are here to seek the Vault, and directs them to follow her instructions. The player meets a man called Dr. Zed and he helps the player through the beginning of the game. The Angel eventually leads them to collecting one of the several artifacts needed to open the vault, causing Patricia Tannis, an archaeologist/scientist, to contact the player and urging them to collect the other two Vault keys, at the same time revealing that the Vault opens every 200 years, and the time of the next opening is approaching. At the same time, Commandant Steele of the Crimson Lance, a well-outfitted mercenary force in the employ of one of the game's several mega-corporations, threatens to declare martial law over the planet and demands the vault keys.
While the player is able to secure the second and third Vault keys without incident, they find that the final vault key is not where it is expected. Steele contacts the players, and reveals that Tannis had betrayed them, that there are in fact only three keys, and proceeds to cut off the planet's ECHO network, disabling further communication with the Guardian Angel. The player infiltrates the Crimson Lance's headquarters and finds Tannis locked up; she claims she had no choice but to betray the player under force, but urges him/her to restart the ECHO network and to prevent Steele and the Crimson Lance from using the key. After restoring the network, the Guardian Angel urges the players to hurry and stop Steele. The player finds as they approach the Vault that the Crimson Lance are in combat with alien Guardians; after bypassing both forces, the player finally arrives at the Vault, too late to stop Steele from using the key. However, when the Vault opens, Steele and her guard are wiped out by a giant monster that is attempting to escape the vault. The Guardian Angel explains that the monster is called the Destroyer, imprisoned in the Vault by the alien Eridians long ago to prevent it from destroying the universe, with the Guardians present to prevent anyone from opening it. The player is able to defeat the monster with great difficulty, sealing the Vault for another 200 years.
The final cut-scene reveals that the Guardian Angel is actually a Hyperion satellite in orbit over Pandora. In addition, the Claptrap at the beginning level suddenly shorts out, its normal blue eyelight turning red, and reveals its identity as an interplanetary ninja assassin.
Borderlands has garnered mostly favorable reviews from game critics, with an average GameRankings score of 85.83% for Xbox 360 and 83.71% for PS3 and Metacritic score of 84 and 83 for Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively.
Jeff Gerstmann from Giant Bomb gave Borderlands 4 stars out of 5, called it a successful loot-driven first-person shooter "where plenty of other Diablo-inspired games have failed miserably", but criticized the "paper-thin story" and the "predictable AI."
Charles Onyett from IGN awarded Borderlands an 8.8/10 and an Editor's Choice Award. He noted that fans of RPGs would enjoy the streamlined item management, and treasure hunting, but criticized the lack of character skills. With "beautiful visuals, tried and true RPG mechanics, and solid first-person-shooter gameplay", Onyett felt that the game was very enjoyable.
Meant to be Seen (MTBS) tested the game in stereoscopic 3D (S-3D). Borderlands scored 7/10 with NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision, and 6/10 with DDD and iZ3D stereoscopic 3D driver solutions. MTBS also said that Gearbox Software should make an even better game with Borderlands' compatibility with the other S-3D driver developers the same way they did with NVIDIA's GeForce 3D Vision. Meant to be Seen is the official media body for the non-profit S-3D Gaming Alliance.
RPGLand's Ivan Taran gave it a rating of "Great" and the game went on to win the site's Xbox 360 Game of the Year award, and be named the Runner-up for overall Game of the Year 2009.
In late August of 2009, EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich told GameSpot "... Borderlands could very well surprise the market and consumers as BioShock did in 2007." As of December 2009, the game has sold over 2 million copies according to Take-Two's financial report.[