Gamers often describe Borderlands in a very unique and interesting way. Since the original first released back in 2009, every entry in the series since has been labelled with the rather odd title that is, ‘it’s a Borderlands game’.
We see this labelling in other series as well, such as Dark Souls, the Arkham series, and basically every Nintendo game ever. The battle I will be fighting today is the battle against this label for Borderlands. Mainly because a lot of people use it in a negative context, and because I think it’s a very out of place comment. Here’s why.
Borderlands did, if you can remember, begin our craze for the looter shooter. I knew from the first time I saw the trailer for Borderlands that it was a formula which I wanted to play. FPS mechanics with RPG progression? LETS GO!
The concept of Borderlands screams satisfaction. It’s no wonder then that game started a cult following and carved out a mainstream path for what it is. Here is where my problem with people’s description of Borderlands comes into play.
Borderlands 3 is often described as ‘a Borderlands game’. What do people mean when they say that? As far as I can tell, they mean to limit the game by stating that it exists within its genre, and that it doesn’t do anything outside of this genre. To which I reply, especially in the instance of Borderlands 2, that that is ridiculous.
I do think that part of this description is to best describe the Borderlands game as quickly as possible. And that, in its own way, saying that Borderlands participates in its own genre rather than competing in others (though it does this naturally by being FPS, RPG mechanics etc.) is a great compliment.
But it is not typically used in a complementary way. Instead, it is used as a negative label in an attempt to describe Borderlands as marmite. You either love it, or you it’s ‘a Borderlands game’. I find this labelling process very strange.
It would be like the Last of Us Part II arriving next May and the main label being ‘it’s a Last of Us game’. In short, I’m interpreting that as meaning it’s 3rd-person, story-focused single-player experience by Naughty Dog that will blow you away. We already know this, we don’t need it stated by every reviewer just to remind us that the game does indeed play on the same main mechanics as the last game.
Suppose we look at Gears 5 then as an example of a game which ‘is a Gears game’, but is also not a Gears game within the historical context of the franchise. It has new mechanics never seen before in a Gears game: open-world sections for instance. Despite this change, it does not lose its identity as a Gears game. And while we’re on the topic of Gears 5, the main label wasn’t ‘it’s a Gears game’, even though it is.
We can now go back to Borderlands 2 as my example of why this label is redundant. Borderlands 1 main/best features are the shooting, the looting, the art-style, the characters, the OCD completion aspect and the replayability.
Borderlands 2 has all of this, but also makes the characters even more developed and there’s twice as many of them. Gearbox wrote the dialogue in a much more sophisticated manner, and shooting is improved as well. Moreover, for what it’s worth, the game is twice as long as the original Borderlands.
This is Borderlands excelling in not what it’s known for (though you could now argue that it is because of this demonstration of excellence with characters), but still fulfilling the Borderlands formula to a reliable degree. In that respect, Borderlands 2 ‘isn’t just a Borderlands game’. So I think we should perhaps stop using this term in a negative way towards Borderlands because I can just as easily do it for your favourite franchise. Look.
Forza Horizon 4 is a Forza Horizon game. Detroit: Become Human is a Quantic Dream game. Fallout 4 is a Bethesda game.
And Horizon: Zero Dawn is a Gorilla Studios game – wait what?