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It’s strange that I’ve never written about a Borderlands game on this blog, because I’ve played them all. But they’ve always been games I’ve played cooperatively with friends, making them feel different from everything else I’m playing. Borderlands sessions are as much about hanging out with friends (many of whom don’t live near me anymore) as it is playing the game. The Borderlands series is great for this, as they don’t require total focus, so we can chat about whatever we like while we blast some bad guys and look for guns with slightly bigger numbers on them. In fact, detractors bemoan how shallow the games are, offering an endless loop of shooting and looting, with a cast of zany characters with dialogue that tries too hard to be wacky plastered on top. And whenever I tried playing the games solo, I never got far before getting bored (except for the first game, on a revisit years later).
But while the series has never had great writing (the second game is the strongest here but still not amazing, the others are pretty bad), it has always boasted excellent worldbuilding. The planet Pandora, on which most of the games are set, is such a wonderfully realized place. Much of it is a desolate desert, although there are frozen plains and rocky highlands too. It’s dingy and dilapidated, covered in the detritus of countless corporate wars. People eke out an existence in rundown ruins, left over when the megacorporations who fought over the planet’s resources pulled out. One of those corporations, Dahl, abandoned their workforce of convicts when they left, creating ruthless bands of killers who prowl the landscape. Add in the hordes of deadly creatures native to the planet, and Pandora is a thoroughly unpleasant place to be… but, a place rumored to hide an alien vault full of treasures of unimaginable value. Players step into the role of vault hunters, willing to brave Pandora’s dangers in search of fortune. Along the way, they’ll learn about the other massive corporations who have an interest in the planet, gleaning tidbits about their different cultures and philosophies, and of course using each corporation’s distinct style of weaponry.