Borderlands Impressions (Plus Five New Videos)

A few weeks ago, I stopped by Gearbox's offices to play Borderlands for a few hours. Since then, the wait to play more of the shooter-RPG has grown increasingly agonizing, and the five new gameplay clips released today (below) only make it that much worse.

While my time with the game was brief, it made quite a strong impression on me. By the time I had to go, I could already feel the addiction setting in--that drive to slay just one more foe, to do just one more quest, to gain just one more level before leaving. BOOM video 2586

My adventures began in the Arid Hills, where I and the other three members of my team were tasked with retrieving a certain number of seeds from a nearby cave. It sounded like a simple quest--no one told us that we'd be ambushed by a Level 12 Alpha Skag.

Incidentally, that's how I learned to pay attention to a quest's recommended level.

That quest also helped me discover that it's not just the stats of your weapon that matter, but how you actually use it. Unlike a traditional action-RPG, where critical hits are more luck-of-the-draw than skill, Borderlands rewards careful aiming with extra damage.

For example, head shots. BOOM video 2587

That's not to say a weapon's stats aren't important, far from it. And because the various armaments spread across Pandora are procedurally generated a la Diablo, you'll probably have to make some tough calls as you examine what enemies drop.

Do you opt for the pistol that does a little less damage, but has better zoom for easier head shots? What about this assault rifle--it's a tad slower than the one you have now, but has a higher chance of setting foes on fire. Don't forget about that other pistol there, it won't do anything fancy like electrocute a guy, but it's got a blade on the end for higher melee damage. Or will you just go for power and take the slow rocket launcher? BOOM video 2589

As you gain slay bigger and badder foes and gain more experience, you'll also need to decide how to progress along your character's skill tree and which new abilities to unlock. Each class--fast-moving Lilith, Mordecai the Hunter, all-around soldier Roland and heavyweight powerhouse Brick--has its own set of special moves and abilities.

For example, Roland's deployable turret can be upgraded to heal nearby teammates or to just do more damage. As for Brick, you can beef him up to punch things even harder. BOOM video 2588

One thing that doesn't really come across in these videos is the game's sense of humor, such as robotic companion Claptrap casually remarking "Oh, you're not dead?" as you walk past or a mention of "momma's girly parts" being "busted" during some pre-mission dialog. For a taste of that, check out the recent Claptrap short.

BOOM video 2590

Obviously, I came away rather impressed from my time with an Xbox 360 preview build of Borderlands. That's not to say I don't have some reservations--comparing weapons in one's inventory was a bit clunky, the map's lack of a vertical indicator made it difficult to find an objective if it was above or below you, and I'm not quite sure if the game will be as addictive in offline, single-player form--but there's only one way to determine how valid those concerns are, and I'm more than willing to keep playing until I can find out.

Developed by Gearbox, Borderlands hits PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on October 20.