I’ve put quite a few hours into the first Borderlands, so I was incredibly excited when I found out that it would be getting a remaster. Since I’m sure there are plenty of people that would like more information about what content is in the newest iteration of the game, as well as whether it’s worth picking up, I thought I would give some of my general impressions so far. This isn’t a full review, mostly because this is one of my favorite titles of all time and I think it would be both difficult and unproductive for me to even attempt being unbiased here, but rather just my thoughts on the remaster as someone who has been playing the original for years.
For reference, I was actually playing through Borderlands when news about the remaster dropped, which actually made for a prime opportunity. Not only would I be able to test the nifty character import feature on PC, but I would have an exact memory of what the game looked like before the graphical overhaul. Sometimes, I think people remaster the game in their heads, so when an actual remaster comes out, they don’t necessarily think it’s that impressive because they recall the game looking far better in their memories than it did in actuality. I know I’m guilty of this, so it is nice to judge the remaster against the original title more accurately.
Importing my characters over went off without a hitch, but it was a little quirky in one area: Achievements. On Steam, the remaster is a separate game, meaning that it has different achievements. When I imported my character and jumped into my current save, I was about 75% through the main story. I got all of the achievements for reaching various levels as soon as my character loaded into the world, and sometimes interacting with certain guns types or vending machines might make another one suddenly pop up. Story-related achievements, however, never appeared for me, so I guess I will have to run through the game again in order to re-earn them. This makes logical sense and I’m not bothered because I’ve never been much of a trophy hunter, but for people who want to keep a pristine trophy list, they may wish to start off their replay of Borderlands with a fresh character.
Once I got into the world, achievements aside, what did I think of the graphical overhaul? Well, I’m quite impressed, overall. Borderlands is about ten years old now, and while I believe that the cel-shaded art style holds up remarkably well compared to a lot of its peers, it still looked muddy and rough around the edges. Everything still has the same distinct style in the remaster, but it looks crisper and cleaner. No one is going to mistake this for Borderlands 3, but it’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do to breathe life into an aging title.
Claptrap has never looked so shiny!
Of course, looking pretty still isn’t going to do anything to convince people to pick Borderlands up if the gameplay isn’t solid, and once again, this remaster delivers. Yes, this is a more limited title in scope than its sequel, but a number of quality of life improvements have made it far more accessible to newcomers. First of all, there’s now a minimap in the corner of the screen. Some of the hub worlds in the second half of the game are maze-like in their appearance, and I don’t want to talk about how many hours I wasted constantly popping into the menu screen to see if I was going in the right direction. It’s a small feature, but believe me when I say that it makes the title so much more fun to enjoy, especially since it now highlights potential quest-givers. I actually found a quest that I had missed in every other playthrough of the game thanks to the exclamation mark popping up and alerting me to its presence.
One of the major gameplay changes is that SHiFT codes have been added, which is a feature from Borderlands 2 and onwards that allows players to enter codes found on the internet, usually from Twitter, to get golden keys that unlock a special chest in every major city of the game. This isn’t a feature I like to use, as the guns are usually overpowered to the point that it makes looting irrelevant, which is my favorite part of the game. When I got to the last area before the final boss, however, I realized that I did not have any weapons with the specific element I needed in order to easily take down the endgame enemies, so using a few golden keys to get the proper elemental gun I needed saved me from hours of pointless grinding half an hour from the end credits. It’s up to players to decide how much they want to use SHiFT codes, but they are useful in a pinch.
Apart from the map and SHiFT codes, there’s a number of other small gameplay improvements, with most of these changes working towards the goal of giving this game all of the features and additions that its sequels got down the road. Walking over ammo and money now picks it up automatically instead of having to hold down a button and, much like the map, I didn’t realize how much time I was wasting doing this until I didn’t have to anymore. The customization system now allows players to choose custom face masks for their characters, instead of just choosing their clothing colors. The inventory system has also gotten a small overhaul, as it looks more in line with the later franchise entries and allows for locking an item to prevent accidentally selling it. None of these features are particularly fancy individually, but when taken together, it makes for a remarkably more streamlined experience that is far more interesting and accessible to a newcomer.
Overall, the big question is whether anyone should play this game now, nearly a full decade after it has come out. I am obviously biased, but I definitely believe it’s worth a try. While there’s a lot more variety in potential playstyles, enemies, and settings in Borderlands 2, there is still something about the original title that begs to be revisited. The story, while sparse, shines in its simplicity, and while the gameplay may not be as varied, I still believe that the four characters classes available play differently from one another and have great team synergy when put together. While the setting may just be a giant desert, it has a vibe that crosses Mad Max with a traditional Western in a way that the other games fail to do as successfully. In short, while Borderlands may not be quite as well packaged as its successors, looking at it for what it is, as opposed to what it isn’t, will yield a great experience that I believe any fan of the later games should pick up.
Have you played Borderlands before? Let me know in the comments below!