Borderlands, and the necessity of story?

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I find myself stuck in this cycle of vacillating over whether or not to buy borderlands. The worst possible outcome is that I lose $50 on a game that holds my attention for as long as Super Smash Bros. Brawl (on the contrary I loved the original). It looks appealing and I must give my applause to the art department for creating and amazing hand-drawn-mock-cell-shaded visual extravaganza, but that only perpetuates my indecision even further because I wonder whether the amazing art direction was really just a trade off, or even worse, a distraction for the lack of story within the game, and from what I hear, it’s somewhat less than satisfying. I know it has garnered a lot of acclaim that praises it to the tune of “The story is lacking, but it’s really just an accessory to the amazing, frantic, gun-toting, bird-hurling antics of online play”, and this got me thinking, can a story effectively take a back seat if it is outweighed by ad-infinitum polished presentation?

I may have never divulged this, but I didn’t particularly like Left 4 Dead…

Ok, before you bring out your torch and pitchforks, I should probably explain. Left 4 Dead was admittedly a fun 4 player co-op online game that could be player single player or multiplayer, see any startling resemblances here? The level designed was sound, and the cheesy, B horror movie undertones where rife and refreshing, but much to your, and my own horror, I actually got sick of mowing down the same zombies with the same guns, hearing the same wisecracks from my somewhat incongruous team of survivors. The only real difference between this and borderlands, at a very basic level, is that there are 50 bajillion guns, and there is some attempt at a story.

I firmly believe that story should support the gameplay, justify the player’s actions to some degree, and give the game momentum. When you are forced to grind for 3 hours just to progress, doing things not even peripherally related to the story, it sort of douses my interests. Sure, I could be completely wrong, please don’t be too harsh, I haven’t actually played it myself, but it seems like the story has really been fragmented without being sustained by interesting world lore in the times where you aren’t searching for the much sought after Vault-Of-Undisclosed-Content.

Maybe my thoughts on game design need to be expanded, I wouldn’t say that I’m locked within a pattern of strictly story intensive games since I am partial to spending a lot of time playing games such as Team Fortress 2 and CoD4 online. But it does seem like somewhat of a necessity to me, to have a compelling story, if I’m going to commit many hours to an RPG, but on the other hand it’s really just to tide me over until I can get my hands on Modern Warfare 2.

If anybody has any corrections they would like to make, or any witty observations. Please, feel free to comment.

Miles Newton – The Machination, Creative Director

Also, I noticed this has nothing to do with Machinarium, I do apologise, I will get around to finishing that game some time.

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