Gearbox Software and 2K Games have managed to one-up the fun, tongue-in-cheek marketing campaign for their upcoming highly anticipated role-playing shooter Borderlands 2 yet again with The Border Lands. Set in 1989 with stunning 16-bit (16-bit!) graphics, this free browser game de-make drops Vault hunters in a digitized rendering of Pandora where they must survive round after round of enemies while collecting guns and leveling up. Considering Crystal Pepsi and quite a few younger gamers didn’t even exist when this game was “released,” The Border Lands either brings a nostalgic smile to your face or forces you to rage online to all of Generation X and early Generation Y’s delight.
Beginning with Marcus Kincaid’s bus running over a little 16-bit skag pup on the title screen, The Border Lands seeps with the fun we’ve come to know and love from this franchise. Gamers can choose to play as any one of the protagonists from Borderlands 2, each with varying stats for health, speed, and damage: Salvador, Maya, Zero, and Axton. The object of each round is to destroy the baddies and gain experience for increased health and damage as they come shuffling in from the sides of the arena you’re set in, and when all enemies are defeated you continue to the next stage. It all seems simple enough, until you start getting picked off by midgets and rakks while scrambling for weapon crates- not too unlike a frantic game of Borderlands with a group of rookie pugs online.
I was surprised as to how much variety was packed into The Border Lands. A generous amount of Pandora’s fiercest enemies are represented here, including the aforementioned midgets, rakks, and skags, joined by bandits, bruisers, and a few more familiar sights. The weapon selection is also pretty robust, with shotguns, pistols, machine guns and the like available in iconic Borderlands red crates that drop when some enemies are defeated. Keeping an eye on your surroundings is key as well; the range and fire rate of certain weapons take some getting used to and you won’t have the time to adjust or reload when packs of enemies get right in your face.
The Border Lands is a fun, free way to get even more hyped for Borderlands 2 if you’ve already played the first Borderlands to death, including maxing out your Eridian weapon proficiency and beating Crawmerax over and over until he bled all of the pearlescent weapons available. The game is not without its minor glitches, but it is certainly more entertaining than quite a few of the “big budget” games released this year. If you’d like to kill a few hours while killing a few bandits in all of their retro 16-bit glory, then give The Border Lands a shot.