I’m a sucker for old games – there’s nothing quite like picking up a game which holds a sense of nostalgia and stands the test of time years later.
Only one of these two criteria were fulfilled when I began playing Borderlands Legendary Collection on the Nintendo Switch, which contains the first three games of the franchise: Borderlands (2009), Borderlands 2 (2012) and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (2014).
But this is not to the bundles’ discredit: I had never played any Borderlands game before this review, so nostalgia was out of the question.
I confess I was trepidatious when I agreed to take on a review of an unfamiliar, 11-year-old first person shooter game ported to a handheld console – I had resigned myself to the probable eventuality of enduring a poor-looking port (especially after reading my colleague’s assessment of The Outer Worlds’ Switch port).
But my not knowing a single thing about the Borderlands franchise ended up serving me well – I was pleasantly surprised when I opened Borderlands (2009) and the highly stylised art direction and animation didn’t seem like it was from the same year that Barack Obama first took office.
The games played well visually, and the respectable 30 frames per second ensured that gameplay flowed, with no lagging or glitching – although the fps on the Switch is still a far cry from its PS4, Xbox One and PC counterparts at 60 fps.
Possibly by virtue of being a ported first-person shooter on the Switch, the controls did at times feel a bit clunky.
This was especially evident in the aim mechanics, which didn’t seem as fluid and seamless as similar games on the PS4. Auto-aim did help with this somewhat, but my unshakable (and probably misguided) belief that such a mechanic is a cop-out led me to invest more time than usual mastering the games’ aiming.
As a first-time player, I thoroughly enjoyed the loot-centric gameplay, which led to more customisation than I knew what to do with, and more gun variants and mods than I knew could ever exist in a single game – with these features only getting richer and more extensive with the sequels.
This gameplay did eventually get tiresome, however, as it began to feel like the whole experience was a grind to find weapons which were only marginally better or worse than the one currently equipped.
As a traditional fan of story-focused action RPGs, I found myself wanting more nuanced story-telling, with the majority of gameplay focusing on getting handed missions from NPCs or bulletin boards and setting out towards a map marker.
While this allowed me to take in the game’s world in its unique, comic-book art style, after a few hours this became repetitive and I began craving more autonomy and free-exploration. This is, however, probably due more to my preference for open-worlders than any faults in the Borderlands games.
The Borderlands Legendary Collection for the Nintendo Switch was surprisingly good to look at for a Switch port, and as a first-time player, the games’ style and gameplay were suitable enough for the Switch, apart from some small hiccups in controls. While the overall gameplay is not really my thing, I still had fun playing with the immensely customisable weapons and innovative in-game world.