The Borderlands series, created by developer Gearbox, brought the concept of the looter-shooter to prominence as the first-ever RPGFPS. This new spin on the first-person shooter genre brought four Vault Hunters together to track down the legendary vault of Pandora for untold fame and fortune. To the developer’s surprise, it created one of the best forms of multiplayer to ever exist. To this day, many are still trying to accomplish what Gearbox did, including Gearbox itself. So what makes Borderlands the perfect co-op series? Let’s dive into the world of guns, crazed psychos, and infinite treasure to find out how this rare drop came to be (or something like that).
The framework of great co-op
There are three elements that make up the Borderlands looter-shooter-style gameplay. First, there are the RPG elements, such as quests, loot drops, and level grinding. After that, there are FPS elements which are the guns and general gameplay. Finally, there are the co-op-focused elements like emotes, battles, and trading. All of these come together to form the framework of a great co-op experience.
The core foundation on which this entire co-op framework is built is the RPG elements. These are the quests, loot drops, RNG, and level grinding I mentioned above. These, combined with large open areas to explore and hidden secrets make for a great starting point. Of course, this alone doesn’t make for a great co-op experience, but it fills the world with life and shows players what they can expect out of the game.
Each Borderlands title features instanced loot for each person, allowing each player to earn their own rewards. Later titles in the series also added a co-opetition mode that allows players to steal loot from a single loot pool. These systems allow players to work with each other or pit them against each other for the loot. Cooperation or Co-opetition supports player interaction through either trading or fighting.
Building the walls
With a solid foundation built, we move on to the walls of the home, which is a cozy co-op experience. These walls are made up of RPG and FPS elements, two ideas that, by themselves are great, but combined blow either genre out of the water.
Let’s start with the RPG side of things. Build-planning and RNG are both part of the essential Borderlands formula and help create that perfect co-op experience. Build-planning is a way to interact with your friends and get inside their heads even when outside of the game. Maybe they want to build Maya to be the ultimate elemental warrior or build Moze to infinitely wreck enemies inside her 10-ton mech suit. Talking through these builds with a friend helps both of you work out what you want and go into the game prepared to take on the psychos and bandits.
Add in the RNG elements to this and you have a recipe for greatness. Grinding out different guns with various effects and trading them with allies furthers your connections with your friends. I remember the first build I created for Gaige in Borderlands 2 that only came together after hours of grinding with my friend to get the perfect loadout.
In addition to these trades and talking out builds, players can fight one another. Whether you want to test out a build you’ve worked on or simply want to blow off some steam, you can challenge your friends to a dual and battle it out anywhere in the game. I have done my fair share of battles for an important gun or shield and it has always been a blast.
Taking down the big boss (What Borderlands means to a fan)
Bringing it down to a personal level, Borderlands has always been that go-to comfort game that helped build friendships that have persisted long after we put the game down. Sharing loot with my friends, helping them craft builds for Krieg, Maya, Zero, or Salvadore, and spending hours in Moxxi’s bar, gambling away our hard-earned cash are memories that I will forever cherish.
I hold the Borderlands series as the pinnacle of cooperative gameplay because of the way Gearbox crafted the world and how players like me interact with it. I think Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep will forever be my go-to section of the game. Not just because Tiny Tina is my favorite character but because it is where everything shines the brightest. The DLC is about friends coming together over the loss of a loved one in the game and playing a game together as a way to cope. This resonated with me and the friends I played it with as we took down the Handsome Sorcerer and saved the kingdom since we all know what it is like to lose someone.
The Borderlands series has a little bit to offer everyone, from those who want to chill out and have fun shooting random psychos, to those who want to get deep into the build-crafting process will have fun looking for loot. Finally, those who just want to laugh with friends will enjoy the depth of ways the game allows you to interact with one another, whether it is through cooperation or co-opetition.