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Borderlands Legendary Collection

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: May 29, 2020

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Switch Review - 'Borderlands Legendary Collection'

by Andreas Salmen on June 17, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Borderlands Legendary Collection brings Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition, Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel to Switch by offering the complete story of the franchise’s most iconic villain, Handsome Jack.

Buy Borderlands Legendary Collection

With its ever-soaring popularity, the Nintendo Switch keeps reeling in more support from publishers, predominantly in the form of ports of older games. The most recent prominent example is 2K, who managed to release not one or two, but seven ports at once (eight, if you count XCOM 2: War of the Chosen). One part of this mass release was Borderlands Legendary Collection, which includes all three games from last-generation platforms into one Switch release. While these games are surely not the most demanding titles ever ported, we've seen enough bad examples that a bit of wariness is warranted. Thankfully, Borderlands Legendary Collection is more than just a solid port with quite a lot of content.

While we review Borderlands Legendary Collection (BLC) as a whole, be aware that you can split it up into two separate purchases in case you don't need all three titles: Borderlands GOTY Edition and Borderlands Handsome Collection. Both are similar to previous releases on other platforms, including the first Borderlands and its sequel and the pre-sequel, respectively, including almost all DLC (except the Commander Lilith and Fight For Sanctuary DLC). That means BLC offers a vast amount of content, none of which is new at this point. The questions to ask yourself before shelling out some hard-earned cash is how well this version holds up compared to other platforms, and whether Borderlands is as fun as it was years ago.

Aside from Skyrim, Borderlands 2 is a game that I own on most of my platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, PSVR and now the Switch. Borderlands has its cult following and always had a steady fan base, and I assume the same will be true for the Switch port. Luckily, things are looking good, especially since 2K made the wise decision to include everything in one complete release. It also marks a good entry point if, for whatever reason, you've never played one or all of these games. When playing through all three of the games on the Switch, it became clear to me that they have aged incredibly well — and relatively poorly at the same time.

It's important to realize that the first Borderlands title was released more than 10 years ago, with Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel following in the four years afterward. The first Borderlands received a proper remaster, which is included in this BLC, but that means we're looking at games that are at least six years old and have mostly implemented incremental changes to the formula. That isn't inherently bad, and the visuals still look very passable thanks to their cel-shaded style, but the gameplay and structure haven't aged perfectly. It's still frantic and anarchic fun, but much of it feels very restricted and formulaic. Individual games differ slightly, but overall, they share similar systems and gameplay mechanics.

Borderlands felt very fresh in 2009. It had good shooting mechanics, a writing style that didn't give a damn, and classic RPG systems all wrapped up in attractive comic visuals. It's still a good entry point, but it's an underwhelming one. As in the other titles, we are a vault hunter who's searching for a famous vault filled with loot and ancient technology on the planet of Pandora. Finding it isn't easy but can be deadly. We venture forth in an effort to find and open the vault while lending a helping hand to everyone around us in the hopes of inching closer to our grand prize.

All of my nostalgia aside, Borderlands is still a fun game from start to finish, but its flaws feel more daunting than they used to. Environments are bland and look repetitive over time, which isn't helped by the fact that the gameplay and quest structure become equally repetitive. The-often criticized final boss has also gotten a makeover, but it's still not a remarkable send-off. Despite that, there's still a lot of loot to find and guns to fire, but it all can feel pointless and random since it fails to properly move you along in the promise of seeing exciting new things. If you can get a friend to tag along on- or offline, Borderlands is still a blast to play.

Borderlands 2 is where things get interesting, but it's far from what most would consider "great" by today's standard. Undoubtedly the fan favorite of the bunch, Borderlands 2 made a few considerable leaps in the story and characters, creating a much more cohesive and interesting world. First and foremost, the inclusion of the cruel but somewhat intriguing Handsome Jack as the antagonist gave the game more structure. Sure, the writing is still bonkers, but there's been a considerable leap in the presentation and design. Gameplay was mostly the same, with some obvious improvements: new characters, a ton of weapons, and more interesting boss fights. Otherwise, the gameplay loop stays the same, and that may be either good or bad, depending on how much you like it. Most encounters are similar, and you have limited options to engage with the environment. You run into invisible walls every so often, there's no real cover system, and you'll find a million guns along the way. There's a certain excitement in getting rare and powerful loot, but if it's all you do for hours on end, you may grow tired of it. If we take BLC as a whole, that is even more apparent, since the gameplay systems in all three titles don't differ much.

As the only non-sequel entry, The Pre-Sequel has often been dubbed a Borderlands 2.5, and that isn't necessarily wrong. The game feels like it's an excuse to have Handsome Jack involved in another Borderlands game. I'd be lying if I said it didn't work. While not a remarkable step forward, The Pre-Sequel can be a lot of fun, but it also shows that Borderlands was ripe for more than additional characters and story content wrapped up in the same old mechanics and visuals. It's nice to have Claptrap and a clone of Handsome Jack as playable characters, but they always felt tacked on. With the introduction of the moon as a location, including low gravity and oxygen mask shenanigans, it felt like Borderlands 2 with minor gameplay modifiers. That's fine on its own, but as the third edition in the BLC, you'll probably grow tired of going through similar tasks and missions with the same gameplay, except in reduced gravity.

The value of the collection likely depends on your fondness for the Borderlands series. All three games are still fun, both in short bursts and longer stretches. Since this is a straight port, nothing in the three titles has really changed, but if you have fun with looter shooters, Borderlands is the king of that genre. The included titles may not be perfect, but Borderlands Legendary Collection is a compelling value because it contains three games with dozens of hours of gameplay. The collection also includes most of the series' DLC, which makes it an almost mind-numbing amount of content that's ready to be played cooperatively both on- and offline, either docked or on the go. The Switch port was handled quite excellently, but you still have to deal with compromises when comparing them to other iterations.

The best news:  Borderlands 2 runs miles better on the Switch than it did on the PS Vita. All three titles manage to run 720p/1080p when playing handheld/docked at 30 FPS, and yes, the frame rate is one of the compromises that had to be made. I don't have the means to measure exact data, but I didn't notice any noticeable stutter or hitches in the three games. It's also completely integrated with Nintendo Switch online, so you'll have the same options to play online with other Switch players anytime and anywhere. It also includes voice chat out of the box and without the need to use Nintendo's proprietary mobile app, so there is no immediate disadvantage to playing this title on the Switch except perhaps for the frame rate and resolution.

Jumping into the Handsome Collection on my PS4 Pro for comparison, the higher resolution and frame rates are immediately apparent, but I never felt they were detrimental to the quality or enjoyment of BLC on the Switch. The Switch tends to take a while longer to load in assets, so pop-in is more frequent and noticeable on the Switch, but not to a degree that's intrusive or affecting the actual gameplay. From a technical standpoint, Borderlands on the Switch, independent of which version you go for, runs as well as one could've expected with the added benefit of portability, and that seems like a fair trade-off in this case.

Apart from the obvious portability, the Switch version has a few more minor additions that people have come to expect, such as gyroscopic aim, which I didn't use a lot. Compared to other titles like The Outer Worlds that recently released on the Switch, there is no way to limit gyroscopic aiming to only apply when aiming down sights; it's either on or off, but it works as advertised. HD Rumble has also been implemented, but as in many other ports, I didn't find its implementation to be superior or different than on other platforms. At the end of the day, this is pretty much the Borderlands that you can play elsewhere, only with some minor tweaks.

Borderlands Legendary Collection is exactly what it needs to be: a port of the first three Borderlands titles for the Switch. They run and look great, but they come with expected compromises, like a capped frame rate and a few issues with pop-in. While there's no hiding that the Borderland titles are on the older side, they are still fun to play with friends online. If you're up for a way to play these titles on the go or want to experience them for the first time, the Switch versions are definitely up to the task, and that is what matters in the end.

Score: 8.2/10

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