Borderlands is a futuristic science fiction first person shooter with role playing elements from Gearbox Software, who previously created the Brothers in Arms series of games. The game seeks to move FPS games on from the evolutionary cul-de-sac some people believe them to currently inhabit.
Borderlands is set on Pandora, a planet at the edge of the galaxy where colonists have been drawn by the expectation of vast mineral wealth. However, when the planet turns out to be barren, the rich leave, and the poor are abandoned to chaos and lawlessness: a futuristic wild frontier like the American old west. The remaining settlers elect to try to find and exploit abandoned alien technology as their route to getting off this forsaken planet. Pandora's vicious indigenous life-forms decide that the settlers look like an appealing snack.
In this hostile and dangerous environment, you play as a mercenary treasure hunter. And here the RPG elements of the game come into play - to establish the trust of the locals, you have to undertake missions to win their favour. These may be collecting or hunting missions.... and while this aspect of the game is similar to role playing games, the focus is very much on real time 3D action. The game continues in this vein: there is a main story to progress through, but there are side missions that can be followed at any time to help you gain items and experience. Experience enables players to level up, RPG style - so the game has no difficulty levels, instead featuring a scalable challenge system. If a particular battle is too tough for you, back track, complete some side-quests and then try again with improved abilities and equipment.
When it comes to equipment, Borderlands has another surprise up its sleeve - a truly phenomenal amount of different weapons. A weapons "manufacturing" engine uses a randomise feature to create truly mind numbing numbers of combinations - over 600,000 different weapons, including handguns, machine guns and sniper rifles. But also with alien technology, plasma rifles and rocket launchers too. Players will always be able to search out bigger, badder and better weapons. And to avoid screeds of stats to tell you what a weapon does - they are colour coded to give you an at-a-glance idea of their capabilities.
Just as the weapons of Borderlands are randomised, so is the terrain. Main locations such as towns are fixed, but the landscape between them is generated just for the game you are playing.
Borderlands also has a multi-player co-operative mode, in which, any experience earned by completing missions is shared between team members equally, because everyone's skills will be required to successfully complete a mission.