My Gap Year: Borderlands and Fallout

For more than five years, my life as a gamer has consisted of me playing a combination of Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, Borderlands, and Borderlands 2.  In terms of hours, Borderlands is likely at the top of that chart with most of the time spent in the General Knoxx DLC with my co-op buddy Pete, taking part in what we’d affectionately term ‘Crawmie Runs’.  We’d do nothing but drive to Deep Fathoms and head into Crawmerax’s lair, kill him, check his drop for decent loot (nothing, as you undoubtedly know yourself), chuck everything else over the cliff (everything, as you undoubtedly know yourself) and then head back out and in again to repeat this pattern for hours on end.  I’ve played through the full story at least fifteen times – and by that I mean five complete restarts, going through playthrough one, two, and two-and-a-half – and maxed the achievements on XBL and Steam, so it’s not just about whoring for loot. I do genuinely enjoy playing it.

As far as gameplay itself is concerned, where I’m actually doing something, the top slot would undoubtedly go to Fallout 3.  The immersion that I found when I first played it was unprecedented.  For the first time since UFO: Enemy Unknown, I actually gave some serious shits about my own character and those around me, and was devastated whenever an outcome didn’t go in my/their favour.  I uncovered all the locations, made sure to explore each one thoroughly for fear of missing out on an important diary entry or a scrap of paper telling the last few moments of someone’s life.  I’d hack every single terminal and comb through all emails, intranet comms, journals and even scour the corrupted files, in case they turned up something that allowed me to follow someone’s stream of consciousness and understand those who came before me. The tiny little things that appeared pointless and boring to others were what drove my passion, and it was those fragments of others’ stories that breathed life into an otherwise desolate backdrop.

Sadly, my love for those two primary titles has hindered me as a gamer.  When I was afforded a little time in my life back in the summer of 2013, I looked at my shelf of unopened titles and lifted each one down, turning them over in my hands (and head), trying to decide which one to play first.  The more I considered each one, the less enthusiastic I became about them.  “What if I start this one, put twenty or thirty hours into it and then realise it’s just not going to pick up?” – the thought of losing so much of my precious time became so haunting that I ultimately wasted more time worrying than I would have done had I just picked one and ran with it.  Ultimately, with my two-week window of opportunity starting to close, I instead opted to play through Fallout New Vegas again, except this time it would be on PC and would be modded to hell.

I spent perhaps two days trawling through Nexus Mods looking at all the various texture packs on offer, along with camera and lighting effects, and ended up downloading more gigabytes of mod files than actual game.  It looked incredible… well, as incredible as anything from Bethesda running through Gamebryo possibly could… and so I set off to make my way through that familiar rusty terrain and live my life as the courier all over again.  I played it differently this time around; rather than use my typical play-style of ‘be as good as you can, but don’t take any shit’, I opted for more of a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude and found that it made for a much more exciting experience.  And a much shorter one.  By the time my little window of gaming freedom came to a close, I’d been ready to head into the main part of the story for days, but avoided doing so because I remember from when I played it on release that this meant I’d be finished in around ten more hours.

Instead, I used the console commands to give myself 10,000 rounds of .50 calibre explosive ammo for my Anti-Materiel Rifle and went on a killing spree where I’d head back to the quarry to kill as many deathclaws as I could, vanish into the wilderness to take down those annoying cazadores, and then headshot all of Caesar’s men at Cottonwood Cove from high up on the lookout.  There was no real goal, other than to seek out as many ‘red blips’ as I could, and take them all down from a great distance without ever resorting to using V.A.T.S., and I had a lot of fun doing so.  It was utterly pointless, however, and that’s the problem.  That’s always been the problem.

Even when I’d exhausted myself of headshots (yes, it’s possible), I found myself looking over my unopened games and, instead of peeling the blister packaging off one of my never-before-touched titles, I jumped straight back into Borderlands 2 and started messing around in ‘Ultimate Uber Sexy And Genuinely Difficult Honestly Mode’ or whatever it’s called.  Except this time I did so in glorious 3D using TriDef rather than relying on Nvidia’s own engine, and it was superb.  It may have taken a little time to get used to the depth of field, as I cranked it up a little bit more than was necessary, but it made for some pretty exciting gameplay, even though I literally did absolutely piss all. For a few hours, anyway.  But that was months ago now, and I haven’t managed to commit to anything else since.

So here I am, the editor of a gaming website… the guy at the helm who should be completely immersed in everything that the industry has to offer, yet whenever life throws a few hours at me and tells me that I can relax a while and get back into gaming, I immediately reach for Fallout or Borderlands.  It’s why my Steam library shows zero hours for most of the games therein, and why the shelf behind me in my office is crammed full of unopened titles.  It’s why I still haven’t played through any of the Gothic series, and why that smug dictator on the front of my Tropico series mocks me whenever I look towards those nasty Aviator shades.  It’s why Rage has never been out its box, Ego Draconis has never spread its wings, and why I still plug my ears whenever someone starts talking about BioShock at one of the GamingLives barbecues in case they spoil the twist for me.

It’s why, for the sake of my own love of gaming, I need to forget that Borderlands and Fallout exist for the duration of 2014… because I need to make sure what whatever time I do ultimately get, it will be spent exploring something new and exciting rather than going through the motions.  Unless Fallout 4 comes out, of course.

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Pete Pete says:

    Must not tempt Markuz back to Borderlands… Must not tempt Markuz back to Borderlands… Must not tempt Markuz back to Borderlands… Must not tempt Markuz back to Borderlands…

  2. Kris Kris says:

    Ha, we must all be guilty of this. I was with Mass Effect and Total War at one point. The problem is you miss out on the little gems that nobody makes much noise about – Tropico is definitely worth a gander, and did you ever try the kickstarter funded ‘Expeditions: Conquistador’ ? I always thought that was a great game reminiscent of XCOM. Also, it might be time for Mass Effect? Vampire the Masquerade? Basically I’m going to send you a list of all my favourite games ;D

  3. pikysek says:

    I feel you precious editor, there’s just something about only couple of games which left us wondering about them after we stop playing and still we’re in them even in real world. Looking forward 2014 to show something unforgettable once more.

  4. RobThom says:

    “…a combination of Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, …”

    Might I suggest giving tale of two wastelands a try.
    Its one of the few examples in life where you can have your cake and eat it too.

  5. Lorna Lorna says:

    I have the same problem, but part of the reason with me, is that it is comfortable. I don’t want to take the risk on something new, as my time is so precious. I have to know damn well that I’ll like it, so the unplayed stuff invariably ends up back on the dusty ‘to play’ pile, while I reach for the old faves.

    Love the idea of a gap year though. Certainly a gutsy move, but the question is, will you stick to it… especially in the face of Borderlands coming out for the PS Vita this year :)

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