A Game of Two Halves

gameoftwohalves1I can’t remember when I finally gave in to temptation and began to play Borderlands, but it was several years ago. It must have been, because Mark and I were able to pour hours into knocking down the Steam achievements for the game’s Moxxi’s Underdome DLC uninterrupted (barring broadband fuck ups). Nowadays I’m lucky to be able to pull the lid off a biro without the world caving in and my attention being stolen or demanded.

Back then, I hit around about the halfway mark, and would have gone on to complete the game in jig time, had the siren call (no pun intended) of the game’s arguably most attractive feature pulled me down to the depths of game procrastination: GUNS! Lots of guns. My life on Pandora quickly became nothing but well-trodden loot-crate runs, obsessive vending machine checking, endless stat comparisons, and more. Some days I got little actual gaming done, preferring instead to spend my time buried in my inventory, rummaging and shuffling around a backpack full of revolvers (my go-to weapon), painstakingly selecting the best one (or three) to equip. I’d usually be loath to sell any of the nicer ones, preferring instead to leave them in my bank at the Underdome. Until I filled it up with revolvers and ran out of space. Oops.


And then I stopped. Life stuff happened and kept happening and I got less and less time, not to mention that my gaming laptop quickly became unreliable, leaving the game to slide into the quagmire of my Steam library and back onto my ludicrous ‘to-play’ pile.

Fast forward to last month. I came up with an idea for an article called ‘Finish Them!’, in which I would write about my attempts, over the course of a month, to complete as many half-played titles as I could. It is actually a novel way of using a self-imposed time-constraint to force myself to get my arse in gear and complete as many games as possible – many of which need finished because I can’t hold the spoilers back forever. After making an exhaustive list (and checking it twice), and then typically spending an age coming to a fucking decision about just where to start this seemingly impossible project, Borderlands and her grungy but loveable quartet of vault hunters pulled me back.

gameoftwohalves3Things did not get off to a flying start. In fact, they pretty much crashed and burned. After roughly thirty minutes of play, in which I spent most of my time refamiliarising myself with the controls and weapons, including some cursory tinkering with my backpack contents, my laptop (rather spitefully, I think) blue-screened. I decided to bail out and play on the lounge TV using a small desktop PC. I faffed with a Steam installation and login and then loaded up the game… only to find that my level 31 Siren had gone AWOL. I quit out, reloaded, and was faced with the same thing. Oh, there were characters there alright… but they were all Mark’s. Every single one.

Somehow his saves had crept across into my Steam profile and overwritten mine. In a panic I bailed back to my laptop, only to discover that the fucking Steam cloud save thing had also overwritten my local saves. To say that I was both ashen and beyond anger would be an understatement. I think I went past rage and into a dejected slump. With a level 31 character gone and 60+ hours invested, there was no fucking way that I was starting over. I was prepared then and there to write the game off, much to Mark’s horror. After trying for ages to salvage the situation, Mark solved it. Windows 7 has a nifty feature in which you can restore a previous version of a file. Making sure to disable cloud saves first, that’s what we did and, to our surprise, it worked. I had my Siren, my Jacobs shotgun, and, more importantly, my revolvers back.


After giving the lounge PC the side-eye (and a secret kicking), I took a breath and set to work (after a quick check of the nearest vending machines, obviously). Unfortunately, I had no real idea of where I was, what I had done, where I had been headed and what my plans had been. With well over a year, perhaps even two, since I had played it, it was almost like starting from scratch. Characters had been forgotten, crate runs had holes in them where the muscle memory failed utterly, leaving me stuck on a New Haven rooftop with only a vague sense of where to go next, and partially finished quests had become cold jigsaws that I had no passion for. It was a strange, unpleasant feeling that was hard to shake. It felt like that initial enjoyment and ebullience years before had waned and I was left stumbling around trying to recapture the magic.

Part of the reason it was tough, I think, was that I didn’t make it easy on myself. With the aforementioned article in mind, my goal was to get to the end game asap, so I was ignoring all side-quests and charging through the main story. And it is often in those odds and ends of sidequests that the real gold in many games can be found. Much of my enjoyment of Oblivion, for example, has been derived from the sidequests and guild quests – the Oblivion gates can get to fuck, seriously.

gameoftwohalves5Gradually, the more I played with my weapons and tinkered with my inventory, bank, and more than a few vending machines, the happier I became, and as the bandit body count racked up things began to all click back into a happier place… but never quite as neatly. It still felt a little odd, distant, even, and I felt like I wasn’t really connecting with the game the way I had previously. And that ending… well. That wasn’t worth the massive fucking wait. I had been forewarned about how crap it was, but I hadn’t really believed it – I mean you don’t want to, do you, not after 60+ hours. And then I got there. To think ‘Is that it? Where’s the real ending?’ is never a good thing, but hey, at least now Borderlands now gets to join such illustrious company as Lords of Time on my ‘are you serious?’ shelf.

With the game technically done – I still had all the DLC and a plethora of sidequests to finish some rainy day – I sat back to take stock. It was truly a game divided, but through no fault of the game. The hideously long gap in the middle was a real hindrance to reconnecting with it. Memory, patterns, habits, and haunts fade or fall from favour, and it is hard to remember or appreciate all the things that made it special. What were the funny bits of dialogue again? Where was that cool place with that red crate on the ledge? Where the fuck is Tannis again? What was the name of that place with the thing?


I’m pretty certain that, had I spent far more time with it, I would have re-forged a meaningful relationship. Had I not concentrated solely on getting to the end and, instead, poodled around, running over spiderants and developing some new crate runs, I would have fallen back in love. And the beauty of it is that I still can. I may have finished the game out of necessity, but Pandora is still there, along with all the DLC and remaining sidequests. And I should take heart, because while the second act of Borderlands was colder than Sledge’s corpse, I still had time in which to build some decent memories over the last few days. Kicking arse through the Salt Flats and then enclave after encampment, and so many beastie caves with just two revolvers and my faithful Jacobs shotgun was pretty awesome. Blasting those alien things from the sky with a helix rocket launcher was pretty damn cool, too, and doing it with a chunky-as-fuck Maliwan revolver with fire elemental damage was even better.

And memories really can make a game. If I allow myself to properly, slowly, sink back into the finest and dirtiest quests and places that Pandora and her inhabitants have to offer, then I can stack up enough memories to make a difference – to heal that mental divide. Only next time, I won’t wait so damn long – I’ll be back quicker than Tannis on the crazy train. And that’s damn quick.

Last five articles by Lorna



  1. Chris Toffer says:

    I never have finished Borderlands. I want to see all the side quests, to take my time and appreciate it but that alone is a task of massive undertaking. I was playing through it with Zero because again I don’t want to be in a world that vast alone. But he buggered off when Borderlands 2 came out.

    The actual game itself doesn’t strike a chord with me well enough to warrant me dropping everything else to do it either. Which is a shame but I’ve never really been ones for open worlds and tons of loot without a massive input to the single player narrative. This always felt like an MMO they changed half-way through to me. Might just be my natural aversion to MMO’s that does it.

    I can see why people love it and if I had nothing else to play I probably would find a place for it in my library but as it stands it will likely be an untouched series for me

  2. Bear says:

    I’m always up for a bit of Pandora. Happy to jump in and co-op from time to time on PC ;) no excuse necessary!

    Just don’t let me drive is all!

  3. Stu Stu says:

    With backwards compatibility having arrived on Xbox One I’m already eyeing my old X360 achievement lists and the games I never completed but meant to. It was nice to read that I’m not the only one that struggles to come back to a game after a period of time has passed and get the same kick. Usually I restart afresh but that then means treading over ground that although initially forgotten soon comes flooding back and then it just feels tedious (as someone that rarely re-watches movies or replays linear games) because I’ve already done that and I don’t have that feeling of progression.

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