Borderlands 2 Finally Brings Pandora-Chic to OS X
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
If you're a PC game, there are two very quick ways to get into my heart: Have robust character customization, and be Mac compatible. I'll gladly take one without the other, but if you give me both I'll never let you go. This is precisely why even though Borderlands 2 might feel like old news in the gaming world since it came out in October, I really had to talk about last week's release of Borderlands 2 for Mac.
Borderlands 2 is the sequel to the wildly popular Borderlands (obviously), and it takes place in a world that has been summarized quite tidily by the Lore in a Minute series (which should be your BFF if you're prone to skipping cutscenes and lazily skimming codexes like I do from time to time):
Think Saints Row 3 meets the Fallout-style apocalypse, then move that into space and you're close. You can pick from a handful of classes to play (I picked the uber-stylish Siren class of course) and then proceed to shoot the hell out of anything that so much as looks at you funny. It has an excellent soundtrack, an impressive aesthetic, and it's an all-around fun and over-the-top experience... But does it have what it takes to satisfy a picky fashionista gamer? Let's find out:
You know me, I'll always say that avatar customization is key to almost any game, but it's absolutely crucial in games that offer multiplayer. It would be very easy to mix up two characters of the same class otherwise, and it would spoil a lot of the sense of personality that the world of Borderlands 2 has. Fashion in this game is an ideal balance, in my opinion. It's not an afterthought, but it's not the focus of what you're doing, either. You can select different hair/heads styles and choose your favorite color scheme, starting with a small pool that grows as you find or earn more options, and that's... really all there is to it. Borderlands 2's customization options are far from elaborate, but they are perfect for what they need to be. The ability to make something your own is very important to making that experience work, and this game pulls it off without getting carried away or bogged down with too many unnecessary details. I'll admit I would like to be able to change my body armor, but this game's not really about your armor-- It's about you and your guns, and boy are there a lot of guns.
That's why I can't just do a straightforward review of fashion in Borderlands 2: There's just enough to keep me happy.... and more importantly, to keep me focussed on the game itself.
So enough with the fashion chatter, let's get to something with a little more substance: Does the Mac version hold up and can game-loving Mac owners get their hopes up for more OS X compatible titles? Strap yourself in because I'm about to get mildly geeky, just for you...
Historically, Mac compatible games have been pretty limited (by markets, hardware, software... take your pick) compared to what's available for Windows, but things have been opening up dramatically in the past few years. In what could arguably be called the best news for Mac gamers since the Intel Mac's debut, Epic Games announced in September that their mega-popular Unreal Engine 3 (which countless popular games rely on) would now support OS X. Unreal Engine is behind way more big-name games than you might realize if you're not an avid follower of these kinds of things. If you've wondered for example why Bioware's Dragon Age games are always Mac and PC compatible while their Mass Effect games are always PC only, that's because Mass Effect runs on Unreal while Dragon Age runs on Bioware's own internal engine. The long and short of this is that one of the big roadblocks that kept many developers from producing Mac compatible games is now out of the way-- which is reinforced by the Mac release of Borderlands 2 (another Unreal Engine-based game). Blah blah blah, tl;dr, right?
As a gamer/Mac user/stubborn person, I've tried a lot of ports. A lot. Lately it seems like most of them have been from Transgaming (who have handled both Dragon Age and The Sims 3 franchises), so it was something of a surprise to see the familiar face of Aspyr behind Borderlands 2's Mac version instead. And honestly... They've done an excellent job. This is easily one of the smoothest ports I've ever played, especially when it comes to an action-oriented game. I was able to max my graphics and maintain a lovely framerate with nearly no hiccups (on a mid-level year-old iMac), without a single crash or glitch or irritation popping up. It all just worked seamlessly like it should.
Patches and new DLC may take 1-2 weeks to be brought to the Mac version after they're released for other platforms, but this isn't unreasonable (any PS3 Skyrim players who still can't get the Dawnguard DLC will tell you what unreasonable is). The only real downside is that in between patches like this the normally cross-platform multiplayer will limit Mac users to playing only with other Mac users. I'll admit that's not ideal, but it's a small sacrifice to make to run the game natively.
The one thing that I can't speak to is how Borderlands 2's Mac incarnation would handle with a controller. XBox 360 controllers have sort of become the default controllers for PC games if you care to use them, but so far XBox controller support for Macs is hit and miss. You can try this unofficial driver (which unfortunately doesn't support my off-brand controller), but if controller support is a must then the Mac version of Borderlands 2 is not the best choice for you.
If you want something fun and bold, whether you're using Windows or OS X, Borderlands 2 is definitely worth looking in to and it might just be the perfect way to blast away your post- (or pre-) holiday stress. And Bootcamp users don't fret, those who bought Borderlands 2 via Steam already have access to both the Mac and PC versions. If you're purely a Mac user-- vote with your wallet! Show your support for games like this so we'll be able to look forward to a much more level playing field in the future.Tweet
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.