Is Borderlands Enhanced worth your time?

You can wear a macaroni hat, which is obviously a plus.

The Enhanced edition of Borderlands updates a 10-year-old game, making it look a little sparklier but also bringing in some nice quality-of-life features from Borderlands 2. Is that enough to make it worth 30 hours of your life in 2019? Especially if you played the original version way back when, and the superior Borderlands 2 is sitting right there? 

If you're as excited about Borderlands 3 as I am then the answer is probably yes, but let's have a look at why.

There's tons of loot (but you'll probably stick to a few guns)

Going back to Borderlands today, after playing both the sequel and the pre-sequel, it feels very different. For starters Borderlands is gushing with loot, piling gear on top of you even more readily than the later games. But at the same time it's a shooter where a handful of decent weapons will carry you through most of the campaign—there are so many guns but most of them are irrelevant unless you run out of ammo for your favorite.

That's exacerbated in the Enhanced edition because a new character will start the game with two of the six new legendary weapons for free. (They're the orange-rarity guns with "Gearbox" as manufacturer.) 

The new legendaries also drop regularly.

It feels like the loot drops have been cranked up even more, but it's still your level that's most important. In Borderlands 2 you rotate weapons in and out like they're golf clubs, but in the first game if a particular quest is kicking your ass it's probably because you need to go back and finish all the sidequests in your log, not because you need to get a new nine-iron.

Which, in this analogy, is an SMG that electrocutes people.

Leveling up is important, but it isn't quite as fun as it is in the sequels. Each character has three skill trees, as they do in all these games, but the options within them are more limited. There are fewer potential crazy builds to find by tinkering with the options. Borderlands 2 felt more like Diablo 2 in that sense, with skills that meant two players could have totally different experiences with the same class. 

The FOV slider is the best Enhanced addition

On a technical level the graphical improvements are nice—better antialiasing, improved lights and shadows—but given that it's a brown wasteland inhabited by cartoons with thick black outlines, high-resolution textures aren't as noticeable as they would be in a typical 10-year-old game.

The FOV slider, however, makes a huge difference. It was possible to mod one into the original, but it would reset when changing maps or using certain abilities and was a huge pain.

Claptrap as seen at an FOV of 120. Note also a new texture for the moon.

Even as someone who doesn't usually mess with FOV much, I can see Borderlands benefits from a wider one. All those open spaces with packs of skags flanking you from the sides—I'd forgotten how many hours you spend fighting skags—are better suited to a much higher FOV. Going back to the original for comparison's sake it feels tight and claustrophobic in a way that might fit a horror game but feels off in an open-world shooter.

The quality-of-life improvements sand down Borderlands' rough spots with industrial intensity. The quest markers and minimap (which can be set to either auto-rotate or remain static, with north always upward) make the twisty areas less frustrating, and conveniences like automatically picking up money and being able to buy max ammo with a single click are welcome.

There's one change I don't love, and that's the inventory. Unequipped items are no longer a list of names, but full-size images. It makes for a lot more scrolling, as if you have to flick through a catalogue every time you want a different rocket launcher.

As a result, if you play Borderlands as a co-op hangout shooter, the one player in your group who lives to compare guns will slow you down even more than usual. 

That's a lot of wasted space.

(On the subject of co-op I've had no problems with it, either hosting or joining other games. I've seen plenty of complaints from others, but mostly on PS4. If it's not performing great for you, try making sure everyone's got the same framerate cap. Oh, and turn on push-to-talk. Teamspeak is set to always-on by default, which is wrong and bad.)

It's nowhere near as silly as the sequels

Borderlands has always been a game for two audiences. For some players the core loop is about upgrading and collecting guns, and for them rebalanced loot tables, new legendaries, a clumsy inventory, and the chest full of leveled loot you can open with gold keys (which you start the game with 75 of) are a serious problem. But for those of us who play Borderlands as a game whose core loop is about putting bullets in bad guys—or running them over, setting them on fire, and throwing grenades that steal their health as a final insult—none of that really matters. The Enhanced edition gets a thumbs-up.

Comparing it to Borderlands 2 though, there's something no amount of anti-aliasing can smooth over—the tone. Borderlands' cartoonish art style was famously a late development, and the sense of humor seems to have been one as well. It's there in fits and starts, but compared to Borderlands 2 it has a bleaker, quieter atmosphere. 

Pandora seems more like a frontier, where an NPC you like will die without it being a big emotional moment. They just hang him upside-down from a ceiling fan, like a grisly child's toy over a crib. Meanwhile, the fact that most quest dialogue is text means that you're not being barraged with jokes nearly as often.

Angel's appearance has changed, and her new look's patched into Borderlands 2 as well.

The sense of humor is a big part of the appeal of Borderlands 2 for me, but I appreciate the difference. They can feel like very similar games when you're opening the same crates and shooting psychos and pressing F to set off abilities, especially now that several features of Borderlands 2 have been backdoored into the first game, but that sense of Pandora as a wild place, untamed and dangerous, has been worth remembering.

By the time the DLC is throwing zombies at you that's gone out the window, of course. But for a while it's a very different vibe.

I just wish I didn't have to spend so many hours shooting skags. If you're new to the series Borderlands 2 is still the place to start, and then after that you should play Tales from the Borderlands. But after that, try Borderlands Enhanced.

Of course, if you played it back when it was new and have a hankering for the Classic Coke version of Borderlands, definitely play the Enhanced edition rather than the one just labelled Borderlands GOTY in your Steam library. And crank the FOV as high as it goes when you do.