Borderlands: Legendary Collection (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 14.06.2020

Review for Borderlands: Legendary Collection on Nintendo Switch

The Borderlands series may only be coming to Nintendo hardware for the first time now in 2020, but this is certainly not the first time that it comes to Tegra-based hardware. Borderlands 2 was first shown as running on Tegra 3 hardware all the way back in 2012, then released for the Tegra K1-powered Nvidia Shield tablet in 2016 where it ran modestly well, or at least better than on the PSVita, where it was just a bit too much for the handheld. It has also been available on the Tegra X1-based Shield TV for some time now, which is essentially an Android-based, non-handheld Switch with higher CPU and GPU clocks, and a bit less RAM. So there was no doubt that the Switch could hope to run those games well, but it took some time before anyone poured some effort into developing native ports to Nintendo's hybrid system. It's time to see how it all turned out, from the perspective of a first time player on the Switch!

Borderlands: Legendary Collection includes 2 SKUs encompassing three products. One is Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition, and the other is Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, which includes both Borderlands 2: Game of the Year Edition and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! Ultimate Edition. Both SKUs can be bought separately from the eShop (but not at retail where the Legendary Collection is the only option,) but the Pre-Sequel and second game come bundled together, no matter what. All comes with their associated DLC packs, but more on that later. The original Borderlands is an open-world, first-person shooter with loot-based gameplay, and a good dose of RPG elements mixed in, making it rather unique in its own right, especially at the time of its original release. In the three games, the player assumes the role of a Vault Hunter, searching for 'The Vault' in the first game, or 'Another Vault' in the sequels, said to hold great treasures. Borderlands is set on planet Pandora, a former mining operation now abandoned and inhabited mostly by bandits and the dangerous fauna.

Progress towards the goal of finding the vault is guided by objective driven missions. The game feeds missions both tied to the main story or optional ones, which give rewards in experience, money and sometimes and extra item, such as a weapon, a shield, a grenade mod, etc. The original has four main playable characters, slightly customisable in appearance and each with their own character class, which give them a proclivity towards using certain weapon types more efficiently as well as specific class abilities like the soldier's turret for example. Levelling up gives ability points, which can be invested in a skill tree that expands the character's proficiency. It feels very much like an RPG in its mechanics, but plays like a first-person adventure shooter. The atmosphere leans towards humour, sometimes crude even, which can be a bit cringy, but this is all a matter of taste, and some people will like it more than others. The flow of the game in the original Borderlands does feel a bit repetitive due to the nature of mission objectives, and the scenery being a bit samey between areas, but the gameplay itself is so fun that it's still worth playing - and besides, it's best to start there before trying out the much improved sequels.

Screenshot for Borderlands: Legendary Collection on Nintendo Switch

Borderlands 2 expands a lot on the original. It is still very much the same loot-based game mixed with RPG elements, except further refined. Such refinements include a new badass rank system, which as the player accomplishes certain tasks, such as collecting or killing a certain amount of a given thing, rewards with badass medals that can be invested in permanent boosts to shield recharge time, gun damage, chance of dealing elemental damage at random, etc. Those bonuses are not much -it's only a few percents increase to the character's base stats, and these can be turned off should they prove to still be too much of an advantage to those who crave a great challenge. Mission objectives are also a lot more varied and interwoven in the story and lore of the game, whereas in the first one it kind of felt disconnected from the story itself. Here, missions usually don't even unveil all of their objectives from the outset, as new ones are added as events unfold, so as to not spoil the outcome. In fact the world itself and its characters are presented much better.

Cut-scenes barely existed in the original, but here they are everywhere. Character design is way more refined and varied, and the alien world of Pandora is a lot prettier to look at, not because this game is technically more impressive (in fact it's more of the same), but because the art itself is a lot better. The number of important NPCs that play a role in the main story has also been increased. In terms of presentation, the environments do seem to have received a lot more attention to detail, and everything looks less mono-chromatic than in the original. Even the game's interface has received a complete overhaul that is way more "in your face." The original was over the top, but this one pushes things even further. It is a great sequel that improves on practically everything the original built. It is also a lot more balanced, which means it is also more difficult, or at least it came across as such to this reviewer playing the trilogy for the first time on Switch. The original felt like a cakewalk by comparison, with few gun-switching required, but here it's not rare to run out of ammo, or to have to switch between weapons when one does not work as well as it should. It feels more intense as a result, which depending on the player is not a bad thing.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, as not-so-subtly hinted at by the title, takes place in-between the first two games, a few years before the start of the second one in fact. The action this time is set not on Pandora, but first on Helios, the space station orbiting the planet's moon, and then for the rest of the game on Elpis, which is the moon itself. This time, the player is on Handsome Jack's side, but the goal is still to hunt for a vault. Much of it re-uses the gameplay cues of Borderlands 2, down to the identical user interface and badass rank system. The main difference really is in the setting. Being on the moon, which itself doesn't have an atmosphere, air becomes another resource to watch out for while exploring its surface, and reduced gravity makes this one play very differently. Despite this though, The Pre-Sequel! feels like an expansion to the base game that eventually turned into its own separate project, even if in truth this was developed mostly by 2K Australia, and was therefore always its own thing.

Screenshot for Borderlands: Legendary Collection on Nintendo Switch

All three games come complete with all of their DLC, except any DLC that was not part of The Handsome Collection. This means that, in the case of Borderlands 2, the campaign Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary released in 2019, which links the events of Borderlands 2 and Borderlands 3, is not included. No word on whether or not this will be made available down the line, since there's no option visible to download any DLC for any of those games, since they are otherwise as complete as can be. Make no mistake though, even without this, each of those standalone releases are packed to the brim with content. From skin packs to extra playable characters with their unique abilities, or extra campaigns adding new environments, there is a lot to sample in here. Given the rather reasonable price that the trilogy pack costs, which may even getting further discounted down the line, this represents a ton of excellent playtime to be had. Online play with up to three friends or random people only serves to expand that enjoyment further.

In a wonderful twist, this even includes… voice chat! No need for a separate device and third party service like Discord, just plug-in a headset in the headphone jack, and that's it, just like the Switch version of Fortnite. A great effort indeed! Take notes Capcom! However due to the low number of people who actually know this is supported here, finding randoms who do use it is almost impossible. Had Nintendo made voice chat a system-level feature, this wouldn't have happened. Quick message shortcuts are available to communicate without voice chats, but these are not a solution to every situation. At least, between friends who can agree to use voice chat while playing, the option exists and this is all too rare on Switch so... bravo! It's even possible for two players playing split screen on one system to join other players' online game, so long as both have an associated Switch profile saved on the system. Neat! On a pure technical level, all three games run brilliantly on the Switch. They run at a locked 3FPS 99.9% of the time, maybe a bit less so in the latter two but performance overall is great. Basic 2-player split-screen gameplay also didn't seem to affect performance, but perhaps intense fights in such a configuration would trigger some frame drops, although this wasn't tested.

Screenshot for Borderlands: Legendary Collection on Nintendo Switch

The resolution for all three titles is 1080p docked, and 720p in handheld mode, and not anti-aliasing is in use, which was certainly done in the name of hitting that rock-solid 30FPS performance. This does make those thick cel-shaded black outlines on objects look jagged if playing on a large screen and up-close, but in handheld mode, this does lend the presentation a very clean look, devoid of any ounce of blurriness. There were no signs of dynamic resolution being in use, except perhaps on specific non-gameplay screens in The Pre-Sequel where strangely things looked a bit less pixelated. Either some form of AA was in use there, or the native resolution was slightly sub-native but in actual gameplay, visual settings seemed to be on par with the other two games.

Some interface elements in both Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel did not seem to have received the full HD uplift, however, but looked like 720p-based assets, lending some HUD objects a blurrier look than they should have at 1080p. Loading times were very acceptable, clocking at roughly 25 seconds on average to get into a game from the title screen and about 15 when moving from one large open area to another. Asset streaming works brilliantly as well, with only some texture pop-in visible when the game is just done loading the game on boot up, for like one second. LoD elements don't show some heavy pop-in either.

Those games are last-gen titles, after all, so it was expected that the Switch should do a good job there. In fact, side-by-side comparisons with the PS4 version of those games show mainly the absence of ambient occlusion and anti-aliasing, and then of course the frame-rate target is reduced to 30 on Switch, but that's it really. Not much is lost in favour or portability on Switch, and all three games look fantastic - the latter two perhaps more so due to their better art in general. One minor technical issue that did seem to happen on a handful of occasions over the course of a complete play-through of the original Borderlands was that the audio of radio messages (called ECHO system) from NPCs seemed to cut off for no reason after a second or two, and the text would stop displaying until they're done talking. This is apparently a problem that can happen in all versions of the game, and not just on Switch, but it's weird that this was never fixed. The other two games did not exhibit this problem though.

Screenshot for Borderlands: Legendary Collection on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

All three games present in Borderlands: Legendary Collection are well worth a play by themselves. Packed together, they represent an excellent deal on the Nintendo Switch. They play perfectly in both docked and handheld mode, and they look and run as great as anyone could hope on the hybrid system. These don't feel like compromised versions of the originals in any way, and this should be applauded. This is only held back by the lack of a proper physical release, because those are big games to download, and the heavily loot-based gameplay of the series, as well as the difficulty of the later two games, may not be to everyone's taste.

Review copies provided by 2K Europe

Developer

Gearbox

Publisher

2K

Genre

Shooter

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

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