I got to the end, the vault opened and I killed Destroyer. Overall, I have to say that I loved everything about the experience Borderlands offered me. Gearbox created a world that felt alive and populated it with fairly interesting creatures for me to kill. Adding loot drops to an FPS was exactly what I needed to get me to care about a game in this genre, again, since I haven't put more than 45 minutes into an FPS in years. As I've read the forums a bit and talked to friends that have played it, I've noticed recurring complaints from folks that I honestly didn't have and kind of wanted to address; lack of story and lack of challenge.
Borderlands has a perfectly fine story. You are [character name] the [class] and you have a destiny to fulfill, courtesy of the mystery woman that appears to us at certain key points in the game. Basically, you are there to open the vault and make sure what's inside does not fall into the wrong hands. Along the way, you embark on various zone-specific side quests that do a lot to help flesh out the world for you, but the critical path was always the vault. That's a story. You are the hero. Steele is ultimately the villain. Getting to the Vault is your journey. Yes, it's basic, but that doesn't make it not a story. In fact, it's basically the story of Diablo and a hundred other dungeon crawlers out there. "You're the good guy. Go stop the bad guy." Personally, when Steele got impaled and the Destroyer started crawling out, I was pleasantly surprised. I assumed Steele was to be the final battle and we would find some wondrous item to take for our own. Yes, the fight with the Destroyer was short bus easy, but that's another discussion.
The difficulty was a tad lacking, yes. This is one I am not going to defend too much, but I again point out that this is first person Diablo. In those games, most boss encounters were essentially brick walls. You kept throwing yourself against them and eventually, you have killed enough trash that you have out leveled the place and trivialized the fight. I feel like Borderlands is the same way. The first few boss fights proved to be pretty challenging, but because I finished every quest in the game as I went, I was at least 6 levels higher than all the mobs I was fighting on my march to the vault. I don't automatically call that poor game design, but I think the combination of being able to out level the content and Second Wind effectively eliminated most of the challenge by the end of the game. Again, though, I point to where Gearbox was looking for inspiration. Diablo didn't have Second Wind, but they had the health pot button, which I think is what Second Wind was intended to replace.
At the end of the day, though, what kept me playing was the world. I absolutely loved the setup for Borderlands and can't wait to play through Knoxx and see if any other characters besides Scooter are going to show up. I'll zip through Moxxi and Ned because I have them (thank you, Steam sale!), but based what I've heard, I do not expect much. I have some gripes and I have some hopes for the sequel, but I think I want to organize all that into a proper blog post. I didn't intend this to be this long, but I will probably take this and rework it into something a little more presentable. What you see here is just rambling thoughts.