Borderlands was one of the best surprises of 2009. Before it, the notion of a first person shooter (FPS) merging with a role-playing game was inconceivable. Now, we wonder why someone didn’t think of it before. The joy you get from getting a rare gun and then mowing down the previously difficult enemies is incredible. It also helps that Gearbox knows what their doing with a FPS. Now the long awaited Borderlands 2 is finally here! This sequel gives you one thing: more. More guns, More enemies, more plot, and more characters! But does it keep the magic from the original Borderlands…or does it give you too much of a good thing?
Well, we’re happy to tell you who ever said the phrase “Less is More” never played Borderlands 2.
Borderlands 2 takes place five years after the events of the first. After the Vault Hunters defeated the Destroyer, a powerful new mineral called Eridum starts appearing all over the planet. Eridum turns out to be as powerful as it is expensive. Enter the Hyperion corporation and it’s evil leader Handsome Jack. Jack and Hyperion proceed to take over Pandora as they start to harvest as much Eridum as they can. Meanwhile, rumors have spread about an even bigger Vault being hidden somewhere on the planet, summoning a whole new group of Vault Hunters to the planet.
Borderlands 2 does have many improvements to its overall package, first of which being the story and characters. Borderlands 2 introduces four new characters, all with their own unique skill sets. Salvador the “Gunzerker” is a damage dealing powerhouse; Zer0 the Assassin and his Deception skill tree turns him into a critical hit giving monster; Maya the Siren and her Phaselocking abilities can make an enemy helpless; and Axton the Commando’s turret gives him extra firepower and a great distraction on the battlefield. On top of this, each character has three skill trees that they can choose to master, each giving players different ways of playing the character. Want to be a Sniper with Zer0? Focus on the Sniping skill tree. If not, maybe you want to focus on melee with his Katana? Then focus on the Bloodshed tree and turn yourself into a slice-and-dice expert.
Another fun addition is the “Badass” rankings. Remember those mini achievements within the first Borderlands? Back then, they only gave you experience points, but now you get a Badass Point when you complete a Badass challenge. You can redeem these for miniscule bonuses in gun damage, melee damage, gun accuracy, shield recharge rates, and more that really add up over time. Best thing about it are these bonuses won’t just apply to the character you claimed them with, but all characters under your profile.
The characters are also more customizable than before. Instead of simply changing the basic colors of the clothes, you can now unlock different heads and skins for the characters too. While it would have been nice to have even more customization than this, it’s still nice to have more ways to make you character distinctive in co-operative play.
In Borderlands 2, you finally get an idea of the Vault Hunters’ histories through five side quests that pop up depending on which character you choose. In fact, Borderlands 2 does a great job on further expanding upon not only the current and previous Vault Hunters and side characters, but does a pretty decent job fleshing out minor characters and even introduces new ones, most notably antagonist Handsome Jack himself. When we first saw Jack in the trailers, he comes off as a goofy, egotistical character, but it’s not until you start you dealing with him within the game do you realize he’s a lot scarier than that. Jack somehow straddles the fence between loose cannon chatterbox and cold-calculating psychopath; there will be a point when you hear his voice over the radio you’ll wonder “Who’s going to die now?”. After dealing with him for a few hours (especially for players from the first Borderlands) you will want him dead, which is a trademark of a great video game villain.
The story itself is quite a surprise too. While the first Borderlands focused only on finding the Vault, now you have Jack and Hyperion to deal with. And make no mistake, it’s a losing battle. In fact, for a series so well known for it’s sense of humor, its a shock to see how many sad moments there are here. It doesn’t hurt the experience, but it’s just unexpected for such a cartoony looking game to have such a dark side to it. Speaking of the story, the game itself is huge with 45 main stories missions and a plethora of side missions. If you’re looking for a game that will keep you busy, Borderlands 2 will have your schedule filled.
The gameplay is just as fun as you’ll remember, but with more to do. The areas are much more diverse now and much less barren wasteland-tastic. We have snowfields, deserts, tundras, cities, and more to explore. And with these new environments come a whole nightmare of enemies to face, rampaging Bullymongs, a variety of Hyperion robots and gigantic boss fights. Also new is the AI of the enemies. Gone are the days when enemies would just stand there as you mowed them down. Now, enemies sidestep or roll out of the way of gunfire, even reacting to taking damage by slowing down or running away to call for back up when fighting you. These little things raise the challenge up tremendously and make victories very satisfying.
And then there’s the guns; the trillions of procedurally generated guns. Guns are still separated into pistols, shotguns, rifles, submachineguns, rocket launchers, and sniper rifles. The color/rarity groups are still the same with white and green labeled weapons being fairly common, while it’s still a joyous occasion to find a purple or orange weapon. There, are however new traits given to certain gun types made by different manufacturers: example, the Tedor line of weapons don’t reload like standard firearms, instead, they are thrown and detonated like a grenade to be respawned fully loaded back in your hard. The Jacobs line of guns that fire as quickly as you can squeeze the trigger, while the Bandit line of guns have giant magazines with very poor accuracy.
As fun as Borderlands is, there are some noticeable issues. The texture pop-in on the console version is a bit absurd; literally everything in the game looks like a blurry mess before the game draws out the textures fully. It fixes itself in seconds, but its still noticeable. There are also times where you land awkwardly in a group of rocks or slip in a crack in the stairs, to find yourself stuck. These moments don’t hurt the overall experience, thankfully, but do cause some unnecessary annoyances.
Another nitpick is in the how items are given out in co-op. It’s still the same system from the previous Borderlands with the first one who grabs the gun or ammo getting to keep it. It would have been nice if they took the co-op mechanic from Diablo III where all the items that appeared on a player’s screen was unique to the player, but this is hardly a deal breaker…but it does cause co-op to be a race to secure the best guns that drop and leave the pickings to your teammates. Keep this in mind when getting involved in random pick-up groups on the internet!
Borderlands 2 lives up to the hype and is everything a sequel should be like. It gives you the same fun you had in the previous entry, but gives you more ways to achieve it. Little annoyance not withstanding, this is a solid addition to anyone’s library.
Not convinced? Come check out our Front Towards Gamer’s staff gamernight on Borderlands 2 with Friday Night Poker and come watch the fun!
Go on and get you some! Head over to Gearbox Software to check out more information about Borderlands 2!