Borderlands 2 Review
Game Name: Borderlands 2
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Hello all and welcome to another exciting installment of me playing games and then whining about them to you. Or at least I would be whining, except I keep picking amazing games. When will I ever learn?
As you might have gathered from the slight hint up top, today we’re going to be chatting about Borderlands 2. And by ‘we’ I mean ‘you’re going to sit there and soak in your juices while I jabber for the next dozen or so paragraphs’ (paraphrasing saves time).
Borderlands 2 (like its predecessor) is classified under the interesting style of first-person shooter RPGs. All the fun of watching yourself shoot people with the added bonus of getting XP and loot for doing so. When you level up you’re given skill points to allot into various skill trees that give you increased damage resistance, amped up weapon power, or new additions to your character’s special abilities (you look me in the face and tell me you didn’t pick the Gunzerker just so you can put points into ‘Sexual Tyrannosaurus’).
In the game you play as one of four (six if you pick up the DLC) “vault hunters”, who come to the alien planet of Pandora to seek the legendary vault that will hold untold treasure and glory for those who find it. Which all sounds great. Except the planet is infested with psychopaths and the corporations who fund them, all of whom would rather see you dead and buried in a ditch somewhere. Along the way you’ll see familiar faces from the previous game as well as brand new people wearing brand new faces.
A veritable horde of DLC has been released for the game, the latest being the Psycho character which came out May 14th of this year. Normally, I’m not a big fan of the idea of DLC in any of its forms, but Gearbox did this one pretty decently. You’re able to bundle together much of the expansion quests and new areas under a ‘Season Pass’ (this excludes the two new characters added post game release and some character skins) and each of the packs adds in a sizable enhancement to the original game. There are a few little extra skin things that you can buy as well, but they’re fairly cheap and not game critical, so I can’t really fault them for it.
The next DLC released will be dubbed ‘Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep’. This content is reportedly going to be the last that’s covered under the Season Pass, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the last DLC put out. The expansion is slated for June 25th.
As is often the case with reviewing sequels, you have to talk a little about the original game first. Borderlands was a very fun game, provided you had a couple of friends along to play with you. Otherwise it tended to get a bit repetitive, as is often the case when you’re dealing with RPG-type games where you have side missions comprising of “go kill that thing for me and receive a shiny”. Borderlands 2 manages to beef up the single player experience quite a bit by making the NPC characters more plentiful and giving them actual personalities that you can watch grow…into slightly more deranged personalities.
Another of the new implementations is your ‘Badass Rank’ (be prepared, you will hear this word a lot in the game). As you go around Pandora killing things, you complete challenges (getting so many headshots, killing a certain amount of a particular creature, etc.) and completing these challenges awards you with points that you can use to minutely level up certain abilities such as grenade damage, shield recharge rate, and so on.
The very neat thing is that your Badass Rank is shared between all of your characters. This sharing can also be applied to certain storage containers that you’ll discover in the game where you can place gear that will be available to your other characters. Find a particularly entertaining weapon that would be perfect for your assassin character? Store it in the vault and pull it out when you load him up. This increases the quality of multiple character playthroughs considerably.
They’ve also done some good work on the user interface (enough so that PC users aren’t gnashing their teeth like in the original). They’ve given you a few more tabs to select from in the interface screen so you’re not crowding together large amounts of information on a relatively small screen. Though I still would prefer the challenges that you can complete to be easier to navigate as opposed to simply scrolling down the giant list until you find the one you’re looking for, but if gamers didn’t have things to complain about then you would never hear from us.
That being said, Borderlands 2 is at its peak when played via multiplayer. The game supports local co-op of up to two players, though you can also co-op on the same system while playing online with one or two other players. Together with your friends (or enemies, or guys you met at the bus stop) you put together your team of up to four vault hunters and progress through the central campaign, your enemies growing stronger (more health, more damage dealt) for each additional teammate you have. If tempers run hot over a particularly juicy piece of equipment, or you get bored, you can also simply smack one of your party mates to instigate an in-game duel. When a duel begins a shield surrounds the area around two players, locking them inside until a winner is declared, typically over the body of the loser. Nothing is gained or lost by this, save the respect of your fellow gamers.
The multiplayer does have a few flaws, namely the loot-sharing system. Money and ammo is given equally throughout the party as it’s grabbed, but weapons and other equipment must still be divvied up. This means that whatever loot gets dropped (weapons, shields, grenade mods) it’s first come first serve. Not really a problem when you’re playing with your friends who will meta-game with you a bit to help best build your team, but playing with greedy strangers can be frustrating.
There is also some customization you can implement on your character, but it’s quite shallow. As you progress through the game you unlock various skins that can be applied, but they’re little more than different paint jobs for your clothes or vehicles. Though the different heads that you can have for your character were quite entertaining. To be fair to Gearbox, this is also a first-person shooter POV so you’re really not going to be seeing much of yourself outside of the equipment screen. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to be able to be able to let your friends see the artistic side of you (as opposed to the homicidal side they normally where you set animals on fire).
The people at Gearbox put far too much effort into the weapons system to leave it unmentioned. The original Borderlands was lauded for having a large number of guns, the second has even more-so. So many guns, in fact, that the people who have made the game aren’t even positive how many there are. How is this possible? By using a very interesting algorithm where each gun is randomly generated from various parts that have been set. I specifically remember an early gameplay trailer where one of the makers of the game found an interesting shotgun that shot lightning bolts and were completely amazed that they had never seen it before. I’ve put over seventy hours into the game and I’ve yet to see it myself.
I would be remiss if I talked about the gameplay of Borderlands 2 without touching on one of its key features: Comedy. Borderlands does not take itself seriously very often, which, depending on how you feel about the particular brand of comedy, can be good or bad. It’s very much internet humor in that it’s full of memes and references to popular, and unpopular, culture. Very often it will deliver over the top performances from the NPCs that parody everything from wrestling to the game genre itself.
With that in mind, there is also a dark current running underneath it all that surfaces now and then to give you a sharp jolt out of your giggles, just as a reminder that this place you are in is meant to be a dystopian world full of madness, death, and little robots that won’t shut up regardless of how many times you shotgun them in the back.
Borderlands 2 keeps with the signature artistic style of the first Borderlands game where they focus on giving you more of a comic book/cartoonish-feel than a real-life experience. The design meshes quite well with the overall playstyle of the game. I was also pleased to see that for Borderlands 2 they decided to expand the different settings you could venture out in. Starting out in the frozen tundra you progress through mountainous regions, plains, and volcanic (among even more that can be further unlocked with the proper DLC). All of it is very well-done with a day and night cycle to simulate the progression of time.
The sound is fairly decent. I wouldn’t argue anything special, but then again this isn’t a game that’s trying to pull you in with ambience. What musical score (wub wub) they have is mostly drowned out by the screaming of the ones trying to kill you and the ratatat of your obscenely large and ornate gun.
In the end? Borderlands 2 is a fantastic game. The humor might annoy some, but it sticks to its guns (all eleven bajillion of them) and delivers an incredibly entertaining experience while also letting you bond with a character or two like you would that creepy dog that lives down the street that you toss the occasional piece of ham to but would never, ever pet.
My complaints (UI, loot sharing, and customization) are minimal and could be easily improved upon later down the road. Perhaps with a third game? The challenges could have been made with drop-down lists based on topic. For loot sharing I would look more towards Diablo III’s fairly ingenious method of simply giving each gamer their own customized loot drop which can then be traded at a later time. The customization is simply a matter of giving more options to the players. Maybe a color wheel, or custom insignia generator that you can decorate your character with, like what they have for COD’s insignias? Just brainstorming.
As is, Borderlands 2 is a wonderful gaming experience alone or with some friends. I give it a solid 6/6.
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