Borderlands 2 Review
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2k Games
Genre: Action RPG, First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
In a gaming world where military shooters dominate the first person shooter landscape with their pretentious story lines and wafer thin single player campaigns, Borderlands 2 is a refreshing and much needed game for this genre. The first game never took itself too seriously and Borderlands 2 carries on in the same vein with its original graphical style and wacky sense of humor. Borderlands 2 knows exactly what it wants to do, and for the most part it does it very well.
Its been 3 years since the original Borderlands game was released which many people including myself enjoyed the shoot and loot mechanics of the game, open world free roaming gameplay and a very original graphical art style that the game had. It was also nice to see a first person shooter solely concentrating on a single player campaign with no multiplayer other than a co-op mode. So many of the current generation first person shooters seem to be obsessed with competitive multiplayer modes and any single player aspect of the game just seems to be a bit of an afterthought, but Borderlands is quite the opposite of that.
Borderlands 2 drops you back into the weird and wonderful world of Pandora filled with bandits, killer robots and many other hostile creatures that generally want to do you harm. Pandora is once again a troubled place with the brilliant, charismatic and utterly despicable CEO of the Hyperion Corporation, Handsome Jack who is now running riot with his army of killer robots that threaten to take over the whole planet. You are placed into the shoes of one of 4 different vault hunters that you pick from at the start of the game, with the ultimate mission of bringing down Handsome Jack and his Corporation.
As with the first game, the story really isn’t the strongest part of the game, but just serves as a back drop to the missions that you do and the characters that you meet along the way. Many of the NPC characters from the first game return in Borderlands 2, but feel much more memorable this time around. Also Lilith, Brick, Mordecai and Roland, the playable characters from the original game appear in Borderlands 2, but as non-playable characters that show up for story reasons and give you quests and missions to complete.
Borderlands 2 maintains the love or hate graphical art style visuals that the first game had and I am glad they have not changed that aspect of the game. No other game looks like the Borderlands games do. It is refreshing for a developer to take a risk with the visual appearance of a game and not to go down the ultra realistic visual design route, which so many games now do. I do think that the game is better looking than the original, with also much more variety in environment and creature design. If you do happen to own a reasonable spec PC you will also be able to experience Nvidia PhysX which adds some very nice particle and liquid effects to the game.
There aren’t too many changes to the overall Borderlands formula in Borderlands 2, but there big changes to the characters that are playable. The characters for Borderlands 2 are all new, although many share similarities with the playable classes of the first Borderlands. There is Maya the Siren who can use magical attacks and has healing powers that can be used in co-op play, Zer0 The Assassin who can use swords as well as guns and has stealth powers that can confuse enemies, Axton The Commando who can set up gun turrets that deal massive amounts of damage and last but not least Salvador the Gunzerker who can dual wield huge weapons and is a real front line soldier.
There are plans to introduce a 5th character class at some point called the Mechromancer for which currently there is very little details of what skills this class will have. The Mechromancer will be DLC, but if you pre-ordered the game you will get this class for free when it becomes available.
The play style and feel of the game is very similar to the original game so anyone who didn’t take to the first game probably won’t find anything to pull them into this one, but on the flip side of that Borderlands 1 veterans will feel right at home with this game. Borderlands 2 is a pretty simple game really, gain quests, shoot stuff, find better guns, shoot more stuff, simple. This game really is about loot and the quest to find the perfect gun, shield or class mod for your play style and character. This loot grind does tend to put many people off, but once you start playing and find some good items to use, it can also become very addictive.
The skill tree is much improved over the original game and many of the skills that can be unlocked and upgraded feel much more relevant to your characters class. Skill points are gained when you level up and can be used to upgrade and unlock special skills. You also gain badass points that contribute to your badass level. These points are gained by completing certain challenges during the game and give small percentage upgrades to such skills as reload speed, weapon damage and weapon accuracy.
Gearbox Software claims that Borderlands 2 is twice the size of the original game and I certainly believe them. There really is a vast amount of quests and side missions to do in this game, but your quest list does not end up looking like a shopping list of things to do like it does in Skyrim. Instead, quests unlock slowly over time and after completing other missions, so it never quite gets completely overwhelming. Bigger isn’t always better though, and much of the questing feels very samey and repetitive after a while which was also a criticism of the first game. However, the addictive endless loot system and sheer size of the game world tends to paper over some of these cracks that appear in the game.
There does seem to be much more of an emphasis on the multiplayer element this time around. For the most part, it is fantastic fun to play with other people despite the few issues that I encountered.
The loot system in games like Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 have an excellent system where the loot that you find in your game can only be seen in your game and so can only be picked up by you, but unfortunately Borderlands 2 does not have this system so all the loot in a multiplayer game can be seen by everybody and be picked up by everybody. This means that some greedy players will try and snag loot chests first, picking all the best items out of them before other player get to them. As I have seen happen quite a lot, it would certainly help to play with regular players that you trust, so you can share out the loot fairly and evenly between your group. There is also a trading system within the game so you can trade items with other players in your group.
There is certainly a big game ahead of you if you decide to jump into the world of Borderlands 2, and with the promise of much DLC to come in the future this game will run and run for many months to come yet. The game has fantastic style and character that few other games can match. Although the game feels and looks very similar to the original Borderlands, just about every aspect has been improved so the game feels very tight and polished from beginning to end. I would highly recommend Borderlands 2 not just because its a great game, but also because it tries to do things differently from all other shooting games out there and I think that should be applauded.