In 2009, Gearbox Software released a little cel-shaded shooter known as Borderlands and it turned out to be a pretty big success story for the company. By introducing the first RPS (First Person Shooter/Role Playing Game) title that was done right; offering fun gameplay, co-op, and more content then even the newest games to date, Borderlands was an amazing title that seemed to have it all. So now the question is how do you improve on something that already offered so much? Well the answer is simple, you just add more!
Borderlands 2 takes place five years after the first title. After the original ‘Vault Hunters’ opened the vault a rare material called ‘Eridium’ spread across Pandora. Handsome Jack and the Hyperion Corporation attempt to gather as much as possible and vows to eliminate anyone that stands in his way. As you play one of the four new Vault Hunters, you find yourself getting wrapped up in Handsome Jacks plans and needing to end his farming spree before all hell breaks lose. Handsome Jack might be the antagonist, but he is also a very likable character as he talks to you throughout your journey making witty remarks and telling old stories about what he has done to people that have stood against him and his evil schemes. Borderlands 2 offers a much better story – or at least a more storytelling focus – than the original while also adding more variety to the otherwise grey landscape of Pandora.
While Borderlands 2 story might feel a little cliché it does have its moments where you are going to laugh and sometimes feel bad for some of its characters. The story does a good job at making you feel like you are doing something important which makes it easy for you continue through the story – that and also all of the loot you’ll be picking up along the way.
Borderlands 2 also offers some funny moments that will have you enjoying things that you otherwise would find boring or aggravating in other games. For example, there is a side quest that has you running around collecting ECHO recordings all around the Sanctuary. In other games you would feel like an errand boy just collecting someone’s lost merchandise, but in Borderlands 2 they keep you entertained by throwing you a funny tale as you collect their misplaced goods. The mission was ‘Torture Chair’ given by Patricia as she recall a tragic moment where she was tortured with her friends. I know what you might be thinking, “That doesn’t sound funny at all.” But it’s the fact that her friends were in fact the wooden chairs which she had named. She went into great detail about the torturing regarding her and some furniture which more or less sets the right tone of Borderlands’ dark humour throughout.
There is also a lot more variety in the characters this time around as you explore Pandora. They brought back friendly faces such as Zed, Scooter, Moxxi and Roland from the first game to name a few. One of my favorite characters in Borderlands 2 is a little girl named Tiny Tina, whom is the best bomb maker on Pandora. Oh yeah, she is also a psycho….go figure. Her character alone is just amazing. The voice acting also helps make these characters believable.
Gearbox has also added even more guns than the first one, now adding distinct characteristics to each manufacturer which set them apart from one another. One manufacturer might have faster reloading capabilities while another might be able to fire faster. Borderlands 2 doesn’t just offer more guns then the first but also more ways to change your characters appearance. With a total of 17 different heads you can unlock and 88 different body skins you will have no need to worry about getting bored with your characters appearance throughout the game. Those numbers are per character and not split between the four heroes. The only small downside of the body skins is that all they do is change the color pallets of your character. Even though your character might always be wearing the same clothes, some of the color pallets make your character look completely different. Such as one that might make it look like your wearing camouflage and even applies face paint to your character. While others might add stars or some other pattern.
You also get class mods that you can equip that might help your special attacks replenish faster or it might boost the attack of a gun while lowering its accuracy. Along with class mods you can also equip relics that might boost your shield or health by a certain percentage. With all of these customizable options it helps you create your own character outside that of the skill trees that help make sure that you truly have a one of a kind character to your liking. It is also nice that character skins can be looted from enemies, found in random boxes and also purchased from merchants.
Borderlands 2 introduces Salvador the Gunzerker, Maya the Siren, Axton the Commando, and Zer0 the Assassin. They are the four new main characters you get to choose from upon your arrival in Pandora. ‘Gunzerking’ is the ability to dual wield any two guns for a short amount of time unleashing devastating damage on anything that stands in your way. The Siren has the ability to ‘Phaselock’ lifting the enemy into the air trapping them for a set amount of time for you to have your way with. Now, you can’t freeze every enemy and for those immune to that will take a large amount of damage instantly. The Commando class has the ability ‘Sabre Turret’ which allows Axton to deploy an upgradable turret to teleport far distances or just to create nuclear explosions. Last but not least you have the ‘Assassin’ class with the ‘Deception’ ability. This ability allows Zer0 to vanish and do massive amounts of damage to unsuspecting enemies and also distract enemies with his decoy making him a truly deadly recon fighter.
As you progress through the story you will run into a large amount of side quests to complete. As I made my play through there were times were I would open up my quest log and have a decent size list of quests to do. It reminded me a lot of Skyrim in a way how you would always get wrapped up in side events, which isn’t a bad thing at all. As a matter of fact the side quests are one of the things I mostly enjoyed with my time in Borderlands 2. All of them had you doing different tasks so I never got bored and that’s also where I found most of the humor.
Borderlands 2 has three separate skill trees for each character that allow you to pretty much make the character you want that fits your play style. The Assassin, Commando, Siren & Gunzerker all have a separate set of skills that you can check out in our class breakdowns. Borderlands 2 also offers more than one way to make your character really badass in the game other than just leveling them up to their max level. It introduces the new Badass rank sytem which, when leveled up unlocks tokens that you can spend to permanently upgrade things such as max health, gun damage, gun recoil, and grenade damage, just to name a few. Now to level up your ‘Badass meter’ you must complete in-game challenges such as killing a set amount of enemies with a certain gun or completing something a certain way such as catching enemies on fire. By doing things like these it unlocks ‘Badass’ points that level you up to unlock a token.
This is another way Borderlands rewards its players so even if you don’t want to do anything and just want to go and shoot up some baddies you will receive badass points to improve your character. The nice thing about the Badass level is that it can be shared with all the characters you create giving you the advantage when starting a new class. This is yet another way Borderlands 2 makes it so you constantly get rewarded for your actions. You will also stumble upon Eridium as you travel around Pandora. Collecting this rare material and bringing it to a trade store allows for permanent boosts which allow you to upgrade your backpack so you can carry more, max amount of ammo for each gun type, and increase inventory in your own personal vault to store items.
The great aspect about Borderlands 2 is the random loot. As you play through the game you will always have one thing on your mind, there is always something better than what I have now. Borderlands 2‘s loot drops and the thrill of opening the next chest or ice block is always a unique as you never know what your going to get. This helps set Borderlands 2 apart from most other games, allowing you to always be on the lookout for better gear. The fact that knowing that there isn’t an ultimate weapon in a hidden dungeon and that just the fact that at any moment you could find a true treasure is what makes it hard to put the controller down at the end of the day.
Like in the first Borderlands there is online multiplayer where you also share the same loot that drops. That’s right, no separate drops here. This might turn some people off but it’s really not a bad thing depending on who you are playing with. If you just join a random match you might be competing with every greedy player rushing off ahead trying to claim the item boxes before other players or vice versa. I found true enjoyment and teamwork playing with my friends. We helped each other out and traded if we found something the other one wanted. It might just be me but, it just feels like we were more of a team deciding on who desperately needs the ammo so we can survive the next area was a blast and made it feel like we really worked together when we completed the mission.
Borderlands 2 also ups the difficultly with each character you have join your game. With the difficultly raised so does the loot. They reward you and your friends with better loot as the difficulty goes up so you never feel like you’re not getting anything, because I know I can’t stand games that up the difficultly and you get the same kind of things you would get if you did it on the easy difficulty. It just isn’t rewarding, something Borderlands doesn’t tolerate. During my time I only came across a couple of bugs, nothing to ruin my time or distract me for very long. First is the pop in which normally happens after you first start up the game or enter an area. Again nothing bad as you have to consider the amount of content the game has to load. Next is the driving, something that I don’t really think they improved on much. The driving controls just don’t respond as well as they should but it still works and it’s tolerable.
With the high replay value and the amount of content Borderlands 2 has to offer makes it well worth the money. It rewards you on so many levels so it never feels like you are wasting your time. The sheer amount of goodness totally outweighs the bad in Borderlands 2. Borderlands 2 surpasses the first in almost every way, with all the content it has and the replay value sets it apart from most games that came out this year. Borderlands 2 is a must buy for anyone that plays video games and is a true game of the year contender and with DLC on the way it makes it hard to pass this game up. So why are you still here? Go buy it!
Audio/Visual-5/5: Looks and sounds better than the first and that’s saying something.
Gameplay-5/5: Fun and addicting, rewards you on pretty much everything you do. Only has minor issues but nothing that will distract you. Mini map is a nice addition.
Innovation-5/5: Improves on everything from the first and adds much more content.
Value -5/5: Whether it be doing side quests or just hunting for loot, Borderlands 2 will keep you busy for some time to come.
Final Score: 5/5