Five years have passed since the events of Borderlands. After opening the vault, a valuable mineral called “Eridium” started flourishing beneath Pandora. Handsome Jack, a member of the Hyperion Corporation, takes advantage of this new resource and first uses it to take over the corporation, and eventually the entire planet. Ruling from his massive satellite built in the shape of an “H”, Jack spreads the word of an even larger Vault hidden on Pandora, drawing a new group of Vault Hunters to the planet in search for it. This is where the player enters the game.
It seems like Gearbox chose to change very little with the sequel. Aside from the U.I. changes and slight graphical update, Borderlands 2 could almost be an expansion for the first game. This is not necessarily a bad thing; the original was a decent example of what the company likes to call a “role-playing shooter.” The sequel has turned all the dials up to eleven, especially the humor. The Vault Hunters from the first game return as NPCs, adding a few in-jokes for those who played Borderlands.
Guns are still procedurally generated, though more variable have been added as well as a new element type. Enemies can now be “slagged”, increasing the damage done by weapons without the slag element. E-tech guns have been upgraded with Eridium to give additional effects based on the weapon type, at the cost of consuming additional ammo for each shot fired. Damage values seem higher than the first game, but shield and health pools are increased as well.
The game is balanced as such that is now harder to plow through the story content. Plot mission difficulty can quickly jump above a players current level when traveling to a new zone, pushing the player into doing the many side missions dotted throughout the game world. This is made easier by the fact that the mission log will now say if there are any missions still to be discovered in a given area. More time has been spent on fleshing out the history of Pandora as well, through both missions and ECHO recorders found in each zone.
While the leveling system has not changed at all, completing challenges while playing awards the player with Badass Ranks. Each challenge has multiple tiers, with higher tiers offering a greater number of ranks. Upon earning enough ranks, a player is given a token which can be spent on stat boosts affecting all characters that player owns. Experimenting with each class now offers real benefits when switching back to a favourite character. Additional characters can be powered up even further by handing down old gear through the use of a shared character storage.
Borderlands 2 uses the same cel-shaded style as the original, but everything is a little shinier now. There are more enemy types, and those used in the original are now more detailed than before. Player models can be changed throughout the game at customization booths. Additional skins can be unlocked by completing missions, challenges, or even from random drops. Those found in mission rewards are unique to the class being played, adding to the replay value somewhat. New skins can be found for vehicles as well through the same methods.
The voice acting in Borderlands 2 is superb. As well as the familiar faces, a few new ones are found during the story. The highlight here is the inclusion of Hansome Jack as the antagonist, taunting you throughout the game as you get deeper into the story. The music is atmospheric, but at times can go unnoticed when focusing on fighting a particularly difficult group of enemies.
The game is not without issues though, as fights with bosses that can spawn additional enemies can become quite frustrating if a player dies. Not only does the boss regain full health, every enemy that was not killed during the encounter lingers around the area as well, coming to the aid of the boss when he is engaged again. There are a few bugs as well, most notably on the Xbox 360 version. Characters, achievements and Badass Ranks can be deleted by playing online with the wrong person. The PlayStation 3 version has its own share, but none so major.
Borderlands 2 is unlikely to attract many new players to the franchise, unless they were curious about the first but never picked it up. Fans of the original will want to pick this up, but for those who did not enjoy it not enough has changed to make this worth another purchase.