Review: Borderlands 2

This is where the cars live! Get you one!

Borderlands 2

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.

Yeah. I got the memo. And I understand the policy. And the problem is just that I forgot the one time. And I've already taken care of it so it's not even really a problem anymore.

Crazy Weapons

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.

Okay ladies, lets get you out of those clothes.....

Customisable Outfits

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.

15 comments on “Review: Borderlands 2”

  1. The humor and fleshed out world really shine in this game. I find myself wandering through areas just trying to pick up all the bits of dialogue from the NPCs because it usually is a great one-liner. Oh and Tiny Tina is right up there with Handsome Jack.

  2. I’ve yet to go back and do Tina’s side quests, but I am looking forward to getting a little more dialogue from her. Definitely one of the better characters in the game.

  3. The story really caught me by surprise. It didn’t have to do much to beat #1 in this regard, but it was better by such a significant amount and was a much more enriching experience for it. Anyone who liked #1’s gameplay and humor but was put off by its lack of narrative direction really should pick this up. I liked #1 quite a bit, but I doubt that I could go back to it now.

    I loved Mal the Robot. I just sat there and listened to him for at least 5 minutes. Pure gold.

  4. @Lusipurr I had not even heard of Borderlands Legends before. I was about to buy it and give it a go, but apparently it’s really bad.

  5. The Borderlands games largely look interesting to me, but a question I always was inclined to ask people who have played is how skilled at shooters do you need to be that it doesn’t end up being too much of an annoying grind to experience the story, humor, aesthetic etc…? I am generally fairly poor at shooters (also the first person perspective makes me motion sick, which is why I have not to date checked in on a haturday), but am still considering picking this up.

  6. @Kobold: You can get away without having to be very good at shooters or FPS games in general with Borderlands 1 & 2. I played for a while in BL2 with a friend of mine who is…very bad at FPSs. But he wasn’t too worse for wear, especially in co-op with other people helping (which I recommend for a game like this, it makes it much more fun). There also isn’t much grinding to speak of, just a TON of quests to do. And if you do everything on offer you’ll be in a comfortable position in regards to difficulty with only some exception.

    But if you’re planning on playing solo AND you don’t necessarily love FPS games, I don’t know if this is a right fit for you. If possible, try renting it. And hey, if you change your mind about getting it you can always watch a Lets Play to see the story and humor!

  7. @Kobold: Borderlands does assist players with targeting. What you use the ironsight on a weapon without a scope, the game will aim at an enemy close to the crosshairs. As long as you update your weapons every level or two, enemies shouldn’t be a problem.

    I’m not a fan of FPS games, though I make an exception for games like Borderlands, Fallout and The Elder Scrolls series.

  8. Thanks very much for your input, I feel like this is a game I should at least try.

  9. I’d like to play this, but I don’t know if I want to go from Diablo III to Borderlands. I find that I become frustrated with the controller-driven FPS games, and end up fighting with the controller more than playing the game. Too many years spent playing trackball-and-keyboard or trackball-and-stick shooters which have allowed me to respond to game events with lightning fast speed and accuracy–and then I switch to the PS3 and I’m nailed to the shitty, shitty, shitty clumsy clunkiness of a pair of little thumb-operated analogue sticks. It’s like getting out of a paddle-shifted Aston and climbing onto an elephant which one has to beat with a rattan cane. Infuriating.

  10. Why don’t you get the game for the PC? Does it not support a trackball?

  11. @Mel: I don’t play games on my PC unless they begin with “World” and end with “Warcraft”.

  12. I forgot to mention that I occasionally make space for Diablo and Starcraft–though not much these days. Starcraft II players online are too good for me, and WoW eats my MMO-time so there’s none left for Diablo III (though I enjoy it).

    I used to play a LOT of Team Fortress 2, of course–and I may do so again when I have enough money to afford a new computer. In the meantime, however, the less time I spend in front of this misery-inducing techbox, the better.

    A staff position for the man who brings me a satisfactory computer!

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