Borderlands 2 – by Gearbox software combines the genres of role playing and first person shooters, in a futuristic – post apocalyptic setting.
The Borderlands series has always been a first person shooter at it’s core, however an easy to understand leveling system and random-loot add some well thought out and greatly enjoyable RPG elements to the mix. The cell-shaded graphics also set it apart from the herd, allowing for some quirky and gruesome enemy designs. The variety of enemies is greater than the first game, but you should still expect to see your fair share of skags and bandits. Borderlands obviously doesn’t take itself to seriously, and the humor is a large part of what makes the game so fun. It’s loaded with jokes and humorous events (In particular, the Tiny Tina character comes to mind, or a silly mission like ‘shoot me in the face’). Although some of the jokes seem to slightly miss the mark, the majority of them are spot on and make an otherwise bland story stand out. In a world where even Dead Space has team death match, the multi-player options still only include cooperative gameplay. Gearbox has even removed the competitive arenas so we know they are committed to what the players really want, and we know that what we have here is not your run-of-the-mill FPS game.
I think it’s worth mentioning that even though this is a sequel, you can play Borderlands 2 just fine without having any knowledge of the first game. But, for those who are familiar with the setting, there are plenty of references to the previous game, not the least of which are several characters that show up as quest givers and item vendors.
When you start a new game, you get to choose a character class. Depending on the DLC you have installed there are 4 or more classes available for you to pick from. The Gunzerker focuses on fire power, being able to dual wield any two guns. The Siren has healing powers and phase-locking abilities (more about that later). The Commando gets a turret that he can throw down to provide covering fire and other bonuses. And lastly if you prefer stealth or sniping there is Zero who can create a decoy of himself and become invisible for a short amount of time If you have friends to play coop with, it’s probably a good idea to balance the team a little, preferably having one person of each class for the ideal set up. This is not required though and you can easily complete the game without a specific class on your team. While the best way to play the game is with 3 of your closest friends you can still play the entire campaign solo and have a wonderful time. If you have a non-gamer (girl) friend who would like to join in on the action I would recommend getting the Borderlands 2 – Mechromancer DLC (free if you preordered) which makes a new class available that uses a “DeathTrap”, a robot companion that lures enemies away and damages them. One of her other skills makes her bullets have a chance to ricochet towards enemies making sure she (or he) will hit more monsters even if their aim is a little off. The balance of the classes is slightly better this time around, every class can stand up on there own and contribute equally to team battles.
The game is set on the planet Pandora witch is divided into zones, each zone has a list of quests you can find and complete in that area. Some quests require you to travel between zones, but almost all of the quests are straightforward enough to complete by following the ‘diamond’ marker on your mini-map. The missions in Borderlands 2 show some similarities to World of Warcraft’s quests, where you are sent out to kill a certain number of creatures in a particular area or pick up a number of items dropped by some monsters. This is where the similarities end however, as Borderlands 2 is much more story driven with even the side quests having humerus back stories.
Killing enemies and completing quests makes your character gain experience witch, in turn, lets you level up. When you level up you get a skill point to apply to a skill-tree, where you can make some choices depending on what you want your character to focus on. Each class has 3 different skill trees, each focusing on a certain strong point of the character. The Siren, for instance, can focus on her healing capabilities, or apply the points to the phase lock skill which lets her get a bubble that traps multiple enemies in a row. The Commando class can get upgrades for his turret, or can focus his skills on his own personal firepower.
Guns guns guns. Borderlands 2 is so chock full of guns, it’s almost ridiculous. They have actually made the guiness book of world records for the largest amount of guns in a first person shooter. A procedural random loot generation engine is used to generate the weapons and shields in the game, which basically means that every gun you find is unique in it’s own little way. Small differences in reloading time, accuracy and damage done may seem unimportant at first but when you use the guns you will find that these things can make a huge impact on how a weapon handles. Other things that can be randomized include what type of optics the gun uses, the amount of ammo in each clip and the range of its bullets. Comparing the pure stats of a weapon can be deceiving though, so it’s recommended to try out a new gun before getting rid of your old one to make sure it suits your playstyle. Each weapon does have a unique name, many of them have a pinch of humour added to them such as ‘The room cleaner’ or ‘triple barrel home security’. One change from the first game includes a larger focus on weapon manufacturer. Each of the gun makers have a unique look to there guns and have a defining quality. For example Hyperion guns get more accurate the longer you shoot, and Vladof guns all have a minigun barrel, increasing the fire rate the longer the trigger is held. This leads to some interesting combinations and makes it easier to tell how a gun will work at a glance.
Some weapons come with an elemental effect added, for even more damage. Explosive damage works good against most types of enemies, but other elements have a ‘damage over time’ effect which works best on particular types of enemies. Fire works best on flesh, corrosive on robots, electric for shields. The new element, ‘slag’, increases the damage done on an enemy with any type of weapon. This is especially effective in a cooperative setting where one player slags the enemies while others take them out, doing massive amounts of damage.
Weapons, quests and enemies also have levels assigned to them. So if you run into a mission with enemies that are a little tough for your liking, you can finish some other quests first and come back to try again a couple of levels later. Higher level missions net you higher leveled loot, and stronger enemies drop stronger (rarer) loot. End bosses drop the rarest loot and can be repeatedly killed if you want to get your hands on some rare loot drops. This is Borderlands 2′s strongest quality, the joy of finding a new gun is great and hardly starts to wear thin even after several hours in game.
The graphics of the game are gorgeous and don’t require the highest grade hardware to run at a decent pace. Cell shading is not everyone’s cup of tea but Borderlands’ setting and environment show that even shell shading can look beautiful at times. Watch a psycho run up to you and blow his face up with your shotgun and watch the blood spatters at close range. You will never think the same about cell shading ever again. If you have to choose between the console version and the PC version, the PC version wins hands down. The added PhysX particle effects look amazing and, if your system can run it, you will never want to play without it.
There is much more I could tell you about Borderlands 2, but I highly recommend you go and play it for yourself. Humor, great gameplay, cooperative options and a huge world to explore will make sure you’ll be kept inside and behind your computer for a long time to come. What more could you wish for in the cold winter months!?