A few years ago I was a denizen of the harsh planet known as Pandora, a place rife with violence, victories and a crapful of guns. Fast forward to the present and here I am again, a vault hunter with a thousand armaments waiting for me and a completely new story to unravel in Borderlands [...]
A few years ago I was a denizen of the harsh planet known as Pandora, a place rife with violence, victories and a crapful of guns. Fast forward to the present and here I am again, a vault hunter with a thousand armaments waiting for me and a completely new story to unravel in Borderlands 2, Gearbox Software’s follow-up to their hit first person role playing shooter. Does it live up to its name, or is this a fruitless bloodfest? Hit the jump to find out!
Borderlands 2 takes place years after the first one. You take the role of one of four new vault hunters eager to find the legendary treasure trove they call, you guessed it, the Vault. The game doesn’t hold punches back, as the opening shows your train being blown up to smithereens by one Handsome Jack, leader of Hyperion, one of the game’s fictional weapons manufacturers.
One of the things worth mentioning about the narrative is that it is rife with homages to both old and modern pop culture. Written by former Destructoid veteran Anthony Burch (also of Hey Ash Whatcha Playin’ fame), the game is a treasure trove of geek nuances. For risk of spoiling the enjoyment I won’t be mentioning the better ones, but prepare yourself for material that could stand as a metric on how geeky you are. If you know what shirtless men are and why one would want to be your wingman, chances are you’re certified.
Both old and new characters are present in this iteration. Fresh faces such as the eloquent Sir Hammerlock greets the player, while familiar ones like the devilishly desirable Mad Moxxi and the unmistakably Russian Marcus make a return to give you a warm welcome back to madness. The characters from the previous game also make a comeback as NPCs, both to help move the story forward and to provide you quests that will keep you busy for hours.
Gameplay – Characters
New players take the stage this time around for Borderlands 2, each with their style of play and appearance.
First off is Axton the Commando, a rugged soldier that can throw turrets in the air and engage opponents tactically. An obvious homage to Roland from the first Borderlands, Axton is a well-balanced character designed to
The second one is Salvador, a genuine treat for mayhem-loving
players. His Gunzerking skill allows him to wield two guns at the same time, perfect for wreaking maximum carnage in such a short (pun intended) time.
Next up is a familiar character with a more strategic twist: Maya, one of six sirens in existence and shares numerous similarities with Lilith, the siren from the first game. I was fortunate enough to have a Maya-user for a companion; her phaselock ability behaves like a vacuum that draws all enemies into it like fish in a barrel. Whenever things would become insanely difficult, my partner (a nurse-type Siren) can immediately revive me with the same phaselock ability, or heal me by shooting me. Yep, headshots heal faster, so take note of this, all you budding nurse sirens.
Last but not the least is the character I’m using: Zero the Assassin. As his name and designation implies, Zero is an all-around stealthy bad-ass. His weapons of choice are sniper rifles, pistols and his trusty digistruct katana, and has a playstyle extremely similar to Mordecai from the first game. Depending on which skill tree you chose, you can either snipe from afar, engage in mid-range or get up close and personal, gutting your opponents with sheer melee precision. His active ability called DeceptiOn allows you to be invisible for five seconds and casts a hologram of yourself to confuse opponents.
Gameplay – Combat
Borderlands 2 has an intense focus on combat. Quoting James Cameron’s script, “everything wants to kill you in Pandora”. The enemy AI has undergone a significant improvement compared to the first one, with enemies trying to flank you, dodge and use cover as if you’re matched up against real people. I’ve found myself being resurrected by my companion multiple times because I wanted to rush the opponents, instead being trapped in a marvelous gauntlet of death and mayhem.
Old enemies return such as the ubiquitous Psycho and Skag families, and new ones line up ready to tear you a new one such as the Bullymong, a splice between a Yeti and a four armed something.
To help you whittle down all those deadly obstacles are the game’s bazillion or so guns. If you’re a game developer, let alone a designer like me, you’d immediately recognize the combinations as permutations of various stat combinations. If you’re not, then by all means just enjoy it; the weapons come in varying types, ranging from shotguns that immolate enemies, pistols that spit out acid, and even rifles that talk. Yea, talk. I’ll leave it to you to discover what kind of speech I’m pertaining to; I assure you that you’ll find it quite enlightening.
Augmenting to the way the AI has evolved in the second iteration is the game’s stronger focus on weapon variety. Compared to Borderlands’ abundance of vanilla adversaries, this iteration will push you to switch your strategies (and load-out) varieties on the fly. Situations that require corrosive armaments might swiftly change to a shock-based battle, and this happens quite often.
Overall Gearbox has provided us a completely new title, twice more bad-ass than the first one with the same charm and a dash of nostalgia for Pandora loyalists. This is a title hard-put to defeat, what with its strong mix of genres and a witty narrative that dare challenge the boundaries of game writing. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to experience an adventure like no other, may you be a shooter or role playing fan. And remember: you can always trust the gun at your side