Borderlands is easily the game I have played the most this generation. I wasn’t even enthralled by it when it first released. I played a bit through the game and the Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, but that was it. It wasn’t until I picked up the Game of the Year edition and my best friend and I set up a game through LAN that I realized its brilliance. We not only played through the game, but all of the DLC multiple times. We poured hours into Borderlands and I don’t regret a single one of them. So needless to say, I was looking forward to Borderlands 2.
Going into Borderlands 2, I was incredibly excited. Ever since I heard that Anthony Burch, who I followed during his time at Destructoid, was writing on the game I knew that it would resonate with me on some level. I can’t say that I was disappointed in the writing. In a strange way, Borderlands 2 manages to take the mediocre to almost non-existent plot of the first game (not counting the dlc) and not only expand on it, but make it way more important than the first game ever did.
Borderlands 2 (Playstation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360, PC)
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Release: September 18, 2012
This has been a pretty decisive issue for reviews, but I for one absolutely love the writing in Borderlands 2. Humor is subject, so I won’t ever say that I know you’ll like it, but it fit my sense of humor perfectly. I can’t even put the humor aside though. It’s so ingrained into not only the side quests, but comments in the main plot and badass challenges that you can’t avoid it. If the humor isn’t to your liking, it could be a huge detractor from the game.
The actual plot itself is incredible. I never expected that I would not only care about the characters in Borderlands, but to the extent that I feel actual emotions during the plot. There were genuinely shocking moments and the final act is a beautiful close. I’ve heard that some people think the final boss is worse than Borderlands’, and while the fight itself is a bit easy, the actual climax is so intense and such a spectacular part of the game that a weak boss fight really didn’t detract a whole lot from it.
There are two philosophies when it comes to sequels, you can go back and try and mix things up or you can simply do the same thing, but better and Borderlands 2 went with the second strategy. It is everything that was Borderlands, but bigger and way, way better. Just wandering around the world feels better. Pandora feels so much more like a place and not just levels connected by fast travel points. The variety in locals is also stunning. There still are those almost never ending sandy fields of tan, but there are also icy mountains and glowing acid caverns and so, so much more.
In fact, the vast scope of the world is almost a detriment to the game. I wouldn’t have the length of the quests changed, but too often I was spending my time going back to ‘old’ locations to find an offshoot area that I have one quest in. I don’t mind backtracking when there’s a purpose, but it just seemed that I was pushed into a new area sooner than the designers were done with the old one, so I just kept being shuttled back because this quest just worked better in that area. Why not give it to me when I was already there?
Not only are the locals more varied, but the amount of new enemies in the game is astounding. You’re not just shooting the same psycho over and over and over again. The amount of detail put into the enemies and their behaviors is such an improvement. I was frequently infuriated fighting some enemies, not because they were cheap, but because they were smart and challenging. There were times where I was just overwhelmed. I played both single and multiplayer and it seems that there were times where the game was almost too hard to get through by yourself. Luckily there are plenty of tools to aid in creating a wall of bullets between you and your enemies.
Gearbox has completely overhauled the weapons system. Guns actually feel different and whether you change is affected by so much more than are those numbers higher now. Each weapon manufacturer makes a specific style of weapon. Jakobs guns all load with revolver like drums, fire fast and feel ripped from the old West. Maliwan guns all do elemental effects. When you reload tediore weapons, you throw them and materialize a new one. It’s such a small change, just separating effects to different names, but it feels like such a huge deviation and just breaths so much more life into the world.
The two biggest changes in Borderlands 2 are the new classes and the Badass skill system. Each of the new classes can be compared to the original, but they play so different that it really does make this a whole new experience. The classes, coupled with the Badass system, which replaces the challenges with permanent stat rewards that cross all of your characters, give you more reason than ever to try out the different classes and really experiment to find the way you want to fill everything with bullets.
You can pretty much summarize my feelings about Borderlands 2 with the interaction with the vault hunters from the first game. It’s such a rush of familiarity, but expanded and improved in almost every way. This is my favorite loot grind game, but not even it is without faults. For the game’s sake, I have so much fun playing it that I can get over its faults because I just want to play more. I can easily recommend Borderlands 2 and I easily see myself pouring even more hours into it than the first. This is a series that will stand out for this console generations.