Borderlands 2 is yet another sequel in a year that has been full of sequels. The original Borderlands was a first person perspective role player with a robust loot system and a bare bones story propped up by the scaffolding of quests and a shallow narrative involving four vault hunters searching for a legendary vault believed to be filled with alien treasure that would lead to fame and fortune. It was essentially a dungeon crawler crossed with a shooter and was tremendously successful. Borderlands 2 isn’t much different either, but before you turn your nose up and cry there’s no innovation anymore, let me tell you… this isn’t a bad thing.
There’s something to be said about trying to reinvent the wheel with a sequel. It usually ends up void of all the great things that made the original brilliant. Gearbox distilled all of the great ideas that made Borderlands one of my favorite games and then improved on the things that needed fixing. They paid attention to little details that just make the experience all the better. Ammo and money are shared throughout the party when playing online. Picking it all up is a bit easier as well. Walking over money and ammo dropped by slain enemies automatically picks it up. This logic also applies when driving around the world of Pandora in the “Light Runner” dune buggy fans are familiar with. What is best though is the fact that guns and other loot like shields, grenade mods, etcetera, are not picked up by walking over them. This helps to prevent one person from grabbing/hoarding all the precious loot. The looting of chests has also been streamlined. Multiple objects can be picked up by holding down the action button.
While the familiar visual style remains the overall presentation of the game has been given a face-lift. Even on consoles, the graphics have been improved. The cell shaded graphics look more detailed and vivid than its predecessor. For example, there are areas where there is snow falling and little snow flakes will stick to the screen. The user-interface has also been improved in subtle ways. The skills menu where “skill points” are spent and distributed looks better and provides the option to review all three trees at once. Inventory is easier to manage, providing options to compare items when buying, selling or equipping guns, shields, relics, class mods, etc.
The team at Gearbox didn’t just spend time fretting over tiny details though, Borderlands 2 boasts a richer experience than you might think. Rather than a weapon proficiency system like in the last game, Gearbox have scrapped that and replaced it with a “Bad Ass Ranking” system. Accomplishments in the game will result in an increase in your Bad Ass rank which unlocks tokens. The Bad Ass tokens can be redeemed to boost various character stats. The best part though, is that your Bad Ass rank will maintain and persist over multiple characters. There are other notable improvements over the original. Where the first game had a very bare bones story line, Borderlands 2 features a story that is quite well written and uses the events of the original game to build an intriguing narrative. Using the original cast of characters to weave the story of Borderlands 2, fans of the original will instantly have a great connection to the original vault hunters as the story unfolds. There are plenty of side missions as should be expected, but Borderlands 2 features a well written script that has plenty of chuckle worthy moments. One of the best characters is Handsome Jack, the game’s antagonist. He has some of the best lines in the game with his crass sense of humor.
In order to stop Handsome Jack, you will need guns, lots of guns. There are plenty of guns on tap to do that. While Borderlands is a shooter, it boasts the quirkiest line up of firearms imagined. Rifles have AI’s in them that talk smack to you, pistols boast dual barrels with giant drum ammo feeders, heavy duty shotguns are vented and look like exhaust ports from an engine block and some submachine guns vibrate when not in use. There are eight different gun manufacturers and they all have their own identity. Bandit weapons are high capacity, Torque features big hulking chassis and explosive rounds, Vladof are high rate of fire, Jakobs are very wild west looking with high damage and Maliwan are always elemental. The elemental weapons are the craziest. Weapons that feature elemental properties mean that a gun with corrosive properties will be effective against armored opponents and shock weapons will decimate enemies with shields. It’s also really cool when an enemy is electrocuted and hundreds of blue numbers are flying off indicating damage done as he runs around covered in electricity or “slagging” an enemy to do one hundred percent extra damage.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are some bugs and glitches in the game. There have been reports of players’ characters getting reset and golden keys being lost. Textures are sometimes slow to load and will tend to pop in. There are also weird clipping/collision issues when jumping sometimes and other small irritating bugs. For instance while playing with a friend online they aimed down their iron sights and were unable to revert to the standard viewpoint. It simply required a quit to the main menu but it was an annoying glitch nonetheless. Thankfully I haven’t experienced anything game breaking and even with it’s small faults, it is great fun to join up with friends and play. It’s definitely good as a solo experience if that’s more your cup of tea but Borderlands 2 is best enjoyed with friends (there is an offline split screen option). The game is also being supported with new content as the Mechromancer character has been released and additional downloadable content already announced.