A sequel to Borderlands makes a lot of sense given the surprising success it had in 2009, followed by an aggressive and mostly well-received DLC campaign. The formula is simple, take what would be a generic first-person shooter and add RPG and quest elements. Then make the entire loot system all about guns rather than armor and clothing. The result was a frenzy of finding the rarest of weapons with the best properties to share and show to your friends. All of this eclipsed the weak ending of the main story.
It is up to you to stop Handsome Jack, but who will you be? Axton the Commando, who deploys a turret, Salvador the Gunzerker, who is able to dual-wield, Maya the Siren, who can lock an enemy in place to do extra damage, or Zero the Assassin, who can create a clone and do devastating melee attacks? The choice is yours and any character is fine solo but the gameplay experience can be improved with co-op play. Mixing and matching character classes or even double, triple, or quadruple-downing on the same class can be a wrecking machine.
Nothing in Borderlands 2 has really changed, but it excels in improving everything about the game. The story is much more interesting this time as it follows the events of the first game where the Head of Hyperion, Handsome Jack has taken over Pandora. The characters have moved on from being simple Vault Hunters and are doing what is necessary to stop Handsome Jack from uncovering another vault he has found since the first vault revealed a new element called Eridium.
Quests are more often that not interesting, branching, and sometimes updating in real-time as things have changed. You do get “fetch” quests from time to time, but the events along the way or at the destination prove worthy of asking you get set number of items. There’s also quite a bit of backtracking, which creates some diversity as all quests are set in each new location to travel to. Sadly, they’ve introduced timed quests that task you with performing a certain action within a period of time. Losing one of these quests isn’t the end, but isn’t as fun a second time around, or a third.
Golden Key Chests are found in special locations, the first of which in the intial town you encounter called Sanctuary. Here you can use your golden keys (obtained through being a Premiere Club member) or putting in codes via SHiFT. Using one of your precious keys on these chests can unlock special elemental weapons and items such as shields and relics that are levelled to your character. These items will help you significantly in your shooting and looting.
At first glance, you’ll encounter new enemy types and then see familiar enemy faces like bandits and skags and think this all the game has to offer. Fear not, as you’ll encounter a wide variety of enemies that carry shields, throw axes, or shoot flamethrowers. The hulking Goliaths now roaming the world, who can level up to four different times to obtain immense strength if you don’t kill them fast enough. Later on in the game you’ll encounter Hyperion robots that will require corrosive weapons to do major damage and are the most fun to fight against as you can shoot off limbs to debilitate them. New Game+ introduces harder enemies matched to your level and enemies get new names and stylings for a fresh experience.
Guns, guns, guns, and more guns. The revamped hardware that drives this game has receieved a massive overhaul. Each manufacturer is unique in their design and abilities. The Tediore guns can be thrown when reloaded and explode based on the ammo left in the gun. Bandit guns are often misspelled but feature powerful damage. Each weapon you find is randomized and if you’re lucky, will be imbued with elemental properties such as fire, electricity, explosive, corrosive, or now slag. Slag is a new damage type that can be used in conjunction with any other element to do more damage. The gun vendor is the last place you should look for getting guns, usually re-running an area you’ve cleared to fight a boss to get a better loot drop is your best chance. It gets very hard to let go of some amazing weapons that just don’t do the damage you need them to. There is a in-game bank to store your favorite weapons.
Unfortunately some bugs are present where character models disappear, money isn’t hoovered into you or not even able to be picked up, and even quests that glitch out to where you can’t complete them or have to save and reload the game to get it to work. There’s an odd bug where I went to give claptrap a high five (for an achievement) and he gets stuck holding his hand up. Just weird glitches, sometimes game breaking in ways can really get in the way of a good time. If you don’t experience them, then fantastic.
Co-Op is a huge part of the game, much improved over the original PC release which used GameSpy as its matchmaking service. It was nightmarish to work with friends just to get a game going, send out invites, etc. As Borderlands went on, Gearbox moved towards Steam Achievements. Now, with the sequel on PC, it is Steamworks which it uses for matchmaking, achievements, and cloud storage. Now it is just as easy to jump into a friend’s game as the console counterpart.
Gearbox also heard the complaints of gamers who felt that there weren’t enough options in the menus for the game, to which they agreed. Now you can adjust your field of view in a slider, set boundaries for the HUD, and even scale the HUD to your liking. On top of that you get the full treatment of graphical options and resolutions as low as 640×480, making this an incredibly scaled game. The areas in this game are so rich in color that it feels it is about to bleed out of your screen with their vibrancy. Borderlands 2’s colors are a large step away from the browns that dominated the palette in the first game, making for a less muted and visually appealing game.
Borderlands 2 is incredibly engaging, gorgeous, and rewarding with its funny dialogue and endless loot. The idea to make a game revolving around guns and time you sit in menus staring at the statistical advantages of a gun you picked up over what you have equipped is a sure fire way of determining how deep and involving everything is. This isn’t what Borderlands should have been, it is what Borderlands 2 has become. It’s an evolution for grander experience. It is not without its faults though, but is worth every penny and all of your time.
A Steam code was provided by 2K Games for review purposes