Once in awhile you play a game that surprises you in almost every way imaginable. At the conclusion of Borderlands 1 (and all of its DLC) I craved a sequel, with more of everything. What Gearbox deivered was nothing short of my expectations–an expansive world, excellent plot, interesting characters, and witty writing kept me engaged throughout. To say I was satisfied with Borderlands 2 would be a massive understatement.
That said, there are a few things that managed to slip through the QA department, and a few issues that dampen the experience. Read on to see the good, the bad and the ugly of Borderlands 2.
What intrigued me the most about the original Borderlands was the extreme twist ending that caught me (and my party) by surprise. I feel Gearbox has delivered an even better story than the original in Borderlands 2, incorporating many characters from the original and expanding on the world of Pandora. Even though it’s the same old Pandora, there are new characters to meet, and enough twists to keep you from straying from the story quest line for long–that is, if you’re keeping up with levels.
The character of Handsome Jack, is probably one of the most memorable characters I have interacted with in a video game. On that short list is GLaDOS (Portal, Portal 2), Wheatley (Portal 2), Cortana (Halo), Alyx (Half Life 2). He’s a character that will keep you laughing, and cursing at the same time as he strives to dismantle what’s left of the Crimson Lance and you.
I was happy to see a lot of returning characters from the original game, including Scooter, Moxie, as well as…well, I don’t want to spoil everything do I?
I can say that the story does have it’s fair share of dull moments–but those moments are filled suitably by the surprisingly well written sidequests. Even though most of them consist of “go here, kill this, collect that, come back” the presentation, and story elements make the task much more enjoyable. To fully appreciate the masterpiece of a story Borderlands 2 presents, you should play through the first game–or else you will miss out on the countless references, and call-backs.
Borderlands 2 features four classes (five if you count the Mecromancer which has been released as DLC) and each character is a unique spin on the original four. Guns come in various types, sizes, shapes, elements, and shooting styles. Everything from bouncing arcing flaming rifles to pistols that fire rockets and everything in between. As per most loot-based games, as you level up, the loot gets progressively better.
Speaking of levels, in Borderlands 2, characters max out at level 50, but can continue leveling through “Badass Ranks”. For each challenge you complete you receive a badass token which can be used to increase one of five stats for your character, such as reload speed, health/shield regeneration, critical hit chance, and basically any character skill attribute. The game does not remind you as often about your badass token stockpile, so it benefits you to check in on your rankings from time to time to buff your character’s stats.
While the guns take center stage for Borderlands 2, there are additional ways to modify your character. Class mods expand your character’s capabilities–sometimes enabling additional skill tree points, and relics that grant further weapon buffs.
Essentially what the game boils down to is: shoot, loot, compare, sell, repeat. My major complaint from the first game was that comparing weapons was very hard, while that is alleviated in the sequel, it’s a chore to sift through large piles of weapons just to find the one diamond in a sea of garbage weapons.
The Sights and Sounds of Pandora
From the satisfying sound each gun makes (talking guns excluded) to the brilliant, colorful environments, I was impressed with the game’s art style, opting for a more comic-book like appearance instead of a photorealistic environment. There are many different zones in Borderlands 2–from a frozen tundra, to an active volcano, and just about everything in-between.
Borderlands 2 is the exact same game content-wise whether you go it alone or assemble a party of up to three others. That said, the loot becomes better and the enemies tougher as you increase the number of players in a particular game. I feel that when playing Borderlands 2 with friends every facet of the game is improved, from story to looting, action skill use, and bonus quest objectives. This is a game that will have you talking about it long after you beat it.
The issues that I came across with Borderlands 2 surrounded minor graphical glitches, and enemies that were almost too good at dodging my fire. While the latter issue seemed to not be a problem after a few hours, the few times I lost a loot goon chest to a mysterious sinkhole effect were enough to anger me. The biggest complaint for this game was the ridiculous frame rate issues that occasionally cropped up. Borderlands 2 does not handle massive amounts of explosions well. Once you have a lobby of four players that want to use rocket launchers, you have a recipe for disaster.
Another issue that I ran into during my review run of the game was when I ran into an un-killable bandit in the “Go Kill Yourself” side quest. When I discussed this with a friend, he said that the bandit had a really funny bit of dialog before jumping off a cliff. Considering how late this quest was in the story, I was not ready to start another character to try and see what happens.
With Borderlands 2 releasing before the huge holiday lineup from Activison, EA, 343i among others, it gave me plenty of time to wrap my head around this huge game. While not of Skyrim scale, Borderlands 2 will afford you anywhere between 20-30 hours or more (depending on number of playthroughs) so be ready to tell your loved ones that you’re taking a vacation to Pandora for a week or two.
You’ll love this game if you enjoy shooting mindless enemies, have a dark sense of humor, love using outlandish weapons and enjoy a deep leveling system with nearly limitless ways to customize your character. You might want to avoid this game if you dislike skill grinding or have an extreme dislike for constantly comparing your loot.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with Borderlands 2, and can’t wait to see where else Gearbox takes Borderlands 2 with future DLC packs. Excuse me, I have a second playthrough to demolish.
Borderlands 2 was reviewed with a reviewer-purchased copy of the game for Xbox 360. Borderlands 2 is also available for PS3 and PC.
Note for PC version: We did not review the PC version of Borderlands 2, but additional features present in the PC version include a FOV slider, additional graphics options, and UI scaling. Our resident PC aficionados approve of the game’s menu interface