The original Borderlands was a sleeper-hit. A game that used cartoony, cell-shaded graphics instead of the more usual realistic style. A game that used funny writing instead of dead-serious and, as developer Gearbox said themselves, bazillions of guns. The ideas of RPG-elements such as looting and leveling up in a FPS made for an interesting cocktail, that struck the masses. Now it’s time to go hunting again.
Borderlands 2 takes places five years later after the original. The opening of the vault in the last game has triggered new events and a new villain with the name of “Handsome Jack” has appeared on Pandora. Like in the original you can choose one of four classes: the basic hero Commando, a psychic Siren, a gun crazy Gunzerker or a sneaky and lethal Assassin. Every class has its own abilities and skills that differ from each other and will help you on the battlefield against the enemies of Pandora varying from beasts to maniacs all the way to robots.
The story is more personal this time around and the cast from the lovable and annoying Claptrap to the cocky, sarcastic Handsome Jack is pure gold. The writing in the game is downright funny and you will find yourself laughing more than a couple of times. The overall plot is also better. In the original you didn’t really understand the story or why you did something, but now the plot is more coherent and for the fans of the first game it has some nice surprises, though the ending could have had more closure.
The land of Borderlands is divided into multiple sub-areas and a Sanctuary, which basically acts as your main hub, where you’ll get the majority of the main missions. You will discover new areas by progressing through the main story. Every area also has various side missions you can do. You can whenever you want come visit these areas again and complete them, and thanks to the Fast Travel stations, you can quickly move between locations. Mostly the missions are pretty straight-forward “go here – kill him – get this – come back”, but there are some very imaginative ones too. For example deliver human body parts to mailboxes, help a Psycho to commit suicide, or help a psychopathic little girl with her blood-thirsty tea party. But the missions are a bit uneven. Sometimes a side mission is more interesting and fun than a main mission, which sometimes feels as though it should have been a side mission.
By completing the main missions the story progresses, but don’t bother trying to complete the story right away by only doing main missions. You will quickly notice the enemies become tougher and you will have to do side missions in order to level up and stand a chance against them. Also, obtain bigger and better guns from fallen enemies or from those nice, little weapon boxes. Seriously, opening those feels like opening a present on Christmas. Too bad I mostly got only coal…
The selling point of Borderlands has always been the guns. You can literally get millions and millions of different guns to obtain and not one will be the same. Of course that’s stretching it a bit. One gun has 44 damage, another 43. One is blue, another is red. One shoots fire, another electricity, another explosive rounds and another corrosive bullets etc. With such stats, yes, there can be A LOT of guns. But still, on my first play through, I came across at least over 200 guns and none of them were the same, but they weren’t boring either. Different gun manufacturers have different abilities. A gun that turns into a grenade while reloading is pretty cool.
The game is fun even when playing solo, but the real fun starts when you can play with up to three friends co-op, split-screen offline or even take the split-screen online! Whatever you decide on, Borderlands 2 has you covered. You can join a friend’s game and complete quests and when you leave the game, your friend will have the progress saved, but you can still play the same missions by yourself again. But it would still be better to start a whole new game with co-op, since even a couple of levels difference between the players will make the enemies much harder and therefore be a disadvantage to the lower level player.
The most significantly improvement from the original is the larger variety of themes in the landscape. Though, you still have the boring mountains and deserts, but also icy tundras, flourish forests, artistic caves and much much more. It’s complimented by the increased cel-shaded graphics. Unlike in the original, where the environment had a more realistic touch, this time, everything is more cartoon-ish, colorful and vibrant. Overall the game has many small tweaks, that make it a better experience. You can now share your inventory with another player instead of just dropping equipment, instantly sell all the “garbage” from your inventory you don’t need or want and the inclusion of a minimap does wonders.
Now, the game still has its flaws: the driving still doesn’t feel particularly good. The vehicles don’t seem to have enough weight and the steering is annoying, though it’s more tolerable than in its predecessor. While playing co-op there’s no shared loot. The player who gets the loot first leaves the other players in the rain, so having a functional team is crucial. Another thing are the menus. They have a lot of info to display and it has been rearranged to the better eg. managing inventory and skill points, but it could still use more streamlining.
Nonetheless, Borderlands 2 is a textbook example of how to do a sequel. It’s more diverse, has more content, better writing, better scenery and almost every complaint of the first game has been addressed, if not completely corrected. With it doing so much right, it is a very high nominee for Game of the Year. Get good buddies, go buy Borderlands 2 and start playing!
0/100% = 90%
Buy It/Don’t Buy It = Buy it
Will you play it 12 months later? = Yes, because of DLC support