Borderlands 2, developed by Gearbox, the same company that bought us the mediocre Duke Nukem Forever, has struck gold with their follow-up to the surprisingly good Borderlands.
Borderlands was a first-person shooter with role-playing elements. Borderlands 2 rides on pretty much the same concept; but everything has been tweaked and improved to make it a much superior instalment.
In a gist, just like Borderlands, Borderlands 2 takes place on the alien planet of Pandora, a planet that is rich in minerals where mega corporations mine planetary resources for profit. Players can choose to play as one of the four Vault Hunters, a special breed of mercenaries, who loot and raid their way to the planet’s most treasured resources. The four mercenaries – Salvador, Maya, Exton and Zer0 – are tasked with taking down the villainous Handsome Jack, head of the Hyperion Corporation and one of the most evil nemeses seen in a video game in some time.
Without giving much away, it is safe to say that the story is interesting and has enough hooks to make you want to complete the game to see how it all pans out.
In many ways, Borderlands 2’s main attraction is the ‘shooting and looting’, but the game also gives the player much more choice and customisation as compared to its predecessor. It employs a lot from any successful RPG guidebook – levelling-up, skill tree specialisations and lots of comparable outcomes. While each class still has skill trees, each with three branches, those branches have been fleshed out quite a bit since the first game. With the same numbers of skill points to spend, the player will return to test different builds of specs chosen and will want to try different kinds of specialisations. Players will spend a lot of time shooting varied enemies and intense bosses and the fact that shooting mechanics have been improved makes it even more fun. This instalment is much less repetitive, something that turned many players away from the first one.
Be it guns, ammo, character skins, grenade mods, class mods – there’s always something just a bit better, something you might not realise that you needed until you found it in Borderlands 2. Just like a number of other action RPGs, the hunt for loot becomes so intoxicating and rewarding that the player gets a small rush every time a rare-coloured item spills out of a chest or is dropped by a recently slain enemy. The bulk of the loot are guns, and since the player spends most of the time shooting, it makes the loot even more worthwhile.
The planet is laid out in a set of large, connected open areas. There are also a lot of environmental hazards that make the battlefield all the more varied. The main hub of activities is Sanctuary, a town full of shops and home to a roster of colourful characters. The game also has cameos from the first game and these cameos come in thick and fast. The full original team of playable characters come up in the game – Roland, Mordecai, Lilith and Brick – as do Mad Moxxi, Dr Zed, Scooter and, of course, Claptrap. The new characters are just as interesting – Sir Hammerlock, the gentleman hunter; an obese mechanic called Ellie; the psychotic Tiny Tina; and the villain of the game, Handsome Jack. They’re all voiced as vividly as they’re shown visually.
Like many other role-playing games, Borderlands 2 can seem a bit long. For players who don’t want to go that extra step in unlocking everything, the game can be finished in around 30 hours. But those players who want to experience this game in its entirety with regards to loot and levelling up, it can clock in at around 50 hours.
Unfortunately my one peeve with the length of the game is that some parts of the game feel tacked on to achieve longevity. In some areas, the game tends to drag at times. The world of Pandora can also feel empty in the initial few hours of the game.
I am a long time fan of the Co-op option, especially if it’s split screen. Play any game with friends and family and it just doubles the fun metre. So keeping that in mind, I am happy to say Borderlands 2 has a great multiplayer feature. It gives you the option to Co-op online and offline, thus enhancing the fun factor to the maximum. In fact, I suggest that to get the maximum out of this game, playing the multiplayer online or offline is a must. The game scales difficulty according to how many people are participating in the game. And with greater difficulty, the opportunities for rare items increases, you stand to gain more experience, and of course loot is shared. But there are some annoyances. Death in the game is inevitable, and it’s irritating in some spots to spawn away from teammates and have to backtrack across some big areas to reunite with your squad.
Besides the few issues identified, it is difficult to find a lot of faults within the game. It’s expertly paced, cleverly written, beautifully executed and has a brilliantly high level of detail. The loot system and the depth of the players’ skill tree customisation is a very satisfying experience. The game has fixed nearly all the problems with the first game. For players looking for an experience like Call of Duty or Battlefield, this might not work, but for people looking for a first person shooter loot-fest with great RPG elements, it is worth their time and money.