Well ladies and gentleman, the much awaited sequel to one of the most loved co-op experiences of this generation has arrived. There’s no doubt that the hype is strong with this one, but how well does Borderlands 2 live up to this expectation? The short answer is yes; but if you need a little more explanation than that, keep on reading.
Teamwork is key to bringing down giant enemies like this.
Borderlands 2 places you in the role of one of four vault hunters, mercenaries that roam the game’s world of Pandora in search of riches. At first glance each of these heroes just seem like rehashes of the old archetypes, but these new heroes have improved skills and ways to better themselves. There’s the Siren, who controls the battlefield by locking down enemies in place. Then there is the assassin named Zero, a cybernetic ninja who can use his invisibility powers to traverse the battlefield undetected to gain a good sniping spot or an opportunity to cut a few throats. There’s also the Gunzerker, the quintessential powerhouse who can wield any two guns at the same time, whether they be pistols, snipers, or even rocket launchers. Finally there is the Commando, who’s specialty is a deployable turret for use as back up.
Each class gets three skill trees that promote different styles of play. For example, as the Commando you can buff yourself to be the ultimate gunslinger, or you can buff your turret and let it do all the hard work for you. The amount of freedom you have with these classes are great. You can have a saved character of every class if you wish, and you can reallocate your skill points at any time for a small fee. It’s a great thing to have for when you find an amazing weapon that doesn’t fit with your skill tree. Not only do the skills provide a lot of freedom, but the classes themselves are open enough that you can have a diverse array of playstyles. Just because you like Zero doesn’t mean you have to snipe. Use your invisibility to get behind for a surprise shotgunning! I even found the Gunzerker’s weapon buffs to damage and magazine size make him a deadly sniping machine. Some of my more satisfying moments come from taking a sniper with twice as many rounds as it should have and killing an entire camp of bandits before they knew what hit them.
Speaking of satisfying, let’s talk about the gun selection. When some games promise something in their advertising, they often embellish. One that comes to mind is Skyrim’s “endless quest” system. Sure you never run out of quests, but if each quest just becomes the same dull fetch mission, is it really endless? Borderlands 2 advertises “bazillions of guns,” and though I’m pretty sure that is not a real number, the game probably holds close to that imaginary amount. Each gun has a random set of features, both visual and functional, all randomized for each gun. You may see similar parts on different guns, but finding two weapons that are exactly the same is rarer than finding a weapon of the rarest tier. The OCD part of me cringes at the Gunzerker because of this, knowing that I may wield two identical guns at once on a very rare occasion. This randomization makes for some great weapons, like a shotgun that explodes like a grenade when you reload it; some terrible weapons, such as a four round burst sniper; and some downright ridiculous weapons, like….well, this.
The game plays very smoothly. The control scheme is the same as Call of Duty and in many ways feels like it in the flow of combat, but that’s where those comparisons end. The leveling seems to work well. Each area’s enemies aren’t scaled to your level, but you will have to do some minimal grinding, if any, to just play the main story. But just because you can skip the side missions doesn’t mean you should. They are great ways to earn cool loot and they have some of the game’s best moments. I’d share my favorite, but I don’t want to spoil anything. The missions are that good.
Borderlands 2 triumphs in so many ways, but that doesn’t excuse it for some of its shortcomings. The fact that it has co-op is great; the fact that it is unbalanced is not. Everything runs smoothly and is great fun if everybody is at the same level, but if they stray by more than a few levels, somebody’s going to have a bad time. Because enemies don’t scale, lower leveled characters will find themselves struggling to stay alive as the higher characters pull all of the team. And the loot dropped ends up being unusable by the lower characters and trashed by the higher ones. The difficulty of the game can’t be changed to accommodate, and it’s hard enough on its own.
All in all Borderlands 2 takes what made the first a favorite and cranked it up to eleven. There’s nothing revolutionary here; but that’s not a bad thing by any means. The game improves on almost everything. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy the first Borderlands at all, but this sequel has me falling in love, something I haven’t been able to say about a game in a long while. This game isn’t perfect by any means, but it will please old fans and garner the attention of some new ones. The game can be completed in about thirty to forty hours, and with four classes to run through the game with, each with three sub types to choose from, this game has longevity to spare. Borderlands 2 will probably end up on everyone’s “top games of the year” list, mine included.