They say that the more things change the more they stay the same and it’s certainly true for the planet of Pandora. There are new bandits, a new vault, new vault hunters, and a new corporation trying to strip and fuck the planet — Atlas was so last decade, everything’s about Hyperion now. The CEO of Hyperion, known only as Handsome Jack, is aggressively settling the planet. He promises the locals that if they move to his new cities they’ll find peace and prosperity only to massacre them wholesale. You are a Vault Hunter who’s been hired by Handsome Jack to find the new vault — PSYCHE, he’s just trying to kill y’all so you can’t challenge his power. You escape but are you gonna take that attempt on your life lying down? No sir. Also, I promise there are no krakens in this game and a 99.9% reduction in Claptraps.
Borderlands 2 was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K games. It runs on a more refined version of the old engine, a heavily modified Unreal Engine 3. They brought Anthony Burch from Hey Ash Whatcha Playin’ fame to write for the game and it paid off with genuinely hilarious moments and moments of weight.
The game’s development is characterized by two controversies. The first being John Hemingway’s blunder referring to the downloadable extra character Gaige and her Best Friends Forever skill tree as being “the girlfriend skill tree,” described as being for someone who, “suck(s) at first person shooters,” therefore implying that girlfriends are not good at first person shooters.
Speaking of downloadable content, the game offers a Season Pass which sounds like it offers all of the DLC for the game when it is, in fact, just a fancy named DLC package. The Season Pass includes the four additional game campaigns and a level cap increase but it does not include the extra characters, Gaige and Krieg, as well as not including the Headhunter mini-campaigns. A lot of customers bought the game and then bought the Season Pass, thinking they would get every DLC that came out but that wasn’t the case.
Fun Fact: Handsome Jack’s name was just a placeholder for what his actual name would be but Gearbox liked it so much they decided not to change it.
Borderlands 2 was released on September 18th, 2012. It’s competition was World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (PC), FTL: Faster than Light (PC, Mac, and Linux), and Castle Crashers PC release.
The last Borderlands game was a fun romp, tongue-in-cheek, running around and blowing up bandits. It never really challenged my morals or myself in any deep way. I was either killing monsters or people so morally bankrupt they were akin to monsters. Borderlands 2 however presented a moral conundrum that almost stopped me from continuing with the game. I would have to do something that I found so despicable, killing someone who was very young, in order to have a chance to save the world. This isn’t sacrificing a 14 year old to save cancer, it’s doing it just to have the opportunity. In the end I kept going forward because I couldn’t stop now. And that attitude frightened me a bit. I thought about Jack and how he himself might be doing what he was doing because well he can’t stop now… but I was doing it for a good cause, right?
Borderlands 2 is a loot based shooter. A vicious cycle — for your enemies in any event– of using your guns to kill dudes, to get better guns, to kill stronger dudes so on and so forth with a story in there so it doesn’t grow too monotanous. Each character also has an action skill like Krieg’s Buzz Axe Rampage which allows him to go mad chop people up or Zer0’s Decepti0n which renders him invisible and projecting a decoy that draws enemy fire. They lean toward different playstyles with their different skill trees so experiment until you find something that works for you or your equipment.
The enemies consist of the well-known bandits and Pandoran wild-life like the wolf-like skags, plentiful spider-ants, and the brand new betentacled Threshers. New among the hazards are Hyperion’s legion of assorted murder-robots so keep a corrosive weapon handy and watch out for the self-destructing ones that’ll chase you down.
You can play alone or with friends online. The console versions also have local multiplayer as well so long as you don’t mind split screens and screen squish. The game is definitely designed to be played with friends and is much easier with an ally. Between the addition of their action skills, team buffing abilities, and the simple power to pick you up if you get downed so long as their competent they’ll counteract the difficulty increase.
Overall the game feels smoother in every way than its predecessor. You can crawl during Fight for you Life, the animations are better, everything seems to take less time. Enemy movement is also much more fluid. Psychos will roll, dodge, and react to getting hit instead of charging in a straight line.
The new characters do a great job of pushing their abilities to new extremes. Gunzerking takes Brick’s berserk to its logical conclusion and Maya’s Phaselock is useful and has marvelous utility. The turret has also been salvaged as it now has the ability to aim and look in all directions, no longer will skags and rakks get behind its field of fire.
The dialogue and overall story of the game is much improved from the original. With a story that elicited actual pathos and dialogue that elicited a lot of laughs it was something that intertwined with the gameplay and world into a greater experience. This game goes way over the top and at no point does it seem silly because it meshes very well with the art style.
Handsome Jack is an incredible villain. I love to hate him but sometimes he’s just left of decent. How he’s so close to doing the right thing but has been blinded by power, greed, and his smug sense of superiority. He grabs your attention, constantly jeers you, and makes you want to take him down.
The DLC in this game is a wonderful addition, Season Pass not-withstanding. The extra campaigns, characters, and mini-campaigns are all incredibly fun and filled with new characters, enemies, and loot. It’s reasonably priced and worth the cost.
The quests are usually enjoyable and introduce interesting mechanics but some of them come in at bizarre times insofar that you’ll be grossly over-leveled for their enemies and loot related to when they’re given to you. They might be fun to play but won’t be worth your time in terms of mechanical benefit.
My 198 hours with this game are testament to how it fulfilled my desire for a better Borderlands. If you remotely enjoyed the first game but passed on the sequel then find some friends and go at it. If you haven’t played the first game and want to scratch the Diablo II itch then this game is a fine place to start, Borderlands 1 is not a requisite– you’ll be saving yourself a disappointment of Kraken proportions. The Game of the Year edition is still $40 but it’s often on sale on Steam so I’d recommend picking it up for 50% off.
Next Week: Medieval II: Total War