The original Borderlands was released in 2009 to surprising critical acclaim and fan response. Fans of the series enjoyed the vast world of Pandora and all there was to loot, explore, and battle. Three years have passed since then and Gearbox Software are back at it again with Borderlands 2. Can this sequel surpass the original or should players miss this trip back to Pandora?
Borderlands was never a game that interested me when it first came out in 2009 even though it received such high praise from so many people. It wasn’t that I hated Borderlands, there were just a lot of other games I was playing at the time. I finally ended up buying it in 2011 for a mere 18 dollars and yet still, I only played about an hour into it. This year, I ended up covering Borderlands 2 quite a bit and the more I saw of the game, the more impressed I became. I ended up purchasing it right after launch and I have to say, it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.
Borderlands 2 takes place five years after the conclusion of the previous game. Handsome Jack used the original Vault Hunters to open up the vault and take down the Destroyer. Eridium can now be found all over the place on Pandora, and Jack used this to his advantage to seize control of the Hyperion Corporation. Now, Handsome Jack rules over the inhabitants of Pandora from his massive satellite visible in the sky in front of Pandora’s moon. Meanwhile, rumors of an even larger Vault hidden on Pandora spread across the universe bringing with it some new Vault Hunters. You play as one of four (soon to be five with the DLC that’s on the way) Vault Hunters that have been lured into a trap by Handsome Jack’s scheming ways. After surviving Jack’s attacks and being rescued by Claptrap (rescued may be a bit of a stretch here), you begin a quest of revenge. You can play as either the Commando Axton who has a Sentry Turret, the Siren Maya who can use a Phaselock ability to trap her opponent, the Assassin Zer0 who can create a decoy of himself, or the Gunserker Salvador who can wield to weapons at once.
Borderlands 2 is a first-person shooter at its core but, it has enough role-playing elements to at least be considered for that genre as well. 4-Player co-op returns however, there’s no four-player local multi-player which really disappointed me when I had three buddies over and was looking to jump into Pandora. 3-branch skill trees and class mods also return from the previous game and definitely add some boosts to your character depending on where you put your skills and what mods you put on. A four-seat drift-able vehicle was added in this one with a few customization options but, I felt the vehicle itself was very simple and didn’t really add much more to the gameplay experience. Enemy AI has been improved most notably in how relentlessly the enemies attack your players. No longer are mountains and ledges safe from enemy fire and no longer do enemies stay out in the open if they’re taking fire. These things will do everything they can to stay alive and kill you, some even pick up discarded shields! I have noticed that there have been a few times where I was able to stand next to an enemy without being hit while killing it which wasn’t something I expected to see. Those problems are few and far between though.
Speaking of enemies, there is a lot of variation between all of them that you don’t see in most games. I’m so used to the generic formula of one enemy being stronger than the other but, Borderlands 2 takes that to another level. Not only are enemies stronger but, they act completely different than each other. This is a welcome change with the sheer amount that you see in this game, things need to have some sense of difference and not the same generic enemy movements. Psychos run right up to you while Rats will make more educated attacks. The Goliath can actually go up in level which provides some very tough moments if you’re not careful. There are countless others and even subtypes of the main enemies! Gearbox really went all out to make numerous enemies to take out and it absolutely enhances the gameplay. While we’re talking about characters, I can’t help but talk about Tiny Tina. I must have had a smile on my face the entire time listening to Ashly Burch’s character in action. It’s definitely one of the high points of the game.
There’s just so much comedy to take in in the lovely world of Pandora and I had fun every second of it. Games are meant to be an enjoyable experience and that’s where Borderlands 2 excels, it just doesn’t take itself too seriously. The art style is very unique and easy on the eyes and everything is very detailed and vibrant. The customization is there for your characters although I would have liked a little bit more choice as to how my character looks, it’s not a huge problem for me though. There are a couple things that are more bothersome to me though. The texture pop-in is a little bit much for a game that is not one full streaming world, it really takes away from the experience at times. The other thing is the fact that it ISN’T one fully streaming world. I would have really liked to have seen no load times in this one considering you can be in the middle of a battle and just escape to another area without any problem whatsoever which seems weird to me.
Looting is something that a lot of people have been complaining about and I can gladly say that I haven’t had those problems. All of my weapons thus far have been very diverse and proportionate to my level unless I’m going back to do a low-level quest. I haven’t had any problems with not receiving decent weapon of a certain type (ex. some people have had great snipers and bad assault rifles no matter what they do). I really have no complaints about the looting system, it’s been great for me and I love the absolutely incredible amount of guns that you can receive in Borderlands 2. The elemental damage make for some extra fun too allowing you to corrode, set fire to, or even electrify enemies depending on the weapon or mod. By the way, hold on to those Golden Keys, I know first hand that they give you some great weapons to play with.
With side quests galore and a brilliantly light-hearted main campaign, Borderlands 2 makes for a wonderful single-player experience. Fortunately for all of us, Borderlands 2 makes for an even better multi-player experience as you’ll be destroying everything that Pandora can throw at you with up to 2 players locally and 4 online. What’s better than taking your buddies through a campaign with a near infinite amount of guns and enemies? I don’t think there is anything. Check out Borderlands 2, it’s one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve had in a very long time and I’m sure you’ll think the same.