Review: New Borderlands poses better than the original
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 09:10
When “Borderlands” was first released in Fall 2009, it was merely another game, but with time “Borderlands” slowly gained an immense following due to its distinctive looting experience. Though “Borderlands” was an incredibly fun and addicting shooter-RPG hybrid, it had its notable flaws, but with “Borderlands 2,” Gearbox Software aimed to fix previous problems while building upon what made its predecessor.
At the end of the first “Borderlands,” four Vault Hunters were able to open the mystical Vault on the planet Pandora only to find a colossal monster and no treasure. However, opening the Vault and defeating the monster caused Pandora to produce a rare alien element called Eridium. Evidence also began to surfaces towards the existence of another Vault even greater than the first. As a result, Vault Hunters and Handsome Jack, leader of the weapon’s manufacturer corporation Hyperion as well as the story’s main villain, are on a race to reach the newly discovered Vault.
You will play as one of four Vault Hunters. Axton, the Commando, can use a huge turret to assist him in battle. Salvador, the Gunzerker, can duel wield any two weapons. Maya, the Siren, uses Phaselock to levitate enemies in mid-air. Finally, there is Zer0, the Assassin who uses Deception to deploy a decoy of himself and become invisible.
Although weapon proficiencies have been removed and characters do not specialize with a specific type of gun anymore, each character still feels unique and plays differently. There is a level system where each time you rise in rank, you earn a point that can be used towards your skill tree, which grants various perks to your character. There are also challenges you can complete in the game that build up points to use tokens that act as permanent upgrades for your character.
Like the characters and their individual abilities, the game’s weapons and equipment are even more extensive with the biggest variety in design and stats in the history of gaming. New guns can be acquired by killing enemies, reaching the end of a cave full of monsters and discovering a big loot chest, or simply purchasing them from a vending machine. All weapons can even be viewed in a 3D model. If you can find three other friends to play with online or one other friend locally (they have also added playing local splitscreen online), the loot will be much better than if you played alone. However, the enemies will be tougher and have greater numbers. Besides, Borderlands in general is a lot more fun to play with friends. With over 500,000 unique weapons and equipment (you read that correctly), it is difficult to not get a happy feeling when you stumble upon a new weapon that suits your play style. It keeps the game exhilarating and constantly feeling fresh no matter how many times you have played through the game.
Another refreshing force in “Borderlands 2” is the world of Pandora and its inhabitants. The environments and enemies/non-player characters (NPCs) have been improved in every possible way. Instead of the same junkyard, barren wasteland setting we got in the first “Borderlands,” there are now a few different environments including snowing surfaces and lava lands accompanied with framerates that rarely drop, refined textures, brighter colors, and overall better graphics.
To explore Pandora, you can travel by foot, drive a vehicle, or use fast travel to instantly teleport to an area. Thankfully navigating through Pandora is easier now with a new mini-map in the top right corner of the screen. Fortunately, there are more vehicle choices this time around with new appearances that can be unlocked through quests. However, the driving does not feel as smooth as it did in the first “Borderlands.” Vehicles now have a drift mechanic, but the mechanic and controlling the vehicle in general is too difficult and it made my desire to explore Pandora frustrating rather than adventurous. When I am not feeling frustrated with the driving, I listen to NPCs conversing. To say that NPCs have more personality and humor in this game is an understatement. Every important character is practically insane with some of the most bonkers dialogue I have ever heard in a game, but it is all hilariously twisted.
Though I was not able to complete the story in time – which should say how lengthy the game is – I can definitely say that Gearbox stuck to their word in saying there would be a better story. It does not feel like the first Borderlands where you were dumped on a random planet in search of treasure and that was the entire story. There are motivations as to why characters are fighting Handsome Jack and vice versa, which gives more depth to not only the plot, but the game’s characters as well. Besides, with all of the sidequests available, one could easily stray away from the story.
With thousands upon thousands of more guns, hours and hours of gameplay, fun co-op with friends and other major improvements to something that was already a blast (pun intended), the real challenge with “Borderlands 2” is to put it down and find a way to stop playing it. It’s a game that is well worth your hard-earned cash and time, especially if you loved the first game. “Borderlands 2” rightfully earns 9.5 axe handles out of 10.