If you’ve played the original Borderlands, you’re in for an enhanced experience that’s even more hilarious and wacky than the original. For those of you who haven’t played the initial installment, let me explain why you should pick it up: Several mega-corporations have taken over the planet Pandora. A vault filled with alien technology is found on the nearby planet Prometheus as well as on your homeworld. You play as a “vault hunter” who battles these mega-corporations to find the sexy tech first.
Sense? It really doesn’t make any, and the story isn’t exactly a main part of the Borderlands experience. If you’re expecting something as story-heavy as a Hemingway novel, you’re looking in the wrong place. Still, even with minimal story, Borderlands surprised millions nationwide–4.5 million, in fact. Its “role-playing shooter” gameplay elements and Diablo-influenced loot system hooked players like women to chocolate.
That said, the first Borderlands has its share of issues. You can’t trade items between co-op partners, you need to create a dedicated character if you want to play through the entire story with a friend, Claptrap never stops telling you he’s dancing, and the skill-tree is a little limited in terms of the amount of skills you can obtain. But gamers adjusted to such flaws and enjoyed the shoot ‘em up action.
But back to Borderlands 2. The game ups the ante by giving the comic book-like cell-shaded graphics more detail, offering tons of guns, and supplying Claptrap with more than three lines. Instead of starting from scratch and risking alienating fans with new gameplay mechanics, GearBox simply improved broken areas. And the fixes work.
Borderlands 2 is a game you’ll want to play with at least one other person; the enemies are overwhelming when you try to tackle the game solo. Thankfully, Gearbox greatly enhanced the co-op experience by letting you trade items between players, and drop-in drop-out as you please. You no longer need to create a dedicated co-op character–a huge improvement.
It’s the small details that really shine here. In the event that you or your co-op partner progresses when the other isn’t around, Borderlands 2 gives you the option of starting with their progress or your own. Another welcome addition is the ability for anyone to set the primary mission.
And you can now see what your partner is looking at when they are at the menu screen! Not down to the last detail of course, but you know that they’re not just standing there aimlessly (or are they?). On the topic of small details, guns are shiner, and both the menus and skill-trees are revised and much more organized. With the new skill-trees I no longer have to spend four hours reading it over before spending my a skillpoint.
If you’re expecting a much more involved story with Borderlands 2, don’t. Although the story is a little more prominent than the first, it’s still a very loose end to the game. There’s a new villain. Handsome Jack, and tons of characters return such as Moxxi, Dr. Zed, Scooter, and Tannis. You have the chance to interact with the four playable characters from the first game and have the option of helping them out.
Relics, which are new to the series, are found scattered across the game and are “worn” to give you extra abilities. These abilities include enhanced shield capacity to chance of area-elemental damage. Relics are one of my favorite new features as they’re pretty uncommon, so when you find one it’s significant. The vehicles are improved, too, with the addition of bonuses such as turbo duration and ammo capacity. To add a little more spice to the vehicles, you can also flip through different gunner options like seeking missiles, catapults, and remote detonated barrels.
In terms of the gameplay, not much has changed in the mechanics; shooting, running, and melee are controlled the same. The combat and shooting feel a bit smoother, however. With the first installment, I ran into a lot of lag in both solo and online play. With Borderlands 2 I haven’t run into that at all.
To enhance your leveling up, there’s a new series of challenges that contribute to a “badass ranking.” There are challenges set in your menu, that as you accomplish them, you’re given a token that goes toward your badass ranking. These challenges range anywhere from killing a certain number of skags, to not dying in a mission. There are fourteen options for your badass ranking, which are: critical hit damage, elemental effect chance, elemental effect damage, fire rate, grenade damage, gun accuracy, gun damage, maximum health, melee damage, recoil reduction, reload speed, shield capacity, shield recharge delay, and shield recharge rate.
All fourteen bonuses are pretty awesome, however, you only gain a 1-2% increase with each token in the chosen attribute. However, this is absolutely no limit to how many tokens you can get, and how high you can level up these attributes, making your character that much more effective, and your gameplay experience that much more defined.
With the fifth class, the Mecromancer, and the first of four map packs already released, Borderlands 2 promises just as much, if not more replay value than the first. If you’ve never played a Borderlands title, and you enjoy loot-grabbing first-person shooter fun, Borderlands 2 is a more than worthy pick up.