Published on September 23rd, 2012 | by RyogaWanderer1
Review: Borderlands 2
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
System(s): Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Release Date: September 18, 2012
This year has been a rough year for RPG fans like myself. Between the disappointing ending of Mass Effect 3 to the disappointing (though not unplayable) Diablo 3, I had a lot of hope riding on Borderlands 2. I am going to say right up front, it did not let me down.
The first Borderlands game, for anyone that doesn’t know, was made up of many different flavors. It was part RPG, with it’s levelling mechanics and quest system, part Diablo with it’s loot and skill trees, and part FPS with the way it played. Bringing all of this together was some very solid writing with a black sense of humor that continued to improve with each DLC released. And in the case of the first Borderlands was an example of how to DLC in the modern age. Each one was priced at $10 and brought hours of interesting gameplay to the table. No horse armor here.
So having gushed about how awesome Borderlands was, how does the sequel compare? The RPG elements are largely unchanged. The quests are still in the same vein, the levelling works the same. For this I feel, it was not broken, so no need to fix it. For the loot and skill trees? well, the Skill trees are largely the same mechanic. The classes are different so obviously all new skills. Each class has 3 trees and they offer a lot of interesting choices. As for loot? well, let me get to that in a moment. The FPS elements are almost exactly the same as well, but as they were tight controls in the first game, they are still strong in the second. They did, however, tone down the violence quite a bit from the first. Enemies seem to no longer literally lose their head, or have their eyeballs explode from electricity. It’s a slight loss of the over-the-top feel of the first game, but it is not experience ruining. Off the bat they announced DLC, in the from of an extra class, the Mechromancer named Gaige. Unlike other games, or companies that announced or had DLC day one *coughEAcough* they offered this DLC free to anyone who preordered the game. I am hoping as a result of this, that they will continue the trend of a very value driven DLC schema. They are also offering a DLC season pass at $30 for the 4 planned ones. If they work out like the first game, this will be a 25% savings on something worth the money.
Now, for the loot. The way that Borderlands (and it’s sequel) create loot is something rather interesting. It randomizes each one. As it randomizes, it selects different weapon parts and creates a unique weapon from the parts, gives it a name based on them, a rarity rating and all the information is available on the card. The better the random rolls, the better the quality of the gun. The guns’ quality can be quickly identified by the color of the card when it drops. a White card is the lowest quality, a very basic gun. Green is slightly better, usually having a special property like elemental damage. Blue is rarer, and usually has very good stats for the level of the item. Purple is the second highest and this is where you start to see very special properties, and usually a huge jump in stats over other drops of the level. Orange is the highest so far in the second game (and was only surpassed in the first game through DLC) and these weapons ALWAYS have special properties, and a unique effect. Each Manufacturer has a specific effect for their orange weapons, and they are always very good for their level, and usually for many beyond (or in the case of a level capped item, some of the best in the game). The amount of time and effort put into the back story and feel of each manufacturer’s weapons are mind-bogglingly deep. This makes the loot system even more compelling. You end up with a favorite Manufacturer (mine is Jacobs) and actively seek out the best of those to use. If you like elemental damage, You end up with Maliwan. If you like high individual shot damage, you’ll end up like me with Jackobs.If you like high rates of fire, you may like Vladof. The fact that this happens shows the level of care put into the loot system. The other cool upgrade in loot is that, in the first game guns look, for the most part, pretty mundane. a few may have glowed, or looked a little different, but most looked like mundane real world weapons. In borderlands 2 there are WAY more looks, and many of them are obviously sci-fi or alien. getting a cool looking and powerful weapon is part of the charm. Borderlands 2 absolutely stepped up it’s game in the loot department and that is a big, big plus.
But, how is it getting to all that loot? How is the writing? Let me tell you, the humor and quality of the writing from the first game keeps on rolling. I will not go into spoilers, but it is absolutely worth playing through at least once. Many old character from the first game return, and there are many new characters as well. The villain is villainous, the heroes are likeable, and the supporting cast are awesome. I will say though, if you have not played the first game you will really miss out. You can enjoy the game without it, and anything important from the first game they give exposition on. But, if you have played the first game, there is a sprinkling of references to it EVERYWHERE. It really helps pull you in to caring about what is happening.
So, for Borderlands 2 we have a solid RPG, with lots of really cool loot, with really great writing. Paul, you may ask, is it all sunshine and rainbows? Are we really going to joypuke our faces off as the box and advertising tell us? Well. probably. The game is great, there is no denying this. I just wrote several paragraphs telling you so. However, I WILL say that there are a few issues. Things that they left alone from the first game are still here. Often times quests can get repetitive. Many are go here, kill this, or go here and collect that. Many encounters are just waves of spawning enemies. Some things are still just a bit glitchy. Many of the systems are not 100% reliable especially when it comes to multiplayer, and many similar issues were present in the first game. I have no doubt they will work on them, but in some of these instances it feels like they made no progress from Borderlands to Borderlands 2. The first game was an obviously lower budget first release, but I expect more after the runaway success of the first game. The team should be more experienced now and I expect the quality to be higher. This will be something to look at with the DLC to see if it improves.
All in all I rate this game very high. It’s a rather unique game, in a genre that comprises almost entirely of itself. I always describe it as Diablo with guns, and that’s still really apt. It’s a great game to play with a group of friends and I am sure I will find myself and my friends coming back to play again and again over time. It’s one of those games that even if you have played it, it has enough diversity to come back to again. The random loot and classes really add replay to a game that is already dozens of hours long. It doesn’t hurt that it has multiple difficulty levels after completion. Get it, get some friends and play it. Just watch out for the glitches.
Final score: 4.5 out of 5