Borderlands, released with little fanfare in 2009, went on to create a cult-like following among its legion of fans. The combination of shooting and looting, in an alien, western-like dystopia generated a huge fan-driven buzz, as well as considerable critical acclaim. No surprise, then, that publisher 2K Games and developer Gearbox have nearly finished work on the sequel. But what's it like? We sent Aylon along to take a look...
When I first sat down to play Borderlands 2, I was put in the middle of a quest and in the middle of nowhere. However, as soon as I equipped a shotgun with a medium range scope, I was home again. Yup, this was definitely the same Borderlands I knew and loved, except with a little bit more (of everything).
I was a big fan of Borderland’s art-style and the sequel expands on it with a much wider colour palette, as well as more varied environments, enemies, cool new lighting effects, and some of the most beautiful looking cartoon water I’ve ever seen flowing down a creek.
Not just a pretty face, Borderlands 2 also keeps the same crazy gameplay that you would expect from a love child of Call of Duty and Diablo - a first person shooter (FPS) with role playing game (RPG) elements. Enemies still burst with loot and cash upon death, damage numbers pop up from each of your bullets that hit something, and your characters level up; allowing you to allocate skill points.
This is an area that Gearbox obviously want to improve on in the game. While I didn’t spend time reading everything, even a quick glance at the skill trees told me that they are much deeper than the first time around. From the two classes I got to play (Gunzerker & Siren – each with their own unique “special ability”), there were a lot of skills to choose from and they would have a drastic impact on how to play the class.
What skills you choose will matter this time, especially when you take the four player co-op into account and have to come up with ways to strategically work together as a team. From what we’ve been told, there are also going to be more guns than ever. My demo didn’t prove this, but it did show a bit more variety in the weapons, especially based on the manufacturer.
One of the funniest elements was a particular brand of shotgun I had that was not reloadable. So whenever I used up my ammo, instead of reloading, I’d simply toss it at an enemy (to explode like a grenade) and whip out another one fully loaded and ready to fire. It’s a crazy idea, but works so well in the world of Borderlands.
I also got to see many of the new enemies, most of which were the indigenous life (monsters) of the planet Pandora. There was a lot of variety to the enemies I faced, most of which were quick and often tried to dodge some of my attacks. While the straightforward shoot-to-kill tactics works most of the time, some enemies required a different approach – such as one creature who would only take damage when I shot at and broke the crystal armour on its legs. I also fought some soldiers and robots, which was cool. Something that stood out to me, was a lot of the enemies seems to be able to knock me around. In my 45 minute demo, this happened a lot more often than I remember it happening in the first game.
Sadly, my short time with the game didn’t allow me to delve too deeply into its RPG systems, which is a pity, as this seems to be the thing that’s been improved on the most. The shooting gameplay is still just as fun and awesome as the first one, so I’m keen to explore the extra depth given to the game’s other mechanics.
Also, since my demo basically placed me in the middle of random quest lines, I had no idea what was happening story-wise or what I was really supposed to be doing (besides killing everything, of course). With that said, I did manage to get through one boss fight against a giant creature, and completed a quest to collect naked pictures of some guy’s ex-wife (Borderlands 2 seems to still have the series’ great sense of humour).
Upon triggering the next part of the quest, the lady in the photos contacted me saying that if I delivered the photos to her instead of her ex-husband she would “make it worth my while”; it was then up to me to decide who I take the photos to. Being presented with a choice of how to progress a quest is something new to the series, so I am interested to see how often this will be done in the final game and what it could mean for the story's replayability, beyond farming for more loot.
From what I played, this was definitely more Borderlands. This is either an awesome thing if you loved the first one or will mean nothing to you if you didn’t. However, if you liked the last one but wished the RPG stuff was deeper, or that the enemies and environments were more varied, then I think Borderlands 2 will have you covered.
For me, Borderlands was a good game on my own but became a great game when played with 3 of my friends. So far Borderlands 2 looks to be taking that great formula from the first game and improving on its more shallow points. Based on this alone, Borderlands 2 is something you should be excited about.
The Good: Killing stuff to get all that shiny loot.
The Bad: Only played 45 minutes and by myself. Need more!
The Ugly: Definitely not the artstyle. This game is gorgeous.