Borderlands 2, no doubt this game has a large following in the gaming community. It is known for the twisted humor, quirky characters, and a whole lot of guns. The cell shaded art style stands out among the “realistic” appeal that most video games have these days. This is the second installment and while the first title was well received, it seemed to lack in variety. It may as well have been titled Borderlands: Glorified Fetch Missions. While that can be applied to any WRPG, Borderlands had it bad with side missions. Gearbox has promised that the missions have been revamped to change while you play so it does not get tedious and boring like before. Combined with new character classes and a new story, does Borderlands 2 stand out as a standalone title and a sequel?
It seems like with titles that get more than one game, the first one is the beta and the next game is what the first one was supposed to be. In many ways, Borderlands 2 feels like a finished product. Most of the gameplay has been fine-tuned and the user interface has been revamped. I would like to start off with the irritations of Borderlands 2 that take away from the experience.
Take note that these may seem minor, but they still massively affect the gameplay. Fall damage has been taken out. I am sure there are plenty of people that are going to disagree with me about this, but taking out fall damage makes the game easier. With the amount of enemies that can knock your character back, fall damage would make the game more challenging and more of an engaging experience. The next problem is the inability to flip your car over. Now this is something that not many gamers will notice. In the first Borderlands, nothing sucked more than flipping your car in the middle of a Skag swarm. Again, it kills the experience and large fights seem easier. I finally have come to my biggest pet peeve towards games that hinge on exploration, invisible walls. While Borderlands does a lot to not have them, they are there. For reference, the first Borderlands allowed you to go almost anywhere in your vehicle. Not in the sequel. Even though there are many areas where your vehicle can fit through, it cannot pass as if Gandalf himself prevented it. I do have some more issues but those will arise soon.
I am going to give this issue its own section in this review. I hate this about Borderlands 2 very much, this is something that may or may not get overlooked by gamers, but it reminds me of a game known as Too Human. Believe it or not, Borderlands 2 and one of the worst games ever made have something in common, their shared annoyance, lengthy death scenes. If you have played Too Human you would know about the long as hell death scene whenever you ran out of HP. Borderlands 2 has this. When you die, you see your character assimilate at the New-U station. It is roughly ten seconds of unskippable bullcrap, and it is annoying.
The gameplay of Borderlands 2 has not changed from the previous title. You get missions from various characters, fulfill the objectives, turn them in, and obtain money and experience. The standard RPG set up which is by no means a bad thing, it is a system that is a staple in the genre. There are some welcome and unwelcome additions to the mission system. As mentioned before missions can update while you fulfill the objectives. For instance, there is a mission where you must free animals from a research facility. Upon freeing the Skags you must protect them from the trainers that start spawning. The original objective is “Free the Skags”, the mission then changes to “Eliminate the Skag Trainers”. I would assume this is Gearbox’s way of showing the player that things change in the heat of the moment. It works, to an extent. Just because the mission objective change does not make it more or less boring, it just feels stale.
I can’t say it hurts or helps the game, but character customization has sort of improved. Instead of choosing your own color pallet you are now about to change the head of your character. There are also set skins that you can obtain while you are fulfilling missions and challenges. Yes, challenges make a comeback and now they give “Badass Points”. Once you gain enough points, you will obtain a token. Redeem these tokens to earn boosts for all your characters like increased health, gun damage, reduced recoil etc. These can be turned off if you wish. Early on, these boosts do not appear to make a difference. However, if you play through with a character until endgame and start another file, the boosts do make a difference. If you want more of a challenge, simply turn them off.
Borderlands 2 has advertised the large amounts of guns available to the player. This is true; however, the first title had a lot as well. I never noticed a difference in the variety of weapons. I rarely change weapons due to the spawn rate of good weapons being notoriously low. You may occasionally stumble upon some good stuff in shops but so far, I can’t say I am too impressed. The elements are the same (with the inclusion of “Slag) so nothing feels incredibly new with the weapons. The designs have changed to reflect the manufacturer which is a plus.
Onto the main event of gameplay, the classes, The Gunzerker, The Assassin, The Siren, and The Commando at first glance they seem like simple recolors of the previous classes. Surprisingly enough, the classes are very different this time around. The Gunzerker and akimbo any two weapons and he gets a defense buff with health regen. The Assassin can go invisible and create a holographic clone of him. The longer he is invisible, the more damage he does. The Commando has a new kind of turret that is able to deploy and be picked up. The Siren is able to pick an enemy up and either have her teammates focus on that, or focus on other issues. Unlike “RPG” titles that think they have skill trees (ahem Mass Effect 3), Borderlands 2 has extensive skill tree development that will give the player choices on what to build their character into. Also unlike Mass Effect 3, you will notice the difference when not having boosts to your weapons and when having them.
To sum up the gameplay, there is nothing stellar about it. It feels like the original Borderlands with some different classes. Nothing seems to be revamped and improved to make it stand out and feel like a different game, which is my biggest issue. The missions seem to be scarcer due to them being so spaced out. The missions that you can fail are annoying to start up again as you have to return to the place of origin to start them up again. Barring the new classes, Borderlands 2 does not seem to bring anything new to the table, and it hurts a lot from that. However, there are other reasons you should play this game. It is the story.
While the story was not the most engaging and enthralling in the original Borderlands, the sequel actually tries to be a legitimate story. I can respect that. While the storytelling is the same from the previous title, there are a lot more curveballs thrown at you in the story. They shake things up and it works very well. To keep things spoiler free that is all I will say. The characters are a hit and miss. While there are many returning voice actors like Brina Palencia as Mad Moxie, voice actors such as Chris Cason make an appearance. The acting itself is wonderfully done, but the writing could use some work. The formula for character stories and profiles has not changed much from the previous title. Honestly, Tiny Tina is the best character mainly because she is the satire for making fun of teenagers these days.
I guess it is obligatory to mention the music in Borderlands 2 because apparently the soundtrack of the original is so amazing (I would disagree with that general consensus). The music does not stand out and the only part where it does is the intro video. I have not noticed any dubstep outside of Moxxie’s hangout on Sactuary which was nice.
To wrap everything about Borderlands 2 up, the game is not a significant improvement over the original and it falls flat on bringing something new to the table in terms of gameplay. Sure, why fix something that isn’t broken, but I would like to run Windows 7 and not Windows Vista (I am talking about upgrades in case that flew over your head). Borderlands 2 does not live up to the hype that was centered around it. The tedious grinding, the lack of balanced drop rate of items, and the absence of unpredictability makes Borderlands 2 a rather bland title. I give Borderlands 2 a 4/10. It is available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. If you are a Borderlands fan, this is a must play. If you are new to the series, get the GOTY edition of the original. Hopefully the DLC for BL2 will add more to the game.