I wasn’t looking forward to writing this review. It’s not because I found “Borderlands 2” to be unplayable, but because that meant I’d have to put it down (not literally) and don my writing fingers. While it is true that “Borderlands 2” has been out for a while now, Steam’s recent Autumn sale made it a bit more affordable at fifty percent off, down from an original price of sixty bucks. Having spent hours upon days upon months on the original “Borderlands”, I felt that this would be a good thirty USD well spent. So…was it?
The main menu offers a lot and organizes all of the information via a sleek-looking interface. You’ll be allowed to invite friends to join your party or jump into someone else’s game. The game even allows others to drop in and out on a whim, though you can set your network options to allow for some privacy should you want to keep things between you and your new mistress. You can adjust your keybinds while you’re at it and change a good number of video, sound, and gameplay options to best customize your play experience.
There are four characters to choose from: Salvator (The Gunzerker), Zer0 (The Assassin), Maya (The Siren), and Axton (The Commando). Salvator dual wields weapons and can be either a viable tank or DPS, Zer0 is like a ninja and can kill you close up or at range, Maya is a decent support character that can heal but also dish out damage, and Axton is a good, all-around damage dealer that sports a sabre turret. Roland (who sported a scorpio turret) was my character of choice in the original so needless to say, I went with Axton. I must say that I miss Roland’s ability to regenerate ammo and health when the turret is active, though Axton is fairly capable in his own right.
The tutorial is much, much longer in this game. The first city that you’ll arrive at is a good few hours in, and that’s assuming you don’t stop to smell the roses along the way. Claptrap will guide you through a series of missions to get your feet wet, almost as if “Borderlands” had never put your through the paces already. The original did a fine job in showing the player the ropes in about a half hour’s time, I’m not sure why “Borderlands 2” felt the need to set the player on a linear path for the first few hours. Regardless, the characters and dialogue are incredibly funny and I enjoyed almost every minute of it.
The story covers a few things left unanswered in the first one: Angel, where the original four playable characters ended up, and so on. The antagonist, Jack, admits from the get-go that he’s trying to kill you and jumps in every now and again to throw some comic relief into the plot. That’s not to say that some of the missions and characters aren’t funny…some of them are downright disturbing. When you get to Tiny Tina, a maniacal thirteen year old that has an incredible potty mouth, you’ll see what I mean. The original four characters also make cameos as part of the main plot, something I don’t often see in games like this.
This game, simply put, is more of the same…though it manages to improve upon the original model in quite a few ways. For one, loot is automatically collected by running near or over it, even if you happen to be in a vehicle. You still have to manually collect loot from containers and the like, but this feature is a nice addition to the game. What I DO miss, however, is the quest markers. The original “Borderlands” told you where the quest item was on your map and sometimes you’re given an area to search. “Borderlands” used to mark any and all objects on the mini-map, guiding you on where those quest items might actually be when forced to search an area. I’m sorry to say that “Borderlands 2” does away with that idea, leaving you to hunt for quest items on your own, which can be frustrating at times.
Also gone are the weapon proficiencies, though in its place is a “badass” mechanic. As you complete challenges and achievements, you’ll gain badass rank. Each new rank rewards you with a token to redeem, which can be done at any time through your character menu. When redeeming a token, you’ll be given five traits to upgrade and must choose one. The more you upgrade a particular trait, the lower the bonus that is rewarded. This allows you to buff up things equally or forego certain traits and concentrate on a choice few. It’s a neat system as it encourages you to complete challenges, something I usually forgo due to time constraints.
Eridium is a rare currency new to the game, which you can use at the black market to increase your maximum ammo capacity, backpack space, and bank slots. In the original game, you were able to purchase these upgrades (except for the bank, which is new) with cash. I miss being able to do that, as finding eridium can be difficult at times. My advice is to search EVERY box and container you come across, regardless of where they are.
In addition to your usual dune buggy, you’ll eventually be granted access to a variant of it (the Bandit Technical) that can shoot either saw blades or launch explosive barrels via a catapult, the latter of which is my favorite. There are also weapons available that talk to you as you perform actions with them…though some are downright annoying. I picked up an SMG called “The Bane” and liked what I saw in terms of stats. I immediately discovered though that not only does it slow your movement speed to a grinding halt, but makes some incredibly high-pitched sounds that will make you want to toss it over a cliff, never to see it again. Switching to it results in a high-pitched “SWAPPPING WEAPONS!!!!” and firing it is a mess of noises that will make you wish that you weren’t wearing headphones. Don’t let the clever “My Fair Lady” reference on the descriptor fool you…it’s EVIL!
The game can be frustrating at times. As mentioned above, the quests can often be a bit vague in telling you exactly where you need to go. Then there are some insane difficulty spikes in some areas, to the point where I often ran out of ammo or died within seconds. There’s no difficulty slider, at least from what I could see. This might serve to scare off the gamers seeking a casual play experience, which is a shame. The AI also bounces around a bit more, dodging your fire…though some act like they had slammed eight cups of coffee before engaging you. The DLC is also unreasonably priced in my opinion. $9.99 for a DLC character? Really? For ten bucks more, you can pick up the full version of “Torchlight 2”, assuming it isn’t on sale. There are plenty of indie games out there ranged between five and ten dollars, some of them worth a crapton more than the sum of their price tags. Needless to say, I’ll be holding off on the DLC until it becomes a bit more affordable.
Besides the new additions and changes to the game, everything else is similar through and through. Veterans of “Borderlands” will be able to jump right in without a problem and it didn’t take me long to acclimate. I was able to set my control scheme the way I had it in the original and off I went. There are plenty of new characters and loot to sink your teeth into. Worth the thirty bucks I paid? Yes. Worth sixty? Possibly. It offers a lot, but some (especially us parents) aren’t in the position to drop sixty bucks on a whim. I purposely waited on purchasing this game because of this fact, despite my desire to buy it from day one. Each consumer will have to look at their financial situation and make that decision for themselves, but those that can afford to get it and liked “Borderlands”, should.
Final Verdict: 9/10
Those looking for more information on the game should seek out the official page, located here:
You can view video play sessions here: