To try to explain or take into scope the greatness that the original Borderlands brought when it was first released is something that could be difficult to do. Gearbox Software created an original IP that mixed RPG elements within a First Person Shooter open world that took gamers by storm. With hype of unforgettable characters, drop in drop out co-op, exotic dangerous locations and enemies, plus what seemed to be an almost endless amount of loot, Gearbox delivered a remarkable game that kept players in the world of Pandora more than 2 years after its release. But that was 2009. Four pieces of DLC (Downloadable Content), a Game of the Year version and more than a few million copies sold, it’s safe to assume the original game was a hit. So to take on the task of creating a sequel when so much as put into the original, what exactly could the developers make to possibly top the first game? Simple, it’s called Borderlands 2.
Taking place five years after the events of the last game, Pandora has now for the most part come under control of the new owner of the Hyperion Corporation, Handsome Jack. Having taken credit for destroying the Destroyer and saving Pandora, he is now convinced that there is another “Vault” as the one before and is determined to find it and make sure that no other so called “Vault Hunters” get in his way. From here, you begin by choosing as one of the main characters of the game. Axton – The Commando acts as your solider class with a turret to aid him in his battles. Salvador – The Gunzerker whose special ability is to duel-wields guns to cause maximum amount of damage. Zer0 – The Ninja who can rely on stealth tactics to get the better of his enemies. And Maya – The Siren who’s main power is the use of her Siren abilities. From here you will meet familiar characters such as Scooter, Clap-Trap, Moxxi, Marcus, the mysterious “Guardian Angel” and more plus the original four characters Roland, Lilith, Mordeaci and Brick learning what happened to them after the first game.
The story this time around is extremely well done and even better than the first game. As said before, you are introduced to a variety of old and now new characters and locations all the while learning even more of the stories of a majority of the characters in the game, along with the history of the planet Pandora. The game will show how even new characters introduced in Borderlands 2 had a connection with the first game in ways you probably wouldn’t have thought of. So expect the story to take a variety of twists and turns that will show that anyone, past and present, might not make it to the end of the game alive.
Built on the Unreal 3 Engine, you can expect what appears to be the same design and look from the first game, although this time on a much grander scope. Areas will open up a lot more and expect some missions to send you on locations that are full of animation. Some enemies will appear grand and massive so much that it will make the old enemies of the first seem small. There was very little, if any slow down when things such as explosions and larger battles were happening on screen. I was taken in awe at times where it seemed as if colorful, detailed environments would span for miles, all while watching the setting sun cast rays of light around particular objects. Even though the series is cell-shaded, you can tell the developers always take extra care of the series with the small details found throughout.
The sound and voice acting for the game is also wonderfully done. While your characters in the first game were almost of a silent hero, in Borderlands 2 these same characters drive the story so expect to hear a lot of dialogue especially at certain parts of the game. Almost all other characters will speak with a sense of urgency, sarcasm, fear, hate or whatever they attempt to show, even though a few of the cheesy lines and innuendos become a bit stale after a while.
Gameplay is still the same as it was in the original which in this case if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. You will talk to people, complete missions, search for loot and more powerful weapons all while battling enemies and bosses. Also a welcomed return is the drop in drop out multiplayer co-op. From here you can join friends and random games in your quest to stop Handsome Jack, or whatever particular mission you happen to be on. But as always, the more in your group or game, the stronger the enemies of Pandora will be. But the upside of this will increase your chances of even more powerful weapons, armor, accessories and loot drops. This is rule is especially true for the more powerful bosses you will face in game. A major attraction about Borderlands 1 and 2 was the searching and collection of newer and better weapons and loot that could be stronger or better than what you currently own. This is one of the main attractions that will keep players playing long after completing the campaign and several missions over and over again.
And once you finish the main story of the game, you have the option of starting “Vault-Hunter mode” where you restart the game with all your previous equipment and experience. This acts as a “new game plus” for a chance to gain more XP and even stronger weapons not found in the first play through. But be forewarned as enemies will be even stronger than ever. With gaining experience points and leveling up, you are able to gain and use skill points to a skill tree. This will add to your character and his or her special abilities.
A few problems did arise during gameplay. Invisible walls will sometimes stop your character in certain places. And a few connection issues have happened during gameplay when connected or trying to connect to the multiplayer part of the game. But still none of these are ever game breaking or created major problems.
In all, Borderlands 2 is a bigger and more epic quest than the first. With a more solid campaign, an enormous amount of loot and Easter eggs to find plus the knowledge that even more will be coming in the form of DLC, Gearbox definitely have raised the bar for themselves and the series. Borderlands 3 cannot come soon enough.
Borderlands 2 gets a 9/10
(This review can also be found at ThreeTallNerds.com)