Borderlands 2 is giving gamers a chance to return to Pandora and take another crack at vault hunting. Gearbox may have had a sleeper hit on their hands a few years ago, but that certainly didn’t mean their formula was perfect or didn’t receive any sort of criticism. Chief amongst those complaints was the story and ending, which left just about everyone disappointed.
This time around, it’s pretty clear that the developers tried to take things both more humorously and more seriously. As far as the actual narrative arc of the game, it’s surprising to say but you actually end up caring about the familiar names and faces. There are a few, “I can’t believe that just happened,” moments in regards to plot turns, and the finale isn’t intense just because there’s a huge boss fight – you actually feel like there’s something at stake. The same unfortunately can’t be said of the new player characters, which remain just as nameless and bland as in the original game. In that regard, there are definitely some missed opportunities that could have incorporated the new cast into the current story line, which only would have made the game better.
Everything is brighter and more vibrant this time around. Gearbox was universally praised for their “last minute” art direction change, which paid off in spades. The cel-shading doesn’t have quite the same strong impact today as it did originally, but that doesn’t mean that the graphics haven’t objectively improved. One of the things that every player will notice is how both the enemies and guns have visually gotten just a little bit more outrageous (in a good way). With E-tech weapons replacing the futuristic Eridian weapons, even the bullets in the game have been given a facelift, which is significant considering how many bullets you’ll be firing over the course of the 40 + hour campaign.
The issue most people will be divided over in Borderlands 2 centers entirely around the gameplay. While things like auto-collection of ammo has been added, ammo regeneration abilities are apparently completely restricted to one single class. Apart from that, playing as any of the four different characters doesn’t functionally seem to be that different, apart from the use of their action skill. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get comfortable in the shoes of any one of the quartet – there’s no one character that had everything I was looking for. The addition of “slag” damage seems like a great concept, but in practice by the time you switch to another weapon to deal your bonus damage to a slag-weakened enemy, the effects will have worn off, rendering most slag weapons underpowered.
Additionally it seems to be a common experience with players hitting plateaus, where grinding through areas pointing the same old guns at the same old enemies makes combat boring and un-enjoyable. That is, until you happen to luck out and find some randomly generated weapon of awesome destruction, at which point the game suddenly becomes fun again. It would have been nicer to see more specific loot to bolster the inventories of those players who aren’t at least part Irish, but as it plays out even those specifically named items seem to have some statistical variation across games (unless friends were lying about how much better their guns of the same name were).
Overall, Borderlands 2 is an excellent game, particularly if you have a few other friends to join in your campaign. If you were a huge fan of the original first-person-looter, then you’ll definitely enjoy this game – just perhaps not quite to the same extent. If you just couldn’t get into the original then this one should be avoided to an even greater degree – although the story here is improved, the positive changes in the gameplay are offset by nearly as many negatives, so the title really won’t be converting anyone new. That being said, I’m only slightly less hooked now than I was three years ago and can’t wait to see what the DLC has in store. Will the Invincible become invinceabler? One can only hope.