It's been nearly three years since we originally saw Borderlands
, this week we saw the release of its highly anticipated sequel, Borderlands 2
. So how has Pandora been since we were last passing through?
It goes without saying really, but it hasn't been good. The opening of The Vault turned Pandora into one giant Eridium minefield. Hyperion's top dog and the game's antagonist, Handsome Jack has taken to mining the valuable, mystical substance and in doing so has become the most powerful person on the planet, ruling it and its inhabitants with an iron fist.
Jack is working on opening a new Vault, and he's not a fan of Vault Hunters potentially getting in on his action, and so spends his time trash talking you and hindering your adventure in any way that he can with his fine blend of witty, smug and ever so slightly psychotic ways.
For anyone who may be unfamiliar with the series, Borderlands
is a heavy mix of two things. Firstly, it's a stat-heavy and loot-filled RPG. Secondly, it's an incredibly competent shooter. These two factors combined create an incredibly in depth gaming experience, which is unique for every player.
While shooting stuff and levelling are the core elements of Borderlands 2
. The game is really
all about one thing: LOOT. Lots and lots of loot. With good drops being much more rare than in the first instalment, nothing is more addictive than being rewarded with a tasty new gun that tops your current favourite's stats. Sure, it means rifling through piles and piles of not-so-good equipment but that's always part of the fun. With a record breaking amount of weapons (17.75 million, for what it's worth) there's practically no end to the unique items you can deck your class out with.
Speaking of classes, the four characters are structured to fit various RPG set ups. Zer0, the assassin, has the potential for both ranged and melee Damage Per Second, Maya, the Siren, can be a strong healer, or cause ever more DPS. Salvador, the Gunzerker, and Axton, the Commando, can both tank or, once again, give the team even more DPS. Each have varied skill trees allowing you to pour points and bonuses into whatever way of playing best suits you, whether that is head-shotting something from miles away or getting right in their face and practically putting your gun up their nose.
The skill trees require a little planning in order for players to truly see some devastating effects. A jack-of-all-trades attitude (as tempting as it is to cherry pick a little of everything) will cause players to struggle at the later stages, whereas maxing out a particular branch of a skill tree will see enemies hit the floor fast.
A new addition to the game is Badass Tokens. There are challenges for everything
in the game. Every weapon type, elemental damage type, grenade type and area has specific challenges that reward you in Badass Points. Raising your Badass Level will reward you with a token which you spend on small stat boosts such as recoil reduction, reload speed or maximum health, to name a tiny selection.
One of the most impressive things about the game is the length. With a good number of story-focused chapters and dozens of optional side quests, a single playthrough can knock up sixty-plus hours on your character. Granted, many of these are deemed optional but in a world where loot is so important to the progression and fun of the game, not completing these quests would be silly, not to mention a shame. These will send you to all corners of Pandora with odd jobs that range from delivering post to killing giant, apparently 'invincible', monsters for many different faces, both old and new. These quest givers include the original four Vault Hunters (as well as other familiar characters) from Borderlands
, who play a large part in aiding your battle with Jack. While it's mostly overflowing with some daft and occasionally incredibly dark humour and cracking lines, the story is surprisingly deep and even has some genuinely hard-hitting, unexpected moments.
While the game is great solo, it really comes into its own when playing with others. The quest logging has been improved and no longer causes problems for those who may have missed the tiniest touch of progress in someone else's game before joining, making it much more 'drop in/drop out' than its predecessor. With the four classes complimenting each other, teaming up and racing through Pandora together is immensely satisfying, not to mention a seriously fun way to play the game. Difficulty will scale depending on the amount of players in game and so it will always remain challenging. It does however come with some minor oversights. Playing with people ranked a few levels out of your range will most likely kill the fun for someone in the party. If your host is too highly leveled then you'll struggle to kill anything and when you do, any loot that drops will most likely be out of your level range for some time. Play with a host that's a fair bit lower than you and you'll one-shot the enemies for minimal experience and pitiful loot. It won't be much fun for them either, obviously. While it's a difficult process for most, sticking with the same group of players throughout is the only way to truly get the most out of co-operative.
Once you've poured your life into it and finished the first playthrough, the real game can begin. This unlocks the "True Vault Hunter" mode - a second, upscaled playthrough with much tougher enemies but much, much better loot.Borderlands 2
is what most people expected. More of the same, but better. More than anything else it's all about reward. Put the time in and you absolutely will be rewarded for it and in so many different ways. With more guns than any other game, endless loot, dozens of hours worth of playtime (potentially going well into the hundreds for truly dedicated players) and one of the best antagonists in recent years, it is an absolute gem and, providing that RPGs are your thing, will keep you entertained for longer than you could ever imagine.
Sleep is overrated, anyway.