Borderlands 2 Gameplay Roundup

By Rebecca Smith, 7 years ago
I think it’s fair to say that most people are gagging for any titbit of information on Borderlands 2. I know that I’m certainly excited for a sequel to the game for which I have over seven days worth of play time. As we mentioned back at the start of this month, Game Informer had managed to get their hands on a large exclusive for the game. September’s edition has now hit the shelves, and here’s a summary of all of the information that I could find. Beware though, there are spoilers included from both the first game and DLC episodes, so those who haven’t finished the first game possibly don’t want to read much further. Are you sitting comfortably?

Five years have past since the end of The original band of bounty hunters left empty handed, but destroyed a mysterious alien force instead. However, a character going by the name of Handsome Jack has taken the credit for the good deeds of the bounty hunters, and has managed to buy the Hyperion Corporation with the spoils of his supposed efforts. Having risen to power, Handsome Jack has promised to rid the world of Pandora of its seamy underbelly. However, like all things that seem too good to be true, there’s a catch to his promise. In Jack’s eyes, ‘seamy’ includes everybody who falls outside of the protection of the Hyperion Corporation i.e. Pandora’s innocent civilians and the four now-forgotten heroes. This means that a new quartet will have to take up the cause and rid Pandora of this new dictatorship.

Handsome Jack is smart, and has managed to amass a huge wealth from smart prospecting, as well as wrongfully claiming a reward that wasn’t his. Jack has used his wealth to make sure that everybody knows about him and his corporation – he has built a supply base on the moon. Robot enemies and supply crates constantly arrive on the surface of Pandora after being blasted from the base and the impact destroys everything that happens to be in the landing zone. To make sure that the illusion of a dictatorship is complete, Jack has also installed a gigantic lens that watches the players regardless of wherever they may travel. Borderlands 2’s art director Jeremy Cooke further iterates the type of character that they are aiming for in Handsome Jack:

The moon is ever present in Pandora because of the way our day and night cycle works in the game. The moon never moves and it’s the source of light. So I wanted him to blot that out by putting his giant Hyperion ‘H’ right in front of it. I wanted players to be like, “Damn, those jerks, they’re s****ing all over my Pandora.”
Jack’s taste for entertainment has the typical wicked streak displayed by all video game dictators. He likes to watch contestants fight to the death in his very own gladiatorial arena. There are no prizes for guessing where players find themselves at the start of the game. Unfortunately, their inevitable success means that Jack sees them as a threat to his power and popularity. Instead of rewarding them their prize, he instead leaves them for dead in the icy tundra of Pandora. All is not lost; the enigmatic Guardian Angel chooses this point to return to the series and explains that the new bounty hunters must kill Handsome Jack, and save the citizens of Pandora from Hyperion’s industrialisation of the planet while doing it. The new quartet needs help from the original bounty hunters, but they have now gone their own ways and scattered across the world. They must be tracked down, but in a playable world that is much larger and more detailed than the original game, it won’t be easy.

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Most of you have already seen the teaser trailer from four days ago. The character in the trailer is Salvador, the only one of the new characters who has been confirmed so far. Salvador is a Gunzerker, a new take on the Berserker class. Unlike Brick, whose active ability saw him abandon his weapons for beating the hell out of everything instead, Salvador’s active ability means that he is able to dual-wield any type of gun. When doing this he shoots both weapons using both trigger buttons, although accuracy is decreased in this mode due to the lack of ability to bring up your sights.

Gearbox hasn’t changed the balance between RPG and shooter for this game – it remains at a similar level to Borderlands. The skill trees retain their three branch structure, but if anything has changed, these now feature more defined abilities rather than boosts to players’ stats. Salvador’s first skill tree branch is Wrath; this features stat bonuses and new abilities that are tied to his active ability. The second branch is Brawn, which is focussed on physical toughness. Finally, Gun Lust can increase his weapon stats and grant new abilities, such as the aggro turret (this sounds like the active ability that was assigned to Roland in the first game). Below are three examples of skills into which Salvador can funnel points, and each has a small commentary from Gearbox’s game design director Paul Hellquist.

Divergent Likeness: Dual wielding two weapons of the same type means that you’ll deal bonus damage. If you want an increase in your accuracy, dual wield weapons of differing types.

This skill is great because it interacts so well with not only the action skill but also with your gear choices. Which pairing of weapons makes me the most effective when using this skill? Should I use low-accuracy, high-damage weapons of different types to get accuracy bonuses? Or should I double-fist some revolvers for max damage but low fire rate? This skill changes the way you think about what you are dual-wielding and which gear will work best together to maximize your power during your action skill.
Down, Not Out: Salvador can still use his active ability when downed in his final moments before respawning or reviving.

This skill breaks the rules of Borderlands. The general rule is no action skills while fighting for your life. This rule is to increase tension and limit a player’s power while fighting for their life. But in game design, the reason you make a rule is so you can occasionally break it. This skill breaks that rule and changes the way you think about your action skill. Your strategic options for when to use it are very different after purchasing this skill.
Overheat: This makes weapons fire increasingly faster the longer Salvador holds down the trigger. This works with any weapon in the game and with his active ability.

This skill is awesome because it can result in the most ludicrous fire rates on your weapons. Your low fire rate high-damage weapons become god-like. Your high rate-of-fire weapons fire all of their rounds in the blink of an eye. It’s just great fun.
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Elemental damage played an important part in Borderlands; so much so that Lillith’s active ability was entirely based around the elements. Gearbox is introducing a new element into the sequel – Eridium. Eridium-based weapons coat enemies in goo, and this goo intensifies damage from the other elements. The element does not have separate powers of its own, but these weapons can make damage more effective from a fire, electric or corrosive gun. Unlike the other elements, Eridium also serves as a form of currency, and it can be found scattered throughout the planet. The most powerful weapons in the game can only be bought using Eridium as money is not enough. In addition to these two uses, the element is also a key ingredient in a variety of new power ups. These offer temporary effects such as increased health, damage and defence, but they are designed for immediate use on the battlefield, like the Insta-Health vials from the previous game. These new power ups can also be used by the enemy, so players may find themselves having to steal power ups from their foes during the heat of the battle.

Class mods are also returning, but this time around they introduce more tweaks to the subclasses on the skill tree by allowing players to activate more skills. Artefacts return too, but are now a “catch-all for any idea that didn’t fit into the other systems”. Current suggestions (not yet confirmed) for these include a percentage chance that shots don’t cost ammo, increased afterburner length in vehicles, and an aura of healing around the player. Fans will recognise the final one of the three as a skill previously tied to Roland’s skill tree.

I’ll move onto vehicles now. These only received a brief mention, but a new class of vehicle did receive a name-check – the Bandit Technical. Gearbox is now implementing higher resolutions and textures for vehicles, as well as the ability to powerslide and, most importantly, better collision detection. The developer is also hoping to implement four seats as standard in every vehicle, so there is no longer a need for a convoy when playing with the full four players in co-op mode. Unfortunately, the likelihood of the familiar “Catch a ride!” slogan being heard across the world is slim. Although it hasn’t been confirmed that the Catch-A-Ride stations will no longer exist, it has been confirmed that players will now use a handheld digistruct to summon vehicles.

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Now we move onto one of the most important systems in the game: the gun system. Gearbox has completely disposed of every weapon from Borderlands. In the sequel, each firearm manufacturer will have its own unique sense of identity so that players can instantly identify the manufacturer of any weapon lying on the floor. The new material system for the guns supports reflective patterns, shadows and transparency effects that reflect the quality of the gun. Each manufacturer also has a set theme that changes the stats of the gun, such as firing rates or recoil reduction. Also, in a move that I didn’t think was physically possible, Gearbox is increasing the amount of guns in the sequel. Guns can now feature custom decals and enhancements; for example, a gun belonging to Nine Toes may have his missing digit strapped to it so that players can tell that it is his weapon.

In an exclusive interview with CVG, concept designer Scott Kester explains how the system has evolved:
That's actually one of the things that was a really difficult decision as we came in to the second game. It took a long time to create that tech, the way all the different weapon bodies and components come together. I personally don't even understand how it works... it's just a really complex system and going in to this we thought that the manufacturers' identities were a little weak in the last game. You couldn't tell one gun from another.

We've kind of gutted the system. The mechanics of how it works are still relatively the same but we've re-concepted every weapon across the whole board. Our game is about the guns; we have so many more components and attachments… If you take all of those guns and figure out how many different combinations you could create... to us that was a really important thing because this is a gun game and we really want people to understand that, and just see that we've gone all in to do the best we can and give them as many options as our play style will allow.
Here’s a quick roundup of all of the gun manufacturers and their specialities:

Bandit: The bandits have started putting together their own ramshackle weaponry, where glass bottles are used for scopes, and screws are used for iron sights. These guns have the largest magazines out of all of the gun manufacturers, but this can lead to longer reload times.

Dahl: Dahl’s weapons wouldn’t look out of place in a series such as Battlefield or Call of Duty, as they feature more realistic gun designs.

Hyperion: Hyperion are the company responsible for the creation of everybody’s favourite robot buddy, the ClapTrap. All of their guns will feature a similar yellow and white design.

Vladof: These guns will have similarities to Russian weapons, especially the AK-47. However, unlike the AK-47, all of the weapons manufactured by Vladof will have minigun barrels as secondary attachments. Unsurprisingly, these guns will have the highest firing rate.

Tediore: These guns are disposable – literally. Rather than reload, players throw the gun onto the battlefield where it acts as a grenade. Throwing the gun early costs ammo but results in a larger explosion. Once the player has thrown the gun, they can summon a new copy of the weapon with a new magazine straight into their hands, courtesy of the handheld digistruct.

Torgue: Torgue guns are big and loud. They specialise in the most destructive and insane weapons to ever grace Pandora. No silencers, no subtlety… just the best display of power that is physically possible.

Maliwan: These guns will have a sleeker feel to them. There is every chance that they may have a futuristic feel too, although this is yet to be confirmed.

Jakobs: Jakobs weapons look outdated, as if they came from a time period between the old west and World War II. However, they have high damage statistics.

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So far, the only non-player characters (NPCs) that I have mentioned are the former bounty hunters and Handsome Jack. You know a lot about Jack, but lets be honest, how much do you actually know about the stories of the four former bounty hunters? My guess is not a lot. Gearbox has realised this, and they are now seizing the opportunity to flesh out the characters with which players spent so much time during the first game. Unlike the previous game though, they won’t become static characters who utter banal one liners when you interact with them; in fact, none of the other NPCs in Borderlands 2 will be like this. NPCs are now fully animated. They will move around their locations and interact with their surroundings, but most importantly, they will now respond to your actions. When they give out their missions, the characters will chat more, and can provide feedback on players’ objectives as they carry them out. Their natural dialogue can support mission briefings, which allows the characters to tell a richer story without Gearbox having to resort to numerous cutscenes.

While again speaking to CVG, Scott Kester explained:
NPCs and interactions with them are much better. That's one other thing... we're putting a lot of effort in to that to make the world feel alive. I felt the world in the original was a little static and we're now trying to get as much movement in there as possible and creating a little more realised world. And when we're creating an enemy it's about the gameplay first, plus the AI's improved a lot. Some things are appropriately dumb (laughs) but we've really tried to look at that and I feel like we're doing a much better job.
The ClapTraps will be returning, but their role is currently unclear. Like you, they have a dislike of the Hyperion Corporation, but they will deal with this using a different method to those used by the bounty hunters. Another of the returning characters is weapons dealer Marcus Kincaid, who obviously survived his encounter with the Interplanetary Ninja Assassin Claptrap in the Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution DLC. Marcus now roams around outside his shop, fiddles with his radio, and plays darts with combat knives. When the player begins an impromptu skeet shooting session with a machine that can launch explosive objects up into the air, Marcus is more than happy to come up and mock their performance.
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As for the enemies, their reactions will now be more responsive and lifelike. This is in no small way thanks to the motion capture studio that Gearbox has recently built. Now the developer can capture motion using 24 T-100 cameras, each recording at 16 megapixels. Enemies can dodge incoming fire and negotiate more complex environments, as the AI has also increased. Here is a list of some of the enemies that have been confirmed so far, and some have examples of the difference that the new enemy reactions will make to the gameplay.

Bloodshot bandits: These are a gun-worshipping clan, whose idol is the most famous weapons trader in Pandora: Marcus.

• There are a variety of mechanical henchmen of Handsome Jack. These are an evolution of the Hyperion Corporation’s Claptrap project. The WAR loader can fire a barrage of missiles in an attempt to stop the bounty hunters. The EXP loader is a self-destructing robot that acts in a similar way to the Kamikaze Claptrap from Borderlands.

Surveyor: This droid floats around in a similar style to the Lance Probes found in The Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC. When they are encountered on their own, they deploy an energy shield that reflects incoming fire back towards the player. However, when they are with other robots they switch to a supportive role and repair injured allies with an energy beam. Injured enemies have to call for repairs, and this is denoted by an icon over their head. At this point, players have to choose whether to kill the enemy or kill the helper – the surveyor can’t heal and shield from fire simultaneously.

• Skags return in all sizes but now interact with each other, rather than attack all at once in a disorganised rush. An example of their interaction was provided when the player encountered a Badass Fire Skag and a pack of Skag Pups. The Fire Skag sent out a jet of fire that engulfed all of the Pups, but instead of killing them, it enhanced their offensive and defensive capabilities. Although the Skags eventually extinguished with time, the Fire Skag called out to the Pups so that they regrouped. After setting them alight again, the Pups attacked once more.

Nomad: These are slow rotund bandits who sport large metallic shields that protect their entire bodies. Like most types of enemies, there are different types of Nomads too. The Nomad Torturer has a Midget Psycho chained to his shield to soak up any damage. However, if players focus their fire on the chains, they can free the prisoner who then turns on the Nomad. While the Nomad is pre-occupied, it allows the players to flank and kill him.

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One of the sore points for fans of the first game was the missions – many felt that they were too repetitive. In the sequel, the missions are now dynamic and branching. If players fail their missions, this will change the course of the plot as they have to deal with their failure later on in the game. Mission objectives can change. A perfect example of this was a fetch quest that got interrupted by the appearance of an enemy. Before this enemy could be killed, it swallowed the quest objective, leaving players to have to chase it down before they can achieve their target. Story missions are approximately three times the scope of a single story mission from Borderlands. There is also a new focus – world discovery. Finding new locations across the world will result in players being rewarded with XP (as if fans needed another excuse to go and explore the world of Pandora).

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Gearbox’s plans for the co-operative campaign were kept firmly under wraps, although they did confirm that they want to fix the “cumbersome” split-screen support, and the fact that some missions become ineligible to players if the host is too far along the storyline. Also, the characters will definitely be more responsive towards each other; there will be more back-and-forth banter between the characters, instead of the simple one-liners for which the characters would use in the first game.

For more gameplay details, I really would recommend reading the Game Informer article yourselves. Publisher 2K Games has stated that Borderlands 2 is due to be released in the fiscal year 2013. This begins on April 1st, 2012 and ends on March 31st, 2013.
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.