Borderlands 2 is a simply wonderful, simply superior sequel. Move along. As I wrote in my preview, it does the right thing and just extends itself in every direction a biiit further. Bigger world, better customization, funnier, prettier. It is a video game in the purest form. Really, what more could you ask for?
For those of you who want the long version, here we go.
What Borderlands 2 does is impressive, if not a bit safe. Taking the already-out-there formula of shooter/ARPG hybrid established in the original, it refines. Did you like the first game more than just a little? Then sit on down and enjoy the show, because instead of functioning as a good mix of shooting and looting, it’s now an excellent mix of the two. Running on a decent gaming rig, the game is also a sight to behold.
The gunplay feels really good. Weapons have chunky weight and different attributes. Considering that you will be shooting nearly endlessly, it’s a good thing Gearbox really screwed things down tightly. Along with fire rate, magazine, accuracy and raw damage, you’ll want to take elements into account. Fire burns flesh, electricity zaps shields, corrosive melts metal and explosive … err … blows things up.
Because we all don’t want to be a bunch of identical Spartans running around, you also get a special power to use. These abilities are what define your character beyond the weapon you’re carrying. The Assassin cloaks, the Gunzerker dual-wields (any guns he chooses), the Siren can use her phaselock for a myriad of different things and the Commando can drop a turret on the field. From these starting points, each skill has three distinct skill trees to climb. However, unlike a proper skill tree, your options actually become more limited as you progress. This quirk is something I find quite odd, if not a bit off-putting.
So, what do you plan on doing with your time in Pandora? Well, unless it’s running from Point A to Point B to get Shiny Objects, you might be a bit disappointed. Yes, the quest system is a bit old, perhaps because I’ve been so spoiled by Guild Wars 2. Luckily, the writing and voice-acting lift these duties from being a boring slog to something worth doing. In fact, throughout the game, I found the writing was the driving force, not the actual story.
But really–I mean it, really–who cares? There is plenty of fan service for those who played the original Borderlands anyways. More importantly, this game is very, very funny. You’ve been warned.
I covered the gunning. I covered the environment. Something is missing, though. Oh, yes! The loot! That wonderful, shiny stuff that falls from corpses, poop-piles and everything openable. For most, this is the main driving force of the series. Without it, Borderlands 2 would be more like a better version of RAGE than Torchlight 2 or Diablo.
Loot in Borderlands 2 takes seven forms: guns, shields, class mods, grenade mods, relics, Eridium and cash. That’s it. No gems or socketables, no consumables, no armor, no merchant trash. Simplifying loot is one of the best things the game does. With so few categories, it gives the developer time to really flesh out the nuances of them all. Rarely do high-end weapons just fire and it is these unique properties (or sometimes just funny flavor text) that give them personality. While I didn’t see any yet, I remember some guns in the original that shot bullets in the shape of smiley faces. And, seriously, why would anyone remove that sort of content?
Borderlands 2 has Game of the Year quality written all over it, sprayed in Bandit suicide note blood. It’s certainly not perfect, but it is the best straight-up Game For Gaming’s Sake kind of game around (I docked points for the quest structure, not the moment-to-moment gameplay if you’re super into the numbers above). Where the original set off down a new path, the sequel shows the franchise speeding off into the unexplored land of Pandora with reckless, tongue-in-cheek abandon, loot and gold showering from the top of a stolen Bandit cruiser shooting sawblades and gas cans at unsuspecting baby spiders. It is video game, hear it roar.
Review Platform: PC