Return to Pandora
The original Borderlands by Gearbox combined first person shooting with light roleplaying game features. The roleplaying was more or less limited to the choice of four possible character classes and their advancement in levels as they perform missions in the game world. As usual, their skills and abilities developed each time they went up a level and the player had the choice of the direction of that development. In short, the RPG elements were limited to those familiar from games like Diablo and most of your gaming experience was concerned with fighting enemies and looting.
Nevertheless, Borderlands was one of the more successful Diablo lookalikes, mostly because it offered simplistic fun in a surreal world. Now, Gearbox Software is aiming to improve on their recipe for success with Borderlands 2 that promises more of the same, and better.
Borderlands 2 brings us back to a different Pandora; a world controlled by Handsome Jack, CEO of the Hyperion Corporation. With a legion of robots at his disposal, Handsome Jack has seized power over the lawless world. It is up to four new adventurers to take Pandora back from its new tyrant.
The four new protagonists are Salvador (the Gunzerker), Axton (the Commando), Maya (the Siren), and Zero (the Assassin). The Siren is the only returning class from the first game but is very different what what we saw back then. Maya, the Siren, is a slender female with mystic tattoos who has a special ability called phaselock which suspends enemies in the air and can be upgraded to have all sorts of different effects. Salvador, the Gunzerker, is a big angry man who can wield two weapons for a short time dealing double the destruction. Axton, the Commando, is an ex-military bad-ass with a new and improved Scorpio turret. Zero, the Assassin, is an assassin with a the ability to create a holographic clone of him/herself to distract enemies while he sneaks up behind them with his sword or puts a bullet through their noggin'. As you probably guessed, we do not know whether Zero is a male or a female as the helmet projecting a big zero covers his or her features pretty well. Although not very different from the originalís cast, the new quartet of heroes seems interesting enough. I guess the old saying goes here as well as anyplace else: if it isnít broken donít fix it.
More weapons and better graphics
The same saying goes here as well; the original had a lot of guns Ė the sequel will have a lot more. Borderlands 2 has done a great job of expanding on the idea of combining various weapons parts in unique ways. The expansion of possibilities is the logical result of there being more weapon manufacturers to choose from. And the choices are not only limited to gum manufacturers: the bandits of Pandora will now have their own weapons made from scrap, for example a scope made from a broken bottle. The way I see it, more unique manufacturers whose weapons all perform differently was an ingenious idea and it confounds me how other developers have not adopted it.
The artistic style of Borderlands was unique and different but seemed a few years behind graphically. The environment lacked polish and the menu systems were a bit clunky. From what has been unveiled about Borderlands 2 all of these issues have been addressed. Instead of the mostly desert atmosphere of the original, Borderlands 2 has shown glimpses of tundra and, according to Randy Varnell, a producer at Gearbox, the intimate detail that was applied to the main characters in the first game has been applied to the environment. The menus and inventories are far easier to navigate in Borderlands 2 as well, as was seen in a hands-on demo. Fans of the original will also be relieved to use vehicles that seat four people instead of two.
Another hit in the making?
The first game was a surprise hit. Now, armed with a bigger budget, Gearbox is geared to bring us another exciting multiplayer experience. With more of the same and some improvements, Borderlands 2 is primed to do as well or better than its predecessor. When September 18th comes around we will know which.