by William Thompson, reviewed on
Welcome back to Pandora
The original Borderlands had more than a couple of great features which enabled it to be one of the standout games of 2009. The main selling point was the huge number of weaponry on offer due to the randomization aspect, although for the most part, the guns were simply copies of a small range of weapons with adjusted stat points. It worked though, as did the unique cel-shaded comic book look. The looting and the RPG elements also complemented the shooting game perfectly. It also had a great story with some wonderful witty dialogue and there was little doubt a sequel would be made. Games such as Dragon Age 2 strayed from the formula that won fans in the first place. How would Borderlands 2 fare?
The simple answer is ‘extremely well’. The main reason for this simple answer is the fact that the team at Gearbox seem to have listened to the fans. What Gearbox has produced is a game that doesn’t alter too far from the original script. All the major aspects from Borderlands mentioned above have returned with some new features thrown into the mix. The game is still a shooter with RPG elements as was the case of the original.
Return of the Vault Hunters
After the Vault was opened at the end of Borderlands, a man by the name of Handsome Jack has taken over the Hyperion corporation. He declared himself Dictator of Pandora, and stole all of the credit for finding the Vault, going so far as to claim responsibility for killing the Destroyer. The team in Borderlands 2 is tasked with killing Jack and restoring peace to Pandora.
The one thing missing from Borderlands 2 are the familiar playable characters from the first game. Roland, Lilith and Mordecai have disappeared. Well, they are still located in Pandora, but are no longer playable characters. In their stead we have a new crop of Vault Hunters. Each will again provide suitable choice for all sorts of play styles. And each has a unique Action Skill that can be the difference between death and survival.
Axton is the Commando class unit whose particular skill involves the deployment of a 360 degree turret which can be upgraded over time to be able to launch weapons such as rockets and mini-nukes. The female of the group is Maya, a Siren. With her Phaselock ability, she can suspend foes in a bubble of energy, essentially putting them in a temporary stasis. The brute of the quartet is Salvador, the Gunzerker. His main claim to fame is that he has the ability to dual wield weapons for a limited period of time. The final member of our foursome is Zer0, the Assassin. His handy skill is the ability to deploy a holographic decoy of himself and enter an invisible stealth mode. As with many shooters, gamers will have a preference towards a particular character depending on their style of play. If you’re partial to being an all-guns-blazing shooter, then Salvador may be the way to go. If you prefer stealth, Zer0 may be more you cup of tea. But whichever character you choose, they can each perform their job admirably.
Apart from the new playable characters, there are a number of new aspects in Borderlands 2. The most apparent is probably the Badass Rank. Points are earned by completing specific challenges. XP is still gained as you progress along the main storyline (and on the numerous side quests), which will result in levelling up your character. But once arned, the Badass Points can be spent on various upgrades such as improved fire rate, higher critical hit damage, improved accuracy, increased maximum health, faster reload speed or even larger shield capacity.
Controls and gameplay mechanics have been left largely identical to the original, breeding a sense of familiarity.
Inventory management can be a pain, especially before you get used to the gun types.