by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
Back In Green
The sequel to Gearbox's first person “shoot 'n' loot”, Borderlands 2, will be out sooner than you probably realise. Building upon the story and gameplay mechanics from the first game, Borderlands 2 is set to take place five years after The Destroyer was quelled in its efforts to obliterate Pandora. A man named Handsome Jack has claimed responsibility for opening the vault and used the wealth that comes with that to take over the Hyperion Corporation. The game is still set on Pandora but we are promised more diverse environments this time, ranging from the familiar desert to icy and even areas of greenery! In typical evil corporation fashion, Jack is attempting to industrialise the planet with no regard for the population. No doubt it will be up to you to stop him, and for that you will need to pick a character.
Different, But The Same
Much like the original, Borderlands 2 will have four playable classes, which Gearbox say will be different to those available in the first game. The only solid announcement so far has been Salvador, a Gunzerker, who was shown in a teaser trailer last year. You can infer just from the name that this is likely to be a big, angry dude with a love of guns. Surprise, surprise - it turns out that he is. He will be similar to Brick, the Berserker from the first game, except Salvador will be able to enter a state in which he can dual wield any two weapons. That's right, any two weapons, and in a game that boasts millions of different weapons to choose from, there will definitely be some interesting combinations. The craziest suggestion so far (and my personal favourite) would be dual wielding sniper rifles. I'm not sure how that would work exactly, but it certainly sounds dangerous...I'm in!
Salvador's skill tree is split into three branches: Wrath, Brawn and Gun Lust. Each of these improves a specific attribute which match the gun-toting personality of Salvador. Within the branches there are even more specific tweaks to be made. An exciting one in the Gun Lust branch is called Overheat, which, if you keep holding down the trigger of any weapon, continually increases the rate of fire. That sounds insane and I can't wait to see the mayhem caused by this character. It will also be interesting to see if they can come up with something suitably crazy for the other new playable characters. The second character confirmed at time of writing is Maya, a Siren much like Lilith from the original game, but no details of her abilities have been released yet. A recent wallpaper release suggests that another character will be a sniper similar to Mordecai from the first game, so in all likelihood we are not seeing a huge change in the character line-up on closer inspection.
No One Left Behind
Considering all of these changes, fans of the original Borderlands characters should not fret as the developers promise that Roland, Claptrap and other memorable characters will make recurring appearances as NPCs in the sequel. Also making a re-appearance are the numerous gun manufacturers on Pandora. This time around, you will be able to tell just from looking at the gun which manufacturer it came from. Got a clean looking, yellow and white gun? That will be a Hyperion. Does it look more like a gun you'd find in present day battlefields? It's probably a Dahl. Is it made of random bits of junk you'd find lying around anywhere? That's a Bandit gun there, my friend.
A major complaint concerning the original Borderlands was the lack of a connection between many of the quests and the main storyline. To remedy this, Gearbox has ensured that everything you do will have some greater connection to the improved story and there will be no quests placed merely for the purpose of "grinding". The developers have also exercised a similar effort towards the oft-found complaint that co-op parties of more than two in number tended to get split up due to the limited seating arrangements of the vehicles. Henceforth, the vehicles in the sequel come with a total of four seats to accommodate parties of all sizes, also allowing for the extra mobility and fire power that comes with it. Enemies have also been redesigned in order to make them smarter and some more powerful, making for a more challenging experience overall.
Forget Me Not
It was easy to spend dozens of hours playing the original Borderlands; searching for new loot, finishing off odd quests and building your array of characters to their maximum level. If Gearbox can retain that experience and these new and revamped features prove to be as much of an improvement as we hope, Borderlands 2 will definitely be a must-play game this year.