|Posted by Halbridious on June 27, 2013 at 6:05 PM|
With the June 25th release of Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, Borderlands 2 has officially completed all pre-planned DLC. With that, this GOTY 2012 deserves a review for people unfortunate enough to not own this game already.
Lets start with a synopsis of WHAT Borderlands 2 IS. Just like the first game (To which almost all comments on the second apply: They didn't bother fixing anything that wasn't busted in the first one), Borderlands 2 is a dungeon crawler that had a hot nasty threesome with a first person shooter and a comedian. The last part sounds wierd, but when you hear the dialogue provided in the first hour alone, you understand what I mean. But more on that later. Borderlands 2 is a stylistic shooter, where things are meant to be over the top and crazy. Its a loot based game, where you see glowing gear explode out of dead guys and you're constantly on the hunt for MORE and BIGGER and BETTER. There's a surprising amount of story for a game like this too. Details to follow.
First things first though - art and sound direction. Borderlands uses an interesting graphic styling that, to me, has always reminded me of some kind of colored pencil art - Intense color is edged by dark edging giving every aspect of the game an amazing look even when the 3d models themselves aren't as complicated. This is a GREAT thing - the higher the quality of texture work, the less aspects of a model have to be done in 3d, which means the more stuff can be on screen at a time. This allows borderlands to have a huge view-distance in its world, and keep everything nicely detailed even in perspective. As for the music direction, it deserves a nod for almost one reason only - the intro song. The first game brought "No Rest For The Wicked" by Cage the Elephant back into the world. This one brings a less known song - "Short Change Hero", by The Heavy into the fray. I only mention this because both songs are so, so perfect for the game. Its one of the little things they did so right it can't help but stand out. I highly suggest people follow this link HERE to see both intros - they'll show the art direction beautifully.
Next thing to talk about - Gameplay. As a shooter, the game is fairly standard. A HUD keeps you informed as to your surroundings, and serves as a means of communication for various NPC's to deliver comments to you. You can melee, though it is NOT by any means a one hit kill - there are a total of 4 (plus 2 more dlc characters) different heros, and each one will provide diffrent things when meleeing. Gunplay is smooth, and guns are varied (They used the term BAZILLIONS during their trailor) and each one provides a different play style - some over the top guns providing some pretty serious extremes. You have grenades, which are customizable with a mod pack to allow for multiple styles of use. Shield modules are an important piece of the loadout as well, as is a class mod and a special artifact, the latter giving a variety of bonuses, while the former upgrades certain skills and stats in with a "class title". With all these things available to customize, each loadout brings extreme differences in play style - the same character with the same guns but a different shield will have to play very differently.
The gunplay in and of itself is smooth. An aim-down-sights feature is present, and ADS isoften involved the behavior of the weapons (Dahl brand guns for example, will always fire in bursts when ADS). Damage is satisfying, and critical hits (HEADSHOT) are a prevalent feature of every enemy that gives each situation and opponent a built in strategy. Each hero has a special ability - Axton the commando summons a turret for example, while salvadore the gunzerker can temporarily dual wield weapons. Maya the siren can use a little black hole like ability, and Zero the... well, not sure exactly what to call him. He's the ninja/sniper/assasin class (depending on his skill tree) and can summon a ghost form of himself to move invisibly.
A huge facet of BL2 is co-op. The game can be played through the first play through (about lvl 30) easily via single player, but the new game + difficulty is much higher, and co-op is heavily recommended. There is also a NG++, which is Very much co-op. Drops are SHARED however, which means that friends are suggested - nothing hurts quite as much as watching that rare drop go to the dumb-#@#$ pub guy you tried to share a server with. An important aspect of co-op is teh raid bosses, which require multiple lvl 50ish players to properly do. Multiplayer is purely drop in - open a game up to either public or friends only and people can drop in and out as they like. There can be some confusion here however: Missions completed during co-op can count towards whoever dropped in, but sometimes you can skip things - very rarely does this lock you out of anything, but if possible, make the host be the person FURTHEST BEHIND. this way if they catch up to other players, the other players will complete any missions they haven't done, but not miss anything.
The RPG elements of borderlands are very important, and have recieved a fairly significant upgrade over BL1 - Each character has 3 unique skill trees, each tree has about 2 unique paths - some are designed to be better for casual players (Zero's sniping tree for example is essentially a boost to critical damage and overall gun usefulness) while others designed for people who want to be a little more invested (Gaige the Mechromancer, DLC character #1, has a tree that increases damage and decreases accuracy per a stacked ability - things can get a little crazy.) The aforementioned class mods adjust these skills or stats directly - Zero might have a "sniper class" (Name made up, may not exist) that gives him a boost to a pair of abilities and increases crit damage by a flat %. The "Sniper" mod will be one of maybe 8 kinds of mods, which will upgrade as you pick up better and better ones - they'll always adjust teh same thing, just MORE. Another big aspect of the RPG elements is the new ability to customize characters LOOK. Both head style and color scheme (as well as the paint job of the vehicles you'll use from time to time) are customizeable, though relatively limited.
The story of borderlands is not exactly a HUGE surprise - bad guys gotta be stopped, lets stop him, ect. There are a couple of minor twists, one real Major one, and some things that are much more important to people who played BL1, but its not exactly the memorable thing about the game. The memorable thing is the DELIVERY. Voice acting, Dialogue Writing... The work put into the NPCs this time around is drop dead incredible. Tiny Tina and Handsome Jack are especially well done, both voiced entirely convincingly and written so zany you can't help but laugh. But when you uncover recordings and other things about their past during sidequests and the like, you can't help but have FEELS. BL1 players will have many more oportunities for feels, as the playable characters from the first story are back as the NPCs, and NPCs, including the Fan Favorites Claptrap and Moxxie have plenty of things to say as well. This is all i can say without spoiling things, but rest assured that even if you know whats comming next, you'll never really predict the way it comes.
One of the things you'll constantly be doing is side missions in Borderlands 2. Some of them are just excuses for NPC's to make jokes, some are tied tightly with the story, but they do tend to be mandatory - failure to do these will leave you with limited funds, and more importantly, limited experience. THis is important because Death does NOT take away any xp, but it will steal your gold, about 7% if I remember correctly. This is more important early, since late game you'll have millions and most of the purchaseable things aren't that special.
A new feature is Eridium, a purple gem/mineral substance that acts almost like real money transactions in a free to play game. Its echanged for upgrades to backpack/bank/ammo space, and in the 4th dlc, can be used to increase the rarity of chest drops. Raid bosses also drop seraph crystals, which can be used to buy raid equipment.
A final bit here is that there is a bevvy of DLC. It is ALL WORTH IT. There are some cosmetic packs you can skip if you want, but if you can find a deal on the DLC, jump on it. buy the GOTY edition when it releases (No idea when that is, but it'll happen). 4 brand new sets of areas, 4 brand new missions and raids, each one containing new drops. There are 2 dlc characters, Krieg and Gaige, both of whom are incredibly fun to play. There is also a upgrade dlc that increases lvl cap and some other things - you can hold off on this for a bit, to see if you like the game, but if you plan to play, this is a must have as well.
There are few things worth complaining about here, but i'll list them as i can... The inventory screen has a significant bug in it, where you have to close and reopen or it won't properly highlight things. Its pretty common, and while easily fixed still irksome. The inventory screen itself isn't the BEST - its pretty, but could be more organized. Borderlands 1 players tend to prefer many of the guns from teh first one (I miss my old revolvers and some of the machine guns personally) but the new ones are still plenty fun. The game can be harder than you expect at times, a couple unlucky drops are all it takes to be behind for a bit. Some people have compained that the backpack and bank are too small. The aforementioned miscellanious DLC helps with this, but it would be nice if you didn't have to farm eridium to buy the upgrades and if it didn't make out at about 30 slots a piece. In the end, we always want more. I personally ended up creating a character and quickly getting him to the area where you unlock the bank and stash (the stash is universal to all characters to switch items between them) and using this guy as a second bank. but oh well.
The game is fantastic. The first is a 6/5 insta-classic winning machine, the second didn't quite live up to that, but still, the few things I miss are not because the game is bad but because the first is better, and this one is still 100% worthy of a 5/5.