Borderlands 2


Borderlands-2

Borderlands-2 (Photo credit: NewGameNetwork)

Borderlands 2 is a space western first-person shooter video game with role-playing elements, that was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. It is the sequel to 2009’s Borderlands and was released for the Microsoft Windows,PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms.

Borderlands 2 was officially announced on August 3rd, 2011. The game was released on September 18, 2012 in the United States, September 20, 2012 in the Australasia region and September 21, 2012 internationally. Borderlands 2 was built in Unreal Engine 3

Gameplay

Borderlands 2 builds upon the gameplay elements introduced in its predecessor. It is a first-person shooter that includes character-building elements found in role-playing games, leading Gearbox to call the game a “role-playing shooter.” At the start of the game, players select one of four new characters, each with a unique special skill and with proficiencies with certain weapons. From then on, players take on quests assigned through non-player characters or from bounty boards, each typically rewarding the player with experience points, money, and sometimes a reward item. Players earn experience by killing foes and completing in-game challenges (such as getting a certain number of kills using a specific type of weapon). As they gain levels from experience growth, players can then allocate skill points into a skill tree that features three distinct specializations of the base character. As with the first game, Borderlands 2 features a procedural-generated loot system, whereby weapons and other equipment dropped by foes, found in chests, or offered as quest items have numerous statistics that are generated randomly, affecting factors such as weapon damage, accuracy, magazine size, and added effects like elemental damage. Randy Pitchford, noting that the procedural system in the first game generated 17.75 million possible guns, claimed that the variation inBorderlands 2 is much larger.

Returning gameplay features from the first game will include the 3-branch skill trees, class-mods, and four-player online cooperative modes. New features include a more expansive and customizable weapons system, reworked four-seat drift-ablevehicles and vehicle physics elements, and dynamic mission systems. For example, taking too much time to save a friend in a mission may result in their death and the failure of the mission, which will affect the story as the player progresses. Technically, the game world will be all connected, rather than loadable levels for each region, allowing accurate viewing of the entire world from a given point rather than the first game’s premade “Skybox.”

In addition, the artificial intelligence (AI) system has been reworked for the game. Non-enemies will populate the game world more often and will travel around different locations depending on the time. According to Gearbox VP Steve Gibson, enemy AI will encourage teamwork, such as flanking, as well as taking cover when wounded, though lower level enemies like Psychos will still embrace the mentality of, “Wow that’s a gun! I want my face in front of it!”. Shooting enemies will stun or cripple them depending on where they are shot, such as shooting a Hyperion robot’s arms will cause the arms to fall off, impairing it’s damage-dealing capabilities. For a change, enemies will be intelligent enough to climb and traverse difficult terrain to pursue the player. Enemies will also be able to interact with each other. For example, certain enemies can heal their teammates, boost their shields for defense, or use them as shields to protect themselves.

Synopsis

Setting

Set five years after the events of Borderlands, Handsome Jack, the game’s main antagonist, has taken over theHyperion Corporation, declared himself Dictator of Pandora and taken all of the credit for finding the Vault, going so far to claim responsibility for killing the Destroyer. Jack has also blotted out much of the light on the planet by having a giant orbiting H-shaped base set in front of Pandora’s stationary moon. The new team in Borderlands 2 is tasked with killing Jack and returning peace to Pandora.

Borderlands 2 begins with the protagonists on a train to an unspecified location to begin their search for the vault, only for it to turn out as a trap by Handsome Jack to kill all who search for the Vault. The Vault hunters defend themselves only for the train to crash, with them waking up in an arctic wasteland along with Claptrap. The mysterious Guardian Angel then contacts them and explains that Handsome Jack must be killed, directing players to rescue the four original Vault hunters from Hyperion’s clutches to accomplish this.

All four original player characters make appearances in the sequel as NPCs, each with their own backstory. Each of them give the new Vault hunters missions to complete, furthering the main storyline.

Release

A 4.6 GB portion of Borderlands 2 became available for pre-load through Steam on September 14, 2012, allowing customers to download encrypted game files to their computer before the game was released. When the game was released, customers were able to unlock the files on their hard drives and play the game immediately, without having to wait for the whole game to download. Borderlands 2 will also be available for download on the PlayStation Network on its release date for retail price.

On August 20, 2012, it was announced that a four issue Borderlands comic would be released in November 2012 to tie in with Borderlands 2. The miniseries is to be written by Mikey Neumann and published by IDW. It tells the story of how the original four Vault Hunters came to be together at the beginning of Borderlands, filling in their backstory and setting up the events of both games.

Downloadable Content

There will be 5 packs of downloadable content (DLC) made available for Borderlands 2 over the coming months, all packs should be available before June 2013.

Mechromancer character class

The Mechromancer will be called Gaige. She is the fifth playable class in Borderlands 2. First revealed at PAX East 2012, the class will be added as post-release downloadable content releasing on October 16, 2012. There will be no charge for those that pre-ordered Borderlands 2. She is able to command mechs, including the D374-TP (Deathtrap). The Mechromancer class will not be included in the Seasons Pass.

Borderlands 2 Seasons Pass

The Borderlands 2 Seasons Pass allows users who purchase it to access the 4 DLC packs for Borderlands 2 at no extra cost as soon as they become available. The Mechromancer character class is not included in the seasons pass.

Character Classes

Class concept art

Borderlands 2 initially has four player characters:

DLC characters:

  • Gaige (Mechromancer) – Releases on October 16, 2012

NPCs

Unnamed knife wielding man

Enemies

Destructor Bot

Notable Enemies

Common Enemies

Vehicles


Thresher attacking a vehicle

Locations

  • Arid Nexus – Blight region.
  • Caustic Caverns – An area with thick, sometimes hostile, flora and natural bridges spanning corrosive pools of acid.
  • Eridium Blight – Blight region.
  • Frostburn Canyon – Arctic region.
  • The Highlands – Highlands.
  • Lynchwood
  • Opportunity – Urban region.
  • Sanctuary
  • Sawtooth Cauldron – Blight region.
  • Thousand Cuts – Highlands.
  • Three Horns – Arctic region.
  • Tundra Express – Arctic region.
  • Wildlife Exploitation Preserve – A nuclear-ravaged area populated with aggressive fauna and Hyperion robots.
  • Creature Slaughter Dome – GameStop pre-order bonus. An Underdome-style arena that pits players against the toughest monsters in Pandora. Includes Moxxi’s Rocket Launcher as an added bonus. Experience and gear gained in this arena will transfer over to the main game.

Weapon Manufacturers

New

  • Bandit brand weapons – Bandits themselves have started making their own weapons. Their weapons sport the largest magazines in the game.

Returning

  • Jakobs weapons will fire as fast as the trigger is pulled. 
  • Tediore weapons have a different feel for Borderlands 2, having been described as “Cheap, plastic pieces of crap” and “Wal-Mart guns” by Randy Pitchford himself during a demo presentation. Instead of being reloaded, Tediore weapons are thrown away and explode like grenades; the more ammo left in the clip, the bigger the explosion. A fully-loaded gun regenerates in the user’s hand after the expended weapon is discarded. Due to their explosive capabilities, there is a chance they will explode in the user’s hand before throwing it away. 
  • Vladof continues with their tradition of weapons with extremely high rates-of-fire. . Vladof weapons have variable numbers of minigun-like barrels and feature fire rates that increase as the trigger is held down. The more barrels the weapon has, the faster it will fire.
  • Torgue weapons will feature Gyrojet ammunition which, similarly to BL1’s Carnage, trade area-of-effect damage for low projectile velocity and reduced magazine capacity.
  • Dahl‘s guns will focus on stability, precision and burst fire, and feature camouflage coloring.  All Dahl guns feature a full auto fire rate without scoping in, while scoped in the gun shoots in bursts.
  • Hyperion weapons will retain their customary high accuracy, with a “sci-fi” styling , featuring glowing elemental effects and bold stripes. Unlike other weapons, the accuracy of Hyperion weapons will increasethe longer the trigger is depressed. 
  • Maliwan weapons will retain their focus on elemental damage. 

Not Returning

Miscellaneous Features

Inventory UI
  • Character customization – New gear, skins, and “heads” will be made available as drops from bosses and certain enemies and as mission, challenge, and levelling rewards, and will feature varying grades of rarity.
  • E-Tech – A holdover from the original Borderlands’ Eridian weapons E-Tech is a barrel modification technique that works with all brands of weapons. 
  • Badass Points – Used for tracking overall ranking. The harder the challenge is, the more Badass Points are racked up.
  • Optional objectives – There are now objectives that the player can complete that are not required (like keeping an ally above 50% health). Rewards are being tabulated.
  • Elemental nerfing – Whereas in Borderlands an elemental-based enemy (e.g. a fire skag) could be killed with sheer bullet damage from a similarly based elemental weapon (e.g. a Hellfire SMG), in Borderlands 2 enemies will take significantly less damage from weapons utilizing elements they have a resistance to.
  • Multiple Choice Quests – Some quests will feature a choice in how they will be completed. For example, after retrieving questionable photos of Moxxi for Marcus, Moxxi makes a counter-offer to deliver the photos to her. These choices are largely for entertainment but Gearbox has hinted that decisions made during some of the quests can significantly affect the storyline. The player will also have choices in mission rewards.
  • Trading Interface – A trading system will allow players to formally trade or sell items. Players can also wager items to be dueled for.
  • Traps – Some normally loot-dropping items (chests, plant pods, etc.) will contain traps (monsters jumping out, corrosive goo spraying, etc.).
  • Adaptive Shields – Some shields will grant the elemental resistance of whatever damage type they were last struck by.
  • One Point Wonders – “Game changer” skills that can change available options and gameplay style but only require a small investment to unlock at a basic level.
  • Eridium – A new element that can be used to augment other elemental powers.  It is also a currency that can be used to buy the most powerful weapons and upgrade backpack space capacity and weapon ammo capacity. Enemies can use their own Eridium, this can be shot out of their hands before use.

Review

There were a lot of things that made Borderlands such a great game when it came out three years ago: the hardscrabble planet, the oddball characters, the hostile creatures, the diverse missions, the abundant loot, the powerful skill trees, and the novelty of all these things combined in a cooperative first-person shooter. In Borderlands 2, the novelty is gone, but all of the other elements are back and better than ever. This sequel doubles down on the successes of the original and shores up its shortcomings, improving the familiar formula and delivering dozens and dozens of hours of immensely entertaining gameplay.

Perhaps the most notable difference is that Pandora now feels like a vibrant, living place. What once was a lonely frontier planet populated primarily by savage men and feral beasts is, well, still a planet populated primarily by savage men and feral beasts. But it isn’t so lonely anymore, thanks to an expanded cast of diverse and entertaining characters. Many familiar faces return, including the delusional robot, Claptrap; the hayseed mechanic, Scooter; and the bawdy vixen, Moxxi. The four playable characters from the first game are back as well, and they each play a robust role in the story (and have way more spoken lines than ever before). There are some delightful new additions too, such as the arrogant antagonist, Handsome Jack, and the teenage demolitionist, Tiny Tina. Random townsfolk also have a few things to say, no longer content with mute or monosyllabic responses, and even the bandits you fight have a broader range of context-sensitive taunts.

The huge amount of high-quality voice acting required to bring this world to life is fueled by excellent writing, which provides some genuinely nasty tirades and surprisingly tender moments amid the avalanche of laugh-out-loud funny lines. The breadth of personalities invigorates your adventure and makes Pandora a lively, engrossing place, the kind of place it fell short of being in the first game. The only drawback to the sheer volume of communication is that sometimes conversations are cut off by other incoming messages before you can hear them through. This doesn’t pose any barrier to progression, but with dialogue this good, you don’t want to miss a word.

If you apply this same philosophy to exploration, Borderlands 2 will keep you busy for a very, very long time. The environments of Pandora are more vibrant and diverse this time around, and the eye-catching artistic aesthetic is enlivened with a richer color palette and more clever details. Textures sometimes load sluggishly when you’re entering new areas and occasionally look rough upon close inspection, but this is still a visually appealing world. Diligent explorers will find both lovely vistas and amusing sights–the humor of the writing extends into the environmental design as well.

There are tons of areas to visit during the course of your adventure, some of which you won’t even see if you don’t stray far from the main story missions. The mission system is one area in which small tweaks have a noticeable impact. The onscreen checklist updates you of any mission progress caused by your current actions, even if said progress isn’t for your currently selected mission. You can also choose to ignore missions in the menu so that you don’t have to constantly scroll past old leftovers to get to the ones you want. It’s not necessary to pursue every last mission en route to the final boss, but to stay at a competitive level with your enemies, plan on doing a fair number of side missions. These endeavors are another great source of creativity and humor, including a logic puzzle to decide which of four thieves cheated the others, and the ludicrously simple task titled “Shoot This Guy in the Face.”

In addition to missions, there is an expanded array of challenges. These goals are automatically tracked and reward you for actions like offing a certain number of skags or getting a lot of incendiary kills. New location-specific challenges give you further incentive to find hidden secrets in each area, and this extra layer of reward makes idle exploration more appealing. Every challenge completed increases your badass rank, which in turn gives you small bonuses to various attributes (such as gun damage, fire rate, and shield recharge delay) that apply to any character you create, not just your current one. Tweaking challenges and introducing cross-character bonuses aren’t big additions to the game, but they serve as a nice acknowledgement of the fact that many players want to play as multiple characters. This overarching reward system is one of the many small improvements that make Borderlands 2 a more player-friendly experience than its predecessor.

Intangible rewards are all well and good, but a huge part of the Borderlands formula is loot, and Borderlands 2 does not disappoint. Guns, shields, grenade mods, class mods, and relics all offer different ways to enhance your combat effectiveness. Building and updating your arsenal with the embarrassment of loot riches Pandora has to offer is still immensely satisfying, and the increased frequency of odd attributes and bonuses means more opportunity to fine-tune your optimal loadout. The option to mark items as junk in your inventory is a welcome addition that makes selling things to vending machines less time-consuming, though an option to mark items as junk on pick-up could have made it even smoother. In another bit of streamlining, cash, health, and ammo are now automatically picked up off the ground most of the time (there are occasional lapses), which means you can happily spend less time looking down.

Finding new and intriguing guns is fun, but using them on the legions of hostiles is even more fun. Whether human, animal, or somewhere in between, your foes put up a good fight, and different species are more than happy to fight each other, given the chance. There are some interesting new enemy types, including the goliath bandit who freaks out when you shoot off his helmet and starts killing anything nearby. Having him squash his allies is amusing and useful, but he grows more powerful with each kill, so you’d better be ready for the rampaging consequences. New creatures pose new challenges as well, like the skittering stalkers who can turn invisible briefly, and the hulking crystalisks whose crystalline shins are oh-so-punchable.

Despite your fresh foes, the core combat remains very much the same. Scoring critical hits and dealing the right kind of elemental damage can accelerate the demise of your enemies, and the fight-for-your-life moment can save you from your own imminent death if you manage to get a kill as you bleed out. The shooting mechanics are solid and satisfying, but action is largely unchanged from the first game, with the exception of slag. Slag is an element that weakens enemy defenses and amplifies damage from the other elements, making it a powerful tactical asset in many situations.

The four new characters also require new tactics to better leverage their new combat abilities, some of which are more exciting than others. Locking a foe up in a magical floating prison as a siren is more glamorous than simply whipping out another gun as a gunzerker. Though the latter has undeniable combat benefits, gunzerking is the only ability that doesn’t offer something different from the core gunplay, merely an amplified version of it. The commando’s turret adds a deployable asset to your arsenal that draws enemy attention, while the assassin’s deception skill sets a decoy and lets you maneuver invisibly to set up for a damaging shot or melee strike.

Each of these base abilities can be customized in substantially different ways through the three different skill trees, enhancing replay potential even if you want to play as the same character. Though some skills favor certain weapon types, weapon proficiencies do not return in Borderlands 2, removing the incentive to stick with one or two weapon types throughout the whole game. You also have more freedom to tweak your character’s appearance, as clothing colors and new heads are now loot items you can collect, and the menu gives you the welcome chance to actually see the results. There are lots of choices to make en route to the level cap of 50, but if you hope to max out, you have to start from the beginning in True Vault Hunter mode, a deadlier playthrough that scales to your level and stocks the fields and caves of Pandora with some gnarly new enemy variations.

Borderlands 2 provides a lengthy adventure, and one that gets better when you play it with friends. Two-player split-screen adventurers can now join online games, provided both have Xbox Live Gold accounts, and online games can accommodate up to four players of any character class. A small icon denotes how well you are matched with potential players, and though the difficulty attempts to scale appropriately, it’s best to play with someone close to you in level. If you accomplish later missions while someone else is hosting the game, you’ll be given the option to skip those missions when you reach them on your own, which helps minimize the redundant play that was often the result of joining online games in Borderlands. A new item trading mechanic, tougher enemies, better rewards, and the excitement of battlefield camaraderie make cooperative play the absolute best way to experience the game.

Now if all this sounds familiar, well, you must have played Borderlands before. Borderlands 2 doesn’t reach far beyond its predecessor’s scope, but it does do almost everything better. Additions, refinements, and fixes all combine to create an appreciably improved experience, one that fully delivers on the promise of the first game. While Borderlands felt empty at times, this sequel is bursting with content and brimming with life, making it an absolutely delightful way to spend hours and hours and hours of your free time.

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