This game makes me cringe simply by principle. We took a good long look at “Borderlands the First One” and it angered the fanboys so much I had to start sleeping with a burned-up copy of The Pre-Sequel to throw them off my scent. I should remind everyone that I liked “Borderlands: Snorederlands” quite a bit as a proof-of-concept. It was the mechanics and setting that ultimately bothered me. So, how does the sequel compare?
The shooting is, arguably, the best improvement in the game. With new balance regarding accuracy and recoil, it doesn’t feel as though you’re shooting bent arrows off of a bow made of chewing gum. Now, it feels as though you’re firing little BB Gun Pellets out of a paintball gun. See how improved that is? Sure, the damage scaling is a bit wonky, but at least you can hit things in this game.
Don’t get me wrong, whenever I went down in Borderlands 2, I always felt like I wasn’t to blame for it. It was the gun’s fault it couldn’t hit things or do enough damage, not me. I’m the guy who hit all the shots possible and the guns didn’t do squat to the enemies. But anyway, let’s move on; we can’t very well stay on the positives too long, lest we let our guard down and-
Okay, I have to give Gearbox some credit here. The first game felt like the design team made literally the entire game and then said, “Hey, you guys over in story development! Make something that doesn’t entirely seem like it’s been ripped from Mad Max.” There wasn’t much there that wasn’t the most generic thing in the history of the universe. The vault being a monster (oh man, spoilers for a seven year-old game) was kind of a twist, but not one you couldn’t see coming after you destroyed what should have been the final boss. “Oh man, I just killed the leaders of the evil guys, I can’t wait to play the next hour where NO ONE else is left to fight me.”
But Borderlands 2 manages to completely turn that on it’s head right off the bat. You’re treasure hunters- no wait it’s different I promise- who end up getting off a transport vehicle and end up in a small town with few survivors in order to kill something that Claptrap pissed off… yeah, this is sounding like a complete rehash. But, the characters are a little more varied, and you actually see them move around occasionally, so that’s new. I like how Handsome Jack taunts you throughout the game. It gives an air of comedy to an otherwise bland game. Don’t get me wrong, the spectacles are there, but without the comedy of the first game to back them up, I feel robbed of a certain charm the game has.
The later segments of the game are actually pretty good in regards to story, so I don’t really know what happened to the first three hours of the game. Maybe the lead story designer lost another bet with the design team and had to do a christmas-themed intro and took heavy use of the “find/replace tool”.
The setting is still the planet Pandora, but apparently we’re on the side that isn’t blasted by the sun every waking moment. Now there’s snow everywhere… and I feel as though the setting is even less varied than Borderlands. I mean, like most of the points here, I have to add that “It get’s better after the first three hours”, but come on guys, didn’t you learn your lesson in the first game? If you stick players in the same level for too long, everything runs together and it becomes pretty samey.
After the story takes off into the clouds (haha, clever integration to pivotal story event), the setting diversity really starts to pick up, but until then, they just replaced sand with snow and rocks with slightly darker rocks. There were times where I felt like they took entire caves from the first game and just added the new enemies. Speaking of enemies…
I think you all know where this one’s going: copy/paste/rename’s ville. But then I got to playing Borderlands 2 again and I thought about it. The characters are actually intriguing this time around, whereas the characters from Borderlands one all felt like typical FPS-playable characters. The new guys have a small bit of charm, where the first set of Player-Vessels were just kinda there.
NPCs, on the other hand, became very much improved (after the first three hours). We meet new and diverse characters like Tiny Tina, Mister Torgue, and Handsome Jack. They all have the typical Borderlands thing of being ‘way too into explosions’ but otherwise they all come off as being uniquely crazy.
Enemies themselves feel more varied this time around, where they all don’t just rush you with axes. That said, the Psychos are still dumb, the Skags/Bullymongs are still bland, and the Nomads feel too similar to Crimson Lance. But aside from the similarities, I can’t complain, there’s more diversity this time around, and I appreciate having more, different things to satisfy my bloodlust.
The damage scaling by the end of the game is pretty ridiculous, but you could say that this is a good thing. The best way to make a player feel superior is when they started off doing 10-15 damage a shot and end with them doing thousands. I feel as though the entire thing could have been accomplished much more simply by removing a few zeroes from the final enemies in the game, because even with my massive damage output some of the final bosses felt downright insane. When I have to run around the battlefield collecting ammo from adds because the boss isn’t even down to half-health, I stop thinking I’m bad and start thinking every other bullet I fire is made out of wet paper.
This game’s key flaw is the way in which you progress. After the first playthrough, you go back to the beginning of the game for a ‘New Game Plus’. That’s fine, by the time I beat the game, I can tank the first three hours of gameplay and I know I’ll have fun after that. But when the game asks me to play through the entire thing again, I start to get a little worried. After the third replay, I put my controller down. It wasn’t fun anymore. Fighting the same bosses over and over again to gain better loot is cool, but don’t make me sit through the boring bits to do so. Sure, they fix this a bit in the DLC content, but that leads me to my next point.
The first game had some incredible DLC: The ‘Left 4 Dead’ one the ‘Mad Max, Fury Road’ one, the… ‘Thunderdome? Oh, Underdome!’ DLC. But all of them felt pretty cool, even as a “The Vault Hunters play another game” kinda DLC.
The DLC in Borderlands 2 has the same feel, but I feel it’s necessary to tear it a new asshole. While I loved ‘Assault on Dragon Keep’ and ‘Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage’, Captain Scarlett felt like it could’ve been part of the game and Hammerlock’s Big Game hunt was forgettable. You may be asking yourselfs, “Chris, you complained that creature killing was the biggest draw of Borderlands: Uno. Why do you hate of Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt? Well, I can’t remember much about it and as DLC, I never felt obligated to replay it because all the other DLC (except maybe Scarlett) felt required.
I guess my biggest beef with Borderlands 2 DLC is that there’s so much of it. I feel like paying seventy bucks to get all the playable content, including the discount from buying the season pass and skipping all cosmetic items, is ridiculous. I also think paying 10 bucks total to ‘get all 72 levels’ is kind of dumb as well as the balancing problems that arose from increasing the level cap. I really disliked the holiday-themed DLC, as I felt I was just throwing money onto the pile at that point. but enough on DLC.
Was the game good? In many ways, it improved on ‘Borderlands: Road Warrior’. To those who think I complain way too much about the little things, I didn’t once talk about the shitty UI or the horrible driving. Still, I feel as though it’s necessary to point this stuff out. If we don’t call out games for their bullshit, we end up with Borderlands 2: a game that, after rolling around in the ‘Nostalgia Bed’ for the first half of the game, becomes good long enough to entice you into buying seventy dollars of DLC in which Thunderdome and D&D are good. I don’t hate the game. If anything, I’d much rather play “Borderlands: Too” than the original. I just dread to see what we’re going to have to pay for in the future to get the full game.
All in all, they improved the gameplay by a marginal amount and the setting/story are better. If you like Borderlands 1, and you like farming, You’ll definitely enjoy Borderlands 2. Next week, we take a look at the last expansion of Borderlands 2, the Pre-sequel… wait they made it a full game? Sigh….