When the first Borderlands was released in 2009, gamers around the world knew that they were about to play something special. The titled featured cell-shading, which was relatively unknown for games of the day, and it made use of a game dynamic that was completely different.
Three years later and developer Gearbox Software has perfected the art of making a great Borderlands game with the release of the sequel – Borderlands 2. While the first game had a number of expansion packs, they took that knowledge and applied it to the sequel, working in different aspects yet retaining the feel of a new game.
The most glaring difference is that fact that players will be able to start a new game with a set of four brand-new characters – while each character retained their unique personality. But lovers of the first title should not despair, as the much-loved characters from the first Borderlands will make their appearance throughout the story.
Selecting any one of the characters will not affect the plot, but it will drastically determine how the game is played. Maya, the new siren, is more of a support class and lends a hand when the battle gets tough, where Salvador, the gun-toting madman, is more in line with a running tank than a soldier.
Each character also has their own unique skill tree, which can be upgraded by levelling up, which will give the player one skill point to assign to any skill they wish – if they are unlocked. Each skill tree is different and focused on several aspects of the chosen character’s skills. Players need to select carefully what they want, as there will not be enough skill points to upgrade all three trees (yet).
In terms of graphics, Gearbox went for the same cell-shaded effect, which works rather well. Players have come to be familiar with the style, and Gearbox Software made sure that a little extra bit of details went into the development. There is no straight-forward difference between the graphical capabilities of the PC, Xbox360 and PS3 versions, but there is a slight enhancement on the PC version. This could be to the fact that a PC uses a stronger graphics card than the other consoles.
Gameplay is pretty much the same of the first version, with a bunch of minor tweaks here and there to streamline the whole process. As an example, players will have to press two different buttons to get in and out of vehicles.
Characters also no longer have Phasewalk abilities, but rather an Action Skill. Where Lilith had Phasewalk, she now possess PhaseLock, which traps enemies in a bubble and leave them vulnerable to fire. Each character’s Action Skill produces different results, and combined with multiplayer, makes for an incredible team.
Speaking of multiplayer, up to four players can join into one game and complete quest together as a team. If players level up of pick up guns during multiplayer, those statistics and equipment gets carried over to the single player campaign. They will also have the option to skip mission that they have already completed in multiplayer, but have outstanding in the campaign.
But no Borderlands will be possible if it was not for the vast amount of weapons available to mow down all the enemies. The game promised that there will be a “gazillion” guns available, and they were not joking. It is virtually impossible to find two guns that are the same, which always makes things a bit interesting.
The game also added another gun manufacturer, which keeps things fresh. There is no shortage in finding something to the player’s tastes, but it could take a while to find that perfect weapon that a player will take to the end.
The game is also rather long, as it was reported that another player reached the Level Cap of 50 – which took him over 43 hours to do. So if gamers take their time and try to complete all the side quests, the game should almost be as long as any other RPG title.
And there is a lot to do – the bulk of the title will be spent on completing side missions for the various colourful characters that inhabit Pandora. Patricia Tannis, Scooter, Moxxi and the ever-delighful Claptrap are all there, just waiting to send players on a mission or two.
There has always been something special about Borderlands, and the sequel does not disappoint. It is an exciting ride through the world of Pandora, and there will constantly be something for player to do, see or shoot.
To sum the title up neatly, take the original Borderlands, mix in a bunch of quirky characters, spoon in a generous helping of guns and cook until the plot is well developed and interesting – that is the experience of Borderlands 2.
Our score: 9.1/10
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor