Undoubtedly, Borderlands 2 has cemented its place as one of the best games of 2012. Building upon the foundation laid out by the first game three years ago, Borderlands 2 fixes what was broken in the first, and then covers it all in a layer of delicious improvements.
The writing is full of dark humor and is incredibly well written. The unique visuals, aided by tons of PC specific customization options, are beautiful. The gameplay refines the ideas set forth in the first game, featuring tons of loot drops and plenty of death.
Borderlands 2 is, at its core, a simple story of good versus evil. Handsome Jack is the game's main villain. Starting off as a bit of a humorous, if not slightly bumbling bad guy, you quickly come to realize that this is one truly evil fellow. There is some seriously twisted stuff said by him and carried out by him that you will discover both through the game's main story progression and through the many, many optional side quests. He may be one of the best antagonists I've seen in recent memory, with exceptions made to GLaDOS and Wheatley in the Portal
In charge of the Hyperion Corporation, one of Pandora's many weapons and technology manufacturers, Handsome Jack has one hell of an arsenal for support. In addition to a number of deadly robots built by his company, he also has the weapon of psychological warfare on his side. Taunting you through the voice communicator within the game, he will do his best to question your own senses of morality. Examples include when he begs and pleads with you to check on his dear, old grandmother, or when he humbly asks you to kill yourself. Yes, you can actually kill yourself with the promise of a huge cash compensation if you do, but he will call you his bitch afterwards. Such is the price of wealth. At times, it feels as though you are Handsome Jack's puppet, a theme that stretches throughout the entire game and one that is made more believable after listening to various Echo recordings that detail the back story for the protagonists.
And who are you in all of this? You are one of four new Vault Hunters that have made their way to Pandora, brought onto the planet under potentially false pretenses. Play through the game as Zer0, the assassin that loves speaking in haiku and specializes in stealth melee combat and sniping. Perhaps going balls to the wall is more your style. If so, than Salvador may be more up your alley. This short dude loves shooting off his guns and has the ability to dual wield any two weapons in the game. Axton is a basic soldier type class, accompanied into battle with his trusty deployable turret. Rounding out the group is Maya, a Siren that can encase her enemies in a stasis ball leaving them wide open to attack.
While each character tends not to speak too much throughout the story, a wealth of information can be discovered through devices known as Echo recordings. Essentially a tape recorder full of dialogue from the past, these Echo recordings detail plot elements including backstory as to why Handsome Jack is such an ass, and why each of the characters have been brought to Pandora to become unlikely heroes.
The four new Vault Hunters are supported by a very eccentric cast of non-playable characters. Old favorites such as Scooter, Claptrap, Dr. Zed, Patricia Tannis, Angel, Marcus, and Mad Moxxi return. They are rounded out by new and equally memorable characters such as the rotund mechanic named Ellie, the gentlemanly hunter named Sir Hammerlock, and the 13-year old with a love of explosions named Tiny Tina. As if they weren't already enough, the four original Vault Hunters return from Borderlands and play incredibly pivotal roles in this game. While they may not have said much in the first game, they are quite talkative in this one and are essential to the main story in Borderlands 2. Can this group prevent Handsome Jack from waking a legendary creature that he could use to overthrow all of those who oppose him? Well, that's up to you to find out.
The world of Borderlands 2 can be best described as a compartmentalized open-world experience. Simply put, the areas of Borderlands 2 are vast, varied, and connected via specific travel spots that allow you to load into the next area. It's not a seamless open-world but this is hardly an issue for how questing is laid out in the game. The quests are specific to particular areas, which is great as it tends to eliminate issues that other games have where you may become lost or confused as to where you need to go.
Gameplay largely consists of picking up quests from various NPCs found throughout the world, travelling to the location for the quest, and blasting away enemies as you march towards your goal. It's a simple premise that is made more enjoyable when you understand how the loot system in Borderlands 2 works. Loot drops in Borderlands 2 is something akin to games like Torchlight and Diablo. Weapons, grenade modifications, power-up relics, and class-specific items have a chance to drop from everyone you kill. This idea also carries over to the hundreds of chests and item crates scattered throughout the world which may hold money, ammunition, or even a new weapon.
Borderlands 2 is all about stat comparisons. Green and red arrows help you to more easily compare stats amongst weapons in your stash to see what is suitable to use and what can be sold. Yes, it's another dream game for the fan of the loot-hunting experience. If you don't like top-down action RPG titles like Torchlight but still crave the prospect of finding some sweet loot, then Borderlands 2 is for you. Naturally, you may want to also be a fan of a solid FPS experience.
The best loot doesn't always come easily, as your journey through Pandora will be met with some tough foes. Human psychos of varying difficulty, large beast-like creatures called Bullymongs, hulking berserker Goliaths, and a plethora of robots from Hyperion will all stand in your way. These foes, in addition to the native creatures on Pandora, will typically scale in level with you in many of the game's locations. Rather than simply scaling in level number only, you will actually begin to see new and varied names and models for the enemies. They will get bigger; they will begin to have armor. At their core, they're still the same types of enemies you've seen already but the increased difficulty and punishment dished out from them, coupled with the altered character models, will make it feel like they're entirely new mobs.
The story is dark, twisted, and humorous. The gameplay feels rock solid. The loot shoots out of fallen foes like a firecracker. Simple to pick up but difficult to put down, Borderlands 2 is one hell of a great game. Let's get down to the nitty and the gritty here with a quick look at the stand out pros and cons of the game!
Continue on to page 2 for a lengthy list of Borderlands 2's Pros...