Welcome back to Pandora, now shut up and listen to my story! Gearbox brings out subtle refinements in this follow-up sci-fi western Action RPG. We were promised a bazillion more guns and 96.5% more wub-wub so let's see if we got it.
When we left off...
When we last left off, our Vault hunters (Roland, Brick, Lilith, and Mordecai) had been recruited to seek out the Vault, an alien cache rumored to contain unimaginable treasures. After battling through the wastelands of Pandora, the Vault was found, aliens slaughtered and... NOTHING! It appeared the hunters were duped.
Borderlands 2 picks up on this story and explains that the Vault actually was holding an rare material called Eridium. A rumor of a second Vault soon surfaced which now attracted the Hyperion Corporation to the Planet. Handsome Jack, the primary antagonist, has vowed to find the second Vault and to bring peace to Pandora in typical evil overlord fashion: murder the opposition and create a dictatorship.
Your story starts out as one of four new Vault hunters who managed to escape the assassination attempt by Jack. You rise from the train wreck and begin your journey.
So now that you're caught up, let's talk about what has been improved in this sequel. Controls are pretty much the same from the original: you play in a first person view, the same key bindings are there to jump, open items and the like. The biggest changes in the Borderlands 2 are in character development, storytelling, and multiplayer.
Were you ever frustrated in the first Borderlands to see that while your class had three different skill trees to advance in but soon realized that there was only one real viable choice? That seems to have been fixed here in the sequel where now each character I make doesn't feel like it was cut from a cookie cutter mode.
Speaking of customization, you can now improve your character via achievements and finding items in the game. My character now sports a Gearbox hat and some different clothing options on him which I thought was a neat little touch. I can find or purchase other cosmetic upgrades as I progress through the game and can change it up at any time at one of the many customization stations.
If you're looking for more substance in your character customization, Gearbox has you covered as well: Badass Ranks. Badass Ranks are earned by performing achievements such as getting a number of headshots using a sniper rifle. Get enough ranks, and you can purchase improvements to a variety of things such as reload speed, shield recharge rates and so on. It really is a neat way to incentivize people to get achievements.
If you played the original Borderlands and the subsequent expansions, you could see Gearbox learning how to weave a story into an action RPG. The sequel reflects the lessons learned from the first. The main storyline really follows you from beginning to end, reinforcing your convictions as to why you're fighting. Handsome Jack, the antagonist, constantly is taunting you and spouting propaganda to the people of Pandora to show you that this dirtbag really needs to be taken down.
The optional storylines and quests really help immerse you in this gritty apocalyptic world that you're stuck on. Insane cannibal humans with toilet-humor, four-armed mutant apes, and an eclectic band of NPCs bring this world alive in spectacular fashion.
One of the things that absolutely sucked about the original game was the utterly terrible PC release. Originally made for consoles, Borderlands was quickly released to the PC and while there were many gripes, nothing was more annoying than being able to try to set up a multiplayer game. In order to get a game going with your friends you pretty much had to offer up no less than five virgin chickens to the God of Multiplayer Gaming. While these problems were fixed later on, it made for a very rocky start.
Much was learned this time around and the PC version of Borderlands 2 uses Steam's multiplayer matchmaking service to get you and your buddies playing together. When I start up the game, I can start a game or hop in with other friends of mine and help out in their game. This is great because I really feel the game is best enjoyed with friends over a solo experience.
The cel-shaded style has remained the same since the original, but you can definitely see increased model details especially when it comes to guns and weapon effects. I'm glad that Gearbox chose to keep this stylized palette for the series because it sets itself apart from the Call of Battlefield: Modern Duty realistic shooter games.
Voice acting in the game is superb. Witty comments spew from your buddies and are sure to garner a snicker or two and taunts from your enemies are equally as enjoyable. The musical score for the game does a great job of setting the mood of the area you are in.
Should I saddle up and race for the Vault?
Even if you haven't played the first game, if you enjoy action RPG games and the idea of a sci-fi western with equal parts Mad Max, then you really should be playing this. The story, witty comments, and combat will keep you entertained for months. My advice is to find a buddy to play with and start the hunt today!
Overview: Rumors of a second Vault bring you back to Pandora in search of treasure but Handsome Jack is also on the trail and looking to take you out.
Pros: A bazillion weapon possibilities, better storyline than the original, superb voice acting, seamless multiplayer support.
Cons: Almost too many weapons to choose from interrupts flow of game, should really be played with friends rather than solo.
Replay Value: Low. Until expansion packs come out for the game, there's not much keeping you around.
Learning Curve: Medium. It took me about 10-15 minutes to get comfortable with the game..
Should I Play It?: Even if you haven't played the first game, if you enjoy action RPG games and the idea of a sci-fi western with equal parts Mad Max, then you really should be playing this. The story, witty comments, and combat will keep you entertained for quite awhile.