Gaming: Borderlands 2

LET’S BE honest, sequels often invoke mixed emotions, “Will it live up to or surpass the original, or just flop as another victim of the apparent ‘sequelitis’ that plagues the games industry at the moment?”

Luckily for those fans of the original Borderlands, its sequel, cunningly named Borderlands 2, manages to raise the bar and improve on where its predecessor left off.

Borderlands 2 starts five years after the events of Borderlands, where after hunting down the Vault, (a secret alien tomb rumoured to contain infinite wealth, but is actually just full of tentacles that promptly try to rip you apart) a new menace has appeared in the form of Handsome Jack, the leader of the Hyperion Corporation. Handsome Jack is seeking to turn the planet into a twisted paradise in his own image, destroying all of the inhabitants along the way by unlocking the alien warrior held within another alien Vault.

Returning to Pandora, you are given a new choice of four character classes, all of which bear resemblance to the classes of the previous game, and set off to stop Handsome Jack. Along the way you are introduced to a number of eccentric new characters, as well as some familiar faces from the previous game.

Following along the lines of Borderlands, where loot was perhaps the main focus and each chest might hold a more powerful weapon, the sequel is no different, with ‘87 Bazillion’ guns to choose from, each one randomly generated and different from the last, you really are spoilt for choice in how to maim, explode and incinerate the myriad of enemies that the game throws at you.

What really sells the game is how the developer has built upon what Borderlands left them. Gone are the repetitive and seemingly pointless side quests of the original, instead replaced with quests that give the player an insight into the greater view of the world, ranging from origin stories of the main characters to how Pandora got to the state that it now finds itself in. These quests, rather than taking away from the main story, add another layer of depth to the overall game whilst remaining true to the light-hearted nature of the game. On the subject of the games ‘witty nature’, there are many hidden feature and pop-culture references, ranging from achievements to in game characters, that give an extra feeling of accomplishment upon their discovery.

As mentioned, Handsome Jack is the first ‘proper’ villain to appear in Borderlands and allows a higher focus on story than the previous game was able to give, as he constantly taunts you, building himself up as a character, strengthening your urge to reach the finish and stop him. After rising to become leader of the Hyperion Corporation – the now dominant corporation on Pandora – Jack has limitless access to the plane

tary resources and technology and has an unhealthy obsession to try and kill you. Conveniently, he is not without enemies and those who will try to help you on your world saving ‘quest’.

Another notable change is how the RPG element of the game now works. Enemies now scale along with you, rather than having a case of high level enemies in some areas and low in others, making the game either impossible to finish if you haven’t gained enough XP whilst playing, or making the game too easy if the player has ‘grinded’ to a high level. This now allows the game to have a constant challenge throughout, whilst also allowing you to complete the main story without having to do a large number of side quests in order to progress.

The skill tree system has also been renewed, with significantly more choices to put gained skill points into, allowing the player to find a play style that they prefer. The size of the skill trees is now so large that I had still not gotten to the end of one by the time the game was completed.

Another change to the skill sets of the characters is the removal of weapon specialisation. No longer do you gain experience with a particular weapon, but rather gain overall bonuses by unlocking “Badass ranks” by completing in-game challenges, such as setting a certain number of enemies on fire, giving small bonuses to character attributes.

There are, however, a number of negative points about the game- not so much so that the experience is spoiled, but some that detract from the otherwise excellent aspects of the game. The addition of unlockable and collectable player skins and heads feels gimmicky and unnecessary as they only give a superficial change to the character, one that is rarely seen, given that the game is played from a first person perspective. Whilst the allure of collecting the whole set may appeal to some players, I feel that it takes away from the game rather than adding.

The second complaint is also a feature of the first game and that is the limited enemy types. Whilst the designers have added a number of enemy types since the first Borderlands, and you can appreciate that designing hundreds of enemy types is a highly laborious process, after killing your thousandth bandit, the appeal can start to wear thin. The game does do a good job of alternating the types of enemies present throughout the game, and the number of individual characters present is excellent. I do, however, feel that the game could do with a few more distinct enemy types.

Overall, with a graphical overhaul and new storyline, Borderlands 2 is an excellent game, well worth a purchase, especially given that a single playthrough should give about 30 hours of enjoyment, coupled with the chance to play with four distinct character classes and the opportunity to play co-operatively with friends makes Borderlands 2 one of the most fun games I’ve played in some time.