Review by kyomagi
"Everything a fan of the first can ask for"
When Borderlands was released back in 2009, it surprised everyone with it's unique hybrid of shooting and role playing. Borderlands was definitely unique, and personally, I thought it was the first true RPG/FPS hybrid. Sure, there were games like System Shock 2 beforehand, but SS2 isn't so much a shooter as it is an action role playing survival horror hybrid, and from a FPS standpoint, it's actually horribly repetitive and clunky. But Borderlands combined Diablo-style looting and frantic FPS combat, all the while providing for some of the most intense and satisfying gun play in a shooter. Borderlands was definitely a breath of fresh air in the FPS market, and it's a darn shame we don't have more games in the genre like it. Now, Borderlands is back with this top notch sequel, and the series is better than ever.
I won't say too much about the single player experience, but given the amount of missions available, it seems Borderlands 2 will provide a lengthy, satisfying experience. I'm not finished with the game yet, but I can tell that it isn't going to end any time soon. People who have beaten it already have said the game will take around 30 hours to complete, so single player fans will be satisfied. From what I gather, numerous reviewers are saying that you will want to play through the entire game more than once (!) as well, thanks in part to it's diverse skill classes. Even better, Borderlands 2 now let's you play the entire game with all of your stats in tow, so expect some heady replay value for single player.
As we all know, the story for Borderlands was extremely forgettable. That's not to say the single player campaign didn't have merit, it most certainly did. The art design was nice, Pandora was occasionally a vivid location, and some of the encounters you faced made for some memorable gaming moments. That said, the characters were extremely forgettable (aside from the awesome Claptrap), and the plot line was about as memorable as watching a modern artist craft a generic sculpture out of toilet roll tubes. Borderlands 2, on the other hand, actually had me invested with it's sharp writing and quirky sense of humor, and some of the people you meet in the game will have you reeling with startling surprise. It's mission structure is so far interesting, and the encounters so far have all been memorable. I won't spoil too much, but let me just say that the creatures here will provide you with a sense of being; you will see them as creatures of fiction, not cannon fodder.
Perhaps the biggest part of the game's success as a story is the vivid recreation of Pandora. Video Game developers know that building a world is one of the best ways to tell a story, especially in a First Person Game (just look at Half-Life). It's easily one of the video game medium's biggest strengths, and Borderlands 2 knows this. Borderlands 2 is a great space western experience, with a mood that recalls a comic book if it were hijacked by space western writers. Of course, the famous Borderlands 2 art style is back, and it provides for an awesome artistic foundation for Borderlands 2's vivid recreation of Pandora. And Pandora is beautiful! Borderlands 2 won me over with it's cell shaded, mood setting skies (Yes. Skies), glistening tundras, jagged mountains, colorful vivid industrial areas, and other locations. It's better looking than anything such garbage as "photo-realism" ever will be able to achieve. You see, folks (*cough* as well as certain 2K executive *cough*)? This is what happens when you get away from "realism"! An antidote to the lifeless drudgery of puke browns and vapid grays; the overall dreary, narcolepsy inducing experience. Thanks for this, Borderlands 2 is more of a beaut than Battlefield 3 will ever be.
The Sound track is also very beautiful. The soundtrack truly makes the space western mood they were going for. Great sound effects and voice acting follow suit.
Now, to game play. The basic game play concepts remain the same. Choose a skill class, start building your character and then loot n' gain (experience points, that is)! With loot and experience points, you have the potential to help yourself to a seemingly endless number of play styles, equipment and, of course, guns. Loads upon loads of guns. Borderlands 2 is a game where you can truly make thee gun you want. If you are familiar with the original (and you should be), you will know that the basic core intents of the game play remain the same. However, what Borderlands 2 offers new is what we all want to know. Does it offer something new? Is this Borderlands 2 or Borderlands 1.5? This is Borderlands 2. And aside from it's vastly superior story and setting, Borderlands 2 adds great game play additions that pushes the series forward, and leaves the first game in the dust.
The biggest addition to Borderlands 2 is the revamped skill classes. Character builds are deeper than ever, and much more rewarding than before. Since this is one of the biggest pros of Borderlands 2, it's nice to say that the is better than ever. The biggest change here is that each skill tree feels way more diverse, something the original was lacking. As you pick from four different skill classes, you can use each class to your advantage. Each class has it's own unique abilities, such as Zero's invisible stealth, the Salvador's ability to dual-wield anything, the Axion's ability to use turrets, and Maya's ability to freeze. Beyond the leveling up of your special abilities, the skill trees you build are diverse and the skills you invest in add a much better sense of personal, much more satisfying combat that suits you well. You can add all sorts of abilities, from more helpful defensive skills to offensive based powers like a Borderlands 2 has some real depth to your play style, and it's combination of great combat and true RPG elements makes for a truly great RPG and shooting hyrbid. All of this is aided by a much improved interface that makes the game more playable than before.
As you defeat enemies, you can upgrade the powers of the class, which is rewarded through looting and the gaining of experience points. Bad *cool* points make for some great bonuses, as they augment most other powers rather well. Most importantly, Borderlands 2 rewards you with guns and the ability to make the ideal gun you want to have, and it's addictive and rewarding as ever. You all know the drill, and it's even better than the first game. The ability to customize EVERYTHING (yes, all caps for a reason), from common features like re-load, to giving your own gun acid, makes sure that you can get creative with whatever gun you want to make. I'm not quite there making the ultimate gun that puts the BFG to shame, but according to what I've heard, anything is possible, including such crazy weapons as a pistol with ammo that doubles as a grenade dispenser, and I'm pretty sure that's not as crazy as it gets. Borderlands 2 proves that you can never have enough weapons, and they ensure that you will never feel empty-handed. Superior AI and a diverse range of enemies round out the experience.
All of this translates to the multi-player extremely well. Borderlands 2 offers four-player co-op, and it succeeds thanks in part to the great game mechanics. Using each character class, you can truly uses each one to their strengths to help out each team mate, in a way that sort of reminds me of Team Fortress 2. One can really get creative if you mix things up and assign certain levels, and since enemies get tougher as you play the game, it becomes vital and more challenging as you go along. Aided by it's diverse abilities, each skill class truly can add something unique to every play through, making for some rewarding and challenging combat that has the potential to be unique for every band of four. Like a good RPG should do, you can actually join in anytime, which makes the game even better so you don't have to commit to a whole game together. It makes game play extremely flexible, and it makes for some of the most accessible and playable multi-player experiences I've played in quite a while.
I do have a few, eh, issues, however. There are some minor graphics hitches here and there, but as long as you don't give all bent out of shape over some pop in textures or the occasional weird visual hiccup, you shouldn't have much trouble over looking this, uh, issue? You still can't really change the appearance of your character as much, which isn't that big a loss but definitely can be a tad disappointing if you really enjoy customizing your character. Oh, and car combat is mostly underused, as you won't find either a glut of vehicle based missions, or some fun car combat a la Rage. Thankfully, most of these niggling issues are minor.
Other than that, this game is just terrific. I don't know much else to say here, but if you are a fan of Borderlands, this is not just a mere revision, it's a whole new great game. Personally, I really don't find myself every playing the original Borderlands ever again, and it's definitely a stand out in the cluttered FPS genre that exists today. It's got humor, it's got replay value, it's got role-playing, it's got terrific gun play, and it's got enough things to do to keep you hooked for days. Needless to say, if you like Borderlands, you want this one. Easily. Go get it.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/02/12
Game Release: Borderlands 2 (US, 09/18/12)
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