Saturday, May 10, 2014

Borderlands 2 review

    I came to the Borderlands franchise late due to the Aliens: Colonial Marines and Duke Nukem Forever titles giving me a sour impression of the publisher. When I was informed these were not representative of Gearbox's actual talent or practices, I decided to give their signature franchise a try.

    Also, I was bored.
The town of Sanctuary is awesome.

    I haven't yet played Borderlands, so I was coming into this franchise ignorant. My only knowledge of the series was what I managed to absorb second-hand via geek cultural osmosis. The game takes place on a planet called Pandora (no, not the one from avatar), it's a Space Western world akin to Firefly, and the game's chief selling point is the truly staggering amount of guns to choose from.

    I can't say the latter intrigued me.

    So what did I think about it?

    Dammit, I liked it.

    A lot.

The painted style of the game is beautiful.
    Part of my enjoyment has to come from the fact the game reminded me a lot of Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. The world of Pandora is a crazy one filled with rednecks, psychopaths, mutants, and psychotically hostile wildlife. The locals are incredibly tough, just the sort of individuals you'd expect to grow up on a Death World like Pandora.

    Most of all, it's just plain funny. Humor abounds throughout the series from volleyball obsessed hover-plane piloting bandits (Top Gun) to the explosively minded Tiny Tina. The humor is exactly my sort of humor as well--ranging from the light and funny to the darkest black. There's some genuinely moving moments spread throughout the story and the absolute insanity of the game doesn't detract from them. In fact, I daresay it enhances their allure.

    The premise of Borderlands 2 is you are a "Vault Hunter." I don't know the qualifications for this position but it seems to be a title bestowed upon adventurers on Pandora who manage to survive looking for the ancient relics of the aliens who live on the planet. Given how dangerous it is to travel across the land, being experienced enough to do an active search for one of the world's vaults is definite proof of badassery.

Exploding Jason Voorhees never gets old.
    Lured to a train by megacorp CEO and all-round asshat, Handsome Jack, you are betrayed and barely survive him blowing it up to kill you. Perturbed by this action, your character is rescued by a deranged droid named Claptrap who essentially pushes you into a revenge scheme. From there, you become involved in a plot to find another Vault and a resistance movement against Handsome Jack. None of this describes how bizarre and hilarious the sequence of events which follow are.

    The heart of Borderlands 2 is the character of Handsome Jack, who is one of the most memorable video game characters I've ever encountered. I've fought megalomaniacs, mad men, cultists, evil wizards, and giant turtles who kidnap princesses but none of them have had quite the effect Handsome Jack has. If I had to describe him, I'd say combine Lex Luthor and the Joker into one character with a dash of Charlie Sheen's character from Wallstreet. He's just such a CREEP that you come to hate him early on. Or love to hate him. Either way, you become motivated to want to kill the guy.

Handsome Jack is an awesome villain.
    The supporting NPCs are every bit as entertaining. Despite the fact I had no prior attachment to them, I adored the Vault Hunters from the original game. Lilith the psychic "Siren" is a character who rivals Handsome Jack in terms of writing achievement.  She is desperately trying NOT to be a sociopath and failing miserably, only achieving a "pointing" of her pyromania at those who deserve it. Roland is a heroic stoic who is, quite possibly, the only sane man on Pandora and it freaks him out. Other characters like Sir Hammerlok, Scooter, Ellie, the aforementioned Tiny Tina, Angel, and Moxxie the barkeep all win a place in your heart.

    Plus, Claptrap is awesome.

    Awesome points for a memorable world, story, and humor. I give that an 11/10 and no, that's not a typo.

    So, what about the gameplay?


   That requires some explanation.

   The gameplay is fun but it is scaled for co-op play. Trying to solo this game, I died a lot. I mean, a lot. How often did I die? I think I'm in the area of fifty or sixty deaths and that's from a guy who usually never dies during his games. I had to learn a lot about tactically using my options and there were several missions when I desperately needed a rocket-launcher but the game didn't provide me the ammunition for one.

Lilith is my second favorite character in the game for multiple reasons. She's just so...crazy.
   The search through the bazillion of guns in the game is also one where the game mechanics insist you never become complacent in your use of one firearm. Guns may work greater against animals but are crap against robots while ones which work against robots are garbage against bandits. You're constantly looking for newer and better guns as well as switching between the ones you've already found.

    In conclusion, I love this game and recommend people get it. Saying any more would be mistaken. Well, except for "get the DLC if you can."



  1. The first game you play as Roland, Lilith, Mordecai, and Brick. It also introduces the majority of the cast like Dr. Tannis, Pierce, Crazy Earl, Zed, Marcus, Scooter, Moxxi, and Claptrap. The first one is more Diablo like with just having an excuse of a story to dungeon crawl through.

    1. Awesome. Thanks for the head's up. After I play and review through the DLC, I'm going to play the original.