Look, let’s just get something out of the way right now. Borderlands 2 is going to be great. You don’t need me to waffle on for ages about the updated engine, the streamlined mission system and the additional balancing that Gearbox has done to the game. Especially since I’ve done it a couple of times before. What you need, my friend, is character detail.
And there was no shortage of that from Gearbox at Gamescom. For tucked away in a behind-closed-doors area of the Kölnmesse was the Mechromancer in all her work-in-progress DLC glory. This character, the fifth you can control in Borderlands 2, will be made available as a free download to those who pre-order the game, and is described as something of an entry-level class.
This is the baffling thing, really. The Mechromancer was clearly introduced to allow novice players to get a leg up in the nasty world of Pandora - so it seems bizarre that Gearbox and 2K would limit the character to a pre-order bonus (with the likely option of paid DLC for those who did not do so). In the name of accessibility, it makes more sense to offer her for free. But I digress.
While all of the standard character classes in Borderlands 2 offer their own style of bandit-crunching punishment - Maya’s psychic powers, Salvador’s guns, Axton’s turrets and Zero’s melee skills - the Mechromancer stands out as she doesn’t really appear to have a theme. Instead, her perks involve technical tweaks and cheats that double as opportunities for trick scoring and showoff moments for hardcore players.
Take the Close Enough ability, for instance. On face value, this is a total handicap - this skill allows players to be able to hit enemies, even if their bullets miss them, by ricocheting off of surfaces and homing in on them. For those who are utterly useless at FPS games, this will be a godsend. But, pro players will also be able to find a use for it too, by firing at ceilings, floors and walls to attack enemies hidden around corners or behind cover.
It’s not just her skills that are technical. The Mechromancer is also a dab hand at fixing up machines too - her big perk is that she’s accompanied by a modified Claptrap robot. Fittingly named Deathtrap, this menace scoots around and pummels the hell out of anything that might be a threat.
Deathtrap can be upgraded to become more useful, too. Armour plating gives yourself and the robot some defence, while the Explosive Clap ability creates a mighty explosion every time he puts his hands together. It does not, as some (read: me) tittered, involve any irritation of the bowels.
After being shown the Mechromancer, I was briefly shown some cool moves that can be performed whilst assuming the form of the other character classes. Maya, the Siren, has what’s called a ‘Phase Lock’, which traps enemies in a bubble and gives you a few seconds to manouevre and regroup. ‘Thoughtlock’ is an evolution of this that allows you to control enemies.
The Assassin, Zero, has a really cool set of moves that takes advantage of his close combat nature. ‘Deception’ creates a decoy where you stand and makes you invisible, meaning you can get up close to unsuspecting foes without alarm. Add ‘Execute’ (which adds a dash to melee attacks) and ‘Many Must Fall’ (creates a new decoy with each melee kill in ‘Deception’) to rack up some meaty combos.
Axton, as a Commando, can fine-tune his placed turrets so that they can protect, defend and maul long-range enemies with ease. The final perk at the end of the Gunpowder skill tree is the ‘Nuke’, which lets off a mighty explosion every time a turret is built. When you combine all of these different skills with the Gunserker, Salvador (which we’ve already covered in earlier previews), it’s clear that Borderlands 2 will be able to let you wreak some serious havoc.