The developers over at Gearbox have admitted that the success of the first Borderlands caught them a little by a surprise. The loot-based cooperative RPG-shooter hybrid quickly caught on with fans and the odds of a sequel went from sketchy to all but certain.
Now this long-awaited sequel is finally here, with far loftier expectations of the developers. Can Borderlands 2
satisfy even the most fickle and dedicated Borderlands
fan? Let's find out.
The folks at Gearbox have really made the most of their bigger budget this time round. Borderlands 2
retains the series’ distinctive cel-shaded graphics and bold art style, but everything is far more visually impressive than before. There are some little issues with textures popping in too late but there’s generally too much action going on for it to be disruptive. Overall the game is a significant step-up from its predecessor, sharper and more detailed.
It’s not just the graphical upgrades that make Borderlands 2
so much more interesting to look at though. One of the biggest criticisms of the first game was how bland the environments became after you spent so many hours trudging through desert wastelands. This time your journey across Pandora will take you into a wide range of environments.
Your adventures will lead you through Arctic tundra, into the depths of dingy sewers and will even see you exploring high tech military bases. And yes, you’ll also return to the desert wastelands that the series calls home.
The environments aren’t just pretty and diverse however, they’re also incredibly massive. The sprawling hub areas provide regular vehicle spawning stations for you to rely on, but even the smaller interior environments can get pretty labyrinthine. Level design is a bit of a step up from the first game, areas tend to be a bit more creative and there tend to be underground tunnels everywhere.
This would all be for nothing if the world was incredibly empty but with this being the game that it is, you can never take a five minute walk without tripping over multitudes of enemies needing to be put down. Each area you visit also tends to have its own set of hidden challenges to be met, so there’s plenty of incentive to really explore everywhere.
The biggest and most obvious change from Borderlands
is the new line-up of playable characters to choose from. While ostensibly a Commando and a Siren - familiar as classes in the previous game - Axton and Maya, in fact, provide very different playing styles to the Soldier and Siren classes of the first game.
Salvador the Gunzerker and Zero the cyborg-ninja-thing fit entirely new and more specialised roles.
Larger branching skill trees than in the last game also mean there’s more room to tweak and specialise your chosen class to suit your taste. Conveniently enough, you can also buy back all your skill points later in the game if you decide your character build isn’t working out or just want to focus on a different area for a while. This can be done multiple times, so whenever you fancy a change in play all you have to do is stump up a bit of cash.
Whether or not you’re planning on going it alone or putting a team together for some cooperative play might be a factor in how you build your character. Each class has skills available that make them better suited for supporting teammates and the game becomes a lot more fun when multiple players are working together.
The more players in a group the more difficult the game becomes to compensate, but the better the rewards are in turn. You can drop into someone else’s game and help out using any of your existing characters or with a brand new one, though drastic differences in character levels will reduce the experience gained from enemies and impede both players’ progress.