Welcome back to Pandora. Gearbox has been expecting you. The studio is not blind to the hype and expectation that has built up around Borderlands 2 - Randy Pitchford and friends have spent a lot of time ensuring that this is every bit the sequel that it should be, while maintaining everything that made the 2009 predecessor stand out from the crowd of FPS games.
To illustrate this fact, Gearbox had arranged a brand new demo of the game that focused on a brand new inhabitant of the dangerous treasure-filled planet Pandora: Tiny Tina. This warped little kid is described as the most lethal 13-year-old you?ll ever face. She resides in a cave on a snowy, mountainous region of the planet, near hub town Sanctuary.
The road to Tiny Tina?s hideout is dangerous, whichever path you take through the mountains. One obvious route is through a bandit base, which will result in the usual epic firefights that the original Borderlands
was famous for. The other way - down through some snowy drifts - is crawling with insect monsters called Varkids.
These new creatures are easy to kill in their cockroach form, but piss them off and they withdraw into cocoons and grow into adults. Adults that are harder to kill and fly around dealing massive damage.
also throws a number of new mechanical enemies your way, including flying droids that have a rather large penchant for bounty hunter flesh. Good luck when dealing with one of these bad boys, they have a lot of health! Stick around in one place for too long and you?ll easily get overwhelmed as well - it pays to stick to a tactic, rather than pick a fight with one enemy and hope for the best with a ?run backwards and shoot? strategy.
After being rather silly and opting to explore the entirety of the vast snowy region around me, I found Tiny Tina?s cave towards the back of the map. And meeting her for the first time is an exercise in both charm and obnoxiousness - the former for the sheer cuteness in her design (pink dresses, bunny rabbits, the lot), and the latter for her somewhat 1980s ?Tubular? slang and grinding voice that reveals a more menacing side.
Either way, seeing her bounce around the cave and sing little songs about blowing up bandits is a delight. Not least because this is a great example of Gearbox just letting their imagination run wild with crazy character concepts, the likes of which we were never really treated to in the original Borderlands
. I also saw the new mission structure at work - how objectives work to lead players into a narrative rather than a constant back-and-forth between markers.
Tiny Tina, you see, has a plan to hold a party. A lovely tea party involving cake and hats. But she explains that many of the guests are missing. Oh, no! My job was to round up all of the cordially invited and bring them back to her cave.
One guest of honour, 'Sir Reginald', required rescue from a giant Varkid boss, while the collection of 'Princess Fluffybutt' was underscored with multiple bandit firefights. Throughout the course of the mission, additional objectives were being barked at me from Tiny Tina over the radio comm - all involving the destruction of flying droids and the obtaining of ?crunk? crumpets.
I won?t explain what happens when you gather all of the guests necessary to host the tea party - but needless to say it involves something of a frenzy of bullets and pre-teen malice. Playing through all of these objectives and encountering the dynamic nature of the enemies on the overworld, I noticed that Borderlands 2
feels a lot tougher than its predecessor.
Luckily, Gearbox has added a number of gameplay features that can help you out in a pinch - the most direct one being a special perk that can be activated by hitting the trigger buttons. As a Level 25 Gunserker, my big perk was a rampage mode that allowed me to dual-wield weapons and unload tonnes of ammo clips into any enemies that walked into my paths.
When you?re not pumping lead, your ammo is replenished over time too, allowing you to go on a proper killing frenzy when you?re nearly down and out. Insta-Health vials will only go so far this time around.
What could potentially change the game - in a good way - is the introduction of Badass ranks. While characters still have a level cap of 50, Badass ranks don?t have such a limit. When you level up in this manner, you earn a Badass token, which can be used to spend on increasing a number of base statistics.
The genius here is that tokens spent to increase stats are applied to every single character you have on your profile. Add the mystery of golden chests, and the secret golden keys that require special actions to obtain, and you have a sequel that puts a lot of emphasis on the RPG side of things.
Gearbox have obviously put a lot of extra care and attention in Borderlands 2
. on the surface, it?s business as usual - familiar graphical style, familiar locations, familiar storylines. But players get to be involved with the inhabitants of Pandora in a way that?s not seen in the original game. The amount of improvements in Badass points and golden keys also shows that Borderlands 2
will be a much deeper and rewarding RPG experience to complement to intense FPS action.
We won?t have much longer to wait until we see more characters like Tiny Tina - the game?s out in September.