Borderlands 2 – Game Analysis and Review
Last Updated on Monday, 24 September 2012 09:42
Written by PunchDrunkGamer
Monday, 24 September 2012 09:42
Borderlands 2 – Game Analysis and Review
By Patrick Newman
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Director: Mikey Neumann
Producer: Randy Pitchford
Writers: Anthony Burch, Mikey Neumann
Composers: Cris Velasco, Sascha Dikiciyan, Jesper Kyd, Raison Varner
Engine: Unreal Engine 3
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Genre: First-person shooter, action role-playing
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
Familiarity isn’t always a bad thing. In the case of Borderlands 2, the game’s undeniable likeness to significant aspects of Left 4 Dead, the Call of Duty franchise, and even shades of World of Warcraft and Halo is part of the appeal. This is a game that catered to my tastes before I could even get it out of the box, and ultimately Gearbox’s newest effort lived up to my expectations. As an actioner that manages to be both an effective first-person shooter and open world RPG couched in a space western, Borderlands 2 successfully hybridizes many of my favorite gaming and cinematic tropes to create a wholly entertaining experience.
Picking up not long after Borderlands’ four vault hunters defeated and sealed The Destroyer, Borderlands 2 focuses on a group of four new playable characters: Salvador – a “gunzerker” who can wield any combination of weapons akimbo-style, siren Maya – a Lilith surrogate who can suspend her enemies in midair using a “Phaselock” ability, Zer-0 – A deadly assassin and Mordecai stand-in who can create illusory decoys of himself and don an invisibility cloak for a limited period of time. The final new character is commando Axton, who resembles the first Borderlands’ Roland and lays into his enemies with weapon turrets. Though some characters from the first Borderlands (Roland, Lilith, and Brick) appear in this sequel, they only function as NPC’s to help the new heroes defeat the oppressive villain Handsome Jack.
Though the game’s post-apocalyptic setting owes a lot to the Mad Max series, and by extension Fallout 3, the games couldn’t be more different in their approaches. Whereas the atmospheric Fallout 3 emphasized the isolation of trolling through an decayed – urban wasteland in search of weapons and other supplies, unraveling an increasingly compelling story along the way, Borderlands 2 is much more about complex cooperative gameplay, eschewing a memorable story in favor of punching up the action. This is where the Left 4 Dead comparison comes in, because the numerous gunfights between bandits and other monstrous nuclear aberrations can seem pretty rote without three friends to spice up the combat dynamics.
The unique attributes of each of Borderlands 2’s new characters can prove instrumental in the game’s numerous firefights, giving this ragtag group of treasure hunters’ power on par with any of the best superhero teams. Boss fights can be especially fun in a co-op match, as heavily armored behemoths like Sledge can sometimes only be overcome with strategic multiplayer coordination. Items in Borderlands 2 are also more incentivized than most gamers have come to expect, with character skins, class and grenade mods, guns and ammo strewn around the map to add endless variety to the ways the team can dispatch its enemies. In this sense the game owes something to other action RPG’s such as Diablo.
Borderlands 2’s RPG elements dovetail nicely with the gameplay, featuring a quest system that branches the player’s actions into a range of mission choices and storylines that quickly fills the mission log with entertaining possibilities. Though the level of visual customization available for characters leaves something to be desired, class skill customization abilities are a step up from the first game, allowing for a ton of diversity between characters. Though the quests themselves (similar to WoW) become a bit repetitive with their kill-and-loot simplicity, the game’s high quality combat system and sheer volume and depth of the loot more than compensate. For those less interested in the aforementioned side quests, though, RPG novices will be happy to know that all quests not directly tied to the main narrative are optional.
Aside from shortcomings in the customization system and problems with the game’s exceedingly stupid enemy AI (offset by a mostly-excellent combat system that can make shooting a brick wall dynamic), Borderlands 2 is impossible to not recommend. That, coupled with an endless array of items to add variety to the gunplay, makes Borderlands 2 an essential experience for action fans, and the perfect gateway to more complex RPG’s for franchise initiates.
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