So I had a dilemma, I wanted to keep writing but Borderlands 2 was filling up my brain. Occasionally I figure out the fix to a problem the moment it arises and in the case of Borderlands 2 that fix was “Binge on the game till you beat it.” Thirty Four Hours of play later I have finished Borderlands 2 and would like to review it. After that I’ll be getting back to my regularly scheduled programming (writing and reading) at least until X-Com ruins my ethics in October.
To put it short, Borderlands 2 is excellent. A bit of a disclaimer if you didn’t like the first borderlands, I personally enjoyed it. So take that as a qualifier on whether or not you should be reading this review. I’m also going to be posting some screenshots from the game and these may or may not spoil some non-story content. At any rate the game doesn’t have a very deep narrative (neither did the original) so having content spoiled doesn’t really do anything to lesson the experience.
Indeed most people will be able to predict what is going to happen next in the game without much effort and I believe the writers of the game knew this to be the case. Often during the game they will joke about various inconsistencies or video game tropes and comment on just how silly it is for these things to exist in a video game (which having it in their own game). The art direction of the game is one of my favorite in recent history, of all the various ways that people animate their games I must say that cell shading (both legitimate and faux) are my favorites. This is the same reason I’m so deeply excited about Planetary Annihilation and why I originally was excited for Spore.
Games that look like miniatures that have been painted tend to get more sympathy from me than hyper realistic titles, mostly because hyper realism has become too easy. Stylizing your game to make it something genuinely memorable is the real challenge, at least from my perspective.
One of the biggest selling points of Borderlands 2 is also the most complained about, their 87 bajillion guns. This is a play on the mathematics for random generating loot tables, if I were to have say 2 different guns that each can have 1 of two different enchantments, then 1 of 2 different looks, and 1 of 2 different damage speeds I would be able to say I have 2*2*2*2 or 16 different items in my game. This is the same trick that was used by Final Fantasy 4 on the DS when they said they had something along the lines of 80K class combinations, it sounds huge but when you do the math you realize that its not all that large at all.
The main reason people complain about this level of variation is that for neurotic individuals or for min-maxers it presents a stop and go like play pattern where you are checking your current weapons against every new one you walk by. My suggestion to anyone who is going to be playing Borderlands 2 is to just ignore all white gear that drops, try to ignore all green gear, and then for everything else pick the one that has the highest sale price.
This isn’t a fool proof strategy and you could indeed get yourself a worse gun, an alternative is to think about which mechanics you like best and only pay attention to those. I for instance like sniper rifles and basically ignored every other type of gear in the game. That strategy worked for me all the way to the end. To be totally honest I put a pistol in slot 1, a medium range weapon in slot 2 (shotgun usually), a long range (sniper rifle) in slot 3, and a rocket launcher in slot 4. I try to vary the weapon damage types but I found that for sniper rifle I most often wanted one that had no elemental enchantments on it.
I have actually not played this game in co-op yet so I cannot vouch for whether or not that has been added in properly. I was desperately worried that I might have the game content spoiled by walking into someone else’s game and finding out they had actually gotten further than me. I can say that this is a solid single player experience that I’ll likely pick up once or twice every year, barring a Borderlands 3 (which I think is likely given how well this game has been received).
Borderlands 2 is unusually well thought out, it may not be obvious when you are playing but the subtle jokes and Easter eggs strewn throughout the game give way to an amazing level of depth for people who are interested in finding it. I was routinely finding puzzles, plot hints, and character back story throughout. Not-so-subtle jokes with wordplay was probably my favorite of all the little side content.
Moxxi was easily the center of various jokes like this, between the “insert your tip” jar and her “Moxxi’s Pizza: Have you had a taste?” Pizza Boxes, it was quite obvious that she was playing to the NPCs hormones. The actual city that you meet her and the rest of the major cast members in is pretty interesting.
Now one major negative to this game is that it wants you to backtrack, a lot, a whole lot, there is so much back tracking that I almost feel like they did it to fill some kind of quota. However I find a very cheap and easy way to bypass all of that, just quit and save your game then continue. I used this as a quick recall system, it takes my PC about 3 seconds to save and reopen which means I’ll be back at the nearest travel center in that time instead of marching back across the wastes.
Is that cheating? I don’t know but I do know that a recall system should have been in this game, really though that is my only complaint. Really, now that I think about it that is somewhat remarkable. I think I really did enjoy this game. The humor was right up my alley, the cast was delightful, the music was good, the weapons were designed well enough visually to not even seem modular, the difficulty was challenging enough to keep me sweating (as Zer0) and the story and side content was good enough to keep me playing well into the night for a couple days.
There is also a new game + where quote “The real game begins”, I don’t know what differences this makes besides new monsters, loot, and a harder difficulty, which is enough to keep me playing till I reach level 50 (at a much less binged level). The second play through has added armored psycho’s which are the bane of my very soul…screw them…
I still need to play the other three classes but certainly the sniper tree (and the rightmost tree) for Zer0 are both very very good, I enjoyed myself a lot and did nearly every single quest that was available in the game on my first play through. Even the exceptionally unusual ones like shooting Face McShooty in… well the face.
I’d throw Borderlands 2 under my Great things, if you buy it I’d be surprised if you didn’t enjoy yourself. Obviously the loot system can become overwhelming but if you just take it with stride and make your own rules you’ll be able to overcome that hurdle and enjoy a fairly entertaining quest across Pandora. So that’s that for Borderlands 2, it looks like I need to play FTL sometime soon since that was purchased for me recently. Seeing as I’m an enthusiast of space games this should be pretty good.