I battled through the Arid Badlands taking out both Nine-Toes and Sledge. I became the fastest pistol shooter on Pandora. After leaving enough dead bandits, skags and Crimson Lance behind I came to the Vault and killed the beast inside.
My reward: nothing. Bupkis. Zilch. Straight-up jack…you get my point. This was the reward for all of the hard work I put into Borderlands. Gearbox promised its sequel would be much more rewarding. That’s an understatement. Borderlands 2 brings a worthwhile story, more environments, challenging gameplay and a variety of guns, that makes me wonder how the people of Pandora haven’t killed eachother, yet.
Borderlands 2 begins not long after the end of the original Borderlands. Handsome Jack and Hyperion have begun to run the planet ruthlessly in their search for a powerful, purple mineral called eridium. The mineral offers some mysterious powers and almost seems like a drug when chat with others about it and their use for it.
But in game it acts as a form of currency with everyone’s favorite junkyard man, Crazy Earl, to purchase all of your inventory and ammo upgrades. This method work better than shelling out an absurd amount of cash to upgrade your stuff.
The story is far more engaging this time around. There were a few gut-wrenching moments in the game even with the games much loved sense of humor. Main story line quests make you invested in helping the original Borderlands characters. I became concerned with freeing Roland from the Bloodshots and more importantly wanting to make sure the people of Sanctuary would win.
Side quests also provide more incentive and creativity. I had to accomplish a timed delivering mail whilst shooting bandits on my route. Trying to accomplish that in under a minute and a half is tough enough, but with bandits, psychos and nomads the bar is raised even higher.
Thankfully, Handsome Jack’s aggressive mining hasn’t destroyed the beautiful environments of Pandora. The last games environments gave the impression the entire planet was nothing more than a giant dust ball, wasteland filled with wreckage. Frozen glaciers and tundras, massive canyons, green grass and colorful cities all make an appearance in gorgeous cel-shading. Even the dusty wastelands look lively. Sand whips in the wind and rock spires rise out of the desert flooded by sunlight…needless to say Pandora, much like the game, has much more personality.
The new classes, though actually slightly tweaked versions of the old classes, feature a little more customization than before. You can choose between four heads and a slew of skins to personalize your character. Additional heads and skins can be found by completing quests. They’re fun to tinker with, but you’ll probably end up sticking to your original skin and head since the choices are still limited.
Each of the characters new abilities are impressive and useful. I’ve been playing as the gunzerker, Salvador. Gunzerking feels powerful as all hell when you whip out another powerful gun and start mowing down bad guys. Using the skill trees I’ve been trying to turn Salvador into a rampaging monster by boosting the length of his gunzerking and boosting his ability to take damage. Needless to say it’s glorious when you waste an entire bandit camp in a single gunzerking.
Combat and enemy AI have also improved. Enemies now dodge and weave your shots instead of running right at you. Bandits roll out of the way, psychos can be tripped if you shoot them in the legs and when they’re down for the count they will react to their wounds, slowing down clutching themselves before you administer the coup de gras.
I played Zero for a bit and being able to disappear from enemies to stab them in the back with a single slash of your sword is absolutely satisfying. I have yet to experience Maya and Axton, but both are useful in a party and their abilities are effective.
One of the best improvements by far is the use of the hub city of Sancutary. In the original Borderlands, towns served as hubs, but they lacked life, much like the planet of Pandora. Sancutary has citizens walking around and provides more shops than just a couple of vending machines to pick up new guns and ammo.
Multiplayer is still fun and dropping in and out of matches is a cinch. Teaming up with friends and getting great loot is just as enjoyable as the original.
Last and certainly not least, there are a lot of guns. Gearbox wasn’t kidding when they use bazillion for the amount. Each one has its own style and personality, rather than the repetitive looks from the last game. Bandit guns, guns that work as grenades when you reload, elemental weapons with fire, shock, corrosive, explosive or slag effects and so much more. You’ll come to favor a particular brand depending on your play style.
My return trip to Pandora is like visiting an old friend who has changed immensely, but all the reasons you love them are still there. Just on a much better scale. The game’s sense of humor may not have matured (thankfully), but everything else has certainly grown up. Grab your guns and grab your friends, to rediscover Pandora in its entire gun toting glory.
Senior Stiv is working his way through Borderlands 2 again just so he can give you some hints and tips, check out his guide here.
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