I had somewhat of an odd first encounter with the original Borderlands. A couple of friends and I were in the city, intoxicated and looking for something to do. At this point, any reasonable person would look to hit up a club or continue drinking until they’ve passed out in someone’s garden. As gamers, we instead chose to take the high ground, or lower ground rather, as we sought refuge in a LAN cafe situated in the basement of a McDonalds.
Not knowing what to play, we randomly came to the conclusion that Borderlands was a suitable choice. It had all the right elements of a pick-up-and-play title for three unassuming gamers: guns, co-op and dancing robots. At the time I didn’t give much thought to the FPS action RPG, but boy was that soon to change.
Fast forward an unspecified amount of time and I find Borderlands with all it’s DLC on sale on Steam (bless you Steam). I wasn’t aware at the time, but the next few weeks were about to be consumed by this single purchase.
Luckily I wasn’t alone in my endeavour. We’d put together a rag-tag group of 4 ready to dominate the barren planes of Pandora. What ensued next would aptly be described as an epic adventure. I very rarely describe myself as gamer in the traditional sense but this game had me questioning that. I was hooked.
The game was a playground of havoc. So many missions to complete, so many enemies to conquer, so many items to collect and so much territory to explore. We’d have at it as much as our schedules would allow, often resulting in five to six hour stints on a weekday after work.
Lets cut the narrative short though and delve into what makes the franchise so compelling and why the sequel will only improve on this.
Compare the Pair
For those who like to digest their information in a neatly organised fashion, you’re most certainly in luck as I’ve scoured the internet for every tidbit regarding the upcoming title. For reference sake this information is compared to the original Borderlands, enjoy!
Note: The below table contains information about an unreleased game, so take this information with a grain of salt.
|Mechanic||Borderlands 1||Borderlands 2|
|Vehicles:||Maximum of 2 players per vehicle.||New vehicles with ability to transport up to 4 players.|
|Quests:||Basic objectives and missions.||More dynamic missions, ones that affect the overall storyline depending on the outcome (think Fable). Time limits introduced for certain objectives.|
|AI:||Basic AI.||Higher level enemies will evade attacks, encourage teamwork and can use special abilities such as shielding and healing their allies.|
|Damage:||Basic damage mechanics.||Targeting specific parts of the enemy’s body will have different outcomes on how they take damage. Stunning and crippling will occur under certain circumstances.|
|Item Trading:||N/A.||A trading interface will allow players to exchange or sell items to each other.|
|Character customization:||Limited.||Skins, gear and custom “heads” are available.|
A Looters Paradise
One the franchise’s most redeeming qualities is it’s looting opportunities. You’d happily go on a killing spree, searching far and wide for an enemy that would provide that one super epic weapon. Borderlands is one of the few franchises that really understood the value of varying their item drops. Not only are they varied, but such an incredible amount of detail is put into the design of the items themselves.
One of the more interesting aspects is that the in-game weapon manufacturers play a big role in deciding how you want to play out the game. Jakobs is one such manufacturer, renowned for their heavy hitting weaponry which often has a slow firing rate. Surprisingly enough, this simple inclusion really adds a meaningful layer of depth to the overall gameplay.
Borderlands 2 is set to expand on this, not only adding new weapon manufacturers but also adding new characteristics and abilities to the weapons themselves.
Exploration at it’s Finest
If you’re a sucker for an open world you’re most certainly in luck here. While not being as vast as franchises such as GTA, Borderlands certainly has it’s fair share of terrain to traverse.
This means uncovering a number of secret side missions. These can range from the simple “collect 10 x” or “kill this dude” type missions, to more involved quests. In any case, completing quests often results in more experience, sick loot or wads of cash; so the more the merrier.
Luckily, you’ll have multiple modes of transport at your disposal. Included are various off road offensive vehicles that’ll get you from point A to point B, destroying anything that dares to cross your path. Waypoints compliment the vehicles, allowing you to jump to certain areas in Pandora providing you had previously activated them.
It’s much more than just going around killing things though, as sneakily hidden around the map is an abundance of treasure chests filled to the brim with spoils. One of the interesting aspects of looting with a party is deciding who gets to keep the loot. This will often be decided by the player’s class and speciality of the weapon but sometimes boils down to the sacred “finders keepers” rule.
Borderlands 2 will still be set on Pandora but will have you facing off against a new foe, Handsome Jack. The title will also take advantage of a modified Unreal Engine 3, meaning we’ll be battling Jack in glorious brand new graphics.
Fans of western RPGs will feel right at home with the Borderlands franchise. Skill points are rewarded upon levelling your character, these points can be assigned to class specific skills which unlock special activated abilities and passive abilities. The skill tree and overall system feels very Diablo 2-ish, which works to it’s favour as it’s an extremely common mechanic that many players are used to by now.
Borderlands is heavily focused on it’s character classes, meaning your weapon choices, skill point allocation and overall play style will initially be determined by the class you choose. This is what makes party play so involving in the franchise, with each character playing a specific role within battles. A common party setup is to have one member sniping enemies from afar, one engaging in close quarters combat, one mowing down enemies from medium range and one backstabbing and planting traps. The real beauty is that there’s no rules hard-set rules that govern your party setup. You could very easily have your team comprised of 4 snipers or even ditch the team all together and run it solo – the choice is yours.
Borderlands 2 brings a brand new set of character classes and with it all new special abilities. The Gunzerker character class, for example, has the ability to temporarily wield two weapons at the same time.
It’s safe to say we’re hyped for the release of Borderlands 2, we’re hoping it will exceed our expectations. Do you agree with our choice, if not what’s your pick for game of the year 2012, let us know in the comment section below.
Borderlands 2 is out September 18, get your trigger fingers ready.