It only seems fitting that possibly the biggest Co-Op game of the year should be reviewed Co-Op style. This is a first for us so let’s see how it pans out… As much as we’d like to tell you ‘Hey this game is awesome, get a buddy, buy it and go play now’, that’s not usually how these things work. So in tandem we’ll attempt to explain just why you should play 2K & Gearboxs’ insanely fun action RPG-FPS.
When the first Borderlands was released three years ago it captured the heart of the gaming world. The odd characters, the planet, multitude of missions, the leveling and skill-tree system, the comic-book styling, it all adds up to a satisfying RPG experience. 2K and Gearbox clearly understood that this formula worked and did nothing but attempt to improve on something fans already loved, and in this writers eyes they nailed it.
One of the first things you’ll likely notice is 4 of the playable characters are back in action with each playing a specific role (but not necessary) in the story. You’ll find familiar faces back as well, predominately the return of ‘Claptrap’ and his witty satire. Mad Moxxi and son Scooter also make their respective appearances. More importantly what you’ll notice with all the characters is the phenomenal voice acting provided. With such high-quality writing and voice acting you won’t want to miss a word of the laugh-out loud dialogue.
What draws players into the world of Pandora is the combination of cooperative play and the hunt for loot. Much like other RPG’s such as Diablo, the quest for loot is almost intoxicating as you find yourself scouring the world for chests and enemies in order to feel the rush of finding rare items. You’ll find yourself searching for a fight and battling as many enemies as possible just to get a glimpse of something shiny. Action RPG’s have always been insanely entertaining in that regard, providing you with hours upon hours of gameplay and exploration.
The majority of the loot you’ll find is primarily guns. Which isn’t a bad thing considering you’ll be staring down the barrel of one 99% of the time. Although the weapons don’t particularly differ in operation, the different statistics and augmentations provide for an almost endless amount of combinations. Guns, shields, grenade and class mods as well as relics all give you the opportunity to tune and customize your character to your preference. The on-screen comparison tool combined with the ability to mark loot as trash, provides for a quick and easy way of determining the value of your loot and ridding yourself of your junk. Simplifying this complex system and keeping you moving on your quest for loot and to a lesser extent, revenge. If it’s possible to find one negative aspect of looting, it would be the lack of individual loot (a la Diablo III). This essentially forces you to play people you trust, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but popping into a game to play online you’re likely to find the players that feel the need to quickly snap up everything leaving you high and dry.
Pandora is a livelier and more aesthetically pleasing place this time around. You can spend a very, very long time exploring across the diverse landscapes as your eyes are drawn to these rich environments. However with a richer colour palette and more detail you are likely to find texture loading problems, I found mostly when opening chests or loading new zones. None of this takes away from how visually appealing the world is, explorers will be rewarded with both amusing sights and Easter eggs as the humour of Borderlands 2 extends even to the environments.
The main story is a direct sequel to the original. Even in the midst of Borderlands’ classic sense of humour you may feel your heart strings tugged on slightly as you make your way through a story far superior to its predecessor. It’s something special when a game achieves to make players feel as though what they’re doing has purpose, if only in its virtual world. In many games side quests are considered an afterthought; in Borderlands 2 side quests will introduce you to a quality of writing that rivals the main story line. Although quests themselves won’t differ from the typical ‘kill so many of these’ or ‘collect so many of that’, the story and characters you’ll encounter in some of these quests will be memorable to say the least.
To complement the missions there are an array of challenges. Challenges are essentially goals that are passively tracked and award you for things like number of kills or headshots achieved with a certain weapon type. Once completed, challenges increase your badass rank which gives you tokens to purchase small upgrades to certain attributes (gun damage, shield regeneration, melee damage, etc.). Not only that, but challenges and their bonuses apply to any character you create.
If 30+ hours of juicy looting and co-op goodness wasn’t enough, things like cross-character challenges give you a reason to enjoy one of the other 4 playable characters. You can also try Vault Hunter Mode which allows you to start over again with your current character, loot and weapons in hopes of achieving the max level of 50 and teaming up to take on the games’ first 4-player raid boss.
Overall Borderlands 2 exceeded my expectations, with an incredibly immersive story and stunning visual world I find it hard to put down. Making the right amount additions and tweaks in order to preserve the charm of the original, Borderlands 2 delivers exactly what we all wanted in a sequel. Co-op is definitely the way to play, there’s nothing quite better than gathering some buds and blasting your way through an array of enemies on an endless quest for loot. Fun, immersive, and immensely satisfying Gearbox & 2K deliver an experience you will not soon forget, and with planned DLC on the horizon I for one will be playing for some time to come.