I had high expectations going into Borderlands 2. Borderlands is one of my favorite games and having spent nearly 100 hours playing I know it well. So, jumping into Borderlands 2 I instantly felt right at home. The core gameplay of shooting and looting is back, but this time there is so much more in the game. The story picks up shortly after the end of the first game, and while the characters from Borderlands are still in the game there are four all new playable characters. The new characters are similar to the old ones but each unique in their own way. There is still a Commando and a Siren, but the Siren has a new ability. Then you have an Assassin and a Gunzerker. Axton, the Commando, who is the most familiar to any of the playable characters in Borderlands feels new and has much better special ability options than Rowland did. The new Siren, Maya, has an all new phase lock ability that is really useful for crowd control and boss managing. Salvador, the Gunzerker, can lay down ridiculous amounts of firepower with his dual wield ability, and Zer0, the Assassin, can both snipe or use his sword for up close kills.
Part of what makes Borderlands great is the humor and that continues in the sequel. Because there is more focus on a story in Borderlands 2 I think the game actually even funnier than the first. There are moments where I was literally laughing so hard I had to stop playing for a minute. The humor is not just with the story line but spread all throughout the game. Some of the characters, like Tiny Tina, are hilarious just being themselves. Claptrap is back and his dialog is still cracks me up. A lot of the side quests and hidden easter eggs are also really funny.
The quest structure is pretty similar to Borderlands, and most RPGs, where you get pick up tasks, complete them, and return them. However, they make it easier to find them this time with a nice mini map and a quest list that shows even ones that are in an area that you may not have found yet. Challenges for completing specific tasks are back again but this time completing them levels up your Rank. As your rank goes up you get permanent bonuses that apply to all of your Borderlands 2 characters. So, there is a benefit to playing through with multiple characters; although I suspect most gamers will play through with at least a couple of them.
There are also a lot of small enhancements that make Borderlands 2 a much better game than the original. Instead of having to check every show for backpack and ammo capacity upgrades you buy those all from the Blackmarket using the eridium you find. Like the money in the game, eridium that is found applies to all character playing at that time. They added a slot machine system so when you have extra money you can go and play. The rewards for winning include weapons, cash and eridium, but if you pull 3 bandits a live grenade pops out in your face. Your character is no longer locked into a single look based on the class you pick. There are dozens of skins to find in the game and you can change your character’s look in the game at any time. So, everyone can tailor their look to be as unique as they want. The new lobby system makes it easy to find players to co-op with. It lists them out by their current party and marks them by how close in rank they are to you. So, you can just scroll down the list and quickly find someone people to join or invite.
I could keep going on about so many fun moments I’ve had playing Borderlands 2, but I don’t want to spoil anything. It is too great not to experience yourself. Even if you did not like Borderlands (which is weird by the way) you should check out this sequel. It is better in so many ways and possibly the best co-op games of 2012. I expect we’ll be seeing Borderlands 2 in the game of the year discussions in the coming months and with a lot of DLC being planned you will want to get playing soon so that you’re not 50 hours behind your friends when the first new character releases in a few weeks.
A copy of Borderland 2 for Xbox 360 was provided to us by 2K Games for this review