The original Borderlands, released in 2009, can very comfortably be described as a sleeper hit. There was a tremendous list of things that game reporters felt it was not, but tried to be a lot of things. It was said it tried to be Fallout on steroids, and it wasn’t. It was said it tried to be Gears of War, but it wasn’t. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Bioshock either. The point through all of the negativity only dawned after its release; it didn’t need to be any of that, because it was Borderlands. It was fun, and that’s all it ever really aspired to be. There was depth of play with the various available characters and the insane online co-op it included, and for once there seemed to be an all-out FPS we could enjoy without feeling like raging at the game when things didn’t go our way for a bit.
Now, any hit, whether it’s expected or not, gets a sequel these days, and so Borderlands is no different. As with any sequel, it’s more of the same², and in the case of Borderlands, that can only be a good thing. As you’ll remember, the one thing to take away from the game was the millions of weapons the engine could assemble and create for your use in the game, along with some standard weaponry that was dropped by boss characters. In Borderlands 2, that assortment will be even greater, and the options on Shields, grenade mods and other items will be expanded further than they were in the original game and its DLC packs. In fact, the marketing lads have given us the insane number of 87 bazillion pieces of possible loot. While a gross overstatement, I don’t think anyone will get the idea into their heads to start counting the options anytime soon, especially because the main complaint about the original has been dealt with. Instead of just the characteristics of the guns being different, Gearbox has put a lot of time into making sure the aesthetics are also different, with a lot of cool new looks to a large assortment of the weapons that are available to you. The same is true for the variation in enemy models.
With a new game obviously come new areas to explore and new enemies to blow up and turn into Swiss cheese, but the focus in this installment of adventures on Pandora lies more in the 4 new character types that make their appearance in the game.
The Siren is a class that was also in the original Borderlands, but there’s an all new character attached to the role, and a new action skill to go with it. Maya can Phaselock enemies, which means they will be suspended in mid-air, and depending on your skill trees, shooting them while in that position will have varying effects. The Siren is mostly geared towards crowd control and healing capabilities.
The Gunzerker is pretty much a replacement of Brick the Berserker from the original. The action skill now no longer focuses on the ham-fisted brute’s melee beatdown – instead, it operates as a redoubling effort of Salvador’s firepower very literally. You can select a second weapon in activation of the Gunzerk ability that will be held in an off-hand slot. Dual-wielding shotguns in close quarters, or a machine gun and a sniper rifle for long-distance mayhem? Anything you can think of, you can do it. The skill trees are focused on extending the action skill, and adding effects like ammo regeneration. The Gunzerker is then your primary damage-output, and a bit of a tank as well.
The Assassin is in an odd way more like the previous Siren than the Hunter from Borderlands, in that the action skill has him entering Stealth mode. Zer0 carries around a large sword for melee attacks, that can also be used to varying effects when using his action skill. Stealth deploys a decoy for Zer0, while he goes undercover to get up close and personal with enemies. You’re only given one strike in Stealth mode, so make it count. What helps in doing that is the targeting HUD that comes with it. It outlines all enemies in blue, and offers red circles at Critical Damage hotspots. You will get a time counter for your Stealth mode, which affects its use. Early strikes make the cooldown period shorter, late strikes cause a lot more damage to enemies. You are not fully invincible in Stealth mode, despite the decoy; grenades and splash damage weapons can still harm Zer0.
The Commando in many ways is the Soldier’s replacement. Axton’s action skill is a turret, much like Roland’s, but offers the user far more upgrades and customization options. Like the variety of guns in the new game, Axton’s turret will change in appearance based on the kind of upgrades you install via the skill tree; direct damage output, support kits to resupply ammo and health, etc.
Finally, the Mechromancer is a character still in development to be added on later in a DLC. What is known is that the character is female, and will be partially a cyborg. Her action skill will revolve around controlling D374-TP bots, also known as Death-Traps. The Mechromancer download is free if you pre-order into the Premiere Club.
All in all, Gearbox has worked hard to keep core elements of Borderlands in place while offering a mostly new experience in handling your character and experiencing the story of Pandora. With even more loot this time around, and a lot more humor thrown into the mix than in the original, I personally am very excited about playing. Borderlands 2 will be released worldwide September 18th, 2012.
Written by Chris Bakker.