There have been plenty of good First-Person RPG games such as Deus Ex, Fallout 3, Stalker, Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, System Shock, and Vampire: The Masquerade–Bloodlines. However, none of these had the power to draw in non-RPG gamers like the unexpected hit Borderlands. Was it because it was just a good game? Not really. It succeeded for the simple reason that it did to the FPS RPG genre what Diablo did to RPG games—make them accessible to the masses. The original Borderlands had RPG elements, but instead of dominating the gameplay, these RPG mechanics built upon a shooter foundation. At the core, it was a competent shooter whose depth was enhanced with excellent customisation and deeper playing strategy enabled by its RPG roots.
Combat is even more gun happy now
If it ain't broke, don't fix it
Like they say, don't fix what isn't broken, and GearBox Software has taken this dictum seriously. The game resumes from where the last one left off. Since the four original Vault Hunters successfully opened the Vault and defeated the alien entity The Destroyer, the planet of Pandora has been overflowing with an invaluable mineral dubbed Eridium. This is where Handsome Jack—a cocky opportunistic character from the Hyperion Corporation, comes in and harnesses the mineral to take over Pandora. Just in time for the sequel, there's talk of an even greater Vault hidden on the planet. You are among the new breed of Vault Hunters drawn to Pandora in search of it.
The familiarity trickles down to the main characters, with the same classes returning for the sequel. Maya is a siren replacing Lilith from the first game. Her abilities are more focussed on the offensive side, with Phaselock being a more aggressive form of the original's Phasewalk that lets her suspend enemies in a bubble, thereby opening them for attack. A hulking dude by the name of Salvador fills in for the berserker from the first game. Termed as the gunzerker now, this new class does away with its melee focus and embraces guns instead. The idea is to wield two guns, lob multiple grenades at the same time, while also regenerating ammo and shield by the truckload. Borderland's Roland has been replaced by Axton, who is a commando depending on auto turrets to cut down enemies. Zer0 is an assassin similar to Mordecai, who depends on stealth and sniping skills to get the job done.
The skill tree is deeper and complemented with Badass Ranks
Plenty of RPG goodness
Although each character has a speciality, unlike traditional RPG games, Borderlands 2 keeps the experience inclusive by letting anyone pick up any kind of weapon and be good at it right off the bat. Having said that, each character class comes with its own signature style that affects gameplay greatly. The siren, for example, adds elemental attacks such as fire, electricity, and slag to the weapons. The assassin will favour deception and invisibility to slink up to an enemy and deliver critical damage, whereas the gunzerker goes for an all out gung-ho approach to tackling enemies. The three-pronged character skill tree similarly opens up a range of abilities that deliver very potent results when carefully combined with your strengths. Once again, the game is more lenient on those messing up their skill points by letting you respect the skill tree for a small fee at any given point in time.
Apart from the skill trees, Borderlands 2 replaces the original's Weapon Proficiency passive attribute with Badass Ranks. Getting enough of these gives you a Badass Token. This can be redeemed for stat buffing points that affect weapon, melee, shield, health, and other attributes. Use these points well and it's easier to balance out your character's inherent weaknesses to create a force to be reckoned with. Just like the original, experience points are earned by completing story and side quests, which can either be doled out by NPCs or accessed through bounty boards. XP and skill points aren't the only driving factors here.
Boss enemies are notoriously tough without friends
The weapon of choice
The more challenging missions give you really powerful weapons and shields. This loot drop mechanic, which made the first game so appealing, is one of the main driving forces in this game. The original's procedural loot generation engine was capable of generating over 17 million unique weapons by various permutations and combination of damage, accuracy, magazine size, in addition to ancillaries such as recoil, ammo consumption and elemental damage. The sequel promises even more unique weapons, but you really won't notice the difference because there's no real way to come across the same weapon twice, given the odds. It's hard to explain, but going off on a tangent in the quest of a slightly more powerful weapon tends to get way more addictive and time consuming than you can imagine.
You'll enjoy this game just fine as long as you don't expect the same amount of narrative depth or complicated RPG mechanics as say a Fallout 3 or Skyrim. The plot may not be any more than an excuse to shoot bandits in the face, but its inherent irreverence and self-referential nature makes it worthwhile. Your trusty sidekick robot Claptrap does tend to exhibit a contrived sense of humour with its weak one liners, but when the jokes do click they are hilarious. The antagonist Handsome Jack comes across as a poor man's GLaDOS, but he's genuinely funny at times.
Bullywongs serve as canno fodder to mine XP
While the game is marred by the worst vehicle controls known to mankind, the co-op ability lets you get a few friends to make the job easier. The scope and seamless nature of the levels, and the fact that they now emphasise close combat makes the experience livelier. The AI has been vastly improved. The psychos may still make a beeline for the wrong end of your gun's barrel, but other enemy classes know when to retreat, they don't hesitate to flank, and use cover well.
More fun in co-op mode
The boss enemies may get frustrating with their copious hitpoints and their ability to spawn underlings, but the real idea is to use the game's drop in/drop out co-op system. Co-op play makes the enemies harder to kill, but the various character classes work well in tandem. You can have one set up defensive turrets, while the other raises shields and heals the team. The gunzerker can act as cannon fodder, while the assassin meticulously slices his way through the horde. Not only do these characters work better co-operatively, the enemies drop better loot and give more XP as well.
When you combine the 30+ hour campaign with the replay value you get by getting your friends along for an online co-op romp, Borderlands 2 more than justifies its Rs 2,499 asking price. If you enjoyed the original, it delivers more of it in even more action packed, loot rich package embellished with a decent story and some irreverent humour. If you enjoy mindless FPS action married with a smattering of RPG goodness, you can't go wrong with Borderlands 2. Just don't forget to get some friends along.
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