Sep 19 2012

The Borderlands 2 Journal: Day 1

Published by at 12:00 pm under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

Greetings!

If you read that in Claptrap’s voice, you’ve probably been waiting for this game as long as I have. The original Borderlands was a breath of fresh air in an era of sequels, even if it was borrowing its endless loot dropping and gear hunting concept from Diablo.

But Borderlands was its own game, an RPG FPS the likes of which had never been seen before, or since, for that matter. The animation was unique, the combat was intense and the story was…well, it had its moments.

As such, Borderlands 2 has been a hugely anticipated title for years now. It’s a co-op game in an era which usually frowns upon such things, especially when split screen is involved. Not only can you play with friends, but it’s what the entire game is designed around. It’s much, much better to play in a group than it is to fly solo.

They could form a girl band.

Unfortunately, it’s just me and my lonesome playing right now. I’m sure a friend or two will pick it up at some point, but this isn’t college where we could all devote eight hours a day whenever we felt like it to pick up and play, like we did with the original.

As this is a day one analysis of the game, keep in mind that my views will obviously evolve as time goes on. I’m about six or seven hours in so far, and have leveled up my assassin, Zero, to 15 already. If there’s a level cap this time around, I don’t know what it is.

The story is just beginning to take shape, but it’s going decently well so far with a strong villain in the form of Handsome Jack, something the first game lacked. Jack is drilling beneath the surface of Pandora for another lost vault, one with actual treasure in it this time. Probably. Maybe. Well, who knows.

Jack is hilarious, and in an era where games usually try to pry laughs out of you, Borderlands actually is funny. Between, Jack, Claptrap and Scooter, I’ve been cracking up at every turn, which I can’t say has happened since Portal 2. The jokes aren’t always home runs, as I’ve quickly grown tired of Zero saying he’s played his “trap card” every time he uses his special ability (a Magic the Gathering meme reference, if you missed it), and most of the stuff he says feels a little Duke Nukem Forever-ish (shudder). But overall, the game has a dark and twisted sense of humor that I absolutely love.

He’s an evil son of a bitch, but he’s funny.

Combat is largely unchanged from the first game, and the buttons all do the same things with no real additions to speak of. Your character has one central ability, and three skill trees to amplify both it and their gun-shooting prowess.

I can’t speak to all the character’s abilities so far, as I’ve only played Zero, but his Decepti0n skill is hit or miss in the early stages of the game. With only 10 points to sprinkle across a few categories, it’s hard to say how badass the skill is going to get by the time he’s fully leveled, and I do find myself missing Bloodwing. The ability has him create a holographic copy of himself, and he goes invisible for about five seconds. Once he shoots or swings his sword, the stealth ends, and he can use it to sneak around unsuspecting enemies and cut their nuts off. At least in theory.

The ability is reminiscent of Lilith’s phasewalk from the last game, and in truth, it’s almost identical. The problem is that even when you’re stealthed, you can still take damage. True, enemies can’t see you, but if you try to use the ability to get away when you’re at low health, a stray bullet will usually find and kill you anyway. And in some circumstances, the fact that a holographc clone exists for enemies to target is annoying. A hard hitting melee enemy might swing at the clone in front of him, and whack you in the face for 3/4ths of your health as you try to stab him a few feet to his left, even if he didn’t see you. With such a short duration, it seems like you should be immune to damage during that window to make the skill more worthwhile. As I said, I’m sure it will get cooler as time goes on, but right now I’m not sure how I feel about it.

The other classes seem fun, though I’m a little disappointed they haven’t done a bit more with the classes. Axton has Roland’s turret. Salvador can shoot two guns. Maya uses Siren powers to kill shit. It would have been cool if there was more than one skill per class this time around, but I supposed that might distract too much from all the shooting. And boy, is there ever shooting.

Each manufacturer has their own distinct style.

Far and away the most impressive aspect of the game is the weaponry. The design and the diversity goes leagues beyond the first game, which already had an incredible selection itself. But often times things did just come down to a little more damage, crit chance or zoom. The diversity of “millions of guns” wasn’t exactly true.

This time? Wow. Just, wow. At only level 15, I’ve used dozens of guns and found hundreds more, and almost none of them have felt the same to me. The designs are incredible, and the inspect mode that gives a 360 view of the gun is a welcome addition. But the way they function is so diverse it blows me away. Every gun class ranges from full auto, to burst, to single shot. I found an assault rifle with a grenade launcher. A pistol that shoots flaming homing darts. A shotgun that vomits acids. A sniper rifle with a gatling gun barrel. That last one is a bit annoying as it drains all my ammo in about four seconds, but still, the selection is insane, and I know I’m only just scratching the surface. I have yet to find my first legendary, after all.

Quests have definitely been improved over the last game in many ways. Yes, many are the “go here, collect this, kill that” variety, but they’re tweaked so they don’t seem so repetitive. Again, I’ve done dozens of these and no two have felt the same yet, even if the objectives of collection or killing were similar. Even small subquests can turn out to be elaborate ventures, and the rewards for doing them are actually useful some of the time.

Sometimes, there are design flaws that become apparent when the game’s fast travel system falls short. I’ve had a quest plant me in an area at the end which required me to walk for no less than fifteen minutes through legions of under leveled enemies giving me no experience just to get back to a fast travel station. Unless I’m missing something, there is still no option to fast travel from where you currently are either to town, or another fast travel station, making for some very long, unexciting walks. I’m not saying it needs to be like Skyrim where you can instantly teleport to one of 500 locations on the map, but easy access to at least the fast travel areas would be appreciated. The long treks can feel like a waste of time, particularly when the enemies you encounter give you only fractional amounts of experience.

“Give me my 8 xp!”

The time just flies by with this game, and “one more quest” seems to turn into another hour of play every time without me even noticing. I do, however, wish I was playing with a friend. Yes, it would be more fun, but from a gameplay perspective with no one to revive me, I’m dying a lot and having to make the aforementioned treks back to whichever badass enemy just killed me, now with all his health back.  The end result is me spending that vast majority of my cash on respawning, and I’ve yet to break three grand in the bank because of it. If you can, play with a friend. I’m not at the point where I’m about to start matchmaking in public games, but I might get there eventually.

I’ll look forward to seeing what other new things the game has brought to the table, but as of now, it doesn’t seem like all that much has changed, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The original game was great, and even if Borderlands 2 improves upon it in minimal ways, that’s more than enough to make it an excellent title. So far, despite a hiccup or two, it’s off to a great start.





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14 responses so far

  • Bud the Chud

    The level cap so far is 50 like the last game, so hopefully they raise it w/ the DLC just like the last game.

  • trashcanman

    This is the first time you are journaling a game as I’m actually playing it. Cool. I don’t really get why Borderlands is considered a must co-op title, I soloed the original with no issue and was really annoyed at how huge a gap of a couple of levels was in enemies. It’s like you could do no harm to a foe 2 or more levels above you. Now when you factor in that your buds are unlikely to be the same level as you at any point unless you are only playing together, that could make for some uneven partnerships. Last night I tried matchmaking for the first time and wasn’t really impressed. I kept running out of ammo since there were now 3 of us eating it up, the good guns were taken, and I didn’t get to enjoy the game’s outstanding writing upgrade while chatting with my partner about how bad we suck. I’ve got to assume it gets better.

    But yeah, Borderlands 2 improves on every aspect over the original as far as I can see. Great writing, great customization options, amazing guns, better combat, smarter AI (got pwned by an enemy I was rushing with a shotgun because he was backing away while spraying me), and holy hell the number of nerd references packed in there is staggering. More classes would be nice, though. Everyone so far appears to be using Zero.

  • blunts

    hey Paulie, if you need some partners to play with why don’t you ask us? We’d love to game with you.

  • Griffon23

    I’m having a blast with BL2. I liked the first one alot and I’m absolutely loving the sequel, so far it has improved on everything.

    Also I agree with blunts! With all my friends getting it for the Xbox my PC friends list is looking kinda barren.

  • ktlilboo

    Longtime reader, first time poster. I have had a similar experience with the game, love it so far, and time does indeed fly by. Perhaps you could create a list for interested, mature players seeking a positive co-op experience. We could all avoid the public match making that way. 6 year veteran of WoW, love my 360 but sorely miss playing with other folks the way WoW lets you.

    << your huckleberry.

  • Bret

    I’ll add another chime to the “Why don’t we play together?” list. I have a character that I’m playing with a few friends, but we don’t find nearly as much time to play as I’d like, so I’m probably going to branch off a bit with some alternate characters. Would much rather play with mature folk than with the villains on matchmaking. =P

  • Justin

    Thanks for the post, I have been looking forward to it all weekend. My game is in the mail and should be arriving soon. I can’t wait to play!

  • Cole

    Activated my trap card is Yu-Gi-Oh. As an MTG fan I will not stand for this haha. Great game.

  • Bryan

    hahahaha this is for you-http://assets.diylol.com/hfs/f06/af1/d0f/resized/forever-alone-meme-generator-playing-borderlands-in-single-player-f5398f.jpg

    C’mon Paul we need a fourth!

  • MattChi

    I also chose zero and I’ve been having an identical experience to what you’ve described so far. Pretty spot-on.

  • Todd

    Hi Paul do you play on the PC? If so let me know your Steam ID and maybe we can play together. I have to agree with what your saying so far, but I feel this is a great number 2. I know I will be playing it a lot like I did the first game. I hope to hear from you.

  • Spleenfarmer

    Three words. “Bonerfart” and “Butt Stallion.” Makes me giggle just typing it.

  • Spleenfarmer

    This is a tangeant, but another reason why Gearbox is such a gamer-friendly company:

    http://www.destructoid.com/gearbox-to-honor-late-fan-as-an-npc-in-borderlands-2-215160.phtml

  • MattChi

    WARNING TO ALL:

    Learn from my mistake. Regarding the golden chest that comes with the pre-order. I wasn’t paying much attention and accidentally opened the gold skull chest in the Sanctuary.
    I took the items out of the chest and after realizing what happened, I turned off the game to try to re-lock it (as I didn’t want to use the chest as early as level 14). Upon re-opening my save file, I not only lost the key and can’t use the chest anymore, it didn’t save the guns that I had unlocked and put in my inventory.

    BUMMER!

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