Read Journal #1 here first.
Well, my journey through a revamped Pandora is finally complete, my first one, that is. Borderlands, like Diablo before it, has always been about multiple playthroughs with different characters on different difficulties, trying to reach max level where the greatest gear lies.
But you know, I’m just not sure I’m up for that.
The original Borderlands had a problem. It was relatively short, and felt like you had to play the game through twice to get the full experience. Borderlands 2 no longer has that issue, but it has a different one instead. It’s not short in the least, rather it’s quite long for a single player (or co-op campaign) game, and I believe my playthrough clocked in at about 25 hours with every sidequest I could find completed. Compare that to the 10-11 hour length of an Assassin’s Creed or Dead Space, or the 4-6 hours of Halo or Call of Duty.
And you know, that’s great. Because of the length, Borderlands 2 actually feels like a complete game, where the first one didn’t. By the end, you feel satisfied with the journey you’ve made spanning dozens of huge areas of the map, and it’s perfectly acceptable when your time with the game comes to an end.
Well this hardly seems fair.
But that said, the prospect of playing the entire thing over again from the beginning is one that’s a little too daunting to think about right now, be it to max level my Assassin, Zero, or start a new campaign for one of the other three classes which I truly do want to try out. When the game was 10 hours long, beating it twice seemed perfectly fine, but when it’s more than double that? I’m not so sure.
Finishing the game at level 34, it would have been nice if the game progressed a bit more quickly in terms of leveling. I don’t really want to start all the way over just to get 16 more levels over the course of a 25 hour campaign. Rather, if I had just hit the cap of fifty by the end, I would have been perfectly content doing boss runs for cooler gear, or starting a new character knowing that it would only take one playthrough to max out. Perhaps this is my own view of gaming changing, as I willingly played the original Borderlands through a half dozen times a few years ago, but I do think the extended length will make the prospect more daunting for players this time around.
When I last wrote about the game, I was only working with day one impressions, and now I have the opportunity to discuss the good and bad in greater detail. I’ve shared my thoughts on the leveling system, but I have to say the core game is a solid step-up from the original in almost every way. The areas are way, way more diverse, and far from simple collections of rocks and bandit camps. The guns, as I’ve professed my love for previously, are incredibly designed, even if their functionality does start to blur together over time.
And man, is this game funny. Far and away the biggest improvement over its predecessor is the fact that Borderlands 2 is very, very well written. Some may not appreciate the over the top absurdity of the humor, but I couldn’t get enough of it. The script by Anthony Burch and Mikey Neumann is probably the most hilarious since Portal 2. Burch you may know from the web series “Hey Asha, Whatcha Playin?” and his sister, Ashly, makes a cameo voicing the boisterous Tiny Tina, far and away my favorite new character.
“Yo yo yo yo let’s get some explosive up in this BIZZ-TCHH!”
Yes, the game is well scripted from a comedy perspectives, and I particularly enjoyed Jack’s myriad of taunts, and his view that HE was the hero of the game and WE were the bandit scum trying to mess up his valiant quest to civilize Pandora. The sub-missions are perhaps some of the funniest bits of the game with ones like “attend Claptrap’s awkward birthday party” or “shoot Shooty McFace in the face.” But humor that’s not the only reason the story works.
Surprisingly, it hits some great dramatic beats as well. There are a few moments that are actual tearjerkers when major characters meet their end, and I really appreciated that the original quartet of heroes made their way back into the game as major pieces of the story. We learn far more about them than we ever did in the original game, but still we run into the same problem of knowing next to nothing about our OWN character, something that I suppose will have to be saved for the third game.
The end had a lot riding on it, as the first game’s finale defined “anti-climax” for the entire medium. Here, the final boss makes sense from a plot perspective, but I was expecting a surprise or two that never came. In terms of difficulty, I must have been a bit overleveled from sidequests and boss runs by the time I reached it, because I took both halves of the boss fight down in about 20 and 60 seconds a piece without even coming close to dying.
I was a bit disappointed with the loot I found throughout the 25-hour plus game, which is a bummer, as loot is supposed to be the main driving force behind the title. Perhaps this changes at higher levels, but it was frustrating that in that many hours, I only found one legendary (orange) weapon that wasn’t given to me as a quest reward. Just one, and only two “dark purple” guns that were the next best thing. I understand having low drop rates of good items in a game like Diablo 3 where there’s a trading system and auction house that needs to keep supply of high end items low for the economy to work. But in Borderlands 2? There’s no such system in place, and loot drops and chest openings were almost always overwhelming. Again, perhaps this changes in the second playthrough, but it was noticeable in the first.
Aren’t you a little short for a vault hunter?
I liked the way Zero’s skill tree evolved over time, as it was hard to see it making much of an impact at the beginning. Once you can get your Decepti0n skill to increase movement speed, start regenerating life or have it allow you to threw explosive ninja pellets, it’s quite fun. I haven’t respeced into sniper mode yet, and the other melee skill tree seems like an inferior version of the one I used. It’s kind of like playing Mordecai in the first game. Why on earth would I want any other skill set other than the one that has my bird whipping around eating six different people?
I want to try out the Gunzerker and Siren classes to see how their trees pan out, but once again, I don’t really care about another boring soldier with a turret. I hated playing as Roland in the last game, and I can’t see myself enjoying Axel, with the same exact skill, this time around either.
Borderlands 2 makes many improvements over its predecessor, most notably in length and story. Unfortunately, I’m so satisfied with it at the moment, I don’t really want to play it again. That will likely change down the road and we may see another journal installment yet. It’s not perfect and as a sequel, it inherently doesn’t seem as original and genre-busting as the first game, but it’s a solid title nonetheless, and full of a solid few dozen hours of fun for any FPS or RPG fan.