Borderlands 2 review
It's almost common practice that the first game of a new IP is somewhat of a retail beta-test. Not everything in the game is user friendly, glitches and bugs are commonplace and some gameplay mechanics just don't feel all that great. A great example of this is Assassin's Creed. When put head to head against its sequel, it shows just much of a leap in terms of gameplay the second game is. This also somewhat holds true for Borderlands. It was without a doubt an amazing game, but not one without flaws. Classes all felt very similar outside of their class skill, no minimap was present, guns started to look too similar to one another, and the storyline was almost incomprehensible. Gearbox rectified all of this in this smash sequel that far surpasses its predecessor.
While the story doesn't change much in terms of plot devices (you're still vault hunters after all), its presentation is much more comprehensible this time around. There is a clearly defined bad guy in Handsome Jack, a self absorbed asshole with some devilishly good looks. He's easy to hate, and provides a good enough reason to press on with your quest to take him, and the Hyperion corporation down.
Old cast and new team up for one Badass experience
At its core however, it's still Borderlands. It's still all about shooting and looting, completing quests, coming across strange and quirky characters, and customizing the crap out of your chosen character. The fact that the formula remains identical to the first will make players of the first game feel right at home with Borderlands 2. Whether you consider this a good thing or a bad thing is purely based on player preference. If you were expecting a major departure from what you already played back in 2009, you might find yourself disappointed. Borderlands 2 sticks to its guns, and improves on what made the first game so successful.
There are certain aspects of the game which are undoubtedly better. The skill trees feel far more diverse this time around, offering a much deeper, and more specialized customization. This sort of diversity also encourages players to experiment a bit with their builds and find one that truly fits their playstyle. What's more is that completing challenges, such as killing a designated number of enemies with a designated gun, nets you Badass Tokens. These are well worth completing since each token grants you a permanent boost to a number of stats, such as gun damage, shield capacity, critical damage, grenade damage, etc. Even better is that these stat boosts carry over to every character you make.
A lot more customization this time around, even your character appearance
The tedium of quests has also gotten a much needed overhaul. Quests are now far more dynamic, changing and continuing based on your actions, rather than just task you with killing a certain amount of enemies, and returning back for your reward. There are also a bunch of standout quests that will undoubtedly bring a smile to your face, such as the Top Gun inspired mission, tasking you to collect volleyballs and jet fuel, and then killing a bunch of shirtless men, classic. One of my favorites however was the tea party quest for Tiny Tina. You first had to go collect members for the tea party, one which was an actual bandit. Then have them sit at the party (of course the bandit was roped up in an electric chair) and defend the party long enough from an onslaught of bandits until Tiny Tina was satisfied.
Another big change to quests is the fact that they can be failed if not done in a timely manner, or completely altered. In one of the storyline quests, I was tasked with rescuing a fellow Commando from a robotic cell. If you destroy the cell quickly enough, you'll save him and the quest will be over. However if you take too long, it will fly back to its base, meaning you then have to infiltrate it and rescue him there.
If you were getting sick of seeing apocalyptic wasteland and barren desert, you'll be pleased to know that Pandora is much more diverse. You'll trek across a snow arctic tundra, lush grasslands, mechanical and robotic bases and more. Even the enemy diversity got a big bump in Borderlands 2. Aside from the standard human factions such as bandits and nomads, you'll be dispatching ape sized Bullymongs, giant Crystalisks, and the invisible turning Stalkers.
Borderlands 2 is full of references not only to the first game, but other games, and pop culture as well. You'll spot various references to famous movie or television quotes, and even references to various Meme's. Whether you're hearing Zer0 saying "You just set off my trap card" in reference to YuGiOh, or an NPC saying "This is no planet for old men", you just can't help but smile. Nothing will prepare you for your first encounter with a Minecraft Creeper.