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REVIEW: Borderlands 2 (PC, 360, PS3)

Before I dive into the review of Borderlands 2, if you’re interested in checking out the first Borderlands, you can get the Game of the Year edition with all of the downloadable content for $20 to $30. It provides probably the best dollar per hour entertainment you’re likely to get this year. It’s a full five-star experience.

Both games are, largely, a first person shooter experience that is very heavy on story and plot elements. There are four classes each with their own strengths, weaknesses and skill trees, not unlike many role playing games.

The first thing I noticed in the sequel is that everything is slightly off kilter. The health and shield bars are at an angle and all of the menu screens are tilted slightly. After just spending significant time in the first game, it took a little getting used to the new look of the interface.

Fortunately the cel-shaded graphics look just as good, and now the environments are more varied. Sure, there are still desert wastelands and dark caves, but there are also ice fields, oceans and grungy metal cities to explore as well.

Similarly the enemies are more varied, human and non-human alike. In the previous game, it felt like each group of enemies was the same with a new texture over layed on them. Not so here. Yes, the Skags and the Rakk’s return, but there are a whole host of new beasties which will require new tactics to handle.

The story continues from the last game – spoiler alert! – after the vault was opened. A new element called “Eridium” began popping up all of a sudden and apparently this can be used to re-charge the vault key and re-open a new vault, which is bigger, stronger than the old vault in the last game.

For those of you who opened the previous vault, you’re probably asking yourself “Wait, why the hell would we want to do that?” That’s the point: the bad guy of the game, a slime named Handsome Jack, is going to try to open it so he can control whatever is inside, your job is to stop it from happening.

So what makes 2 different? The four player classes are mostly different, the Siren being the only class which returns from the original game. The four original characters from the first game do return as NPCs, and you will get to talk and interact with them which is the next best thing to being able to play them.

The Gunzerker class is able to dual wield any two weapons, a huge benefit in a game with as many guns as Borderlands. The Siren can hold enemies in a stasis field, which when powered up can provide her with a healing perk. The Assassin has an invisibility cloak and the Commando can set up turrets similar to the Engineer in Team Fortress 2.

There are also key differences in the play mechanic. For example, there aren’t any healing items you can carry with you. The only way to heal damage is from Dr. Zed’s machines or from found instant healing items. There aren’t shields which restore health as well. The Siren class does have a big advantage here in that she can use her stasis field to heal herself. There is also a new class of special item called class modifiers which give your selected class added abilities, the Siren does have a nurse modifier which allows for self and party healing, but the nurse modifier cannot be equipped by any other class.

The gun crates also don’t seem as prevalent in 2 compared to 1. Most of the crates you come across are ammo only, the ones that do have weapons rarely have anything decent. That may change if you play co-op and on future play throughs. The various loading screens inform you that playing in a group results in tougher enemies and better rewards.

And then there’s the Eridium. Think of it like purple gold blocks. It’s in extremely short supply and spending it is the ONLY way you can increase your magazine size, carrying capacity and vault space. Spending it is the only way to increase your backpack size which was one of the first things I did. In Borderlands 1 you could do this at the vending machines that sold guns. Here you can ONLY do it on the black market in a town called Sanctuary.

The problem with Eridium is that even though it’s rare, it can still pop up anywhere. In the first game, you could stop obsessively compulsively searching Skag piles because nothing ever interesting showed up there, now you have to search every single nook and cranny to make sure you find enough Eridium to make your guns and backpack actually useful.

Overall, the main plot and sidequests are just as interesting in 2 as they were in one, and the enemies are smarter, actually trying to dodge when shot at.

Borderlands 2 is still a very, very good game though and fans of “thinking” FPS will find lots to like here. The annoyance of the Eridium along with changing the health system drags it down a point. It’s entirely possible that it will go back to being a 5 star game as various patches and DLC come out. The first DLC will involve an entirely new class.

Speaking of which, a primitive form of DLC is already available in the form of Golden Keys. These keys can be used in Sanctuary at the fast travel point to open a special chest. This chest gives out purple colored rare items which are tied to your level. If you didn’t pre-order your game then that’s cool, just camp out at the developers Twitter and Facebook pages, more are coming all the time.

4 stars out of 5

[Note: This review of Borderlands 2 based on Xbox 360 version.]

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    1. » Zero Punctuation Reviews Borderlands 2 - Game Stooge: The most up to date gaming and tech news blog on the planet. Says:

      [...] own Jordan Lund liked it a little better – you can read his review here. Cool Kids Are into Social Media, AMIRITE [...]

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