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Borderlands 2 Preview Second Look

by Diogo Miguel July 13, 2012

How do you improve a sequel to an already impressive video-game? Obviously, there is always room for improvement, but Gearbox Software must have had a difficult task with Borderlands. But will Borderlands 2 live up the the high expectations set by the original?

Welcome yet again to the wonderful and deadly world of Pandora. It’s a dangerous world out there but Sanctuary provides a safe haven. This bustling town is used as a hub for players to get missions, and interact with other characters. The town’s layout is simple enough to ensure that players don’t get frustrated, when they have to make their way to other locations.

Players encountered a lot of colourful characters in the first Borderlands video-game. Borderlands 2 continues this tradition by introducing even more unique characters. One particular new character that comes to mind is the charismatic Tiny Tina. This thirteen year old might still act like a typical teenager, but her skills with destructive tools are impressive.

It’s common knowledge but it’s nice to see old characters make a cameo. Lilith is found chatting to the character that kick-starts the chain of events for this demo. She has a less threatening visual that makes it easier to approach her. The main characters are working together to try and stop evil mastermind Handsome Jack, the leader of the Hyperion Corporation from awakening a scary Warrior.

It wasn’t possible to play through any missions that revealed any further story details. But the mission played was still fun to complete. Tiny Tina asks the player character for help with obtaining certain items. Fetch requests are often frowned upon, but it’s not everyday that the items being retrieved include the likes of crumpets. What sets it apart from the typical mind numbing fetch quests, is how items are obtained. One item from Tina’s list is only obtained after destroying a couple of mechanical airships. Another requires the player to lure the felon, responsible for the murder of Tina’s parents, back to her cave hideout.

It all culminates in a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland’s iconic tea party, where Tina proceeds to electrocuting the felon. Characters like Tina will eventually help players, but they must first earn their trust. It’s fascinating to think that just one mission, where the player is merely finding items, could end up being so entertaining. It’s most likely down to how the missions is presented, and the fact that obtaining each item feels like a different mission.

This mission takes place in the land of Tundra Express. This area is able to accommodate different sceneries such as a barren dessert or snow covered mountains. What is so impressive about it is how it allows the player to wander around without constantly placing restrictions. Funnily enough, one of the goals in Borderlands 2, is that if players can see it, then they can explore it. This is true to a certain extent, given the fact that it will take a while to even just explore a fraction of the Tundra Express area. There are some limitations to where the player can go, but it’s not like there is any use to falling off the border of the map.

The diverse scenery means that there is plenty to look at in Tundra Express. The day and night cycle does wonders for ensuring that each trip to Tundra Express feels different. It certainly doesn’t hurt that it has some stylish visuals too. The way-point system has been revamped, so that it is now much easier to find an objective location. It’s not as minimal as the way-point system employed in the first Borderlands, but it does a much better job of guiding players.

There’s plenty of guns in the original, but this sequel manages to pack a whole lot more of them. What’s so special about the new guns is the fact that each of them feels completely different. It also helps that guns have random names, such as the Expansive Spingun. Players can also continue to find many other items to loot from chests and other places.

No point in eventually having access to all the guns without any challenging targets. Borderlands 2 has a surprisingly large amount of different enemies. These range from smaller insect like creatures to menacing humanoid guerilla enemies, like the Baddass Marauder. At one point towards the end of Tiny Tina’s Mission, an ‘Angry Midget’ holding onto another enemy’s shield popped up. This is the sort of reason that makes Borderlands 2 such an exhilarating experience. Some enemies are quite challenging, and that is where the revamped skills section comes in handy.

Characters will earn Baddass Tokens that makes it possible to earn new skills. There is no limit to the Baddass Ranking System, and the various player characters share the tokens earned. Each character has different skill trees, and players are free to unlock skills from all of them. Yet again, the development team continues to pleasantly surprise with names for skills like Sexual Tyrannosaurs. What’s most important is that it’s easy to see that skills unlocked improve the way that a character is used.

Our last preview focused on the Gunzerker and Siren classes. This time around, we managed to get some play time with the Assassin and Commando. The Commando character, Axton, has one of the best active skills. Each character has one, and it tends to reflect a preferred play-style, such as the Gunzerking skill where the Gunzerker Salvador goes to town with a combination of two guns.

Anyway, Axton’s skill consists of a Sabre Turret that is protected by a shield. He is proficient in long range weapons, but can also wield other weapons. This is quite a versatile character that is ideal for patient players. The turret has various upgrades that could turn it into a real killing machine.

The Assassin, Zer0, is a bit of a tricky character to use. His Deception active skill makes him invisible, so he can then potentially deal heavy damage to enemies, by taking advantage of critical weak points or even assassinating them with physical melee attacks . He also has a decoy that will distract enemies, while the skill is active. The problem is that it’s quite easy to get spotted by enemies. This is truly a character that only skilled players can make good use of.

This short trip back to Pandoria clearly shows that the team has worked hard on improving various areas of the first Borderlands. The two characters used in this preview are unique enough to show that each playable character is suitable for a different kind of player. It’s only a glimpse at what it has to offer, but Borderlands 2 is already turning into a fantastic sequel, that fans of the original won’t want to miss out on this September.

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