Borderlands 2 Preview
A few weeks ago you may have been witness to a buzz in the gaming world surrounding a trailer featuring everybody’s favourite little wheely robot named claptrap and some ‘wubwub’ dubstep music. This initiated the return of Pandora, the planet in which the Borderlands game originates. The sequel, Borderlands 2, being created by Gearbox Software and 2K Games, is set for launch in September of this year, 3 years after the original game hit the shops.
For those of you who may not know what the world of Borderlands entails, here’s a quick run-through. Both games are first-person shooters with RPG elements, with a choice of four character classes from the offset. Each class/character has their own unique style, abilities, and weapon proficiencies. This time around, in Borderlands 2, you have the pick of the following: Maya – a siren character, similar in some degree to Lilith from the first game, but has the Phaselock ability, and can heal co-op friends from a distance, Axton – your turrets specialist (comparable to Roland), assassin class – Zero, who can create a duplicate of himself and become invisible, and our somewhat tank individual – Salvador, known as ‘Gunzerker’, who can run in guns blazing… well, your choice of two guns if you want as he can dual-wield anything you throw at him.
Once you have chosen your character, the aim is to follow quests given to you from people you meet in Pandora, collecting weapons, bounty, and treasure along the way… oh and stopping Handsome Jack. Mr H has taken over Pandora, five years on from where the previous game ended, in which he took all the wealth and glory from the vault hunters. His aim now is to eliminate all known colonies on Pandora from his HQ on the moon, and industrialise the planet for his own personal gain.
Making a return, as non-playable characters are the original four, Lilith, Roland, Mordecai and Brick, as well as the infamous Claptrap, and the Guardian Angel. While taking on quests given to you by the people of Pandora, you have the opportunity to level your character up the way you want them to be, using a 3-branch skill tree. This tree is set out in an easy to use way on the menu screen, and you can add all sorts of great features to your character to create something that suits your way of playing.
The main feature in Borderlands 2, as well as the first game, is the expansive array of weapons on offer. To be honest, while playing I would be surprised if you found two weapons identical to each other in stats and augmentations, there are just that many. Enemies will drop a range of equipment, which can be picked up and used instantly (as long as you’re past a certain level for some), and others can be found in storage boxes and lockers scattered around areas. Every weapon feels a little different, and there often isn’t time to pick a favourite before you find something even better to play with.
One of the criticisms of the original Borderlands game was that, although a great environment, the world of Pandora just didn’t feel as fun or exciting as it should without a co-op friend. The single-player was indeed do-able, and I can say personally I managed it, but bringing in co-op play felt it brought the place to life. Again, Gearbox are pushing the up to 4-player co-op experience, rather than the single-player with Borderlands 2. Who’s to say it will be a similar occurrence this time around. Then again, they may have added a bit more flair when playing on your own, which would definitely be a big hit for the wider audience.
During my time with the game, I only had the option to play co-op, so I cannot comment particularly on how it would feel as a single player environment, although from the positive experience I had I expect there to be a bit more excitement than last time around. I was given the option to play as either Maya the siren, or Salvador the ‘Gunzerker’. I chose Salvador for my first mission, as although yes I am a girl, and one would think I would pick Maya, I also like to run and gun and I thought what with Salvador’s thicker skin I might stand more of a chance.
Starting out in a place called the Wildlife Preservation, I had the chance to try my hand at killing robot-like AI. A voice in my ear (in the game) suggested that the way to continue through a sealed door was to critically injure a set amount of these bots, so they would call for re-enforcements, therefore opening the door. This took a few attempts, as I just kept shooting for my life, but my compadre and I managed it eventually. Making our way through a compound, weird animals, and even weirder versions of said animals (electric, poisonous, fire etc) were let out of their cages, ready to attack us. It was quite a frenzy of gunfire, with people dropping in and out of the 4-person co-op when they wanted, without disrupting the rest of the game. During our stint in the wildlife preserve there were other tasks running in the background, such as collecting certain vials hidden away on desks or on the top of lockers. Eventually we made it through, and we were allowed to try another area.
This time I chose to play as Maya, in a place called Caustic Caverns, and immediately I could tell the difference in character. Maya took damage far quicker than Salvador, which was to be expected, but her abilities counterweigh his strength. Having a siren character on your co-op team definitely helps, as she can heal friends from a distance, rather than standing over them in the heat of battle. The caverns were covered in what can only be described as toxic ‘goo’, and falling into it hurt considerably. The main foes in this area, other than annoying little scuttley bugs, were these huge four-legged… things.
They didn’t seem to have a head, but had crystals growing around their ankles; shooting these would shatter them for a short period of time, revealing a weak point to aim your bullets at. My co-op friend at the time had gone off to adventure, while I went straight for the checkpoint, somewhat regrettably. In this big open space formed a rather giant version of the four-legged creature I just described and it pretty much squashed me instantly. Luckily, in most situations, you can ‘fight for your life’ in the hope to get back to your feet instead of travelling all the way back to a spawn site, although this time around my friend died almost at the same moment… so we failed.
Even though we failed the mission, I honestly had a great time. Even playing with people I didn’t know was interesting enough, and we worked together as a team pretty well. I would however like to give his a couple of hours on my own, to see if it makes a difference to the enjoyment I had. Friends can also trade weapons and equipment when needed, which is a nice addition, as well as betting on certain items. This will definitely add a more competitive streak to the game, one that co-op players will hopefully get into. The colourful semi-cel-shaded world lends itself well to the baron yet futuristic ideals of Pandora, and keeps the Borderlands world looking that little bit different from it’s competitors. So far I enjoyed what I saw, and if you liked the original game, this is pretty much the essence of Borderlands times ten – more guns, more explosions, different characters, and a range of new perks.
… and if you were going to ask, unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to see Claptrap, and there was no ‘wubwub’.