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Borderlands is a looter shooter with a focus on cooperative play. For the time it released, it was unique and different than others in the genre. However, it’s far from perfect and in our opinion, it’s not able to fully capture what made the games that inspired it so addictive. Regardless, it can be a fun time, especially if you have people to play with and it proved be successful for Gearbox Software, prompting them to work on a sequel. Developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games, Borderlands 2 was released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in September, 2012, Vita in May, 2014, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in March, 2015, and Switch in May, 2020. For this review, we played the PC version. Borderlands 2 did receive a good amount of DLC ranging from additional campaigns to smaller scale content like Headhunter Packs.
Set on the planet Pandora after the events of the previous game, the story centers a new group of Vault Hunters who team up with a resistance group to defeat the president of the Hyperion Corporation, the tyrannical Handsome Jack who rules the planet from his moonbase. The DLC storylines will have players working with a sand pirate captain to locate treasure, compete in a tournament and hunt rare creatures. Our favorite DLC campaigns are Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep and Commander Lilith and the Fight For Sanctuary. The Tiny Tina DLC has players participating in a fantasy-themed game run by Tina and the plot revolves around her struggle of dealing with the death of her friend. The Commander Lilith DLC acts as a bridge to the story of Borderlands 3 and follows the Vault Hunters’ efforts to take back the city of Sanctuary after it was seized by Colonel Hector and his army who plan to turn Pandora into a botanical paradise.
The campaigns in Borderlands 2 feature several familiar faces as well as introduce some wacky new characters and the brand of humor from the first game is carried over. We enjoyed it for the most part but that’s not to say the game is side-splittingly funny. You can tell the writing is constantly trying to make players laugh but in our opinion, some jokes definitely do not land and some characters are just downright annoying. The constant attempts at humor do make some of the more dramatic elements stand out and some of the best writing the game has to offer is found in the Tiny Tina DLC.
Borderlands 2 is a looter shooter that supports up to four players. Veterans of the first game will feel right at home with the mechanics. You kill enemies, explore the environments, and complete missions to earn experience, level up, and acquire loot. Loot comes in many forms – money, weapons, ammo, shields, class mods, grenade mods, skins, relics and Eridium. Relics are items that passively boost aspects of your character and Eridium is a new form of currency that can be spent on upgrades. The more players there are, the more challenging the gameplay and the better the loot. And now you can initiate trades with other players. After you complete the story, you can play through it again in the True Vault Hunter Mode. It’s more challenging but the rewards are better and your character will retain their equipment and skills.
Right out of the gate, we were immediately impressed with Borderlands 2. Some mechanics were refined, it features more diverse environments, a bigger variety of enemies, and an awesome array of firepower. I’m also happy to say the driving feels better mainly because we didn’t get stuck on things in the environments nearly as much as we did in the first game. There are numerous character classes to choose from, each with their own skill trees and abilities. The skill trees are more fleshed out and important this time around. When choosing your character, you can decide on a head and skin, unlock more as play through the game, change your character’s appearance in the world and even reset your skills.
Each character class feels unique and the new Badass Rank system adds an additional layer of depth to character building. As you play through the game and complete challenges, you’ll increase your Badass Rank. These challenges can be anything like killing enemies in specific ways, finding specific items, healing yourself, and a variety of other things. When you earn enough Badass Rank, you are rewarded with a Token that can be spent on one of multiple randomly selected stat upgrades which apply to all your characters.
Some of the issues we had with the first game have not really been rectified but the big one, the loot system, has been redesigned for the better. In the first game, much of the loot we found sucked so we ended up using the same weapons for very long stretches. The loot drops are much better in Borderlands 2 making for a more addictive gameplay experience. One way the loot system has been changed is how rarity is applied and I’m going to quote a segment of an article written by Paul Hellquist, the creative director for Borderlands 2.
“When the rarity is chosen it also applies modifiers to the damage of the weapon. Each rarity level is like adding 2 levels worth of damage to the weapon. So if you have a level 10 green weapon its damage is on par with a level 12 white weapon. A level 10 blue weapon’s damage is like a level 14 white weapon, or a level 12 green weapon, and so on.”
Thanks to the redesigned loot system, we were actually excited to explore every nook and cranny and kill every enemy. However, that’s not to say it’s perfect. After a while, much of the loot we found was not worth using but it was more of a problem towards the end of the game. We played through the DLC campaigns after beating the main campaign, and in several of them, I found myself using the same weapons for quite a while. Much of the best loot comes from bosses and enemies in certain areas and farming is one way to get great stuff. Borderlands 2 does feature multiple Raid Bosses which are optional and make up some of the toughest bosses in the game. They’re designed to be fought by multiple players and are more likely to drop great loot.
The weapons in Borderlands 2 have been overhauled. There’s numerous weapon manufacturers and each one has a different gimmick. For example, one manufacturer features weapons that focus on elemental damage, another features weapons with high rates of fire, and another features weapons with a focus on area-of-effect damage. As you progress and acquire different weapons, you’ll learn what the ups and downs of each manufacturer are but just because you prefer weapons from one manufacturer doesn’t mean weapons from another are bad or not worth using. Besides the variety in general, the gimmicks are a way of the game encouraging the player to diversify their loadout and not necessarily disregard or sell everything else they find. Plus, some objectives require the use of certain weapons or weapons that can inflict elemental damage so it’s always wise to have a variety of weapons at your disposal. Luckily, you can store any weapons you don’t want to disregard but not carry with you in a bank in Sanctuary, the primary hub area in the main campaign.
As expected, the gameplay in Borderlands 2 does have that repetitive quality that the first game had. The gameplay consists of a lot of running or driving between areas and killing a bunch of enemies and the frequent back and forth can become tedious. You can fast travel to any discovered locations with Fast Travel stations but many areas without vehicles are sometimes big enough to be a pain to traverse.
Luckily, none of the DLC is as bad as that of the first game. There’s nothing as terrible as Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot. The mission design and pacing in the DLC campaigns is pretty consistent with the main campaign and they do introduce some new stuff like new loot, new forms of currency, vehicles, and enemies among other things. The fantasy-themed world in the Tiny Tina DLC comes complete with dragons, skeletons, and orcs. Clearly inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, it’s one of the more unique pieces of add-on content released for the game. Even the music is pretty great.
In each campaign, there’s always a hub area where you can accept missions, buy and sell items and change your character’s appearance. The mission design has been improved. Some missions still suck but most are layered and more interesting than those in the first game and the redesigned loot system kind of makes up for the sucky aspects. There are still plenty of fetch and kill quests, but some objectives are timed, you’ll have to use specific weapons and you’ll sometimes be given the option to complete bonus objectives.
The bigger variety of enemies makes for more interesting encounters and some weapons and elements will be better against certain threats. You’ll engage a lot of robots which are often fired from the Hyperion moonbase. This means they essentially come crashing down from the sky which is awesome to witness. Unfortunately, most enemies still aren’t very bright. They tend to rush you or stand around and fire and depending on your level and weapons, some can feel spongey. Luckily, many of them are wacky and ridiculous and some of my favorite enemies are included in the DLC like pirate foes in the Captain Scarlett DLC and the fantasy enemies like Skeletons, Orcs, and Dragons in the Tiny Tina DLC.
The more varied environments is one of our favorite things about Borderlands 2. The game features artic, desert and urban regions among some others complete with acid-soaked caverns, high-tech facilities, ramshackle buildings and camps. I really like the game’s utilization of color. Borderlands 2 is much more colorful than its predecessor. Each region and area looks and feels different and the different colors help make for different tones and atmospheres. Pandora still feels like an alien planet but many locations are less barren and more alive. It makes sense from a story perspective and from a gameplay perspective, it makes for a more enjoyable and interesting experience.
The cartoony style of Borderlands was carried over into Borderlands 2. There’s a lot of detail in the weapons and environments and the action is accompanied by good visual and gore effects. The more colorful areas really pop and the game features some gorgeous backdrops. The distant landscapes are often beautiful and there’s just something cool about the Hyperion moonbase being a constant presence in the sky above your head. You can actually see it launching enemies onto the planet which is pretty cool. The soundtrack features a lot of ambient and dramatic tunes that fit the alien sci-fi world of the game but it’s the music heard in the Tiny Tina DLC that really stands out as memorable. It’s a lot of orchestral dramatic tunes that compliment the fantasy theme of the campaign really well.
We did play the Steam version of Borderlands 2 and I experienced numerous crashes to the point we almost switched to a console version. According to the internet, the game became buggier with each DLC and the developers never bothered to fix the issues and I believe that. When we first started playing, I had all of the DLC installed, including the Ultra HD Texture Pack. From what I researched, many of the crashes I experienced could have been related to the HD Pack so I uninstalled it. That didn’t resolve the problem so I tried numerous other things and it was only after I uninstalled and reinstalled the game as a final resort did the crashing stop. Other than that, we encountered an issue where our vehicles would frequently fall through the ground. If you plan to play the game on PC, I would recommend consulting the game’s PCGamingWiki page which includes fixes for several issues.
As of this review, Borderlands 2 is the only game in the series I’ve beaten solo. I beat it around the time it came out and this was the first time I beat it with friends and played through the DLC. I do think it’s best enjoyed cooperatively but compared to its predecessor, it makes for a much more enjoyable single player experience. The Badass Rank system, redesigned loot system, better skill trees and more variety across the board is what kept me engaged. It all makes for a more interesting and addictive experience even though some issues from the first game remain. Despite the more interesting mission objectives, the gameplay can still feel repetitive after a while and frequently moving back and forth between areas can still be a pain in the ass. But we didn’t mind it as much because good loot drops are more frequent this time around and each region and areas within the regions are much more diverse.
We would recommend Borderlands 2. While not perfect, it’s an excellent sequel. The refinements and new additions simply make it more enjoyable. Borderlands 2 essentially rectifies the core issue that made the first game lose steam as quickly as it did. It has more depth, more variety and more incentives to keep players coming back. Definitely check it out.