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The frustrating reality of good games: Borderlands 2

Not all video games are created equal and there is definitely a good, bad and ugly side to some of the best video games out there. Borderlands 2 is currently one of my favorite games right now, trumping the likes of Skyrim and Dark Souls. After glossing over how pretty this game is in 1080p with all the fancy physics effects on high, I noticed that Borderlands 2 has a tendency to take a serious plunge in the framerate department. As a PC gamer, it is imperative that all my games run at a buttery smooth framerate. I don't mind a little screen tearing or a few dropped frames, but having to go out of my way to edit an .ini file to make sure things like cel-shading and dynamic shadows don't tax my system, is a bit much.

Surely graphics aren't all Borderlands 2 has to offer, there are things like shooting and looting and that, more or less is the whole point of the game, at least for me. Yes, the story is more interesting this time around, yes, the guns in this game are friggin' awesome. There are, however, things I don't like about this game that are in most cases, things I don't like about other games like it. Being an RPG and being limited to min-maxing your respective character through 3 different skill trees would be awesome if there were enough points to get all the cool abilities, the problem here is just that. Although I have yet to reach the previous level cap with any character, even with the advent of 11 more levels, I can't help but feel a little cheated by the "challenge" True Vault Hunter mode offers.

Unlike the the previous difficulty, True Vault Hunter turns every enemy into a damage sponge, and since I play with the Siren class, I'm currently feeling the pain of using a support character in a situation where I need a one man army. The thing is, I've fared better with the other 4 character classes very early in the game, whereas the Siren class, I literally have to shoot and duck for cover fairly often. This wouldn't be such a problem if I wasn't constantly surrounded by many of the games various baddies. Of course the Siren class has some of the best crowd control abilities if you go down the Cataclysm and/or Motion trees, the problem is that everyone else is so much better at going solo on any skill tree. To me, this is a problem, not because the other 3 male characters are better, Gaige and Lilith put Maya to shame any day, but I honestly think that the developers saw how broken Lilith was in the first game and decided, the Siren class needed to be hit with the Nerf gun.

Aside from the fact that the Siren is the weakest character in the game, the many gunfights that you encounter can go from slightly frustrating to some straight up bull that annoyingly delays the inevitable. Respawning when you should have gotten a second wind, makes for an experience that goes from fun, to tedious. Many times I've bled out to a respawn after a shootout with a group of bandits that I should have been able to easily dispatch, but because several bandits flanked me by way of spawning, I literally found myself getting frustrated time and time again. Bullets fly from several different directions, and flying enemies make some gunfights more difficult than they have to be. Other enemy types like Threshers and Stalkers also make for some tedious play sessions, while I'm pretty sure the developers probably meant for these creatures to be annoying, it still makes the game frustrating as a result.

Regardless of how much better the enemy AI is better than you at tanking, flanking, or dodging, your skills and strategies are what matters most. Except the best and most useful strategies that I've used are simply spamming my characters respective skill, shoot, reload, and snipe or find cover if absolutely necessary, or possible. Oddly enough, my friends all play the same way, regardless of what characters they use, to me this means that developers haven't figured out how to make an RPG with multiple strategies to the player that are just as useful as straight up attacking, and when they do, it almost always feels forced upon the player for specific instances. Crystalisk giving you a hard time? Shoot them in the legs, Shield Nomad? Shoot the midgets off the chains to reveal that hole in the shield or phaselock them. Regardless, forcing the player to be smart about a particular situation in a video game isn't the same as letting them be smart about it.

Time is also another issue, whether it's shooting, reloading in the heat of battle, fighting for your life, or a timed mission, all of these things require time that the player may most likely not have. Guns with exploding rounds are especially slow, and inaccurate to boot. While they do massive damage, they aren't that useful when you need a second wind. Switching to another weapon or reloading in fight for your life tends to add to my frustration, or even worse, when bandits "smartly," run away when you need a kill, when this happens, I give up and sit through roughly ten seconds. I never counted how long respawning from death actually takes but it's long enough to try my patience especially when I have to run from a checkpoint a fair distance away from where I died. Timed missions are also the most annoying part of any mission type in this game for me, especially since the map isn't all that good at directing the player. Thankfully, there aren't that many, but having to clear out all enemies, and strategically place vehicles so the mission can be completed is not my idea of fun at all.

Regardless of all the nitpicking I've done, I still enjoy Borderlands 2, it's a good game, and in my humble opinion, better than Skyrim. I do think that it could have used a little more polish, but given how advanced new video games are increasingly becoming, I can cut Gearbox some slack, for now. Borderlands 2 will not be the only game that I harp on, I will be nitpicking other games as well, if anyone has any suggestions, I'm down for whatever, even bad games.
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About Jimmi Zansetsukenone of us since 11:32 AM on 10.01.2012