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Late to the Party: Borderlands 2

I'm disappointed.  A month ago, when I published my post on the first Borderlands, I immediately dove into the sequel.  I was immediately impressed.  It seemed as if my cares had been answered by a divine spirit!


I wanted to start out this post like this:  "As a follow up to my previous post, we pick up with the sequel to Borderlands where I can thankfully say that the start of the game is not so disappointing as the entirety of Borderlands.  Why?  There's characters that interact with other characters - that aren't you!  A boss fight within the first five minutes reminiscent of what took probably an hour to get to in the first game!  Obvious setting up of Handsome Jack as a megalomaniacal sycophant bent on maintaining world domination!  That last point is reminiscent of the first game since all he does is taunt you via commlink, but it gets a pass for now.  There are more instances of running into and interacting with other characters that more than make up for the majority of people interacting with you from a distance.

"Another point to note is that the environments are no longer similar frames of dirt and rust.  In Borderlands, as Gearbox sought to form Pandora as a desolate and uncaring place left behind by humanity, most of the playable areas with the exception of the three or four at the end and the DLC, were large dust bowls and shantytowns made of old, decrepit structures.  No more.  With the introduction of more explorable frozen biomes and other varied environments, Pandora is now a living place."

Needless to say, after about forty hours in, all of these promising features have disappeared like dust in the wind.


Now, this isn't to say that Borderlands 2 is a bad game.  It just isn't a good game.  Decent.  Mediocre.  Fuck my life.

Let's take a moment to talk about what I originally thought was great about the game, starting with the characters.  It's true that the characters are more expressive and do interact with each other.  One of the best examples is the conversation between Karima and Dave that ends, let's say, explosively.  To their credit, Gearbox and Anthony Burch have made a lot of discussion on how they've successfully done their characters.  Sure, fine.  But as the game drags on, these interactions become more and more sproadic and filled with the same, distant discussions that you were used to.  I've found myself slogging on from the quest givers to the objectives almost immediately after I talk to them just to get on with things at this point.  Oh, and yes, Handsome Jack is an asshole that has a weakness which you exploit, making him a more dynamic character for all of the twenty bullet-filled minutes that you fight a major encounter, and then it's back to spite.  Hooray.


Landscapes are what they are: dumping grounds for monsters before you run through a tight corridor-filled maze of more monsters and bullet sponges.  Sure, there's more variety now, and the variety is amazing and attractive.  However, this attractiveness feels empty and squandered with static characters, most of which don't even end up on the map until you pass within a certain distance of the doors/holes/caves/boxes they spawn from.

On to new criticism.  The combat still feels spongy.  I shoot things, they shoot me, we all walk away eating lead breakfasts unless they're dead, which they invariably are.  What makes this worse is that it is painfully obvious that Gearbox's designers come from the "more is better" approach to challenge design.  That means, as you get better as a player and your character grows more powerful through the combination of better guns and better skills, the most the designers saw fit (again, I might add) to throw at you that they didn't earlier is, you guessed it, more powerful sponges and more of them.  It doesn't take a lot to turn enjoyment into tedium than repetition, and Borderlands 2's encounters get tedious quick simply because of the sheer number and lack of difference in the different enemies.

Most damning of all are the boss fights, which held so much promise.  Sure, they are there and they are made more of a big deal.  Worse, though, is that most bosses are simply reskins of basic enemies with different equipment and maybe another ability.  Seriously, look at the bosses and see which enemy they fight like.  Chances are, they're an exact copy.

At least the guns have character.  That's certainly been improved, and that makes it more exciting to find equipment and test it out, but it certainly doesn't make me want to actually use it.


I would, at this point, talk about the plot, which there is more of, but it's hampered down by the same issues that plague any conversation in the game and is told in the sole context of quests.  Oh, and it's relatively generic with added character flavor for a bit of a spicy stew of fun doled out at infrequent intervals.  But that takes more effort and would be retreading on prior points, so it's not worth delving into.  Besides, as per the topic of these posts, most of you already know it anyways.

So there's that.  Borderlands 2 is still trying to be an MMO with guns, but ends up as a mediocre shared world experience, for use of that new buzz word.  It's really disappointing because I wanted so much for this game to be better.  Here's hoping Gearbox can't find a way to fuck up Homeworld, but I've likely already jinxed that to oblivion.

Oh, there's a contest on that's half over.  That's kept me slogging through the game for the last two weeks.  You're welcome.
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About LazarianParadoxone of us since 6:17 PM on 07.22.2009

Grad student gamer on a budget. Reviewing the games you should have played by now.

Steam: Hachimaki
Xbox LIVE:LazarianParadox


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