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Borderlands 2 Review

Borderlands 2

Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games, Aspyr
Released on Sep 18, 2012

Borderlands 2 is a first-person shooter set five years after the events of the first game when the main antagonist Handsome Jack took over Hyperion Corp. and exiled the “rebels and outlaws” from Pandora. At the start, a group of Vault Hunters is seen aboard a train, probably in search of the Vault, a place rumored to be loaded with priceless Iridium.

Genre: 1st Person Action-RPG

Vault Hunters are daring adventurers who don’t play by the rules and certainly won’t take kindly to Handsome Jack’s minions. They’ve made it their goal to uncover the secrets of Pandora, a dangerous planet infested with hostile creatures and bandit encampments.

In the intro cutscene, the train gets hijacked by Hyperion’s robot minions, forcing the crew to fend for themselves using a wide array of machine guns, snipers, grenades, combat rifles, and the ability to matter phase if you choose to be the siren.

This game has a total of six playable Vault Hunters that differ by their style of combat. The Vault Hunters get their own badass intros to show off all the character classes playable in Borderlands 2. It is helpful to know which class to pick based on their special abilities, to learn about their combat techniques.

Regardless of who you choose, you will always wake up in the Arctic Wastelands, nearly dead from the train explosion. The first thing you meet is Claptrap, a melodramatic steward bot who recruits you as his meat shield to get out of the area. Though you start off weak, soon enough, you’ll have guns to blast enemies into tiny pieces.

The first enemies you encounter in the Frozen Wastelands are Bullymongs, these ape-like animals with two pairs of huge arms to hurl rocks and tiny legs to jump long distances. The Monglets or Bratlings attack in swarms, with a few full-grown adults. The bigger Bullymongs do the most damage.

Borderlands 2 won’t hold your hand through the tutorial section. You are forced to confront a giant Bullymong named Knuckle Dragger on the very first level, right after you retrieve a Basic Repeater gun. I strongly suggest lowering the framerate if you’re playing on a laptop because the game will start lagging.

Unless you know how to play from a tactical vantage, you will come close to dying in the midst of almost every fight against waves of bandits and psychos. Instead of having extra lives like in other games, your vault hunter respawns at one of Hyperion’s New-U stations (also called checkpoints).

Whenever you see that camera, you know a quest is likely nearby. Each time the Vault Hunter dies, they will be sent back to the last auto-save point, fully revived. As long as you never run out of cash to pay their respawn fees, you can return to seek revenge on the ones who killed you in the first place.

Where you need to go is displayed on the small map, marked by the diamonds. The game has symbols for vendors, spawn points, fast travel zones, and hostile enemies, shown as moving red dots. To zoom out of the area, you can use the map stored in your menu to see how to travel somewhere else to turn in a mission.

The checklist lets you keep track of the number of bad guys you’ve defeated to fulfill mission requirements. Completing special feats raises your Badass Ranks, which are points exchanged for greater damage output, raised maximum health, higher gun accuracy, faster shield recharge, and so forth.

Don’t be fooled by stretches of empty land on Pandora. It is in fact, littered with bandit camps and savage wildlife. You won’t be able to walk more than a few steps before you run into a bunch of hostile minions; Psychos, Marauders, Nomads, Midgets, and Nomads. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by large mobs of these guys.

You will come close to dying on every wave of enemies if you are the same level as them. Resource management is therefore vital to your success at being a tactical shooter. After all, you only have a limited amount of ammo to reload. And while grenades are deadly instant-killers, you are only allowed to carry three at most.

Playable Characters & Their Classes

Your Vault Hunter’s combat abilities are determined by skill trees. The game lets you decide how to build your character whenever you gain a level. You can spend skill points to unlock more tiers to help you become stronger and deadlier during combat.

I haven’t played any of the other characters besides Axton and Zero so I can’t really tell you who has the best abilities. I’ve linked to their profiles on the Borderlands Wiki in case you have trouble deciding which skill trees to pursue.

Axton = Commando

Maya = Siren (Mage?)

Salvador = Gunzerker

Zer0 = Assassin/Ninja

Gaige = Mechromancer

Krieg = Psycho (no path)

I picked Axton so I had to choose between the Guerrilla, Gunpowder, or Survival skill trees. Guerrilla powers up the Sabre Turret’s fire rate and adds multi-rocket pods to the turret’s arsenal. Gunpowder focuses on improving weapon aim and increasing your gun damage. Survival boosts defensive stats like your Max Health and shield regeneration.

Vendors are sparsely distributed near checkpoints and quick-travel stations. If you die in battle, you will usually end up next to one after you respawn. A weapons vending machine sells guns. If I recall, the game has six weapon types: You can buy Pistols, Shotguns, Combat Rifles, Sub-Machine Guns, Sniper Rifles, and Rocket Launchers.

Most of their weapons aren’t that good since they are common greys. But the “Item of The Day” sometimes has a green or even blue gun that has awesome stats for its level. Of course, you don’t have to hold onto every gun you loot from dead mobs. I highly recommend that you sell off weapons you don’t need.

The enemies drop way too many gun types to count so you’ll be doing a lot of comparing their strengths and weaknesses. The arrows help you decide whether you want a gun that can rapid fire versus one with high damage output but takes longer to reload. Pistols have good accuracy but don’t do much damage. Combat rifles have a big magazine size with burst fire, and yet they often miss.

Grenades are a separate set of explosives that come with their own mods such as nova blasting, shocking, or spiking opponents that attack at close range. The bad news is, a large number of enemies can throw their own grenades, which take a huge chunk out of your health and shield charge. At higher levels, you will see baddies that are heavily armed and carry flamethrowers.

As for the medical vendors, they sell rechargeable shield generators. Having a shield equipped is vital to surviving an onslaught of bullets and explosives when you enter into enemy territory. You want to get shields with high capacity (more hit points), less recharge delay, and a faster recharge rate. The Insta-Health is pretty useless because you can’t store it in your inventory anyway.

Most missions reward you with experience points which helps you level up, like 90% of other RPGs. But you will be compensated with a stronger weapon or a shield with higher capacity. As you complete more of the main missions, you might occasionally receive a rare grenade mod or a gun that does elemental damage.

Some missions give out customization skins you can use at Quick-Change Stations if you wish to change your Vault Hunter’s style or appearance. Most side quests offer guns, unlike the story missions that reward class mods or even bars of Eridium.

The main missions are narrated by a slew of NPCs either belonging to Pandora’s resistance group or the evil corporation, Hyperion. In fact, a few prominent NPCs are actually playable Vault Hunters from the first game. (I won’t say who exactly.) And this, my fellow readers, is an outhouse. That’s right, the game wants you to loot toilets.

As unpleasant as it may be, outhouses are loaded with guns (you are guaranteed to find at least one green weapon or shield). And if none of the guns are stronger than what you’re using, then just sell them to a vendor for a quick buck. I do like how you receive a ton of guns simply from looting bandit camps.

And this is Captain Flynt, the second big boss from the mission: Best Minion Ever. To be honest, he was a real pain in the ass. I had to look up a guide only to find other newbies begging for help. He is almost invincible when lit on fire.

Also, his ship has these grilles that sprout deadly flames. It’s not fun being set on fire when your shield isn’t resistant to fire damage. You could easily get overrun with psychos but I managed to get past him in the end, thereby heading off towards Sanctuary.

It’s important to check your inventory from time to time. You could run out of space once you’ve collected too many guns. The Equipped slots let you hold up to four guns on-hand. You also start with extra slots in your backpack to hold onto the guns you aren’t using. The same goes for shields and grenade mods.

The inventory menu allows you to compare your guns but you can mix and match combinations of various gun types, regardless of your character class. It clearly shows the amount of ammo and how much money you have left. Despite equipping my Vault Hunter with the best gear, it didn’t prevent him from dying countless times.

Now onto my favorite part of the game: The loot boxes. Every time you kill creatures on Pandora, they always drop some loot. You could find a few dollars, some ammo, a grenade, and a boatload of deadly guns to store in your backpack. The light shining from the loot shows its rarity: Grey is common, green is uncommon, blue is rare, and if you see orange, it’s legendary!

It truly pays to be a Vault Hunter, especially with all the loot you can profit off of. Loot is hidden in trunks, barrels, dumpsters, mailboxes, cabinets, rocks, lockers, and washing machines. My only complaint is the lack of Insta-Health around when you need it the most. How else are going to survive in the heat of combat?

Enemies are indicated by their health bar and level. If they see you, they’ll start attacking immediately. It was quite a blast, running into the line of fire, and unloading everything you’ve got. Except, that’s usually not a good idea; the enemies hit almost as hard as you do.

Aggro-ing too many guys at once and you’re going to die. As luck would have it, the game grants you a short amount of time to “fight for your life”. Before the red bar drops to 0, you must kill something to revive yourself back to low health. If you fail, then you respawn at the last New-U station. 

In my opinion, the best part about combat is simply blowing up those cleverly-placed, explosive barrels. A sniper rifle is useful for aiming at flammable, corrosive, or slag barrels to damage a nearby enemy. The scope lets you target distant them without getting noticed. 

You won’t find many cutscenes in Borderlands since it is primarily a shooter game. And yet, it does have embedded RPG elements like the leveling system, minus the hack and slash. Instead, you are always on the lookout for danger, finding places to duck in cover if too many enemies fire mercilessly at you.

Conversations are few and far in between. You do hear about what scheme Handsome Jack is plotting and what your allies need from you. Sometimes a bit of sarcasm is sprinkled in to make light of a bad situation. But it’s usually characters exchanging immature jabs and cracking crude jokes to mock their enemies. 

In the beginning, your goal was to reach Sanctuary alive. Once you complete a series of missions/raid all the bandit camps, you’ll end up at the Three Horns Valley. It has long stretches of empty roads so the game introduces you to the Catch-A-Ride station. It allows you to deploy a vehicle to travel around faster.

You can also paint a vehicle and change the type of turrets it carries. Getting a boost helps in avoiding enemies at the expense of being unable to control your vehicle; like when you miss running over a Bullymong and crash into a wall of ice.

Eventually, you’ll arrive in the safe zone known as Sanctuary. Home to the Crimson Raiders, it’s the only place where you won’t get shot at. Here, you can access your base of operations, either for fetching missions or for depositing valuable guns.

At a bar called Moxxi’s, there are two slot machines to try your luck, at possibly winning some guns. To earn better guns or shields, you must get a three in a row. Otherwise, you might be on the receiving end of a grenade. I was pretty worked-up about gambling since I’ve won a ton of money, and Eridium at times.

The black market has some decent upgrades too. They increase your maximum storage space. I find the Grenade and Backpack SDUs to be the most useful. The other ones are worth checking out so you don’t run out of ammo in a long fight. The downside is, the shopkeeper only accepts Eridium, a rare purple metal found in loot drops.

Borderlands II is one game I can declare is worth playing through to the end despite the endless waves of deadly enemies and the fact that you’ll die over and over because it has some real kick-ass guns to suit your playstyle as a berserker, sniper, or an all-out gunslinger. This intense FPS game will leave you eager to loot everything on Pandora and one day, overthrow Handsome Jack.

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