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Borderlands 2 Review


See PixlBit's Review Policies

On 10/16/2012 at 09:51 AM by Nick DiMola

More of the same is still great, right?
RECOMMENDATION:

For everyone who has a friend to play co-op with.

Despite the dry and arid climate and the minor annoyance of rampant psychopaths and killer animals, I can say that I was genuinely excited to revisit Pandora with Borderlands 2. Unsurprisingly, little has changed since my last visit, which is both good and bad. Like its predecessor, traipsing across the landscape, slaughtering dozens of enemies along the way and looting everything in sight is highly addictive; however, despite the numerous tweaks made to the formula, the core experience isn't any better than what you saw the last time around.

This is due to a mélange of changes, some of which improve aspects of the game and others that are ultimately harmful. Three of the most noticeable ones are distinct improvements over the first game. The once thin story has been expanded into something tangible, complete with plot points and characters with motives. Don’t mistake this for meaning that the story is deep, just deeper.

Beyond the story, the characters/classes you embody, be it a Gunzerker, Commando, Siren, or Assassin, all feature much more interesting progression paths than what was available last time around. Ultimately, this allows you to incrementally build your character with the upgrades that suit your play style.

Finally, the gun, shield, and grenade selection/variety far outstrip anything that was found last time around. Guns have unique properties, functionality, and elemental effects. Grenades have wildly varying behavior and effects, and shields are much more versatile, offering attacks upon depletion, bolstering of weapon strength, and modification of user stats depending on their current state. The wide variety gives you unprecedented selection in building out your standard set of equipment.

Regardless of your class, shield, or weapon selection, you'll still find yourself bouncing around the various locales of Pandora fighting a more diverse, but still limited set of enemies. Directing your progress are a variety of quests, all of which still require trekking to the ends of the earth and all the way back to turn them in. Thankfully quick travel stations are open from the very beginning and are more plentifully scattered throughout the levels.

Improved enemy AI makes for an experience that is certainly more challenging. While there was a degree of skill required in Borderlands, 2 requires a steadier hand, more thoughtful execution, and a watchful eye on your surroundings. Playing a much bigger role are the unique abilities of each of the classes. You must constantly engage this special move if you expect to proceed without consistent and frequent death.

While at face value most of the changes made to Borderlands 2 seem like positive improvements over the original experience, deeper prying reveals some mixed results. Eridium has been introduced as a currency and is used exclusively to purchase SDU upgrades (more ammo, larger backpack to hold more loot, etc.). This subtle change removes all focus away from money and subsequently, looting.

Eridium is awarded at times for quest completion, but can also randomly appear in any of the crates scattered throughout the land. Borderlands encouraged picking up any and all weapons that were dropped, good or bad, because they could be easily converted to cash and used to purchase the SDUs. Since it's not important to gather these resources, it becomes very easy to avoid the entire looting effort, leaving you to only pick up what's better than what you already have in tow. Depending on what you get out of the experience this can be good or bad, but as a player who enjoyed the looting routine, I'm sad to see it go.

Some of the other glaring issues from Borderlands still persist in this sequel, specifically navigation and transport. As a matter of fact, the more complicated level design has only exacerbated the issue. Getting around the game world is absolutely obnoxious at times, requiring you to find a distinct path amidst a very busy-looking world. The navigation facility is also painfully bad as it doesn't take into account impediments in the landscape, which often renders it useless. Even the map can be of little help when trying to find a path to your destination.

What's most stunning is the return of the horrendous vehicles from the last game. All vehicular transport still controls horribly, and takes a facet of the game that could be fun and makes it abhorrent. Despite the extra time it might take, it's often tempting to just sprint to the next waypoint rather than drive to it.

Though these elements of the game are certainly annoying, they're not significant enough to be considered serious issues. However, the poorly balanced two player experience is extremely problematic at times. The challenge level and enemy spawn rates mimic those of a three player campaign, putting you constantly behind the curve. Given the frequent level upscaling of enemies and missions, the aggressive challenge simply never quits for vault hunting duos. Being consistently underpowered is both exhausting and frustrating, and for me, it resulted in only playing the game when a larger party could be assembled. 

One final, though minor complaint, comes from the level descriptions on the missions. Just like Borderlands, despite indicating a certain experience level appropriate for the mission, the actual challenge of the mission never matches what's expected. Those that are indicated to be of "Trivial" challenge can sometimes be the toughest missions to accomplish, while others that are "Extremely Difficult" turn out to be a walk in the park.

Given its solid online play and engaging co-op mechanics, it's hard to get too upset with Borderlands 2. Though the first five or six hours are a slag, once you get vested and your character is more experienced, Borderlands 2 takes off and hooks you until the very end. Without question Borderlands 2 is a game you should get to play with friends, even if you aren't a fan of the first person shooter genre.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Our Take

Jason Ross Senior Editor

10/16/2012 at 01:53 PM

Definitely a solid, balanced review of the game, Nick. While I'm loving Borderlands 2, the game has seen far too many perfect scores as though it's above criticism, despite carrying several flaws that need to be noted to create an honest reflection of the game.

Also, Nick totally dies about every 10 seconds or so when in combat. Had to respec as medic Maya to have a chance to keep the guy alive. SERPENTINE!

Joaquim Mira Media Manager

10/16/2012 at 03:22 PM

Nick just rushs in, doesn't he?

Jason Ross Senior Editor

10/16/2012 at 05:09 PM

No, he likes to throw grenades, then jump on them. It's very odd.

Our Take

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

10/28/2012 at 05:38 PM

In my opinion, Borderlands 2 is a fantastic game. Everything is better than it is in the first; Better Classes, Better Story, Better Loot, Better Co-Op. It's the whole package. Sure, there are still some nagging things about the mission structure and physics but overall, its a great value, and fun experience. If you were a fan of the first game, Borderlands 2 is a no-brainer. 

Nick DiMola Director

10/29/2012 at 02:06 PM

"If you were a fan of the first game, Borderlands 2 is a no-brainer."

I agree. At worst, it's more Borderlands and I can definitely get behind that. I'm going to start the first DLC pack soon, so stay tuned for my next review on the extended content.

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