Monday, September 24, 2012

Borderlands 2

Not much background info here. Pretty much everyone is aware of the first game.

Borderlands 2 is in the same setting as the first, on the world of Pandora. Thankfully, it doesn't reuse much at all level wise. Though there is one notable area fans of the first game will all remember very well. The game still has fairly diverse environments, with there being plains, deserts, and arctic zones. Overall the game has a bit more color to it than the first.

Graphically of course, they kept the shading effect, and did a great job with the UE3 lighting. Especially notable on the PC are the brilliant particle effects from weapons. And the phsyx features are fantastic.

Everything looks great in game, the new HUD is cleaner and animated now, the textures aren't uneven, though they still have that popin effect when you enter the area, Though now zooming in with a sniper rifle doesn't cause popins either thankfully. Texture wise all the problems the first game had are now fixed besides a few seams in the world. The animations all look great in first person. And some npcs look pretty cool doing unique actions.

Note, unlike the first game where he'd simply clip through the couch and disappear, bodies now ragdoll. Nice.

On the downside some stuff is missing detail, some npcs have faces that look like they were made in MSpaint. And the third person animations can sometimes remind me of Dead Island -shudder-. Most notably players still have some stiff animations such as jumping, sprinting, and weapon swapping.And the new menu UI is... not very optimal, a major issue being where you spin the mousewheel before moving your cursor over a gun, which will completely break that menu until you exit it and go back.

The gameplay is still solid, if anything it's vastly improved with many more unique guns both in looks and effects. Many more types of class mods and the skill trees are all a bit more unique this time around. The AI is improved in a lot of ways, though this also caused some VERY frustrating moments where I'd enter 'fight for your life' mode and have all the enemies hide behind cover. Does it make sense for enemies to hide? Yes. Is it fun when you're in the middle of a huge boss fight? No.

 The character building is pretty much the same besides there being new options, the game now has relics which are like class mods except without restrictions. There's some minor character customization, you can now change your skin and face/helmet to be a bit more unique. It's definitely better than the first, but it could still use some work. The level cap currently is 50 so unlike the first you won't be able to near fill all your trees leaving some very similar characters.
Badass Ranks are a little like skill points, and are shared between all characters. They really help with your build.

Quests are much, much, much better this time. Every quest has a voiced character and is pretty unique, much less of 'go kill this boss' that the first game kept throwing at you. And every quest is essentially guaranteed at least a chuckle, from the main antagonist paying you to kill yourself, to you collecting 'nudie' magazines for a certain mechanic. It actually made me want to go do side quests, though the game felt a little overwhelming when in the late game it constantly throw sidequests at you halting the main story's progression.

Sadly, the game doesn't hold the feel for a second run. Although that's possibly just me, it just felt somewhat like a chore to play through the game again with no new rewards (you'll get the same skins as your first playthrough) and nothing besides enemy levels changed. I'm trying to drag myself to play through as either a new character or work on my current one that I've beaten the game with. Although, this time the game comes with a Crawmerax styled boss, which I am very excited to try fighting.

Speaking of the story, it's much, much better this time around. It's actually very interesting and can make even single player fun to play through. Handsome Jack is probably one of my favorite antagonists, he's incredibly amusing, insanely manipulative, and just an overall douche. There are very few characters that can make you love them for half the game, then hate them the next. Well, that try to anyways.
Jack is a surprisingly unique villain, both in appearance and personality. Also yes, those character cards are back.
The only complaint I've been able to muster is the gunplay doesn't feel as good as a good number of the other FPS genre. I personally can't place it but it sometimes feels off. After plugging in a controller and playing around with it I noticed the vibration helped but still seemed like it was missing something. That's not to say it can't be fun, I quite enjoyed it most of the game, but there would be parts that felt a little tedious.

The sound is great. Guns sound powerful, melee sounds are good, the only complaint I have is I wish stuff like being lit on fire actually sounded like there was a fire. The main change you'll probably notice is the voice acting. It's just plain brilliant this time. They got rid of all the flat and mainly voiceless quest givers of the first, and kept the quests to the major characters, which all felt very unique and had great humor. Even your character will talk a lot (at least Zer0 did) and be fairly amusing. The voice acting is just, outstanding, easily one of the best casts in video game history.

In summary, Borderlands 2 is a direct sequel that will please the fans of the first and bring a few who disliked the first into the ring. The game proves that you can keep the formula similar and still keep the game feeling fresh, unlike several major game series that as of late have been going downhill. Borderlands 2 is simply more Borderlands, which is not a bad thing. The gameplay is a lot faster, the jokes are funnier, in general everything has been touched upon and improved. The game caps in around 32 hours and has plenty of large DLCs planned.

+The art style still works and looks great
+The characters are brilliantly done
+Stays true to the first, no fans should be disappointed
+Story is much much better
+The game is pretty long with some moderate replayability

-Loot system can slow down the game and be tedious
-Combat is still a little lackluster
-The game is still its best when played online


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