Feature: Borderlands came out of nowhere to become one of the most beloved games of this generation. Can Gearbox repeat the feat with the upcoming BORDERLANDS 2? Ahead of our review, here are ten reasons why we think they can.
Borderlands was the surprise hit of 2009, with developers Gearbox Software taking their first-person shooter pedigree and combining it with the frighteningly addictive loot-drop loop of the action-RPG. Throw in four-player co-op, and it’s no surprise that the game garnered impressive review scores and sales near the five million mark.
Now that players are set to return to the dusty, bandit-haunted wastes of Pandora once more with Borderlands 2, can Gearbox recreate that magic with expectations so high this time out? We reckon it can – and so, ahead of our review next week, here are ten reasons to suggest that Borderlands 2 is all set to top its predecessor.
1. The killer co-op experience has been improved
Co-operative play was the heart of what made Borderlands so special, but Gearbox haven’t rested on their laurels, as vice president Steve Gibson told BeefJack in an exclusive interview: “The first thing we thought about co-op was that we wanted everyone to be able to play together, and the most frustrating thing about a co-op game is when it feels like the game is preventing you from playing it.
“You’re like: ‘Oh man, I started playing but my friend’s coming over in an hour’. And when he gets there it’s like: ‘Oh shit, I’ve got to start over again to set up split screen’. So, we added drop in split screen. It sucks that you couldn’t do that before, right? So we sorted that kind of stuff.
“Or if you wanted to play online with a friend but your quests don’t line up. The silly technical nonsense that gets in the way of that experience were the things we really wanted to work hard on, so we addressed all that stuff.”
2. It has a class devoted to easing new players in
Okay, so maybe lead designer John Hemingway’s choice of the girlfriend analogy was a tad ill-advised, but we still think that the idea behind the Mechromancer DLC class is a sound one.
With its fusion of action RPG and FPS genres, levelling, skill trees and prolific loot, Borderlands 2 is an intimidating title for those not well-versed in the language of video games. So Gaige the Mechromancer, a robot/human hybrid with a simplified skill tree and an attack that can still ricochet into enemies even if the player misses, seems an ideal way to ease newcomers in and show them just why Borderlands 2′s co-op action can be so much fun. Our only concern is that the character is a DLC item rather than incorporated into the game itself, and won’t be available until nearly a month after release.
3. It’s got so many enemies even Gearbox can’t count ‘em
Because of the sheer number of complex variables used to create the enemy variants, it’s impossible to work out just how many different foes there are in Borderlands 2. The best guess AI programmer Jasper Foreman could make was 200-300 – and he’s part of the team that designed them.
Those enemies themselves will be smarter and more organised this time around as well. New AI routines will see groups of foes working together far more naturally, such as healing each other, while advanced Badass mutations will have bonus powers that allow them to aid underlings or even level up mid-combat.
The sheer variety and cleverness of your opponents will put you and your co-op partners teamwork truly to the test: “In Borderlands 2 the combat is much more focused on target prioritisation and strategy and trying to figure out what is the best way to take this guy down,” says writer Anthony Burch. “What’s the best order of things I should do? How should my teammates, my co-op buddies help me out?”
4. It’s HUGE
Borderlands had a fair old chunk of content in it – around 25 hours worth for an average playthrough – but the sequel absolutely blows that away on the bang per buck scale, as the Brady Games strategy guide writers discovered.
Originally planning to spend a week at Gearbox headquarters, the guide team soon found that they had sorely underestimated just how much time they would need, as Randy Pitchford explained: “Their approach was that they were going to start by taking a character and just playing through the game really fast, and then they would play the other characters, do second playthroughs, find hidden stuff and do all of the challenges.”
“That very first, quick playthrough took them 58 hours, so they had to extend their time here to more than double, and come back a second time just to see everything.”
So, to sum up: if your loved Borderlands, you’re going to be head over heels with Borderlands 2, because there’s so bloody much of it.