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Nobody does it better: why I’m psyched for Borderlands 2

Monday, 16th July 2012 09:25 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Cry “sequelitis” if you like, but Borderlands 2 is one follow-up Brenna Hillier is happy to see take an uncontested crown from its precursor.

Tapping into the venn diagram of people who enjoy the skill of action-based gameplay and the unique results of loot-drop RPG character progression was a genius move of Gearbox’s, and one which is yet to be topped. Even if Borderlands had been as dull and dry as the desert it’s set in, it would still be one of if not the best example of shooter RPG mechanics available today.

Borderlands hasn’t aged as well as it might have. Fire it up today, not quite three years on, and it feels surprisingly dated; not at all the slick experience I remember. Trying to get a co-op session happening with Pat recently, for example, I was horrified to discover the PC version used Gamespy’s matchmaking system – what is this, 2003? The netcode doesn’t stand up to the continental divide between two of VG247′s offices as well as other games of the same era do. The cartoon stylings have mostly stood the test of time, but my beast of a gaming PC can’t do anything to iron out the game’s jitters, and all the old frustrations with endless fetch quests came flooding right back.

But warts and all, it’s still a formula I’d sit up to 2.00am with, and one I’m absolutely psyched to see it grow and develop when Borderlands 2 releases in September. I know I’m not alone. In mid-2009, writing positively about Borderlands – its unusual cel-shaded aesthetic, planned open-world gameplay, and strange blend of RPG and co-op shooter mechanics – was a dangerous occupation; cynical audiences didn’t want to hear a whiff of it from the team behind the increasingly disappointing Brothers in Arms series. Just a few months later expressing any scorn for Gearbox’s epic was like putting your hand in a blender. Gamers got their grubby little paws on this left-field smash hit and fell wildly and in love with its weird little world, forgetting all their earlier concerns and already raving about what Gearbox might do next.

Borderlands had sold over 4.5 million units as of late 2011, and is Gearbox’s most critically-acclaimed effort so far, with a Metacritic of 81-84; the Xbox 360 version is ranked most highly. It snagged a number of press awards, sold a bucketload of DLC, and of course, secured the upcoming sequel.

We chat with Randy Pitchford and check
out all new gameplay from Borderlands 2.

These are significant achievements for a new property, especially half way through a generation’s lifespan, and Borderlands owes its success to daring to be different. Shooter RPGs are pretty thin on the ground; although all the big multiplayer shooters have embraced class levelling, very few offer the customisation and flexibility (and arguably, entrancing loot cycle) of a real RPG. The first example to spring to mind is the original, by then nearly decade-old Deus Ex, which had enough of its own problems to make some people swear off the genre-blend forever.

Borderlands proved the formula could really work, but since its release, almost nothing else has tried to step into its shoes. Again, there’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but as satisfying as Eidos Montreal’s effort was (unbalanced boss encounters aside), it didn’t scratch that Borderlands itch – probably because it left out a good 50% of Borderlands’ appeal: co-op. The success of Diablo and its sequels, especially the online-oriented Diablo III, coupled with the continued popularity of MMORPGs, has gone a long way towards proving that people want to take their highly-levelled and customised characters out of the single-player experience and into multiplayer gaming – the better to show them off, and to enjoy exploiting the synergy of wildly varying builds.

RPGs have long been the most solitary of games, while Halo 2 and beyond made shooters the most social. Tapping into the venn diagram of people who enjoy the skill of action-based gameplay and the unique results of loot-drop RPG character progression was a genius move of Gearbox’s, and one which is yet to be topped. Even if Borderlands had been as dull and dry as the desert it’s set in, it would still be one of if not the best example of shooter RPG mechanics available today.

This Borderlands 2 trailer bucks a lot
of marketing trends – to great effect.

But it’s not dull, is it? Gearbox has brought former Destructoid writer turned developer Anthony Burch on board to ensure the sequel has a quality ongoing narrative, and has expanded the game’s horizon’s beyond just one kind of environment, but even without these additions the original game sucked me in and held me there. The wild creature design, memorable characters and tortured landscape made an old-favourite setting feel new and fresh, and introduced a sci-fi universe unlike any other.

The world of Pandora is a living one, as the most recent trailer aptly demonstrates, and I can’t wait to get back to it. Graft that onto a set of mechanics yet to be surpassed, and there’s good reason to be excited for the first heavy-hitter of release season.

Borderlands 2 arrives on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on September 18 in the US and September 22 in Europe.

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9 Comments

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  1. Edo

    Yep I ‘m psyched for it too,I just hope that they have fixed some of the issues that prevented the first one from being one of the best in it’s genre(constant enemy respawning and that awful ending to name a few).

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Erthazus

    The first game had good FPS mechanics, but the overall experience was boring in my opinion.
    Missions were boring. I hope they fixed a lot of that.

    Pat, i hope we can play together again. :D

    #2 2 years ago
  3. ManuOtaku

    I did play this game singleplayer only, without touching the co-op mainly due when i got it, no one of my friends on the 360 were playing it, and to tell you the truth i did like it a lot,for the loot and the light RPG mechanics, looking in retrospective thats why i did like too human also, but again i love borderlands without touching the co-op, which seems to be the best part of it,imagine if i can pick the second part in time to play some co-op with friends, i cannot wait for this game, this and bulletstorm were the best FPS i played this gen IMO.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. stretch215

    @3 I believe we’ll be able to search for co-op games in B2. Can anyone confirm?

    #4 2 years ago
  5. DigiChaos

    I really just hope that they have toned down the gun p0rn. They really ruined the reward system for me because at every mob a new weapon would drop.

    Does anyone know if this has been toned down?

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Phoenixblight

    @5

    THere are even more guns in the game so I would say no which is good. No one says I wish there was less stuff dropping in Diablo 3 which Borderlands reward system is based on.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. DigiChaos

    @6, and that’s why people played Diablo for a long time. You are ecstatic when you receive that one awesome item after playing for 30 minutes.

    It’s just not satisfying if you don’t have to work for your rewards.

    People’s complain with D3 is that you can go through the fires of hell, and beat every boss and get ultra crappy drops.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Phoenixblight

    @7

    Same applies for Borderland series. 80% of the stuff that dropped was crap.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. triggermortis

    I really just hope that they have toned down the gun p0rn.[img]http://www.demama.info/g.gif[/img]

    #9 2 years ago