I’m of two minds about Borderlands 2. On one hand, I love its irreverent charm, excellent writing and humorous self awareness. On the other, I think the shooting is sluggish, and find its inventory management to be infuriatingly obtuse.
The first Borderlands appealed to both insane people who enjoy endless collection, stat comparison and challenge completion (AKA World of Warcraft players,) and shooter aficionados who were apparently tired of blowing each other’s heads off, and found the idea of class based teamwork intriguing. It was this venn diagram intersection of fans that gave the Borderlands its popularity boost, but even its most diehard devotees would admit the game had its problems.
Enemy artificial intelligence was hilariously bad, the story, though good, was spread thinner than paint on a happy little Bob Ross tree, and though the cel-shaded art style was inspired, the environment design was utterly woeful. One can only slog through so many ruined, garbage strewn cities and endless, hilled deserts before one wants to kill oneself.
Borderlands 2 is a good example of what happens when you cater to your community. You get a sequel that iterates on what it did well the first time around, and also fixes any problems and inequities its player-base found particularly egregious.
The game’s primary antagonist, Handsome Jack, is one particular example of where Borderlands 2 improved immensely. In the first game, you were fighting a boring, faceless corporation’s private army. Within the first hour of gameplay, Jack calls to inform you he’s bought for himself a pony made entirely of diamonds, and wants to name it after you, but is having a hard time deciding between “Piss-for-Brains” and “Butt-Stallion.”
This is a man you’ll look forward to shooting. In the face. Many times.
Unfortunately, fan-based indulgence also frequently leads to a deficit of innovation, as deviations and alterations are often anathema to obsessed enthusiasts.
Borderlands 2 takes a “rock, paper, scissors” approach to combat and damage. Lightning guns are for taking down enemies with shields, corrosive for armored enemies, fire for unarmored, etc. You constantly are finding new guns with which to upgrade your old ones, and each fight can be approached in different ways depending on what kind of guns you have.
However, just like in the first Borderlands, your inventory and weapon slots are somewhat limited. In a single area I might find enemies that are easily dispatched by my flaming assault rifle, and others by a corrosive shotgun. But in the next, I might find enemies more expediently killed by my pistol that fires rockets. And in another, an electric sniper rifle.
Each of these enemies will drop other weapons, which I’ll then need to collect and either swap out as upgrades, or sell to the local shop. Yet much of my inventory is already full of situational weapons, and as a result, I’m not able to carry as many things to sell. Also, unless I’m constantly selling those dropped weapons, I won’t have enough money to buy ammunition for the guns I actually do use.
Therefore, I’m constantly traipsing back to town to sell guns I don’t need to buy ammunition for the guns I do need, so I can kill more monsters, so they’ll drop more guns I don’t need- All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
As you might imagine, flow is somewhat of an issue. Gameplay never really progresses much past “go to the place and shoot the guy,” or “go to the place and find the thing.” You’ll often find yourself playing just so you can get to the next bit of witty dialogue from one of the game’s endearing cast of characters.
Borderlands 2 is best played in a group. Shooting your way through the game’s hordes of enemies with a few friends over a weekend is enough to make you forgive its few setbacks, and leave you with a good impression overall.