In 2012, Gearbox released Borderlands 2. This addressed all the perceived weaknesses
of the original game. There were more enemy types, different environments and a
great story. You even got to fight alongside the original four characters from the
first game but ...
Gearbox really made the game for shooters this time around. The first playthrough
was clearly a step up in difficulty from the original game. When it came to playthroughs
beyond “Normal”, things got seriously tough. Gone was the smooth difficulty progression
of the original game. Instead you had the kind of difficulty increase you’d expect
in a more traditional FPS.
This became particularly galling when a “Very Hard” level was introduced along with
the final level cap rise. To hit the level cap, you really had to play at this difficulty.
Now, I’ve played plenty of games on “Hard” and “Very Hard” but BL2 was giving me
a serious problem. Consulting the Gearbox Forums, I learnt that BL2 put all the
emphasis on gear level rather than character level. I returned to the game, ruthlessly
upgraded my gear and started enjoying myself again.
Since then, I’ve played a LOT of BL2 but it still rankles that to hit the level cap
you have to play at these increasingly difficult levels. If you’re going to have
distinct difficulties, I feel you should be able to hit the maximum level within
each of them.
Borderlands 2 is, without doubt, a better shooter than its progenitor but, perhaps
it isn’t quite as much fun.
This time you could get up to six different characters to play. Gearbox left the
necessary “hooks” in the game to introduce new characters as DLC. So, we started
with the traditional four characters but another two came along later.
Axton the Commando. On the run from the Dahl militia. A great soldier but not great
at following orders. He escaped just before his court martial. Roland was my least
played BL1 character. Good as support but his turret was underpowered compared to
the other characters’ skills. Axton’s Scorpio turret gets it right. You can have
two of them, both firing rockets, stick them to walls, teleport them across the battlefield
and they can go out with a (nuclear) bang. Here’s a vid of Axton “making good use
of his longbow turrets”
Maya the Siren. Brought up as the unwilling figurehead of an off-world theocracy.
She finally rebelled and when Maya rebels, you don’t want to get in her way! She
headed for Pandora to find out more about her Siren heritage. Whereas Lilith Phasewalks,
Maya Phaselocks. Phaselock lifts her opponent into the air, trapping them helpless
in a sphere of force. The sphere also does all sorts of physical and elemental damage.
I didn’t “get” her at first. She seemed a little weak compared to Lilith. She’s
now my most played character :) Here she is, taking on the “Wildlife Exploitation
Preserve at OP8”.
Zero the Assassin. A haiku-speaking ninja for hire. No one is sure if Zero is
a he, she or it because no one has seen him out of his suit! He sounds male, so
I’ll use “he”. His skill is Deception. He can create a hologram of himself and
become invisible for a short time. He wields a digistructed katana and can specialise
in melee. In the pre-BL2 hype, I was looking forward to Zero. He sounded like
a sort of melee build Lilith, which I loved. However, I found that Deception wasn’t
quite long enough and his melee was not quite powerful enough. He’s the only character
I’ve never taken to L72. But he’s had his moments. Here’s a vid of an unplanned
visit to a nest of rabid stalkers -“Stalker Madness”
Salvador the Gunzerker. Basically, a gun toting. homicidal maniac. He brings his
own brand of justice (i.e. very violent :D ) to anyone who gets in his way. When
the invading Hyperion forces killed his family, his attention turned to them! Salvador’s
skill is to “Gunzerk”. He can wield any two guns akimbo. At the same time, he regenerates
health and ammo. No character dishes out more damage, consistently, than Sal. Even
so, I found him a bit “one note” to play.
Gaige the Mechromancer. Gaige was the first of the DLC characters, arriving shortly
after the game was released. She is a teenage, engineering genius. She developed
a peace-keeping robot, Deathtrap, as her entry in her school’s science fair. Unfortunately,
it wiped out one of the other competitors and Gaige is evading arrest. Gearbox released
a series of “echoes” giving her, hilarious, backstory. Highly recommended. Gaige’s
skill is to digistruct Deathtrap, from her robotic arm, who then fights the baddies
with you. As you’d expect, DT can be enhanced to do all manner of damage. DT aside,
Gearbox developed Gaige for the casual player. She has many skills that help her
shoot things, even without a good aim. She has a skill tree called Anarchy which
increases her damage while decreasing her accuracy. At an high Anarchy level, she
can dish out huge damage. The downside is that if you die, you lose all your Anarchy.
So, at high levels of play, I found that I was basically supporting DT rather than
taking the lead. Quite good fun to play but not a favourite.
Krieg the Psycho. The second character DLC and what a gem :D Krieg’s a Psycho,
as in one of those masked maniacs running at you with buzzaxe in hand and on fire!
However, Psychos are made, not born and Krieg escaped from the laboratory before
he completely lost his mind. Deep inside, there’s still his old self, desperately
trying to keep him under control. Gearbox released a brilliant vid giving his back
story and you should watch it -“A Meat Bicycle Built For Two”. Krieg’s skill is
Rampage. Start a Rampage and you immediately regain all your health and start to
do massive, and I mean massive, melee damage. Every subsequent kill also gives you
your health back. Little gets in your way. Overpowered you may say but to compensate,
it has a 2 minute cooldown. Krieg comes into his own when you get the “Release
the Beast” skill. If you start a rampage with less than a third of your health left,
when you end the rampage you’re ready for the next one immediately. This leads to
high-risk, high-reward gameplay where you’re always on the edge of death. Krieg
is the only character who can tackle the higher levels of the game without using
lots of Slag. In BL2, the Vault Hunters are supposed to be “badass” but they never
felt like it until Krieg. A throwback to the original game and all the better for
it. A friend and I had an amicable challenge to speed run the Bloodshot Stronghold.
His Maya vs my Krieg. I held the record with this run until he discoverd “shamfleeting”
The success of Borderlands took Gearbox by surprise. With Borderlands 2 they knew
it would be popular and planned DLC from the start. Four DLCs were offered under
the title of “The Season Pass”, because of the pre-order offer to buy all of them
at a reduced price. But, yet again, they underestimated demand, and the user base
wanted more and more.