Proof that you can never have too much of a good thing, we’ve covered Borderlands 2 quite extensively, with Rik’s Preview and Alex’s Interview, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to see of the game before its release in September. As a recent preview event proved, there is plenty more to see of the FPS-cum-RPG sequel.
The start of this new section we got to see takes place in the Sanctuary, a town that acts as a hub providing the player with all they need to tackle the upcoming quests. Not only are there the usual Borderlands mainstays such as shops and vending machines, but there are a ton of NPCs dotted around the area, making for a more interesting environment. Those who played the previous game will also meet a few familiar faces, available for a chat or to hand out some missions. Speaking of missions, there are a friggin’ boatload of them. In Sanctuary alone there were easily double figures of available quests to accept. Sanctuary is far more detailed than areas in the previous game, and all of its citizens have their own stories to tell when spoken to.
Another big addition to the game is character customisation. Previously you could just change your name and pick a few colours to liven up your outfit with. Now your character has interchangeable heads and more colour schemes than you can shake a Skag at. A few customisation options are available at the start of the game, but plenty more will be unlockable or found throughout the game.
The skills system has been revamped a fair bit as well. As before, you put points in various perks within three different categories, but this time those categories are better defined and the skills are much more tangible. It was explained that the skills at the mid-point and end of each category are “Gamechanger” skills; perks that are so awesome that they really can define the way you play. For example, the Gunzerker has the “Come At Me, Bro” skill, which comes into play once his Gunzerking skill has been activated (which enables dual-wielding for a short period of time). If you press a particular button you can taunt, which fully heals you, but will cause enemies to be more aggressive towards you. The flip side is that your damage reduction is greatly increased.
Using these new skills really allows you to mould your character the way you want to play the game, and of course you can purchase a re-spec which will allow you to reassign all of your points, all over again. Skill points are earned when levelling up, and although I couldn’t get confirmation of what the game’s level cap would be, I was told that there would be enough skill points to completely fill a category and a half of skills.
While levelling your character is the same as before, there is a new addition that is a brilliant idea. Previously, you could completely level up one class, then when you start a new game with a different class, you start from scratch. Borderlands 2′s new Badass Rank feature allows you to level up your profile and earn abilities that effect all of your saved games, no matter what class. It’s a nice way of rewarding players with multiple playthroughs.
While I did dabble a little with Salvador the Gunzerker, the character I spent the most time with was the Zer0 the Assassin. Similar to Mordecai from the original (my character of choice), his sniping skills and dangerous speed were a perfect match for my style of play. His ability to use stealth invisibility along with dangerous melee strikes are incredibly effective in the right hands. Although only single-player was available during my playtime, it was already clear to me that the new classes offer a lot of potential for co-op (split-screen and online), even more so than the original game.
One of the new missions I experienced as part of the preview was a much different affair than what has come before. After meeting a pint-sized teenage girl named Tiny Tina (and realising how bloodythirsty she is), she requests that you find the guests for her upcoming tea party: Some cuddly toys. Doing so is a simple task, made even easier with the game’s new minimap, but it’s when the first two guests are returned to Tina that the mission starts to get interesting.
Tina requests that you retrieve a guest of honour for the party, and this one is a lot more alive. Travelling to a bandit camp nearby, it is immediately apparent that your final guest is not exactly willing to follow you to the party and his friends aren’t too happy with you either. The enemy design in Borderlands 2 is a lot more interesting than the prequel, and even old foes are a little different. One enemy in particular is holding a gigantic metal shield, with a bandit tied to it. The imprisoned victim’s purpose is clear if killed, as you realise his body is hiding a hole in his captor’s shield from which you can fire bullets through.
The first time I attempted this mission, I failed the mission by shooting the guest. Yes, in Borderlands 2 it is now possible to actually fail missions, requiring you to attempt them again. On my second attempt, I kept the target alive and destroyed his friends, but I still needed to get him to the party. I tried to get him to chase me, but he would get to the outskirts of the camp and just turn away. After a lot of head-scratching I managed to lure him to Tiny Tina by shooting the ground in front of him in order to make him follow me back to the party. The psychopathic 13-year old straps the bandit to a chair at the table, attached to a generator before encouraging you to slap him around a bit.
After switching the generator on, Tina tells you that it takes a while to get going, so the final part of the mission starts when friends of the guest of honour show up to destroy the generator, tasking you with stopping them from doing so. This involves a series of enemy waves (like a mini-horde mode) consisting of gradually tougher enemies. Luckily I was armed with some suitably effective weapons including a new homing grenade. Yes, you read that correctly, a homing grenade.
As you can probably tell, Gearbox have really looked at the original game’s faults and from what I have seen so far, they have fixed them. Borderlands 2 is shaping up to be everything a sequel should be, I would even go so far as to say that it could even be worth a try for those that didn’t like the original game. This could be one of the best games of 2012, no doubt about it.
Borderlands 2 will be released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on September 18 in North America and September 21 in Europe.