Friday, June 4, 2021

Borderlands 2: Game of the Year Edition


Bowling for Pandora

The Gearbox Software-developed Borderlands series attracted plentiful attention due to its fusion of first-person shooter and roleplaying game elements, ultimately becoming one of the best-selling videogame franchises of all time, and receiving several console ports. The latest anthology of the games was the Borderlands Legendary Collection for the Nintendo Switch, featuring the first three installments of the franchise, among them being the latest iteration of the first sequel packaged with DLC, Borderlands 2: Game of the Year Edition, which provides an experience largely on par with its precursor, largely a good thing.

When starting a new game, the player can select from one of four different Vault Hunters, each with their own skill tree into which the player can invest points gained from leveling (one per level), providing bonuses such as enhancement to a character’s action skill (with the commando, for instance, able to summon a turret that automatically attacks nearby enemies), quicker shield recovery, and the like. Gone is the Secret of Mana-esque system of increased weapon proficiency with repeated use of specific firearm types, although some abilities in the aforementioned skill trees can enhance attributes such as damage and maximum ammunition, the black market in Sanctuary requiring rare Eridium able to provide addition boosts to max ammo alongside increased inventory space.

Players ultimately get to equip up to four different firearms, alongside equipment such as a shield that provides a buffer to health, a grenade enhancement, a class modification that can provide additional points for skill tree abilities in which the player has invested at least one point, and a relic that can affect things such as melee damage or the power of a specific weapon type. As with the first game, furthermore, losing all health activates a near-death sequence where the player can kill an enemy to revive with shields regenerated and some health, the timeframe for doing so the more often this mode activates gradually decreasing until the chosen Vault Hunter does die.

Fortunately, the death penalty isn’t severe, less than a tenth of the player’s money expended upon revival, but the health of enemies damaged completely restores, which can make some boss fights and annoying enemies repetitive at times. Luckily, grinding isn’t too difficult, with plenty of side missions and DLC in case story quests seem tough, although even those with “Trivial” difficulty, especially timed ones, can still be tedious. Regardless of the flaws, the game mechanics definitely work well, although as with the first game, a steady trigger finger is largely necessary, but there is certainly room for error.

Control is perhaps the weakest point of the first Borderlands sequel. While there are in-game maps, the area design is somewhat horrendous at times, with multiple levels layered over one another and the mentioned maps not distinguishing between them. There’s also no in-game measure of total playtime, alongside the typical Western game issue of unskippable voiced dialogue. Inventory management, given the limit of items the player can carry, can be hard as well, though an upgrade at the Eridium black market in Sanctuary can increase item space. There are some good points such as the largely-clear direction on how to advance, but things could have been better.

Even though the links to the first game aren’t always clear-cut, the central narrative of Borderlands 2 is generally enjoyable, with plentiful humor, even if the storyline feels somewhat forced down the player’s throat, given the unskippable dialogue. The sidequests add plentiful plot as well, with many quirky characters, mature themes, and some coarse language, many of the severe swear words bleeped. Ultimately, the story is definitely a good reason to play.

The second game doesn’t have much memorable music, although the voice acting is top-notch, with plenty of memorable performances such as Sir Hammerlock, Dr. Zed, Handsome Jack, and the mascot Claptrap, and the sound department overall fares decently.

Borderlands 2 also utilizes its predecessor’s superficially-pleasing cel-shaded visual style, with plenty of nice hues and environments that give a comic book feel, although there are some technical hiccups such as poor collision detection and occasional glitches, not to mention blurry and pixilated texturing when the player views many environs close-up.

Finally, the first sequel of the series will last players a good while, somewhere from two to four days’ worth of playtime, depending upon how much of the side content they decide to partake.

All in all, I definitely had a blast with Borderlands 2, given its solid looter-shooter gameplay, humorous narrative, superb voicework, nice cel-shading, and especially its endless lasting appeal that led me to spend more time with it than I usually do on games of its kind. The above-average difficulty may deter some from the experience, as can the sometimes-horrid level design, that players who don’t immediately go from the first to second game may find themselves lost with regards to the plot, the lack of a memorable soundtrack, and various graphical glitches. Regardless, those who enjoyed the first game will most likely enjoy the second.

This review is based on a playthrough of the version digitally downloaded to the player’s Switch of nearly three days’ worth of playtime with the main quest and much post-game content complete.

The Good:
+Great looter-shooter mechanics.
+Humorous plot.
+Great voicework.
+Nice cel-shading.
+Plentiful lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Missions can be hard even with “Trivial” difficulty.
-Some horrid level design.
-Connection to first game not always clear-cut.
-Not a whole lot of memorable music.
-Some graphical imperfections.

The Bottom Line:
An enjoyable looter-shooter.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Mechanics: 8.5/10
Controls: 6.5/10
Story: 8.0/10
Music/Sound: 8.0/10
Graphics: 7.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Moderately Hard
Playing Time: 2-4 Days

Overall: 8.0/10

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