Borderlands 2

Since Borderlands 2 was announced I have been sitting with my wallet in my hand just waiting for this to drop. Every trailer, every teaser and every reference just got me more excited. I didn't know what to expect, I just knew that it would be incredible. The day it hits I get it, sit down and play it for an hour and BOOM, I'm right back where I left off. I'm shooting guns, using powers and watching heads explode. 

Borderlands 2 is probably the best sequel I have ever played. It feels like the first one, but nothing is the same! The most obvious difference is that Pandora now feels like a vibrant, living place. What once was a vast wasteland filled with savage psychos and beasts is.. still a planet populated primarily by savage psychos and beasts. But it isn't so lonely anymore, thanks to an expanded cast of diverse and entertaining characters.

My favourite familiar faces return! Claptrap, Scooter and Moxxi are all there, and are better than ever before. The four playable characters from the first game are back as well, and they each play a huge role in the story and have way more spoken lines than ever before. I didn't even realise they had more than 3 or 4 expressions each. There are some amazing new additions too! The main villain, Handsome Jack, is such an awesome character. I found myself laughing at him, furious with him and really being pulled in to the overall character, which doesn't usually happen with me. 

Tiny Tina might be the best character they put in that game, just purely for the dialogue. Random townsfolk also have a few things to say, no longer content with mute or monosyllabic responses, and even the bandits you fight have a broader range of context-sensitive taunts. I love the Skyrim easter egg "I used to be a vault hunter like you until I took a bullet to the knee".

The huge amount of high-quality voice acting required to bring this world to life is fuelled by excellent writing, which provides some genuinely incredible verbal abuse and surprisingly tender and soft moments amid the avalanche of genuinely laugh-out-loud funny lines. I would be playing along and I would ever hear chuckles from my girlfriend and the onslaught of amazing one liners. The breadth of personalities invigorates your adventure and makes Pandora a lively and very interactive place. That's not to say it wasn't before. I never noticed something was missing until they added so much more to the new game. The only drawback to the sheer volume of communication is that sometimes conversations are cut off by other incoming messages before you can hear them through. This doesn't pose any barrier to progression, but with dialogue this good, you don't want to miss a word. I found myself actually upset that I didn't get to hear the end of sentences. 

Borderlands 2 will keep you busy for a very, very long time. The environments of Pandora are more vibrant and diverse this time around. I spent hours on hunting down the easter eggs alone. The original Borderlands title was phenomenal, entertaining and one of my favourite titles. It had a compelling storyline, characters that needed serious psychiatric therapy and comedy that I wish every game would exhibit, as I have already explained. So let's look at the characters:

Brick, everyone’s favourite Berserker is replaced by Salvador a gnome-sized Gunzerker who is somehow the smallest character with the biggest guns. He can duel wield and it just makes him looks so baddass. Lilith is replaced by Maya, also a siren, who is able to freeze an enemy in place. It makes it easier to pick away the other enemies before your health hits zero. Speaking of, Mordecai has been replaced by Zero, an equally range-styled character with an unequally vicious ability to create a decoy of himself in close combat, go invisible and land a critical hit on any enemy nearby. This was my reason for choosing him, plus Zero is totally badass which in the is never a bad thing. Finally Roland is replaced with Axton who is exactly the same and relies on his turret to destroy any enemies.

There is a fifth class which is available for download that I had actually gotten with my pre-order, Gaige, a delightful and positively cute girl who when annoyed summons a scrap robot called Deathtrap who for lack of better wording is a robot that hates everything equally holds nothing back on arsenal and ammunition. Gaige is a class known as “Mechromancer”. Instead of creating completely new characters, the characters have just been improved upon, but lets face it, that's because they are nearing perfection as it is. I was pretty sad that the Mechromancer wasn't released when the game was, as I didn't wish to start again with a new character. Still, she is insanely impressive, I highly recommend her.

More than in the first game, the abilities fit together nicely in co-op. the Gunzerker can be more reckless with friends around to revive him, the Assassin benefits hugely from distracted enemies, and it’s a relief for everyone when the toughest enemy in a fight is suddenly plucked into the air by the Siren. The interface for joining a co-op game is much nicer this time, and it’s better at handling how quests are shared. 

In addition to missions, there is an expanded array of challenges. These goals are automatically tracked and reward you for actions like taking down a certain number of skags or getting a lot of elemental kills. New location-specific challenges give you further incentive to find hidden secrets in each area. Every challenge completed increases your badass rank, which in turn gives you small bonuses to various attributes (such as gun damage, fire rate, and shield recharge delay) that apply to any character you create, not just your current one. Tweaking challenges and introducing cross-character bonuses aren't big additions to the game, but they serve as a nice acknowledgement of the fact that many players want to play as multiple characters. It certainly gives me reason to start the game again, even if just to make my baddass rank even higher.

This review is coming to you quite late so I've actually had a chance to play the first instalment of the 4 DLC's that will drop. This one is titled "Captain Scarlett and her Pirate's Booty. This couldn't of come at a better time. I wrapped up the game and came to do the news for KJBcast that day and the DLC had just been announced. It could not of been better timing! 

There’s a pretty straightforward story to this expansion that has you looking for four compasses that, when put together, will lead you to a secret treasure.Captain Scarlett tasks you with exploring every corner of the vast desert plain of Oasis. As you hunt down these compass holding targets you will run into new faces, and that’s pretty much the main mission in its entirety. There are a few side quests, but unlike the main game, this won't take long.

Captain Scarlett does, rather nicely, reward you for finishing the main story by giving you a lot of treasure chests containing rare items, not unlike the secret armoury of General Knoxx from the first game. The best part about this is that you have the option to redo everything again once you’ve finished it once before which gives you yet another chance to reap the rewards. This is a great place to just farm experience points since enemies are in the hundreds. 

I will say this, though. Unlike many DLC packs out there, this is not confined to a few new maps or an entirely linear story tacked on to the middle of the game. It's not just them offering you some small thing that is completely inconsequential. This DLC is extremely fun, I just expected more! The repetitive nature of the side quests can be a bit much, but it's worth it. The new enemies, weapons, and environments, not to mention the new cast of characters, all makes for a great reason to dip back into Borderlands 2 - if, that is, you ever stopped vault hunting in the first place.

For this, and more, I think that this game couldn't be better. There is nothing I could/would change about it! I'm waiting eagerly for the other DLC's to drop, and you should be to! This game is nothing short of perfect. I do wish that the Mechromancer came out on the day, but I'll let that slide.

Overall Score: 10/10

- Ken Seiler