One thing is clear, Gearbox Software is really enthusiastic about their fans. Really, really enthusiastic. Oozing gratitude and humility for the success of Borderlands, the team presenting at PAX was eager to show their love and affection for fans - from free copies of the new game to live demonstrations geared towards showing players of the original all the changes made in response to fan feedback, as well as all the good stuff that’s staying the same.
Like guns, lots and lots of guns. Outdoing the sheer quantity of firepower from the first game comes down to dual wield (in any combination) and unique manufacturers. Emphasis was on the Tediore brand, which are highly disposable. It’s encouraged to toss them away (preferably at an enemy, since they’ll explode) after ammo is depleted. Of course, the explosion is bigger if there’s some ammo in the gun, and the more ammo, the bigger the bang! A replacement Tediore gun? Oh that’s just instantly delivered in its place. Vladof guns warm-up slow then fire in a steady stream, AK-style, and Bandit guns have huge - really huge - ammo clips and seem to be pieced together from pub detritus.
This early it’s difficult to judge the success of their efforts in areas like storytelling, but that Gearbox so clearly recognizes the shortcomings in the first game inspires confidence. For Borderlands 2, writer Anthony Burch and creative director Paul Hellquist worked together so that the story and gameplay would complement one another, instead of having the former relegated to lengthy cut scenes wedged between gameplay (and miserable fetch quests). Still, they want story to be something that players can scale to their experience, so whether the player is following closely along or largely ignoring it in favor mission focus, story will be there in a more palatable way.
Characters (you know the crew - Mordecai, Lilith, Brick and Roland) from the first game will be appearing as NPCs with tie-ins to the sequel storyline, and Salvador the Gunzerker and Maya the Siren were shown off in the demo. Beardy Salvador is a fan of dual wield and can easily be a more brawn than brains type of dwarf, but the presenters are quick to point out that he still has a deep skill tree including Overheat, which grants a faster fire rate the longer you hold the trigger. Showing off his skills in the tundra (where Handsome Jack left him, maybe there’s some revenge on the horizon?) the Gunzerker rescues a buddy and sets about disposing of a giant robot.
AI movements are improved, and enemies can (and will) go anywhere in the environment that you can, as well as make use of environment features. The enemy AI improvements amount to squad-based behaviors with commanding units, those that wait for reinforcements after taking too much damage, and units that can repair/heal others. While the AI is a bit savvier it can also be stunned and injured in addition to just plain blown to pieces. Bullymongs, monsters of many arms that like to chuck ice at you, were encountered. There’s still Psychos, and a Nomad Torturer enemy made memorable use of a Psycho midget bandit as a meat shield. By freeing the midget you create a bit of a distraction: the midget picks a fight with the Nomad Torturer (granted, with no great success).
Environments are larger, and make use of a newly discovered color: green. The characteristic wastelands of Borderlands could, after all, get a little monotonous. Now with an arctic icescape and use of that aforementioned “green” color, the team took inspiration from areas like Iceland and the Scottish Highlands in their level design. Perched atop a level’s vantage point, the team was eager to point out that the green you can view in the distance (and everything in between) is someplace that you can walk to - or maybe drive to, as there is a new driving system (including a four-person party wagon) with new wheel physics. Getting where you’re may not be such a struggle, either, with the new mini-map in the upper right and new user interface. The menu screen has been redesigned with the player and split-screen MP in mind, and the quest system revamped so it’s easier to co-op.
Borderlands was a refreshing addition to the shooter genre - the weapon generation, unique art style, RPG elements and solid shooter mechanics are a winning combination. Borderlands 2 is an iterative take, with expanded environments, improved storytelling, and redesigned interface. It follows that if you like Borderlands, you’ll like Borderlands 2 - and if you were on the fence about the series this may well be enough to sell you.
Want more? Check out my interview with Borderlands 2 Art Director Jeramy Cooke! http://n4g.com/user/blogpos...
Photo credit: Adam Sentz