WIEP: Borderlands 2

Property of 2KGames and Gearbox Software.

You might be asking: “Uhhh, WTH does WIEP stand for??”  It means: What Is Effy Playing?  I thought about putting WRUP (What R U Playing), but it did not seem appropriate.

So, there you go.

Anyway, this weekend and through the week, the time of both Laz and myself has been consumed with lots of Borderlands 2.

What about Guild Wars 2?

Well, a somewhat disheartening corpse-hop of a cluster-eff dungeon is what happened, and GW2 has just not been the same since.  I still like the game and the story (and Charr and their tails), but the idea of going all the way to 80 to do more of the ArenaNet-tried-way-too-hard-to-kill-the-Holy-Trinity style of dungeon crawling is not really that appealing.

It was a nightmare, and not in a fun, scare yourself silly and throw the popcorn in surprise kind of way, more in the scare you stupid so you cannot sleep for two weeks kind of way.

So yah, NOT fun.  (But, no, it did not actually affect my sleeping, that was just a really bad comparison.)  The whole thing was thoroughly disappointing to both Laz and myself, because we were really enjoying the game up to that point.

You cannot say “there are no tanks” and then add mechanics that require tanking and expect things to go at all smoothly.  (I am looking you, Ghostly Mesmer Lovers of Ascalon Catacombs.)

But hey, it is FTP, and ArenaNet already got my money, so it will stay on the computer and I will surely continue to fiddle with my Elementalist and other characters.

Now, on to what I did this weekend.

The Story

I put this first, because I have come to realize that although there are many things that give a game the ability to keep you entertained, the story behind the game is really what makes the difference for me.  Other things can break it, but a good story will keep me coming back – at least until I get through that entire story once.  Then, yah, it is about the game and the re-playability.

In Borderlands 2, obviously there is a story that came before it, but it is presented in a way that you feel brought up to speed while you go.  It also serves to make you feel you are thrown right into the middle of the action.  (That and the introduction – above – with the tidbits of how you end up face-down in a snowbank, left for dead, and greeted by a bi-polar robot.)  It still makes me interested in the first game, to discover the full story there too.

The antagonist (and I use this term in its most literal sense) is Handsome Jack.  Jack is the epitome of the villain you love to hate.  He is charismatic and ruthless, and spends the whole game (mostly along the main thread of the questing) antagonizing you as you go.  Apparently, you surviving his craftily constructed deathtrap has left him with a bit of a need to thoroughly finish what he started – as painfully as possible.

Before playing, the premise behind the game was interesting, a planet far, far away in an undisclosed amount of time in the future, and everyone looking for an alien vault.  The lure of wild riches and fame, of course.  Which makes it at first just sound like a typical shoot ’em up bang-bang game.  Perfect for an FPS.

After watching the intro, I was a tad more intrigued, because these game devs look a bit willing to go all out to tell their tale.  After about an hour of playing – because yah, there is lots of shooting stuff, whee! – I was hooked for good.

The characters are real in a gritty way.  All the characters act like real people and not mindless NPCs giving you quests.  It pulls you in quickly, and for me, made the story real and emotional.  Twice in the main story line already I have caught myself stunned, angry, sad, or a combination of all of them.

Evoking emotion = good storytelling IMO.

Pandora is a planet in upheaval, so there is the big-bad corporation (Handsome Jack’s Hyperion Corporation), the resistance (the Crimson Raiders), the lawless bandits (of various factions with names like the Bloodshots), and the normal folk who are caught in the middle.

This also means there is violence, language, and mature references.  But I am an adult, and I like to be treated as one even when I game.  So this was actually refreshing.

In summary: I say play this even if it is just for the story.  I maybe more of a fantasy-oriented person, but I enjoy a well-told sci-fi story.  THIS is a well-told sci-fi story.

The Game

As far as gameplay itself goes, let my preface this part by saying that I have not played an FPS in about 10 years.  So I was expecting to be rusty as hell.  So much so in fact, I was not sure how easily I would make the transition.  I kept telling myself that the TERA and Guilds Wars 2 playstyles were going to help get me through.

I received Borderlands 2 for free with my new video card, and Laz was restrained but obviously ecstatic about the idea of us playing an FPS.  So I figured it would be a good distraction to keep us from getting burnt out on more MMOs, and Laz kept telling me how much like an MMO it was setup – levels and skills and specs and loot and questing, etc.

Starting to Play

Laz made the car pink for me ❤

Aiming with the mouse – check.  WASD – check.  Jumping with the spacebar – check.  (In fact, the atmosphere on Pandora is lighter than in any game in recent memory – except maybe Star Trek Online, I suppose, but I did not play that for very long.  So jumping is slightly exaggerated and really fun.)

So far, Borderlands 2 was feeling familiar enough.

Less than thirty minutes into my playtime duo’ing with Laz, I was dying some but having a ton of fun.  In fact, the evening shot by in a flash, and suddenly it was 2am.  Whoa.  The sleepiness hit me like a wall, and Laz and I crashed.

Saturday and Sunday were much the same, and when everything was all said and done, Laz and I were Level 23.  That is almost halfway to 50.

An FPS Game…

Since I am usually focused and running for my life during fights, instead of an action shot, you get another pretty gun!

It is definitely an FPS.  Lots of shooting and explosions and blood.

One of the most interesting types of NPC’s of note is the Psycho.  These guys are like the one pictured in the main banner of the game (a version of which is at the beginning of this post).  They are more likely to run straight at your face then hide behind a box and plink at you.  They also come in various forms – some throw bombs, some ARE bombs, some breath fire, some are on fire.  All and all, between the way they approach you and the various comments they make (stuff like, “I will wear your skin!” or “new meat puppet!”) I feel fully justified in dropping these guys, and quick.

Did I mention the game is gritty and real and unrestrained?

The bestial enemies are also very interesting.  First thing you notice, is these guys can really jump…  Do not assume you are high enough to snipe at them from a safe height.  Also, some can phase and stealth.  So far, they only seem to do this in combat, and I have not walked face-first into any stealthed creatures yet.  We shall see.

The key is moving… a lot.

There are also lots of ways to use the terrain to your advantage.  Hiding behind things can be useful (except when a Psycho or Midget or beast runs straight at you).  Barrels come in many varieties, and you can blow them up on enemies, but beware, you can also blow them up in your own face or the face of a friend.  (I might have done that once or twice…)

…With an RPG Feel

Whereas Borderlands 2 is very much as FPS, it also has a lot that feels familiar to us RPG’ers.

It has been a long time since I played an FPS, as I mentioned before, but I do not really recall questing in those other games.  I remember running from Point A to Point B, because there was really only one way to enter and exit from each area.  Sure, there were bosses and items to open doors and such, but it was more of a steady progression through a linear “world.”

This game does it different – there are actual quests and actual levels.  There is a quest log and you can have numerous quests in different areas at one time – just like the RPG’s I am more familiar with.  The Level cap is 50, and you receive skill points each level, starting at Level 5.  Level 5 is also when you receive your class skill.

Spec’ing a character is also something I have not seen in an FPS before.

In fact, as it turns out, Laz has spec’d “tank” on his Gunzerker, Salvadore, and I have spec’d “healer” on my Siren, Maya.  Surprised?  Mmhmm…

Another feature I find great: the entire game is voice-acted – all the quests and all of your random interactions with NPC’s.

The best part is, if you do not want the voice-acting to slow you down, you can just keep going, because everything is presented to you via communicators and ECHOs (which are basically recorded audio journals) in the top right at your minimap.  It is both voice-acted and in subtitles, so to make you less likely to miss anything.  But even while a story scene is going on, you can keep forging ahead.

So no worries, the story does not slow the killing!

The only downside to this is that sometimes, when a quest updates or you reach a waypoint in a quest, this can interrupt the current scene you are listening to with the new one.

Because of this, I am currently looking for some way to re-access the previous ECHOs.  Maybe I will end up looking to YouTube, as I would really like to see the rest of Maya’s story.

Lots of Guns

One thing that Borderlands 2 advertises is bazillions of guns (or some similarly absurd number).  After some time playing the game, I have to say, yes, this is probably the truth.  There are a number of stats that are standard for each gun (accuracy, fire speed), certain guns have additional stats (+150% crit damage, +50% melee damage), and then there is gun type (pistol, sniper), gun sights (scope, no scope, and various types of each), and color/design.  Lastly, there are guns that deal elemental damage.

My favorite so far?  Definitely my pink camo handgun!

Elemental Damage

I have this weird obsession with setting people on fire…

This is where I think things get really fun.  Strangely enough, it worked out perfectly for my Siren – she is very elemental damage oriented.

There are several types of elemental damage types that are available in both weaponry, mobs, and barrels.

  • Fire – Does extra fire damage, and has a chance to burn targets.  Very useful against mobs with flesh.
  • Electricity – Does electricity damage, and has a chance to electrocute targets.  Very useful against mobs with shields, as this eats through a shield quick.
  • Corrosive – Does corrosive damage, and has a chance to put a corrosive DoT on a target.  I find this very effective against robots.
  • Slag – Slag does not deal extra damage, but it coats the target with a debuffing sludge, causing them to take more damage.  Slag is best used in tandem with another type of weapon.
  • Explosive – Somewhat self-explanatory, it blows up on your target and others standing nearby.  But DO NOT forget the explosive damage……..

…And electrocuting them.  I dunno… it is fun to watch.  :/

Classes

Out of the box, so to say, Borderlands 2 has four classes.  The fifth class is included with the pre-order (sad face), and is also not yet available.  (October 16th?)  However, she will also be available for purchase, and since I got the game for free, I might do just that.

Because if Gaige is anything like crazy little Tina, she will be quite interesting.

Each class has a spec skill that is useable on cooldown available at Level 5.

  • Commando (Anton) – Has a gun turret he can deploy, which makes for a great distraction.
  • Gunzerker (Salvadore) – Can dual-wield his guns.
  • Assassin (Zero) – Can stealth and set a decoy of himself to lure enemies.
  • Siren (Maya) – Can Phaselock enemies, temporarily suspending them between dimensions.  A very wonderful CC, and if a target (like a boss) cannot be CC’d, Phaselock does a substantial amount of damage.
  • Mechromancer (Gaige) – She has a giant killer golem!!

UI & Features

One thing sci-fi games have going for them, is most take full advantage of the fact that highly advanced technology equals a good way to display your UI.  The UI for Borderlands 2 is completely handled by a computer device you receive at the beginning of the game.  This includes your quests, your backpack, your skill trees, and your achievements and challenges.

There is also a system of modding in the game.  You start with a certain number of options for how your character looks, and you receive more throughout the game as quest rewards, random loot, and purchasable items.

There are also mods to your vehicle.  (Oh yah, I have a car!  It is badazz!)

Modding your character is done at a mod station.  Facial features, color scheme, and name are changeable.  You can also respec for a fee.

Vehicle modding is done at the Catch-a-Ride stations where you get your car.

The Conclusion

After almost a week, I am feeling pretty good about Borderlands 2.  I am not sure what there is available for max level characters, but since I am not there yet, I am just enjoying the ride.  The story is pulling me along nicely, and I hope it keeps up its current momentum, and the action is just incredible.

I also purchased Torchlight 2 along with some friends.  As soon as I can get the “gift” to work through Steam, I will be trying that out and likely posting my thoughts.

As usual, despite how long-winded I am, I still feel I have forgotten something.  Please feel to let me know if you figure it out.  🙂

~ Effy

WRUP?  Have you tried Borderlands 2?

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