Giant Bomb News

89 Comments

Borderlands 2: On Skill Trees, Psychotic Children, and the Joys of Being a Ninja

Gearbox gives us a couple of hours with its upcoming shooter/RPG sequel, and we give you this preview. Fair trade, no?

The magic of 2009's Borderlands was somewhat lost on me, I'm afraid. While I adored the aesthetic of Gearbox's ludicrous shooter/RPG hybrid, the lack of any meaningful story and my own aversion to games that trade heavily in "loot hoarding" (I refuse to use the more crass term for it) all but ensured that, with nothing else to excite me, I'd give up a short chunk of the way through. For me, it was like the difference between understanding something to be funny, and actually laughing at it. I could see why so many people, our own Jeff Gerstmann among them, could fall victim to Borderlands' beguiling charms. I was just immune.

Characters can be customized with all sorts of new outfits and heads, many of which are hidden throughout the game.

So understand that when I say to you Borderlands 2 appears to be a massive improvement over Borderlands, I realize that the things that are important to me might not necessarily be the things that are important to you. What I have seen of Borderlands 2 thus far shows me a much more cartoonishly over-the-top game, a game that embraces the undercurrent of lunacy from the first game, and jabs a pitchfork into its ass to rile it up. It's bigger, louder, and more willfully nutty than last go around, which for those who just care about the loot and the character building might not care so much about. Don't worry, there's plenty to talk about there, too.

I'll admit that the first time I sat down to play some co-op Borderlands 2, I wasn't overly impressed. Having now seen it a second time, I realize that this has got to be one of the most nightmarish games to show to the press. Quests and sidequests are so sprawling and deliberate in pace that anyone trying to show off multiple aspects of the game would be hard-pressed to do so in a timely fashion. In fact, just before letting the press have a go with it earlier this week, Gearbox head Randy Pitchford spent damn near 10 minutes just explaining the myriad things they wanted to cover, and the various developer cheats they were going to have to use to show us all those things. It was a long list.

I also think I just wasn't digging the classes as much at first. On my first play, I messed around with the Gunzerker and Siren, the two classes Gearbox has been showing for the last few months. They're fun, interesting classes (that dual-wielding mechanic the Gunzerker has is deeper than it first seems), but neither really clicked with me. Fast forward to this week, and I found myself with access to the Commando and Assassin classes. Now I'm all turned around on the subject.

It was really the Commando that did it for me, though the Assassin's pretty fantastic as well (more on him momentarily). But the Commando, with his wonderfully helpful turrets and outlandishly explosive upgrades, really won me over.

Skill trees go deeper than ever before, and the upgrades have more impact.

Having only messed with Roland a bit in the first game, I'll just say that while his turret stuff was neat, Axton (the Commando) is a whole other deal entirely. We were shown characters at levels 25 and 35, so we got to go pretty deep into one of the individual skill trees for each character. For the Commando, it's all about how you build out your turrets. You'll of course start out with minor upgrades like ammo counts and cool down periods, but as you start going further in, you'll be able to do all sorts of wacky stuff. You can add grenade launchers, rocket blasters, and even stack a second turret on top of your main one, with all upgrades included. There's even an option to make your turret stick to any surface, including walls and ceilings. When you're trying to avoid getting swarmed by rabid creatures, this can come in handy.

The Assassin goes the other route, focusing on stealth and deception. But what's great about the Assassin is that it doesn't rigidly put you into one box or another. There are a variety of ways to Assassinate, after all, and depending on which skill tree you opt to go with. If you're a sniper who likes to pick enemies off from afar, then there's a whole line of upgrades just for that task. If you prefer things up close and personal, you can pump up his melee stats majorly, as well as his hologram/cloaking abilities. Yes, he projects a hologram of himself as a special ability, and while it's there, he stays cloaked for a few seconds, letting you dive in for the kill. Without giving away too many of the ways that ability can be improved, let's just say there's a fun way to turn that combo into an insane chain of attacks.

These customizations go a good bit deeper and are more immediately impactful than many of the first game's, but really, it wasn't necessarily any issue with the class customization of the first game that prevented me from really enjoying it. More, it was the sense of emptiness I got from the game's story. Loot, on its own, is not enough to attract me to a game. And while a "bazillion" more guns sounds promising enough, I needed something more interesting to rope me in.

Enter Borderlands 2's script, penned by Anthony Burch. I'm not going to say I've seen enough to definitively say whether Borderlands 2's story is good, exactly, but everything I've seen is damn funny. It's quirky, irreverent stuff that has a purposeful rhythm and pace to it, something that video game comedy often fails at. Nowhere is this clearer than with the new character introduced in this latest demo: Tiny Tina. You may have noticed that pig-tailed tween girl with the murderous glint in her eye in the latest trailer. That's Tina.

Tiny Tina throws the worst tea parties... but maybe don't tell her that.

Tina's a survivor, a 13 year old girl who's spent a good chunk of her life living feral in the wastelands of Pandora. All that time alone has, perhaps unsurprisingly, left her a bit south of normal, mentally. She's an Adderall-addled manic pixie nightmare, who may or may not be using you to seek revenge against those who killed her parents. Oh, and she's voiced by Ashly Burch, who you may know from her and brother Anthony's web series, Hey Ash, What'cha Playin'. Accuse nepotism all you like, but Burch is perfect. She's hysterical, and gives Tina just the right mix of girly sweetness and unhinged lunacy.

Several hours with Borderlands never managed to sell me, and yet just a few hours with Borderlands 2 has piqued my curiosity anew. Yes, this is in many ways just more Borderlands, but it's a lot more of Borderlands, and with many of that first game's more underutilized aspects suddenly getting more attention. In short, Borderlands 2 looks like it's going to fix a lot of things I didn't like about Borderlands. Come September, we'll all find out for sure.

Alex Navarro on Google+
89 Comments
  • 89 results
  • 1
  • 2
Posted by Alex

The magic of 2009's Borderlands was somewhat lost on me, I'm afraid. While I adored the aesthetic of Gearbox's ludicrous shooter/RPG hybrid, the lack of any meaningful story and my own aversion to games that trade heavily in "loot hoarding" (I refuse to use the more crass term for it) all but ensured that, with nothing else to excite me, I'd give up a short chunk of the way through. For me, it was like the difference between understanding something to be funny, and actually laughing at it. I could see why so many people, our own Jeff Gerstmann among them, could fall victim to Borderlands' beguiling charms. I was just immune.

Characters can be customized with all sorts of new outfits and heads, many of which are hidden throughout the game.

So understand that when I say to you Borderlands 2 appears to be a massive improvement over Borderlands, I realize that the things that are important to me might not necessarily be the things that are important to you. What I have seen of Borderlands 2 thus far shows me a much more cartoonishly over-the-top game, a game that embraces the undercurrent of lunacy from the first game, and jabs a pitchfork into its ass to rile it up. It's bigger, louder, and more willfully nutty than last go around, which for those who just care about the loot and the character building might not care so much about. Don't worry, there's plenty to talk about there, too.

I'll admit that the first time I sat down to play some co-op Borderlands 2, I wasn't overly impressed. Having now seen it a second time, I realize that this has got to be one of the most nightmarish games to show to the press. Quests and sidequests are so sprawling and deliberate in pace that anyone trying to show off multiple aspects of the game would be hard-pressed to do so in a timely fashion. In fact, just before letting the press have a go with it earlier this week, Gearbox head Randy Pitchford spent damn near 10 minutes just explaining the myriad things they wanted to cover, and the various developer cheats they were going to have to use to show us all those things. It was a long list.

I also think I just wasn't digging the classes as much at first. On my first play, I messed around with the Gunzerker and Siren, the two classes Gearbox has been showing for the last few months. They're fun, interesting classes (that dual-wielding mechanic the Gunzerker has is deeper than it first seems), but neither really clicked with me. Fast forward to this week, and I found myself with access to the Commando and Assassin classes. Now I'm all turned around on the subject.

It was really the Commando that did it for me, though the Assassin's pretty fantastic as well (more on him momentarily). But the Commando, with his wonderfully helpful turrets and outlandishly explosive upgrades, really won me over.

Skill trees go deeper than ever before, and the upgrades have more impact.

Having only messed with Roland a bit in the first game, I'll just say that while his turret stuff was neat, Axton (the Commando) is a whole other deal entirely. We were shown characters at levels 25 and 35, so we got to go pretty deep into one of the individual skill trees for each character. For the Commando, it's all about how you build out your turrets. You'll of course start out with minor upgrades like ammo counts and cool down periods, but as you start going further in, you'll be able to do all sorts of wacky stuff. You can add grenade launchers, rocket blasters, and even stack a second turret on top of your main one, with all upgrades included. There's even an option to make your turret stick to any surface, including walls and ceilings. When you're trying to avoid getting swarmed by rabid creatures, this can come in handy.

The Assassin goes the other route, focusing on stealth and deception. But what's great about the Assassin is that it doesn't rigidly put you into one box or another. There are a variety of ways to Assassinate, after all, and depending on which skill tree you opt to go with. If you're a sniper who likes to pick enemies off from afar, then there's a whole line of upgrades just for that task. If you prefer things up close and personal, you can pump up his melee stats majorly, as well as his hologram/cloaking abilities. Yes, he projects a hologram of himself as a special ability, and while it's there, he stays cloaked for a few seconds, letting you dive in for the kill. Without giving away too many of the ways that ability can be improved, let's just say there's a fun way to turn that combo into an insane chain of attacks.

These customizations go a good bit deeper and are more immediately impactful than many of the first game's, but really, it wasn't necessarily any issue with the class customization of the first game that prevented me from really enjoying it. More, it was the sense of emptiness I got from the game's story. Loot, on its own, is not enough to attract me to a game. And while a "bazillion" more guns sounds promising enough, I needed something more interesting to rope me in.

Enter Borderlands 2's script, penned by Anthony Burch. I'm not going to say I've seen enough to definitively say whether Borderlands 2's story is good, exactly, but everything I've seen is damn funny. It's quirky, irreverent stuff that has a purposeful rhythm and pace to it, something that video game comedy often fails at. Nowhere is this clearer than with the new character introduced in this latest demo: Tiny Tina. You may have noticed that pig-tailed tween girl with the murderous glint in her eye in the latest trailer. That's Tina.

Tiny Tina throws the worst tea parties... but maybe don't tell her that.

Tina's a survivor, a 13 year old girl who's spent a good chunk of her life living feral in the wastelands of Pandora. All that time alone has, perhaps unsurprisingly, left her a bit south of normal, mentally. She's an Adderall-addled manic pixie nightmare, who may or may not be using you to seek revenge against those who killed her parents. Oh, and she's voiced by Ashly Burch, who you may know from her and brother Anthony's web series, Hey Ash, What'cha Playin'. Accuse nepotism all you like, but Burch is perfect. She's hysterical, and gives Tina just the right mix of girly sweetness and unhinged lunacy.

Several hours with Borderlands never managed to sell me, and yet just a few hours with Borderlands 2 has piqued my curiosity anew. Yes, this is in many ways just more Borderlands, but it's a lot more of Borderlands, and with many of that first game's more underutilized aspects suddenly getting more attention. In short, Borderlands 2 looks like it's going to fix a lot of things I didn't like about Borderlands. Come September, we'll all find out for sure.

Posted by aquamarin

pretty cool.

Posted by Skyfire543

This is awesome, thanks alex

Posted by Grimmy616

Hold on. Unlockable costumes that are NOT Paid DLC? WHAT IS THIS MADNESS GEARBOX I LOVE YOU

Online
Posted by GERALTITUDE

I want to like Borderlands but it just seems too fast-paced for me. Can this game be played slow-like?

Edited by Ravenlight
What is even going on here?
Posted by Joemotycki

Woot.

Posted by smallmanoncampus

Great preview.

Posted by Xeirus

Even though I'm not interested in playing this game at all, it looks awesome. It's amazing what a game can look like with some damn color in it.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

Wasn't Borderlands a 2009 game, not 2010?

Posted by HellBrendy

I am so stoked for this game I can barely contain my orgasm.

Posted by Redbullet685

@MooseyMcMan said:

Wasn't Borderlands a 2009 game, not 2010?

Yes it was. I demand a correction in the article!

Posted by MooseyMcMan

@Redbullet685 said:

@MooseyMcMan said:

Wasn't Borderlands a 2009 game, not 2010?

Yes it was. I demand a correction in the article!

It is done!

Posted by Jolt92

I can't wait for this game, nice to hear that you've been enjoying the new classes

Posted by nickux

"The magic of 2009's Borderlands was somewhat lost on me, I'm afraid."

Say whaaaaaat? Madness. Pure madness!

Posted by Rmack

My whole love for Brick in the first game was based around him punching things and watching them explode, so now I'm unsure if I want to switch to either a Siren or Assassin.

Posted by Jugg4n4ut

@Grimmy616 said:

Hold on. Unlockable costumes that are NOT Paid DLC? WHAT IS THIS MADNESS GEARBOX I LOVE YOU

iknorite? blasphemy!!!

Posted by Phatmac

Glad to see that the story aspects of it are actually being improved. I'm with you Alex as I didn't really enjoy Borderlands at all. I still find it odd that people were so in love with the first game. I need more than loot and leveling up for me to care and Borderlands didn't deliver that with it's MMO like mission system. Hopefully the story is more fun and at least interesting. It doesn't have to be a great story, but give me a reason to continue on in your game please. Anyway, I hope Borderlands 2 surprises me!

Posted by Sin4profit

I watched the Hey Ash series up until their Geometry Wars 2 video...

Posted by JeanLuc

I can't wait for this game!

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@MooseyMcMan said:

Wasn't Borderlands a 2009 game, not 2010?

I think it might have been October 2008. October something, so I'm not surprised the year is hazy for people.

Posted by OneKillWonder_

All these new previews and videso coming out for BL2 today are fantastic. This is definitely one of those games that I don't need to see more of to know I'll be buying it anyway, but goddamn I cannot soak up enough of this game to be satiated until I'm playing it for myself.

Edited by bybeach

I was going to ask what the hell was wrong with Tina, her parents either killed by bandits or somone wasting good lsd by evilly slipping it to her. Turns out I was half right...her parents. I saw her in that winoweh trailer and I thought it a bit much..but if she has grown up way too fast and has revenge on her mind, I could sort of understand it in a Borderlands game.

the commando character at least appeals to me.....

Posted by tsiro

Holy hell I can't wait for this game. Nice write-up! I'm so happy that they're keeping so much of what made Borderlands (in my mind) awesome, while even appealing to people who didn't enjoy the original as much!

Posted by lead_farmer

aaaraarggghh i want this game

Posted by BrockNRolla

Really looking forward to this. I hope they really lean into the crazy and the humor like they did in the DLC. If they do, I don't see how this won't be great.

Posted by DaemonBlack

It's strange that Alex went to this preview and not Jeff.

Posted by ThatPrimeGuy

Is someone making a Brony gunzerker in that second image?

ಠ_ಠ

Posted by joeytdog

Ok best trailer for the game period.

Posted by beepmachine

I'm still skeptical. I didn't really like borderlands. I mean, it wasn't the worst game, but I was expecting a lot (for some reason) and it let me down so I have a pretty strong grudge against it. I didn't find it funny or clever at all, the game was a buggy mess on the pc, and the story was garbage. I'd definitely be willing to try it, but only if the reviews are amazing or it drops in price.

Posted by Zippedbinders

@Rmack said:

My whole love for Brick in the first game was based around him punching things and watching them explode, so now I'm unsure if I want to switch to either a Siren or Assassin.

Punching explosions into people and making money fall out with every blow was one of my favorite things about Borderlands, the Gunzerker just doesn't fill that hole in my heart. So I too must find a new class.

Posted by Toxin066

I like that the trailer didn't use WOBWOB or trance. It was a nice change of pace from every other trailer currently in existence.

Also, two turrets on top of each other. Did I read that right? Can I stack my turrets? Please let me stack 2 turrets on top of each other. Hanging from the ceiling.

Posted by probablytuna

Playing the first one right now, trying to catch up before the sequel comes out!

Posted by Suits

seems like soldier has an actual use this time around. good to hear some more facts about the improvements on Borderlands, still a bit vague but promising

Posted by PenguinDust

This game keeps looking better and better to me. I am one of those who drank the Kool-Aid, and I fell in love with the original. Story didn't matter to me as much as leveling up and getting better gear. The sequel is definitely my most (and only) anticipated game for the remainder of this year. Hell, I am toying with the idea of picking this up the week it comes out. That says a lot about how I feel. Chances are I'll probably wait to hear the general consensus on it, though.

Online
Posted by embryo69

This is the ONLY game I have been looking forward to this year. I really hope Gearbox deliver on their promises.

Posted by MideonNViscera

I went on a pre-ordering spree today and this was one of them. Best fuckin co-op game.

Posted by RedRavN

What I liked about borderlands was that it had all of the best aspects of an MMO or action rpg but played liked a solid fps. That combined with the irreverent and funny humor with the great environments to explore put the game over the top for me. Borderlands 2 seems to have made the game even better and thats exciting.

Posted by ajamafalous

But, like... is it actually funny? 
 
I really love Borderlands, but I found some of the characters in the first game (i.e. Scooter and Claptrap) aggressively unfunny. For me, they fall directly in the "trying way too hard" category.

Posted by BraveToaster

This is going to be awesome!

Posted by ripelivejam

@Ravenlight said:

What is even going on here?

i blame numbers stations

Posted by Chumm
Posted by TheLastGunslinger

I wonder if anyone has been able to go hands-on with the Mechromancer yet.

Posted by Silock

That was a seriously awesome trailer!

Posted by InternetDetective

Borderlands had flaws but it was a really fun/cool game. Looking forward to see what the sequel has in store. Donna Barstow is a racist.

Posted by D_train_lives

awesome the guns sound alot better so do the buggys great sound all around

Posted by Parsnip

Can not wait.
Also woot, more customizations than just colors.

Posted by allodude

@ajamafalous: I think Claptrap is funny solely because he's trying too hard to be funny.

Posted by Jinto

Anyone else think the character of Tiny Tina was inspired by "Radical Edward" from Cowboy Bebop?

Posted by Daiphyer

@DaemonBlack said:

It's strange that Alex went to this preview and not Jeff.

East-Coast, West-Coast.

  • 89 results
  • 1
  • 2