Hurray! I've just completed Borderlands 2! It certainly took me a while, but I decided to take my time with it (even so much as creating an alt while I was in the middle of my first playthrough) doing just about every side quest available, spending like up to an hour at a time on the slot machines... and there's been plenty of occasions where I've left the game running when I've gone to do something else, so I've undoubtedly added a lot of padding to my overall playtime. But regardless of how much time was spent, that time was spent having a bloody lot of fun.
I mean it's true, Borderlands 2 is simply more Borderlands -- *Morederlands ect ect.* And as someone who absolutely adores Borderlands, I was plenty content in following the same waypoints everywhere and being spurned on by the ever attractive proposition of more stuff. The game's also really funny! Even if, yes, the challenge stuff is filled with a bunch of lazy callbacks to jokes from the mid naughts (oughts?) that weren't even all that funny to begin with. But a large majority of the writing surrounding the enemies you face, and not to mention the brilliant variety of side missions (Jack asking you to kill yourself; SHOOT HIM IN THE HEAD guy; And of course Mal, the hyperion robot who's going through a bit of an identity crisis) all completely overshadow the few still very poor memetic jokes you may encounter here and there.
There is one thing that felt... not so much out of place, but like it too was going through some sort of identity crisis; a transition to say the least. By which I of course mean the story. However, before I go any further, it still has to be applauded that it's actually a story. The first game was primarily just a bunch of quests filtered through goofy characters with a big ole MacGuffin snuggled in the middle. Borderlands 2 actually has a narrative. You're no longer permitted to just read through a wad of text per every quest, and Gearbox have certainly learned well from their time with stuff like General Knoxx and its stronger focus on storytelling. We now have what resembles an actual structure, a more prominent villain to put a 'face' too, and Holy Shit there's so much more dialogue in this game.
Just like havin' another Soldier on the field!
That one line of ad-libbed dialogue is pretty much all I had to define Roland during the first game--my main was Lilith, but I enjoyed the game enough that I eventually got around to giving 'em all a go--along with the rest of the cast. They were avatars more than actual characters, with a little splice of personality draped on top. And now.... now Roland never fucking shuts up! With all of his serious-face freedom fighting talk, it's a little jarring to see what were more or less one-dimensional characters to then... suddenly evolve to, well, two-dimensional characters. I guess it's also pretty cool. I mean I even created a thread on here stating the potential 'coolness' for such a path for the original vault hunters to follow. Though I was more so picturing them as trainers or cameos, not as essentially the leading protagonists of the entire plot.
Right, because once again our playable 'stars' aren't exactly the leading characters of this tale. In a weird twist of events, now the blank slates from the original are the one's talking up a storm at every turn while this new cast fill in the now vacant roles as yet another cast of vacant avatars for the player. And it's especially weird what with all of this added substance towards the narrative. Especially the whole Siren thing; Lilith's this uber-Siren and that's a pretty big deal, and yet me, as Maya, barely gets any recognition whatsoever. In fact in some cases my character is even referred to as a 'he', when I'm not being called as a Vault Hunter, Soldier or 'Slab'... God, that last one's annoying.
Steps have been made, though. The backstory ECHO tape you start off with, and can later scavenge more of, flesh out the playable cast more so than anything found in the original. They have a history, they actually have their own somewhat tangible reason for being here. But aside from some audio-logs, they're still just empty vessels for the player to inhabit and take up the role of.
Which I can certainly still understand mind you. If you were to play as an actual character with well defined motivations and moralities, such quest sets like setting up two gangs to murder each other simply for fun--which includes such ploys as killing the son of the gang leader so as to frame the opposing gang leader--would seem just a wee bit out of place... as is freeing a load of skags and stalkers from a Hyperion wildlife prison, only to actually kill a whole horde of 'em on your way. In fact nearly all of the side missions feel completely out of sync with the main story as it is anywhoo. Your character is a merciless monster, and while there's little characterisation for the new set of vault hunters, what is there doesn't quite set up someone like Maya for example as a mass-murdering mercenary. She clearly enjoys killing things (as does everyone on Pandora), but not to the extent of that gang war thing maybe. So expanding upon such a character would only cause more of dat ludo-narrative dissonance stuff, I guess.
Holy Shit sad things keeps happening!
As I've said, Borderlands 2 actually has a story, including some surprisingly dark chapters within. And not the humourous sort of ''teehee, bandit head goes boom!'' dark, but ''this is the moment where you're meant to feel really depressed now'' kind.
BloodWing, no! Roland, no!! Angel... fffffffffffff -- OK first off, I have to say that I personally found Handsome Jack to be an exceptionally effective villain. I mean I really hated this guy; I actually felt some twisted satisfaction after killing his equally psychotic and comically evil girlfriend (that Sheriff lady) or when I'd be knocking his statues throughout the city of Opportunity and he'd get all pissed off. Because goddamn, how... just... Handsome Jack is simply one of the most detestable and utterly evil characters I can recently recall (I know there are most likely more, but you get my point). But it's juxtaposed to such a degree. I mean one minute I'm shooting this guy in the face because he wants me to and I'm giggling about it for minutes after, and the next I'm enveloped in gut-ripping (OK, overselling it a little, I'll admit) emotion as Mordecai grieves over his bird. Hell, not just his bird, but my bird! My bird that I loved to throw at crazed psychos for an entire playthrough of Borderlands.
And then Roland, who, after the camera position has aligned itself up perfectly for 'someone's gonna die now', gets fucking smoked! Although y'know, I cared more for Bloodwing than I did Roland... Oh, and then there's the entire Angel segment. Now there's a twist to remember. EDIT: Also, how come Roland couldn't just be revived via the New-U machine? Did 'removing' his title as a Vault Hunter strip him of his reviving capabilities?... Y'know what, I'm willing to let that one slide for simplicities sake.
Now I'm not complaining about all of this mind you. I mean given that part my love for games like Saints Row 2 and Sleeping Dogs stems specifically for mixing in absurdity and human drama, it would be contradictive of me to suddenly shake my head in shame at Borderlands 2's own mixture. It's just with this calibre of storytelling being taken on, and Borderlands isn't quite the mindless skag slaughterhouse that it used to be, I'd want my character to join in on some of this development.
So besides the obvious fact that there's going to be some interplanetary travel happening in this theoretical sequel, what I'd also hope is they build upon your players characters to a degree not unlike Darksiders II or LOTR; War in the North So then you're clearly playing as pre-defined characters, but you still have the option to start up conversations and have the power to chime in on scenes. Converse with other characters beyond a one-sided to-do list.
Furthermore, each character could even have unique side-quests to attain. So say we have another freakshow like Salvador joining in, with all of the dialogue to prove it, such quests like the gang war one would still fit. Or not! Because I'd be more than happy to stomach some disconnect between my character and what the game is asking my character to do so long as my character is still a character. Character character character.
Borderlands 2 is bitchin', and the narrative advancements they've built upon are were unexpected, but ultimately a welcome surprise. The way the game keeps connecting everything that happened in the original back to Borderlands 2 and Hyperion was also nicely done; it actually makes the original game feel more... substantial in retrospec, even though deep down we all know they only decided to work Hyperion into bloody everything during the writing of Borderlands 2. Revisiting T.K Baha's hut in particular was still surprisingly nostalgic, however, and even a little sad (but also funny) to hear about how his predicament came to be. I just hope that Gearbox will continue on up this slope and put forward the same amount of effort onto the next playable cast of whoever.
The ending, along with the boss, was still a total wash. I just went through the same routine, using the same gun, shooting at The Warrior's glowy gut until it dived back under the lava. It barely ever attacked me and those volcano crystal monsters were hardly even noticeable. They put so much effort into making this thing such a powerful entity of absolute Absolutes.. they placed all of those ammo spawns and everything, and yet I barely had to move nor did I ever need to collect any additional ammo. The actual ending itself wasn't much better and pretty abrupt at that... but it done enough in at least setting the course for where the series may go from here. Still a great game, though, and I'm more than ready to head into NG+!