David Hinkle: So, Borderlands 2. How fitting I would play as the slender female and you the hulking giant mohawk guy, eh?
Jessica Conditt: To be fair, Salvador is supposed to be a tiny, muscled man, not the hulking behemoth that I felt like while playing him. Double shotguns will do that to a man.
Agreed. And even though you were carrying every single gun in the universe, we ran into a few bottlenecks. I certainly tried to play Maya as a tank, but I don't think that was a very good idea. Skags, man. Skags.
And that new, juicy element. Slag, right? We took more damage when they flung it on us, which was an annoying experience. But the phaselock health dump was a saving grace there. You kept me alive on quite a few occasions with that. Slag, man. Slag.
Yeah, I guess I should mention my build. Since there are only ever six different Sirens alive at any given time in the game fiction, they all have different powers and ways that they interact with that spiritual plane – instead of phasing herself out like Lillith and running away from trouble, Maya phaselocks enemies, suspending them in the air.
It worked well because we could shoot the phase-locked enemy dead cold, and take its sweet, precious life force for ourselves. That was a nice skill, but I wish I had more time to monkey around with some of the different, totally new skills for the Siren.
Maya's phaselock suspension skill was wonderful for me, playing as the Gunzerker. Salvador's skill lies in running and gunning, and nothing suits that better than a helpless, immobile target floating in the middle of the battlefield. I can see that working well with the Assassin as well, able to snipe enemies down extremely easily. That said, my personal brand of run-and-gun doesn't involve much defensive maneuvering, and I probably should have buffed my health skill tree rather than my magazine size. Lesson learned.
Thankfully, re-specing a character will be just as easy in the sequel as it was in the original, so mistakes like that shouldn't be much of a lasting problem. Let's talk a bit about some of the new enemies – we killed lots of Skags, but we also fought a veritable robot army.
Actually, it was a robot army. A robot army that was launched from a neighboring moon. Hyperion doesn't like us very much.
And the robots bounced our bullets back at us! Totally rude. The enemy AI was more polished than in Borderlands 1, and the robots and Skags flanked us on a few occasions. I'm pretty sure this translated into you developing a more thoughtful strategy, and it led to me dying more. Thankfully second wind is still a thing, and seriously – those shotguns. Mmm.
Dat Jakobs! The gun manufacturer has the most powerful weaponry on the planet, and being able to duel-wield two overpowered gats made you a wrecking crew. As for that dying thing, it's not really your fault – we had one encounter against three badass elemental Skags at once. And I kind of provoked them. That one's on me, but Gearbox should really know better: you always let the journalists win! It's like they've never demoed a game before!
Is this what all the "normal" people have to deal with in games? Taking damage and dying? That sounds terrible. I almost cried. So, on to the world itself: the environments were more varied and ran from indoor out with more consistency than the previous game, which made for more seamless battles and gameplay flow, I thought.
The hour of so we played focused on areas designed with purpose, meant to usher us along in one linear direction. But there was a lot of variety: we moved from craggy mountainside to industrial warehouses and military bases, and onward to an exotic underground zoo. I knew as soon as we walked in there we were going to have to kill all of those penned-up Skags. Maybe if Mordecai wasn't so much of a drunk, we wouldn't have to go hunting down his kidnapped bird, Bloodwing, and performing mass genocide on an entire species. Live and let live, I always say. I think I said that once.
Let animal groups worry about the mythical creatures I'm slaughtering and allow me to shoot them by the thousands, I always say. We learned our lesson quickly with the Skags especially, staying on the high ground for as long as possible. You'd think it'd be common sense to not jump into a pit full of rabid Skags, but that's exactly what we did in the beginning, a few times at least. By the time we reached the bridge near the end of the demo though, we were long-distance pros. And then it was down to collect all the loot! Of which there was tons.
The guns were the real star of Borderlands, and in the sequel it's no different. Thankfully, though, there's more to look forward to in Borderlands 2 than compulsive hoarding: tons of new skills to play around with, expanded customization options through strength stones and badass points to track rank, as to shove it in the face of weaker individuals. I just wish we could've experienced the new promised trading and wagering mechanics, and played around with a greater variety of strength stone. Knowing there are more options to create a more personalized character is pretty exciting.
There are a bunch more weapons options, but the updated interface made them easy to compare and equip. I wish we could have bet our guns and dueled for them! You would have won them all, of course, but still. The skill trees themselves are clean, but they offer a glut of customization – 30 percent more skill tree options, I remember them saying.
This basically translates into 30 percent more Borderlands, on top of the 100 percent more Borderlands that the sequel already contains, polished and near-perfected. I'm very much looking forward to jumping on Steam and playing a workable version of Borderlands with my buddies. And dying some more.