Magnificent And Important Advent Calendar: Day Two

By RPS on December 2nd, 2012 at 2:16 pm.


What’s behind the second door in our advent calendar? Is it an RPG, is it a plane? Could it be roguelike, or doomlike? Is it real-time, or turn-based? Is it a conversation piece or simple food for thought? Let’s find out, with a seasonal click.


It’s… Borderlands 2!

Jim: Perhaps the most notable thing about gaming in 2012 was the sheer variety of games that have captured our attention. Of course it’s true that the gaming sphere is always pretty diverse, if you look closely, but in 2012 that seems particularly true precisely because of the quality of so many of these efforts. Even with the traditionally monolithic genres like the first-person shooter, we have seen a broad effort to pack things with well-crafted difference.

At the point at which the Venn diagram of our hobby sees overlap between action-RPG and high-budget FPS, we find the Borderlands games. Lavish apocalyptic cartoons, both, but with the second one it’s a different degree of magnitude. This is one of those sequels that knows how to stand on the shoulders of its giant predecessor, and builds spectacularly on every aspect of it.

With numbers popping out of the heads of enemies as soon as you pull the trigger, and levelling up dominating the progress through the best part of a million procedurally-generated weapons, it’s clear that this is a game about stats. Numbers. Sometimes numbers getting bigger is enough.


And that sounds a bit cynical, I suppose, until you are in the thrall of it. The truth is that everything about Borderlands 2 seems might rest on simple trees of numbers, but the resulting structure is lavish to the point of being opulent. It’s one of those games that feels less like a shooter, and more like a dramatic act of production: developer Gods showing off just how much universe they can create in a figurative seven days. The environments spill over with ramshackle architectural fiction, and are heaving with maniac villains to be depleted of their hit-points and careful hoovered for loot. Even the menus feel luxurious.

Yes, there’s so much of it. So many quests. So much world. A sprawling avalanche of side quests that must be surfed through on a quest to save Pandora from ultimate exploitation and doom. The characters are, this time, exaggerated to some ludicrous degree. Everything from the original game has been thrown into Gearbox’s hyperbolic caricature amplifier, and come out screaming, on fire, and reeling off terrible jokes.

If anything, Borderlands 2 is almost too much. It’s such a sustained howl, and it comes with so much noise, that it almost feels like too much for old men like us.

But there’s no denying the quality of that noise, or the colourful conceits of mad weaponry and masked-murderers screaming towards you with molotovs raised. It’s a barking mad science fiction cake, the icing of which is its brilliant presentation of a world in which it’s as easy as anything to drop in and out of your friend’s parallel pocket universes – a perfect co-op package which multiplies the mayhem until everyone is rolling in loot, and raging through a zoo of “badass” alien enemies that make any other shooter this year look like weak lemon drink compared to Borderlands 2′s shocking cocktail of mechanics and styles.

Yeah. This one made me roll out the red carpet of hyperbole, and I expect whatever follows in its footsteps will do so, too. Even if you aren’t, Gearbox must be laughing.

.

97 Comments »

  1. Xocrates says:

    Borderlands 2 was probably the game I was looking forward the most this year, and even then I was surprised by how good and how massive it was.

    There’s something glorious about a game that realizes it’s stark raving mad and decides to go all out.

    • Demiath says:

      I was similarily excited about Borderlands 2 before its release, but despite having a lot of fun with the game during my one (and probably only) playthrough I ultimately found the game to be the biggest disappointment of the year. The formula simply hadn’t changed enough from Borderlands 1 to provide a sufficiently fresh and engaging experience a second time around, and the comparatively linear structure of the game’s campaign felt especially dated compared to advancements in sandbox gaming since the first game came out.

      • Xzi says:

        Funny, I feel the exact opposite. I only had patience enough to make it about halfway through the first Borderlands. Co-op or not, I there just wasn’t enough there to compel me to keep moving forward. Everything about Borderlands 2 I think is a step up, and a step in the right direction. The characters feel more alive, whether you’re talking about the NPCs, some of which happen to be characters from BL1 receiving new life, or the completely new player characters. The environments from the very beginning are much more captivating, and the endless desert feeling is long gone. The textures overall are sharper and have more clarity, making those precise headshots all the more satisfying. The story bits and voice acting appear a lot more frequently, so it’s a game that feels almost just as good single-player, which is something that the first was sorely missing. The humor is ridiculously over the top, so much so that I can’t help but to literally laugh out loud several times. Finally, the guns seem a lot more varied and randomized. I’m loving my explosive-launching assault rifle.

        So yeah, I’m having trouble finding any part of the overall experience which I don’t enjoy more. Borderlands was something I’d occasionally fall back on and usually just skip over on my Steam games library, thinking, “it’s okay, but I’d rather play X.” Borderlands 2, OTOH, has me thinking, “hell yes, my character has almost reached the status of ultimate BAMF, that’s what I want to play right now.”

      • Vinraith says:

        I pretty much completely disagree, but I’m intrigued by this idea that there have been “advancements in sandbox gaming.” Am I not aware of some amazing co-op sandbox shooters or ARPG’s out there?

        • Demiath says:

          The oft-mentioned “Borderworlds” idea pretty much sums up what I think BL2 should have been, as opposed to the well-made but conservative 2.0 version of the original game that it ultimately turned out to be (a Borderworlds of sorts is hinted at the end of BL2, of course, but that’s too little too late). In other words, an open world experience with a stronger emphasis on free exploration would have been more compelling than the linear level/hub-based design of Borderlands 2, which came off as too familiar and predictable for my liking. Can’t speak about Borderlands 2 as a co-op experience, though, since I play Borderlands (1 as well as 2) almost exclusively as a singleplayer game.

          Jeff Gerstmann seems to have had almost the exact same experience with BL2 as I did (i.e. the “been there, done that” feeling specifically), so his review for Giant Bomb is indicative of what I feel about the game as it is. In a nutshell, BL2 is pretty awesome but not a huge deal for me since I liked the first game already and thus didn’t think that particular formula needed to be improved upon any further before being supplanted by a more ambitious (or at least somewhat different) design philosophy.

          • Vinraith says:

            OK. So, to reiterate, where are these examples of sandbox game design advancement again? I’d like to buy and play them.

      • Wreckdum says:

        Same. I played for about 8 hours then put it on the shelf.

    • yogibbear says:

      I enjoyed the game thoroughly. But it’s definitely not my GOTY. Still was a lot of fun and played all the way through and then some. There was just something missing from the formula that stops it being “Amazing” enough for me to consider it a GOTY contender. What we got was polished, hilarious and addictive. Just missing something intangible.

  2. Deano2099 says:

    I don’t care much about Borderlands 2 but got very excited about the Fist of Fun reference….

  3. Flint says:

    This is my GOTY and it’s somewhat surprising/disappointing to see it appearing already (even if every slot between 1 and 23 is equal etc). It not only fixed everything that displeased me in the first one, but improved tenfold on every single thing that was already good in the first game, leading to an all-around brilliant experience and the most fun I’ve had with a game this year. It says something that while I love replaying games, usually I wait for some time before I tackle a game again: with BL2, I started both a new game plus and a new character right as soon as I finished my first playthrough. And I’ve not even properly tapped into the multiplayer side of the game either. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s a really, really great one.

    • MrLebanon says:

      when you say that it fixed everything you didn’t like in the first one, does that mean that well… it’s actually fun?

      Call me crazy but I found nothing (read: nothing) of interest in the first, other than playing with some friends (which even then the only thing interesting was the company of my friends)

      • jikavak says:

        You needed to like random loot and appretiate the gans.

      • Xocrates says:

        Action RPGs in general, and Bordelands in particular, tend to be a love or hate it affair.

        Borderlands 2 is an improvement over the first game, not a departure, as such it’s doubtful that you’ll like it if you didn’t like the first one, so the best thing to do is accept that and move on.

        There is a lot to like in both borderlands games, but they’re very subjective things. In the same way that you saw nothing of interest, I wonder what you actually disliked (aside from the repetitive nature of the game).

      • Phantoon says:

        I thought the first was an abysmal shooter with RPG mechanics tacked on. Apparently, it was the other way around in that it was an RPG with abysmal shooting tacked on.

        And I didn’t buy the second one because I did not like the first one.

        • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

          Modded up (+5, righteous grumpiness) – me too. Worse still was that having decided it was going to be all about sorting through a millions of brightly coloured guns with minimal functional differences, they then made the sorting system shit.

          Now the rest of you stop having fun right this minute. Stop it!

        • thecat17 says:

          Good for you, because Borderlands 2 continues to make the series an RPG with abysmal shooting. And I wish I could articulate better on why it’s so abysmal.

          • Groove says:

            In Borderlands 1 I found the shooting to be completely devoid of impact to the point that I couldn’t even get started with it. I made a brick, had a huge shotgun, shot people with it and they couldnt’ have cared less. Shotgun the size of a man from a few metres away and they just kept running around like I was tickling them.

          • SavageTech says:

            “Shotgun the size of a man from a few metres away and they just kept running around like I was tickling them.”

            That irked me too, but it would be difficult to balance the existing mechanics with realistic bullet impact. If shotguns just blew enemies over then their health bars wouldn’t matter at all, and the entire point of acquiring levels + loot is to deal more damage. While I’m sure some slow-firing guns would do fine with a minor hitstun, automatic weapons would be bonkers with one. It would be even more off-putting if some guns worked realistically and others had no visible effect.

            Personally I think it would be best if everyone just had shields; they’re already in the game for some enemies anyway. If the bullet is blocked by some energy field it’s not going to hit the enemy’s body and make them react, but when the shield was dropped they could add some reactions as the bullets hit the enemy’s actual body. Win/win IMO.

  4. Premium User Badge Morph says:

    Definitely the game I’ve racked up the most hours in this year, to the detriment of many other games (sorry Dishonoured). It’s just pure shooting fun distilled, hilarious, and it feels almost weird to say but the plot was excellent too.

    • Schiraman says:

      Yeah, I agree completely – I enjoyed the shooting massively, but it was actually the quality of the writing that really stood out for me. It’s not just funnier than the first game, it’s also much darker and manages to tread an excellent line between disturbing and amusing the whole way through.

      Add to that the fact that Handsome Jack is the best computer game villain since Sephiroth (in the sense that it genuinely made me want to complete the game just so I could kill him) and you’ve got a game that hides some serious writing chops behind its constant explosions and stream of ever-larger numbers.

    • grundus says:

      You’ve pretty much described my experience with it too. I’ve run out of steam now but I think after I’ve played BF3′s new DLC, Dishonoured, Max Payne 3 and Planetside 2 enough to get them out of my system I may well go back to it.

      Also the soundtrack was brilliant, no one ever mentions the soundtrack but I thought it had some really great, er, tracks.

  5. dawnmane says:

    I think the thing I love the most about it is how much it is obviously a (very intelligent, yet warm-hearted) satire on and deconstruction of every conceivable cliche in shooters and RPG’s, and a near perfect execution of both genres at the same time. Loved it.

    Also: Nobody makes DLC like these guys!

    • Premium User Badge RedViv says:

      Absolutely the same thing that makes me enjoy it so very, very, very much.

  6. Godwhacker says:

    The plot was rather unpleasant, but other than that it remains a brilliant, brilliant game. And the DLC is proving some of the best yet created.

  7. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Bought this recently and only just started it, but I love the humour so far. Claptrap’s line about being “really quite depressed” but always sounding happy because that was the voice his creators gave him made me spit bits of biscuit all over my computer.

    Looking forward to Frank Facey Face Face Mc Shootington.

  8. Unrein says:

    Quit the game fairly soon after reaching Sanctuary.

    Good old Action RPGs – single player MMOs, i.e. a complete fucking bore.

    • Xzi says:

      Oh gee, today I think I’ll force myself to play a game single-player even though it has co-op available and I hate single-player experiences. I never realized how smart I was before this…

  9. Spoon Of Doom says:

    The only thing that bugs me about this game is loot sharing. Be a second too late and your so-called “teammates” have looted everything clean already, and you’re left with shit.

    • x1501 says:

      You know, it’s called “cooperative gameplay” for a reason. If your co-op buddies are selfish a-holes, instead of criticizing the game for being too co-op friendly, I suggest you start looking for better teammates.

      • malkav11 says:

        And yet, it’s clearly possible (as evidenced by games like Torchlight II and Guild Wars 2 that do this) to make loot drops particular to each player so that there is never any competition over it in a game that’s meant to be cooperative. Gearbox could have done this, but didn’t. It’s entirely appropriate to blame them for it.

        I mean, you also want to play with people who aren’t jerks, but when it doesn’t hurt anything to build gameplay to mitigate jerkery, it really should be built that way.

        • x1501 says:

          While it is possible, instanced loot usually looks out of place and makes no sense whatsoever for established co-op teams with no trust issues. In fact, it was one of the things that annoyed me in Torchlight II. Instead of just dropping something on the ground and telling the other player to pick it up when it suited him, you had to go through the unwieldy trading menu process that required both players to stand next to each other and stop doing everything else for half a minute. Not to mention that without being able to keep an eye on your co-op partners’ loot, you couldn’t either warn them about the things they missed (a common problem with my young nephew) or just pick it up and bring to them personally, without forcing them to backtrack.

          As for “mitigating jerkery”, you’re missing my larger point. Instead of being a problem, unrestricted co-op is a valuable way to learn about selflessness and the benefits of cooperation. If you can’t learn to work together to a degree where you can trust your friends with some piece of worthless virtual loot, you probably shouldn’t be calling them friends in the first place.

          • mondomau says:

            What utter guff.

          • x1501 says:

            I’ve been playing co-op with various people I know for many years and I never had an issue with any of them repeatedly trying to steal my share of the loot. If somebody ever does that and I can neither teach them not to do this (in case of children) nor work out some kind of a compromise (in case of adults), I’ll just take it as a helpful indication that that person is not to be trusted and try to limit our interactions to a minimum.

            If you enjoy the masochistic idea of playing with someone who will backstab and rip you off at any given opportunity, you may as well learn to be a faster clicker or start playing with friendly fire on.

    • -Spooky- says:

      So. Don´t play with randoms. Easy.

      • Spider Jerusalem says:

        so. code a better system. easy.

        • x1501 says:

          A system better suited for playing with random strangers is not necessarily a better system for playing with people you know.

          • PopeRatzo says:

            What if you don’t know any other gamers?

            I’m an a-dult. Spent my childhood before the advent of the FPS, so I’m making up for it now. The other adults in my life do things besides adventuring in front of a computer.

            I’m stuck with randoms, I guess, and it’s made me avoid every multiplayer except for Burnout Paradise (and the new NFS: Most Wanted).

            I’m a drop-in/drop-out kind of guy and I’d like to know how to find other superannuated serious gamers.

          • Miltrivd says:

            Pretty sure the game said “Multiplayer capabilities” no “Multiplayer with friends and people you know and//or trust capabilities”. I understand that you don’t have a problem, doesn’t mean the system isn’t flawed and lacks addressing of issues that show constantly for a large number of people.

          • x1501 says:

            While I sympathize with those who have no reliable friends to play with, what the game’s description actually says is “Dynamic Co-op online, and LAN: Share your adventures with friends both online and via LAN”. TL2 says the same thing: “Play co-op with your friends. . . Have your friends download the same mod and play together.” I understand that lonely single people have more problems finding good co-op partners, but it’s still not a very convincing reason to redefine the word “cooperative” to describe those who have no desire to cooperate.

  10. Davie says:

    The most worthwhile fifty bucks I’ve spent this year, easily. Interestingly, for all its complete over the top outrageousness, I actually found myself caring about the plot and the characters this time around. What’s often lost in the descriptions of wackiness and gun variety is the fact that much of it is brilliantly written, full of surprisingly intelligent humor and uncliched characterization.

    BL2 makes me happy the entire medium exists.

    • WHS says:

      I found it funny that the writing in this put Dishonored to shame. Not that Dishonored was bad, mind you… but there’s a spark in BL2 that the more serious game utterly lacks.

  11. Jenks says:

    Waiting for the GOTY edition, can’t justify a full priced game +DLC +DLC +DLC +DLC x2 for me and the missis. I loved the first one and am really looking forward to it.

    • Xzi says:

      I actually picked up both Borderlands 2 and the season pass together for a total of $34 at launch. You just have to know where to look for deals.

      Specifically, these guys are a big help: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/Hookups

      • MrLebanon says:

        “membership by invite only”

        sooo…. gonna hit me up with an invite buddy? ;)

      • Jenks says:

        I frequent cheapassgamer.com every day. Don’t worry about me, I’ll wind up getting both of my copies for about half that.

  12. McDan says:

    On of the top 2 things about christmas.
    Fact

  13. felisc says:

    great game. switching from shotguns to assault rifle to repeater in 1.3 seconds while killing 6 ennemies in a blast of colour certainly is very enjoyable.

  14. farsighter says:

    What I think kept BL2 from being a great game was the enemy design. Aside from Bullymongs, the crystal monsters (both very rare) and Goliaths, everything else just feels like sponges for your bullets.

    • yogibbear says:

      You could melee kill a Crystal monster in < 2 seconds…. Phase lock…. spam VVVV dead. As long as you have decent aim on their legs that is.

  15. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    At the very least, it’s the game of 2012 I’ve had most fun with. Put it that way. And if that’s ultimately the point of gaming, then I suppose it’s my game of the year.

  16. Stevostin says:

    The shooting was seriously lacking good sensation in the 1st one – my main issue with it. Is it better in the second ?

  17. Premium User Badge mineshaft says:

    These two posts really captured my attention (I know the reviewer from other walks of life). A great criticism of Borderlands 2 and way forward…

    http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2012/03/borderlands-gun-collectors-club.html

    http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-borderlands-2-gun-discarders-club.html

    • mondomau says:

      I might have missed the point of those (ridiculously long & rambling) posts, but it just seemed like the guy was basically whining that he couldn’t collect and store every single gun he found and went off into various tangents explaining why a section of the playerbase (nowhere near as big as he seems to be suggesting) might like this kind of thing. That’s it.

      • Premium User Badge mineshaft says:

        It’s more like, if your users are knocking a hole in the wall and walking through, you should put a door there. They had years to do so and, as he says, inexplicably didn’t.

        I think it’s a fair criticism that if you haven’t catered to the people who would still be playing and talking about your game in ten years (a minority, sure, like you say), you missed a major opportunity. Especially if all you needed to do was support a Mephistophelean collectible experience.

        And sorry about the Yegge rambling style. I am used to it by now, but I should have put a tldr warning.

    • Sivart13 says:

      It’s interesting to me that Steve Yegge’s talking about video games makes him seem more like a crazy person than any of his other blog posts have managed.

    • thecat17 says:

      Borderlands is huge on the fun factor. You hardly realize it as you play it the first or even the second time, but the team at Gearbox put a lot of stock in fun.

      I… need to beat the game twice in order to realize that I’m having fun?
      Really?

      This is especially funny when coupled with this bit two paragraphs down, while talking about Rage:

      You wind up playing through the game as a chore, out of nostalgia or professional respect.

      Ha ha ha ha.
      By the way, Chazmina: it’s spelled id. Not “Id”.

      • Prime says:

        I think it was meant in the “can’t see the wood for the trees” way, where he’s so busy actually having fun and enjoying himself to step back and critically appreciate just how much fun Gearbox have put into the game.

        Also, Grammar Fascism stopped being funny or important back in…oh wait, it was never any of those things, it was always just about people being d*cks on the Internet.

        • thecat17 says:

          “She” and “herself”, you mean. So I’ll disregard your comment because you obviously did not read the article.

          Also, spelling a game company’s name right has nothing to do with grammar.
          You’re 0 for 2, Prime.

          • Asurmen says:

            He doesn’t need to read the entire article to try and explain the bit you quoted, so therefore just ignoring his comment makes you look a bit douchey.

  18. SuperNashwanPower says:

    This game is great but after playing it I now have a headache

  19. MadMatty says:

    the neverending beer- what a good name for Horace
    merry xmas spotty people!

  20. fish99 says:

    Borderlands 2 is good, and very fun co-op, but it did have elements I didn’t enjoy. There’s far too many boring robots to kill in the game, and the story is pretty shite, especially when they start rewriting the story from the first game. Most of the story is just assembling the playable characters from the first game. Also the end boss fight was way easier than some of the previous set pieces in the game. I’d also say if you took out most of the 50 billion boxes you have to open in the game, while it may have been shorter, it would have been better.

    The things they fixed vs the first game? Well the rockets were much more effective, and the vehicles drove better.

    Sounds like I’m hating on the game, I’m not, most of it was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t perfect.

  21. Spider Jerusalem says:

    i really didn’t enjoy brolands 2 at all, unfortunately. i sunk waaaay too many hours into the first one, but this iteration didn’t grab me. how sad.

  22. Roz says:

    Was looking forward to Borderlands 2 sooo very much, after pumping over 200 hours into the first one; and it was the biggest disappointment for me this year.

    Even more so than dishonored.

    • wodin says:

      Dishonoured for me was a disappointment aswell…lifeless City. Just felt odd and deserted. I have this issue with many games including Skyrim when your supposed to be in a major city but it has twenty houses and 12 residents..Dishonoured was even worse. I just didn’t understand the hype and excitement about it to be honest. As usual with releases over the last few years none of them live upto the pre release hype and they all feel alittle flat once you get your hands on them.

      I expect Dishonoured will be No1 or No2 on the advent calendar though..RPS loved it.

  23. Dominic White says:

    I literally cannot believe the people saying that Borderlands 2 ruined something great. Do you even remember the original game? It was the skeleton of a concept – they had the guns, they had the levels, they had the loot, but it started repeating itself after an hour and the environments never strayed beyond sand, dust, rocks and bones.

    Borderlands was a nice idea, but there was scarcely anything beyond the core framework there. Borderlands 2 is an unspeakably huge improvement in just about every respect.

    • fish99 says:

      I think the truth is somewhere in the middle IMO, it never ruined anything great, but it never really innovated or improved on the first game in a huge way. I guess you could say some of the new weapons were interesting, and they fixed rocket launchers, but apart from that it was the same game.

      I can’t agree that it improved hugely on the original in every way, and TBH I think you’d struggle to come up with a lot of examples to prove that.

      • Schiraman says:

        No, I think he’s absolutely right. Borderlands was a great concept, but the execution let it down in quite a few places.

        Borderlands 2 has a lot more variety in terms of environments, enemies, weapons and play-styles, the pacing is better, the story is far better, the humour is much more consistent, and indeed the writing is just hands-down better all around.

        Also, in terms of outright fixes, it’s not just rocket launchers that actually work now – networking functions right out of the box, co-op with characters of different levels is actually possible and fun in BL2 – and levelling in general is actually fixed. BL2 provides a constant, fairly steady challenge – whereas in BL1 you could easily out-level the enemies within the first few hours and struggle to find much challenge for the whole rest of the game.

        Then there’s Jack, who is a fantastic villain and whose death at your hands provides a constant driving goal throughout the game.

        • TomxJ says:

          Had and am STILL having so much fun with this game! Currently Doing the Pirate DLC on Vault hunter mode with RPS help and its one of the best multiplayer experiences i’ve ever had. Bravo Gearbox – Brearbox.

        • fish99 says:

          Funnily enough I barely agree with a single thing you said there.

          You may be right about the network problems, I don’t know, I played B1 on LAN co-op and didn’t have any network problems with it. And I would agree that Jack is a decent villain.

          However, in B2 the writing is drivel, the story is terrible, and there were far fewer comedy moments that actually made me chuckle. You’re seriously telling me that was a good story? Another bunch of vault hunters looking for another Vault, and there’s some bad guy trying to kill them? And you spend half the game just assembling the characters from the first game. That’s not a story. You don’t even have any reason to dislike Jack until near the end. Then we find out Angel is a siren when the first game made it quite clear it was just an automated satellite. Then we have the totally predictable Lilith getting kidnapped, and for some reason in this game a siren is required to charge a vault key, despite no such requirement for the first vault. And on a planet with thousands of sirens, only Lilith can charge this key. Then Roland dies from one bullet despite getting hit by 35 million bullets in the first game, and for some reason he doesn’t just resurrect like you do, and like he did a thousand times in the first game.

          This is not good writing. Give me a break. It’s awful, so bad it made me cringe at times.

          Also variety of enemies? You spend half the game killing those god damn boring robots, who move slowly and have a tiny critical zone. They are dull to fight, a design cop-out and there’s far too many of them. And now we have a DLC with all the same enemies wearing pirate hats.

          Metacritic user rating 8.1 tells me it’s not the flawless masterpiece you seem to think it is.

  24. thecat17 says:

    You’re all going to think me mad for saying this, but I’m sure you’ll never read these words from anybody else:

    I had so much fun with Rage that I couldn’t even make it through the first hour of Borderlands 2.

    Okay, I know you’re getting ready to bash your keyboard into angry oblivion, but I swear it to be true.

    I played Rage late. I absolutely loved the feel of that game. The feel of the shooting was meaty. The guns felt powerful. The reactions from the enemies when attacked was perfect. The way your character moved through the world felt right. id really nailed these things. And the characters were interesting, some of them endearing, even. In spite of having only 10 total lines of dialogue.

    Borderlands 2, felt like the Unreal Tournament games to me. The movement is a little smoother, but choppy in a way that I can’t put my finger on. Like if I walked wrong, I could fall through the seams of the world. It breaks immersion for me. Shooting isn’t all there, and though I didn’t manage to get any of the crazy rare guns, it just doesn’t feel great after Rage. Like in the UT games, the guns don’t feel meaty. The enemy reactions to getting shot were only passable. And no, watching piles of numbers fall to the ground is no real substitute to the visceral reactions of Rage’s enemies. And the characters. Holy shit. Am I the only one with an absolute seething hatred of Cl4ptr4p? I hate that voice, I hate that characterization, and I can’t believe I even finished that mission that got him repaired.

    Rage, to me, has soul.
    Borderlands 2 is just empty. It’s all gussied up with limitless weapons, stats out the yin-yang, and random internet memes that some find clever. But it has a lot missing to me. I suppose numbers getting bigger is not enough for me.

    Granted, I probably should have played it co-op first but I’m 99.9% sure I’d have come to the same conclusions.

    Also, I found Dishonored to be too engrossing. Another game that really nailed how a first-person game should feel.

    And then there’s this, which I found after already forming a solid opinion on Borderlands 2 and to which I cannot forget about since I never see it discussed:

    MC: You produced and directed it for the MTV Asia Music awards and it premiered in 2006. Borderlands development team under the direction of Brian Martel changed their art style in early 2009. By virtue of time alone your film was first but despite that, the Kotaku article that had Pitchford’s response brushed it all aside as a matter of inspiration but never really owned the fact that Gearbox didn’t create the style.

    Did anyone from Gearbox or 2K Games contact you before the release of Borderlands?

    BH: I was contacted by Gearbox prior to the re-design of the game – in 2008. They asked me if I would be interested to direct/design some cut-scenes for them. We exchanged a few emails but the project didn’t materialize in the end. I didn’t think much of it at the time – until I saw the final game in 2009.

    MC: How did you feel when you saw what clearly looks like your ideas and design style being used in the game after they said the project that you [would have] been working on would be scrapped?

    BH: To be absolutely clear – I have never created or designed anything for Gearbox or Borderlands. Gearbox saw my work and decided to reproduce it – make it their own – without my help or my consent. The hardest part for me when this happened was understanding why they wouldn’t ask me directly. We were already talking about doing some work together – it made no sense.

    As far as I know, this still hasn’t been resolved. The interview was posted last month, and 4 years later, Gearbox still do not have anything non-public relations-related to say about it.

    EDITED: to take out one unfinished sentence.

    • The Hairy Bear says:

      Rage has soul? I would have to disagree, the concept was pretty interesting for the first quarter of the game and the guns certainly have weight behind them (but then ID has always done guns well), however, I can’t remember a single element of Rage’s plot. Borderlands 2 definitely has its issues but I kept playing it through because the plot had some seriously amusing bits in it, I completed Rage because I don’t like not finishing a game, not because I was really enjoying it. Its just all so samey for the 2nd half.

      • thecat17 says:

        Nothing you said has to do with what I was talking about. But that may be my own fault for not being clear.

        The soul in Rage is in its characters and the setting. The voice acting was top-notch, and everybody in the game did sound like they belonged there, and sounded as though they’d been living in the desert.. Even if there really isn’t much dialogue for most characters, most had enough to give you a sense of who the characters were, and a sense of their backstory. This was also in the dress and mannerisms of said characters. It wasn’t explicit, and you had to think on it.

        They really did seem like real people to me. Not a bunch of caricatures like in Borderlands 2.

        And the towns. Lovingly crafted by the artists. The little details, like water dripping from a broken pipe in a forgotten corner of town, or the lighting and decor in the Subway Town bar, or that giant inflatable ape at Wellspring Speedway, all gave these different towns their own distinct character. I can imagine myself walking through them through memory alone.

        I can’t remember anything from the locations in the one hour I played in Borderlands 2. I remember some sort of town. And giant blocks of ice.

        Even the enemies in Rage had soul put into them. Well, aside from perhaps The Authority soliders. But the quips that the others yell out, and the locations you find them in with all the details to find, served to make it less “fighting faceless bad guys”.

        I honestly can’t comment on the enemies in B2 as I didn’t see 96% of them. I also can’t even remember anything about the ones that I did fight.

  25. wodin says:

    Torchlight 2 was a much better game for me with regards to ARPG..I soon grew very bored of BL2..but I finished TL2 no problems.

  26. dudleyfisher says:

    WarBorderFaceLands!!!………………………………..no?? Erm sorry i’m new here.

  27. Revolving Ocelot says:

    So, safe to say that the majority of RPS hates Borderlands 2? I personally enjoyed it, but I only just finished my first playthrough a few days ago. Guess I’m (still) a man of no taste.

  28. jhng says:

    I started with Borderlands 2 last week and really enjoyed it initially. However, unfortunately the save system — which seems to save only at major quest nodes and not at respawn points — is probably going to mean I have to put it to one side.

    I only have time to play games in quite short snippets, perhaps 30-45 mins, and so the last couple of times I ended up stopping midquest. I’m now less interested in going back to it because I don’t want to do the same fights again…

    (If I’ve misunderstood the save system, please do let me know!)

    • Schiraman says:

      As far as I’m aware the game saves every time you see the flashing vault symbol in the corner of the screen – which is every time you go near a checkpoint. The game doesn’t save the state of enemies though – so if you kill some and then quit they’ll all be back when you reload.

      For better or worse, some of the areas are pretty sizeable and some quests can take a fair while to complete – so it’s probably not the best game for very short bursts of play.

      • Premium User Badge PoulWrist says:

        Even so, I lost multiple hours of gameplay to CTDs. Mind, it was generally the same hour every time, but it happened more than once. And mostly in the same place. (the under-construction city where you fight robots and dudes in welding masks).

        • Schiraman says:

          Yes, I lost progress to crashes in the exact same place, I guess there’s some kind of specific bug tied to that location. That was the only time I experienced any crashes or notable bugs though.

      • jhng says:

        Thanks — that makes sense. I noticed that I did still have all the new stuff I had acquired the previous session, but it had dumped me back at the starting location for the quest and the intervening enemies had all respawned.

        It’s an interesting constrast with Dark Souls — there being bumped back to the bonfire each time you die is part of the learning process. Here, however, there is no real learning benefit to fighting through the same enemies again (I know I can do it) which is why being bumped back because you quit feels that much more annoying.

        Also, in Dark Souls if you do quit between bonfires it actually saves your exact position — you only get bumped back to the bonfire when you actually die not just because you quit for a time. It seems to me that the DS solution is better.

  29. Archangel says:

    It’s telling that the FTL advent article was a love letter to emergent gameplay and challenge through hardship, and this one was a wholly perfunctory acknowledgement of Borderlands 2′s presence in the market. Borderlands 2 sure was released, all right. Yep. (pause) Okay, on to some good games!

    • Prime says:

      …we clearly weren’t reading the same article, then. But hey, don’t let getting up on the wrong side of bed deter you from spitting and growling at something on the internet.

      • Archangel says:

        Sorry, that was a little more sour-grapes than I intended. I’m just bitter over the time wasted in the soul-crushing original. To each his own, etc., and carry on.

  30. Prime says:

    I surprised myself by having such a good time with the first game so I’m genuinely looking forward to getting Borderlands 2, although I’ll probably wait for a GOTY super DLC-collected edition.

  31. The Hairy Bear says:

    Its interesting reading the criticism of Borderlands 2, my flatmate and I loved the first one but as a single player game it really was a bit of a chore. I think the second one is definitely a better single player game but I do think the side missions are mainly sadly an unfortunately carry over from the first, ie go and fetch these recorders etc. There’s just so many of them now its more noticable. On the positive side my experience of the DLC so far is that the main plots are still good but there’s also been only a few times where I’ve really noticed the ‘fetch’ nature of the side missions.

    I’d definitely say Borderlands 2 is a better game but I think perhaps its also excited me a little less than the first one, it feels they’ve built upon it rather than improved it dramatically. The plots a lot better but there are still too many bullet sponge enemies and the difficulty is extremely variable, particularly single player.

  32. Premium User Badge PoulWrist says:

    The menus might look luxurious, but they’re pretty crap to use.

    • Schiraman says:

      You speak the truth.

      Other than some difficulty spikes and irritations concerning Second Wind (IMO the way this is implemented in GW2 is much better) the dodgy menus were my biggest gripe with Borderlands 2.

  33. Universal Quitter says:

    That’s what I hate about RPS. They make you want to love (buy) a game, even if you know you won’t enjoy it.

    Damn your British wit and clever writing styles.