At first glance, you wouldn't expect a big loud shooty bang bang game such as Borderlands 2 to be the type who wears a pocket protector and hangs around for the after school mathlete competitions, and yet here it is, polishing up its statistics term paper. The Borderlands 2 character class skill tree is available online for your perusal, allowing you first to see exactly which class gets what abilities, and secondly to get down to the all-important task of minmaxing stats and specialisations.
The first thing to notice is that there's been a mild shake up of class abilities. Zero, the Assassin, is a combination of both Mordecai and Lilith from the first game, taking both Sniper Rifles and invisibility crit attacks respectively. Maya, the new Siren, leaves Lilith's DPS behind and becomes more centered around support, as she turns out to be the team's only healer ontop of all the enemy stunlocking she'll be getting up to. That leaves Axton reliant soley on his turret, whereas previously Roland was able to act as a Medic. And finally Salvador remains the ballistic equivalent of Brick's tanking and pure damage.
Which is all to say: It's the same, but different. Most of the abilities are exactly the same baseline, incremental improvements as seen in the first game, from the yawn-tastic Increase Shields to the confusing bullet speed buff. Which is to be expected, of course.
The interesting thing about the skill trees turns out to be the difficulty in choosing the upgrades, moreso than the previous outing. They're much more divergent, especially across each of the three trees individual to each character. As the tool shows, even if you level up all the way to level 50, you still won't be able to spec more than one high-tier skill, and with the three to choose from each so potentially game-changing it's an impossible decision already. Let alone the sacrifices I had to make to get down that far at all - the first build I made I barely passed the first branch before I ran out of points.
For instance, the high-tier skills for Axton allow his turret to either fire a massive enemy debuff, create a nuclear explosion on deployment or allows the player to deploy two different turrets entirely. In which case do you take the teleporting turret upgrade? The ability to stick them to walls and ceilings? Those are precious points you could be putting towards survivability in extreme fight-for-your-life situations, which as any player of the first Borderlands knows, becomes part and parcel of the flow of combat. Tough decisions to be made all round.
Which is all to say: looking good.
Borderlands 2 is set to release next week, September 18th in the US and the 21st for the UK.