When Borderlands was released back in 2009, it brought something fresh to the stagnant first-person shooter genre with its quirky and comedic characters, heavily quest-driven story and enough guns to arm a small country. With it taking close to one hundred hours to complete everything Borderlands had to offer and four very different characters to choose from, the only thing letting Borderlands down was too much deserts and its ending that was abrupt and unsatisfying. Three years later and Borderlands 2 has hit our shelves, but what can we expect? Can the sequel maintain everything that made Borderlands great while improving upon the few flaws? Let’s find out!

When we left Roland, Brick, Lilith and Mordecai, they had just saved Pandora from ‘The Destroyer’ who had emerged from The Vault, an ancient and unknown treasure trove that can only be opened once every two hundred years, and were finally given some time to rest before continuing their Vault hunting. Five years later and we meet four fresh Vault Hunters, Salvador the Gunzerker, Maya the Siren, Zer0 the Assassin and Axton the Commando, who have all been lured to Pandora to search for a new Vault. Handsome Jack, the president of Hyperion Corporation, was the one to lure these adventurers to Pandora to search for this Vault but Jack has bigger plans for them.

Playing either alone or with up to three friends, Borderlands 2 will take you away from the dusty deserts that Borderlands was shunned for and into a variety of different locations, from the snowy peaks of the Frozen Wastes to the lush forests and green grass of the Highlands. Populating these large domains are some of your favourite characters from Borderlands such as Scooter, with his famous ‘Catch-a-ride’ service, and Moxxi, with a couple of her famous assets.

Other inhabitants of Pandora who have stood up and taken a dominant role in the way things are run are Sir Hammerlock, a gentleman and monster hunter, and Ellie, Scooter’s sister and a renter of vehicles in The Dust – the only desert found in Borderlands 2. As with the first game these characters are scripted perfectly and you will be literally laughing out loud while listening to most conversations which will push you to complete each and every one of the many quests in the game.

While you could easily rush through the main quests and have the game completed in only twenty or so hours, this would be a complete waste of such a marvellous game and it would probably make some of the bosses a little difficult to kill. There is such a large amount of different guns out there you will find yourself switching between them on a regular basis, which makes the combat entertaining and rewarding. The only frustrating part about the combat is that while the guns bring variety to the way your enemies will die, the battles are very much the same, and bosses especially are just a matter of dodging incoming fire and taking out the enemy as fast as possible. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this, with some fights having phases and requiring the use of tactics, especially when in a group of four, and it was these fights that will allow you to forgive the blandness of others. Hopefully the planned DLC that will follow will include these kinds of battles.

Fans of the first Borderlands will be fully aware of the guns that were at your disposal and Borderlands 2 is no different. You still have your fire, corrosive, electric and explosive elements that you’ll find attached to any type of weapon, but you now also have a new type – Slag. While the other four elements do additional damage to your enemies, Slag will coat your enemy with Eridium and make them weak enough to weapons that do not have an element. When paired together like this, these can make a lethal combination and a good tide turner on some of the boss battles.

There are also guns that you can throw like a grenade when you reload it and others that will use more ammunition per shot but will do massive damage. You still have your shields, class mods and grenade mods, and these have equally interesting effects, such as grenades that will turn into multiple grenades on impact and shields that cause a massive explosion when they deplete.

Although already mentioned, one of the most appreciated changes is the addition of more environments other than boring deserts. With the discovery of Eridium, a new power source that is especially desirable by Sirens, the harsh deserts have been transformed into a variety of terrains such as the snowy and green lands, mentioned above, and also some interesting ones that have been moulded from the purple Eridium.

While most of the map is made up of new zones you can expect to revisit some of the ones, which will be a real joy for those who played the original Borderlands. There has also been a day and night cycle added to Borderlands 2, which will have some effect on which enemies spawn and how they behave. While there’s not a lot of variation between day and night it’s still nice to experience different parts of the game at a different time of day.

For fans of the original Borderlands this will be a must buy, but for those who are still on the fence, it’s time to come down. Borderlands 2 has everything that made Borderlands great while improving on the things that players found dull in the first game – most notably the bland environments. Although we are going to see a lot of games releasing next month, if you still haven’t picked up Borderlands 2, I would highly suggest you go out and grab it right now!

Tim Leigh

Tim likes games. Tim likes games A LOT. It’s highly likely he’s played on most of the platforms that support games over his long years playing video games and is a sucker for new technology. He can often be found on his Xbox 360 playing the latest RPG or playing a wide range of multiplayer games with his buddies. While doing this however, he’ll often have a casual game of Peggle running on his PC and making sure his planes are doing the rounds in Pocket Planes on the iPad. When he’s actually not found playing games he’ll either be at the cinema watching the latest film releases or at the gym attempting to get fit - attempting being the important word there

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