PAX East 2012: Borderlands 2 Co-op Preview

PAX East 2012: Borderlands 2 Co-op Preview

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Borderlands 2 will focus on story and variety to tempt you back to Pandora for a second adventure.

With a full game and four separate packs of significant DLC currently at your disposal, it's pretty clear that Borderlands has been a non-stop avalanche of content for fans of the series since it's initial release in 2009. Now, three years after we first learned to navigate the lands of Pandora from that rascally little robot Claptrap, Gearbox Software has decided to start fresh with Borderlands 2 a new adventure that maintains basically every single thing that defined the original as a self-proclaimed "shooter RPG" ... for better or worse.

Gearbox paired me with one other player, and let us choose between two classes for a demo. I took the Siren (my class of choice during my experiences with the original Borderlands) while he took the Gunzerker, a beefy assault trooper type with a cow-catcher beard of which I was immediately jealous. Both of us were set up with one basic power: I could lift enemies into the air, helplessly levitating them for a short time, while my brother-in-arms (note the plural) could dual wield two completely different weapons simultaneously for some devastating effect combinations.

It wasn't long before enemies swarmed us, which may be the largest difference between Borderlands 1 and 2. There weren't many moments during this new experience when I wasn't covered in a decent variety of unforgiving baddies, which kept the pacing fun and my fingers busy. The only downside to the hectic action, if there was one, was that it left my partner and I a bit out of sync. There were multiple times when we both traveled a chain of assaulting enemies in different directions, and then had to struggle to fight our way back toward each other. Based on the physical set up of the PAX demo, we couldn't speak to each other easily (which would be different in the actual game), so that may have been more to blame for our lack of teamwork than a design issue.

The enemies themselves were more varied than the 763 different types of skags you seemed to encounter 90% of the time in the first game, which was immediately refreshing. They also look crisper, as does the game as a whole, really punching up its distinct cell-shaded style with better colors and a sharper contrast to the background.

Combat is similar to the first, but new, slight variations between weapons and enemy types have been added to spice things up. The bug-like enemies we fought for our preview, for example, often had weak spots, requiring a small sequence of actions to defeat: a "shoot the hot-spot, bust up the armor, and take it down" sort of thing. There will be some other tricks at work in the final game, too. For example, some enemies will buzz around for a bit, but enter a cocoon that makes them more difficult to kill if you didn't prioritize toasting them in their initial, more larval state.

Guns employ the same addition of unique quirks, and while Borderland's weapons have always been known for their variety, this time the manufacturing brand (Atlus, Hyperion, and the like) matters. Each gunsmith has a wholly different look and feel, boons and drawbacks. These variations, combined with the different styles of enemies, has created a combat system that, while very similar to the first Borderlands, somehow feels more active and involved.

After my demo, I had a chance to speak with creative director, Paul Hellquist, and ask him what additions the team had made to improve the Pandora experience. Hellquist answered that Gearbox had focused on player feedback, trying to recreate the experience that brought people into the zany shooter three years ago while retuning certain aspects with which players had taken issue.

Most of the improvements were fun additions like added shield types, grenade types, and a new vehicle (with completely revamped physics) that can seat all four players and launch buzz saws. Hellquist also mentioned the issue of enemy variety, and how the largest shift of enemy types in Borderlands 1 came too late in the game. This time, he said, each area will host its own unique "family" of enemies, making sure that each section maintains a new feel and challenge.

Each character in Borderlands 2 still evolves based on three separate skill trees, but Hellquist was excited to explain that now, each tree can reach two points that he described as "game changers," abilities which fundamentally alter how the character plays. One of these, he explained, will be reached mid-game, while the second will come toward the end.

Based on my ten-minute experience with Borderlands 2, I think it fair to say that if you played the original, then you already know almost exactly what to expect with its sequel. Things look cleaner, the pacing is improved, and the action is more frenetic. Otherwise? It's Borderlands. And if you liked Borderlands, that's far from bad news.

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Sounds like everything I loved from the first one, just improved; like buzzsaw launching vehicles.
This is probably the one game I'm really looking forward to right now. Thanks for the info.

Now I just hope they have the custom soundtrack feature on the ps3, especially if I play it nearly as long as I've been playing B1. Really that's my only worry and it's a pretty minor one.

Only game I've been excited about since STALKER:SOC. I might even pre-order this one....

Assuming the required specs didn't jump up too high for my gaming laptop to handle even on low, I will be ALL OVER THIS GAME.

And hopefully I can get at least one of my borderlands-1 buddies in on the action. :P

Mike Kayatta:

With a full game and four separate packs of significant DLC currently at your disposal*

I think you mean "three separate packs of significant DLC and Mad Moxxie's Underdome Riot".

But I digress, this game is going to be fantastic. By The Secret Armory of General Knox they clearly knew what to do and how to do it, and unless they unlearned everything that led them to make that fantastic chapter of the original game, I have no doubt they'll strike gold again.

Cool, more Borderlands sounds good. Though, I hoped the article would emphasize more about the "focus on story" thing. Storytelling was a bit lacking in Borderlands 1.

day one purchase here.

dyre:
Cool, more Borderlands sounds good. Though, I hoped the article would emphasize more about the "focus on story" thing. Storytelling was a bit lacking in Borderlands 1.

Sadly, there's not much to elaborate on. I think they're keeping much of it under wraps for the time being :)

Mike Kayatta:

dyre:
Cool, more Borderlands sounds good. Though, I hoped the article would emphasize more about the "focus on story" thing. Storytelling was a bit lacking in Borderlands 1.

Sadly, there's not much to elaborate on. I think they're keeping much of it under wraps for the time being :)

Oh, damn. Ah well, the increased enemy variety and better gameplay are enough to look forward to for now, I guess :P

This and BioShock Infinite are the only games I'm really excited for. Right now I'm just waiting to see how much this is going to cost me. So far, price of the game, a GTX 680, and depending on the bonuses, the bigger collectors edition of the game.

I'm so glad that they are focusing on increasing enemy variety. Borderlands 1 became such a drag at times when you enter a new exciting area only to have to fight another type of Skag.

I want to hear more on how they're going to improve the story and character interactions though. Borderlands 1 had such a fantastic set of characters, but it did nothing with them.

I loved the gameplay and look of Borderlands. The story did take a backseat to this as if felt like while you are here you might as well... Now what really killed it for me was the PC co-op issues in finding a group, not getting dc'ed as soon as you got in the game. Plus the co-op didn't really inspire team play. Sure you were with someone or a group but there was no actual incentive to make sure you all stayed together. More times than I can count I'd get into a co-op session only to be left standing there with my thumb up my butt cause the team I was with was on some sort of speed quest run or something.

I do hope they have made the story more central to the game and improved the co-op gameplay to keep the teams together because you really need to rely on all the members of the group to achive success in the quests.

Yaaaay :D

 

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