Borderlands 2 in the test - the coolness made in the game
The empty, wide desert. A train travels through the wasteland with the heroes of Borderlands 2 on board: Axton, Maya, Zer0 and Salvador. Robots appear out of nowhere on the wagon and attack the four-pack.
Completely calmed, the four kill all attackers while the landscape rushes past the carnage unimpressed. All this to the casual sound of »Short Change Hero« by the band »The Heavy«. Finally, the obligatory, ridiculously large explosion that ends the intro to Borderlands 2. And releases us into a world, a story, a game that, like the intro, is casual, cool, hardy and wonderfully self-deprecating.
The humor and the weird atmosphere are certainly the greatest strengths of Borderlands 2. However, if you don't know what to do with it, you may not have as much fun with the title as we do, because the entire work, all tasks, dialogues, characters, weapons and so on continue with this very special humor.
But more on that later. First of all, let's clarify what kind of game Borderlands 2 is actually. Because even if everything looks like a classic first-person shooter on screenshots and videos, that's only half true. Like its predecessor, Borderlands 2 is a hybrid of a first-person shooter and an action role-playing game.
That means: Although we shoot our way through the hordes of opponents in the first person perspective, behind this there is something like Diablo from an unusual perspective. And with fat, futuristic firearms. So it is not only our skills on the mouse and keyboard or the gamepad that count, but to an even greater extent also our character level, that of the opponent and our chosen talents.
Each of the four playable characters represents a class, and each class has its own three-part skill tree. Axton is the commando and the supporter of the troops. Depending on how we spend his skill points, of which we get one per level, he can either take a lot of damage, cause a lot of damage or reinforce his turret. At the push of a button, he throws his turret on the ground, which then independently shoots enemies for a short time.
Salvador, the »Gunzerker«, fires two weapons at the same time for a short time thanks to his special ability and regenerates life points and ammunition in this mode.
Maya is the troop's "siren". There are only six of these women, transformed by alien technology, in the world of Borderlands. Each siren has supernatural abilities. Maya can immobilize her enemies in battle for a short time using the "Phaselock" ability. Modifications can still be unlocked via their skill tree, so that Phaselock causes elemental damage or hits several opponents at once.
After all, Zer0 is… well, nobody really knows. In any case, he is a very talented, lyrically versed assassin who likes to speak in haikus. We can train him to be a pure sniper with high "crit damage", make him a close combat machine or, as we did in the test, play him as an all-rounder. It works amazingly well to mix sniper rifles and melee attacks.
But it should be said that Assassins and Snipers in Borderlands 2 do not actually exist. We can neither sneak up on enemies unseen, nor is there space in many places to shoot over long distances. Zero's special ability is called "Deception". A holographic image of him distracts opponents while we secretly run away. Overall, Gearbox has made the new hero classes more elegant and more satisfying for the player than their predecessor.
So there is only one special ability per class. Our aiming ability still plays an important role, but the weapon with which we aim is almost even more important. As known from Diablo or other representatives of the genre, each Wumme has a range of basic values such as damage, precision and reload speed.
Rare weapons also have special properties. It could simply mean that the gun is causing fire damage or coating our enemies with acid. Every weapon manufacturer gives its products something special. Dahl weapons, for example, always release a burst of fire when we fire them over the rear sight and the front sight, Maliwan manufactures equipment with particularly high elemental damage.
We also find different types of grenades. Because both weapons and grenades are generated randomly, the craziest combinations are created. How about, for example, a grenade that first creates a singularity, i.e. attracts all opponents in one area, and then explodes in a cloud of acid? Or one that bursts into several target-seeking parts and heals us at the same time?
More cannon fodder
And what do we use all the firepower against? Mainly against the fauna of Pandora, the planet Borderlands 2 is set on. Monkey-like bullymongs, dragon-like stalkers, giant insects, strange mineral monsters - Borderlands 2 has a lot of adversaries to offer. Since the first squad of exterminators cleaned up the first Borderlands, there have been even more.
And it's important to know all of them because every enemy has individual strengths and weaknesses. The Hyperion robots, for example, can be extremely difficult to crack: lots of life points, lots of firepower. However, knowing that their arms are falling under fire, the threat is much less.
Damage caused by natural forces is also important in this context. Robots should definitely be fought with acid, human bandits have no chance against firearms, and anything that protects itself with an energy shield is very susceptible to electric shock. The boss fights, which are particularly crisp later in the game, can hardly be managed without elemental weapons.
The game becomes quite demanding in higher level regions, but not unfair with the right equipment in the inventory. There are also catch-a-ride stations everywhere in the game world, where we can borrow a buggy. Thanks to their fat machine guns, they are as powerful as in their predecessor, which is why they can be driven relaxed through any area.
But why do we actually shoot our way through one hostile environment after another? The answer: Handsome Jack! The head of the Hyperion Corporation is exploiting the planet in search of the extremely valuable alien mineral eridium. Also, there seems to be a special alien chamber that ... no, no story spoilers! But of course a real bad guy has an interest in it.
On our way to stop the good-looking, extremely unscrupulous villain, we experience some exciting twists and turns and sometimes nice, often less nice surprises. The story actually kept us going, Gearbox did a much better job here than in Borderlands. The great supporting characters are also partly to blame for this. In addition to known from the predecessor such as Moxxi or Scooter, some new additions have also made it into the game.
Most NPCs also play quest givers for side quests, which make the world a lot livelier compared to the first part and reveal interesting details about our character or a certain area.
The game world
In general, the game world! Unfortunately, they are not completely connected, we have to travel back and forth between the individual areas, but each new environment feels unique. We shoot our way through icy wastelands dominated by huge icebergs, dusty deserts through which bandits smuggle alcohol, green shimmering underground swamps with nasty mutated insects and lush green meadow landscapes with small streams.
We encounter characteristic adversaries in every environment. Only the nasty bandit socks and Hyperion's robot army are nowhere to go. The many, often funny details are great. When we enter a certain area for the first time, we notice a warning sign. It says: "Invisible Assholes!" We don't think much about it. We actually encounter invisible opponents for two minutes. Thanks for the warning, Gearbox!
Or the confused bandit who appears as a client on the roadside and asks us to end his life - in a very funny way. Or the two monsters Pimon and Tumbaa in the game reserve. Or, or, or. Did we mention Borderlands 2's weird, ironic humor? In moments like this, the game overflows with grins.
Technically, Borderlands 2 gets almost everything right. The very own Celshading graphic style has not changed significantly since its predecessor. That's why the game doesn't look any better or worse than Borderlands.
In terms of sound, Borderlands 2 is on the same high level as its predecessor. The soundtrack is a mishmash of western and sci-fi music that perfectly supports the "badass" mood that the game effortlessly creates.
We particularly liked the German speakers. Even die-hard English fans in the editorial office admit that Gearbox did a great job with localization. Just funny: some weapon names were not translated.
However, Borderlands 2 also has some teething problems. Annoying: Every now and then objects simply disappear into the floor or a wall. If this item is relevant to the quest or a weapon with perfect values, then that is very annoying.
In addition, the distribution of the reset points causes some frustration. If you get out of the game shortly before the objective of the mission, you have to fight your way through hordes of opponents for another twenty minutes the next time you try. But despite minor quirks: Borderlands 2 has become one of those games that you should definitely try - if you like Diablo, shooters and crazy humor.