PAX 2011: Borderlands 2 Preview

In: Articles by Nick "Alsop Live" Dinicola

26 Aug 2011

Before the demo starts, Steve Gibson of Gearbox reassures all of us in the room that Borderlands 2 isn’t just a quick, cash-in sequel; and the fact that it’s not coming out until “fiscal year 2013” certainly supports that claim. After watching the demo, I’m fully convinced: Gearbox is keeping what works while changing what’s familiar, adding more, all the while never breaking the unique character Borderlands is known for.

The sequel takes place five years after the first game, and the demo takes place about a third of the way through the game. We’re seeing Salvador the Gunzerker in action. He’s been left for dead by one Handsome Jack in the arctic fields, and must go rescue a friend from the Hyperion Corporation.

The first thing he picks up is a Tediore gun, and he shows off the new, unique characteristics of each manufacturer. Tediore is “the Wal-Mart of gun manufacturers,” cheap, disposable; in fact you don’t even reload the guns, just throw them away. Literally. You chuck the gun away and another one appears in your hand. The thrown gun can actually do damage as well, and the amount of damage is partially determined by the amount of bullets in the gun. It might sometimes be better to throw away a fully loaded gun rather than an empty one.

As soon as Salvador picks up the gun an Arctic Bullymong, a new type of enemy, bursts out of a nearby cave. It’s a four-armed, yeti-looking thing that has a tendency to throw things at you. Smaller enemies, rocks, even vehicles; the Bullymong interacts with the environment around it, finding the best way to kill you.

It kills a little bandit guy before Salvador puts it down, and now we get to see what kind of gun the bandits make. Bandits are a new manufacturer for Borderlands 2; they’re not very good mechanics, so their guns are literally made from nuts and bolts (the point of a screw is used as an iron sight), but the bandits understand that bullets are cool, so every gun has a massive clip.

Salvador wanders into a bandit camp, and as you’d expect the first thing he sees is a bunch of suicidal Psychos running towards him, hammers and such in hand. Now we get to see the new animation system Gearbox has made. Enemies stagger around when shot in limbs; a Psycho trips as he’s shot in the leg and starts limping. This allows Salvador to better control the horde: Slow some of them down, take others out; I imagine this will be particularly helpful when dealing with those Psychos that carry around lit sticks of dynamite. It’s harder to run away as well since enemies can jump up to a higher level if you flee up some stairs, and they’ll work together to heal and buff each other as well.

The boss of the bandit camp is Nomad, a huge man with a huge shield with a…little midget chained to the front. When steel shields just aren’t strong enough, use midgets. But the midget isn’t there just as a joke, you can shoot the chains to set him free and he’ll distract Nomad, giving you the opportunity to get past the shield. Or you can use the various attributes of each gun to your advantage: the Tediore gun knocks back the shield, and the Bandit gun is good for pumping lead into the guy before he recovers.

Salvador levels up after the fight and we get to see the newly designed skill tree. It branches at the very beginning, with two separate skill paths coming together after three levels. We’re told but not shown about an entirely new addition: The gamechanger. Steve Gibson tells us that no one likes to unlock a skill that only gives you a 2 percent addition to something after 10 hours of playtime; it’s like the more you level up the less dramatic the unlocks are. Gamechangers will unlock later in the skill tree and offer you a chance to significantly change how you play.

Finally, Salvador is near the end of his quest. He’s at the Hyperion base where his friend is being held, and now another player joins in the game. The new Siren, Maya. Apparently every Siren is unique, so Maya won’t have the phasewalk ability that Lilith had, but Gearbox refused to show off this mysterious new power in the PAX demo. Regardless, I loved Lilith, so I know who I’ll be playing as in Borderlands 2.

Maya and Salvador fight their way to the quest icon, and they find Roland, the soldier from the first game, in a floating cage. All the character of Borderlands will appear in the sequel as NPCs, and in this case, as friends to be saved.

But that’s easier said than done: The cage moves around the level, and everywhere it goes it calls in robotic reinforcements from the Hyperion moon base. You can actually see the robots shoot across the sky and land.

Amidst the chaos Salvador picks up a new gun, this time from Vladof. These guys specialize in “bullet hoses,” guns that shoot fast. The rifle has a spinning barrel, like a minigun, and vomits through its medium sized slip.

Just as Roland’s cage is nearing the end of its health it spawns another robot, a big one that blasts Salvador back, off the edge of the level. As he falls to his death he flips off the world with both hands, and the demo ends. The spirit of Borderlands is very much alive and well in the sequel: The crazy guns, the hordes of enemies, the RPG elements, and the wry, self-aware humor. It’s more of what you love.

Borderlands 2
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Release date: Fiscal year 2013

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2 Responses to PAX 2011: Borderlands 2 Preview

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Yama Raion

August 27th, 2011 at 7:30 am

Sounds great, can’t wait! Although – Mordecai is the guy with the hawk, Roland is the Soldier.

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GamerEdir

August 27th, 2011 at 11:29 am

Wasn’t Roland the soldier? I think Mordecai was the sniper with the hawk.

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