Capsule Review: Borderlands 2

A darkly comic FPS with experience- and loot-based RPG progression. Level up by shooting a variety of enemies with a variety of guns, collect drops and loot containers for currency, ammo, and mostly-trash-but-sometimes-better-than-what-you-have equipment, rinse and repeat. There are a few character classes available, all starting with the same basic abilities but having different special moves and skill trees that allow for distinct builds as you level up.

Much like the Diablo games, combat provides the moment-to-moment action while the loot system anchors it in a longer-term gameplay loop. There are six different classes of gun ranging from the dependable pistol to the devastating rocket launcher. Each gun has several different numeric statistics, elemental effects, and other modifiers adding up to a huge number of distinct possible guns (an exact figure hasn’t been given but it’s claimed to be more than the 17.75 million in the original Borderlands). Most guns you find aren’t better than what you have but some are, and finding the upgrades is exciting.

If you enjoy loot hunts and the idea of comparing many guns with fiddly differences, there’s a lot here for you; if you don’t, you’re likely to be put off by the inventory management that continually breaks up the action. The design decisions here feel incoherent - plentiful ammo drops but low inventory caps on each ammo type encourage you to switch weapons frequently, but this is made painful by the game only giving you two (later four) quick-select slots - not even enough for one gun of each type. Areas that must be cleared of enemies often reward you with loot containers - but this too is more painful than necessary because loot is bizarrely split up. Instead of opening one container and picking up five dollars, you might have to tediously open five containers and pick up one dollar from each.

Worst of all, the frequent drops of randomized guns that provide the game’s long-term loop clash with the incredibly low inventory limit and lack of a quick sell mechanic. Collectors excited by the variety of guns don’t really get to enjoy them, since they can only keep their favorite handful - there’s no room for guns that are only situationally good, so you can’t show them off or whip them out from your utility belt when the right situation arises. And players who aren’t interested in the fiddly differences between guns still have to stop and manage them all the time - you can’t just scoop them all up and then pick your favorites when you go back to town to turn your quests in. Even once you’ve decided which to keep, you can’t break down the extras a la Destiny or have your pet sell them a la Torchlight. Your choices are to drop them or schlep them back to a vendor to sell.

If this stuff bothers you, then the bottom falls out of the game’s loop - new guns aren’t a reward; they’re a chore.

I Stopped Playing When: After a couple of hours of play, it seemed like every major fight (which was fun) was followed by just as much time spent picking up and sorting through loot (which was not fun). This was even more interruptive than Dragon's Crown and I lost interest.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.