As a writer, video games can be a most unwelcome passenger in my life. They provide a distraction that often takes me away from my responsibilities for hours, maybe even days. But this is only half the story, for despite the distraction, video games have also helped my creative process. Believe what you want, but playing a video game is not equivalent to crapping out in front of the TV. Video games require strong hand-eye coordination, they force me to think quickly, challenging my abilities to think critically and problem solve on the fly, and most important, oftentimes, they inspire me to create.
Annnnd that brings me to my review of Borderlands 2, by GearBox.
Now, this isn't a typical video game review. Graphics and gameplay matter to me, but what I really care about is the story. In fact, I've played some terrible games in the past, but hung on until the end because I was riveted by the story. Borderlands 2 isn't one of these games...not yet anyway.
I've only logged about 14 hours on Pandora since the three weeks that I've owned this game (a relatively small amount of time when you think about how much time some people spend watching Football on a Sunday), so I haven't exactly "finished the book" yet. But what I have seen so far has definitely kept me playing.
Borderlands 2 takes place on the planet, Pandora, about 5 years after the events of the first Borderlands game, and let me tell you, things haven't changed all that much on the surface. There are still tribes of cannibalistic psychos camped out at every turn as well as fierce alien beasts set on murdering anything that crosses their path. The scope of the world of Pandora is huge. You start out in a frozen wasteland, move on to a desert/junkyard, and about halfway through, you end up in a highland landscape complete with military bunkers set over cascading waterfalls. When you throw in the history from the first game and this game's diabolical villain, you have a world that every fantasy writer wishes for...deep in detail, rich in history, and most important, intriguing.
As for the story itself, the game begins as the protagonists, the Vault Hunters, descend upon a Hyperion Corporation train on a mission to kill Handsome Jack, Hyperion's CEO (oh, and he's also the self-proclaimed Dictator of Pandora). You see, in order to "clean up" Pandora, Jack has pretty much vowed to wipe the living population off the face of the planet in order to rebuild from the ashes. As one of the four (now five!) Vault Hunters, your mission is to take out Jack and restore as much peace as Pandora will allow.
Predictably, the train hijacking is a setup, resulting in the Vault Hunters being stranded in the Arctic Wasteland, only to be rescued by the familiar and loveable "Claptrap", a dubsteppin' robot with dubious motive. The Guardian Angel is back in this game as well, returning again as the Vault Hunter's advisor, although this time, Angel isn't exactly the same as before. We also get to see a return of the original Vault Hunters from the first Borderlands. On Handsome Jack's Pandora, they have taken the roles of freedom fighters, and reuniting with them brings some of that history I spoke of earlier back to the surface.
Gripes? As characters, the new Vault Hunters are pretty simple cardboard cutouts. We only get snippets of dialogue from them, and their personalities are pretty much summarized by their snappy comebacks in the heat of battle. This was true of the original Vault Hunters as well. The cool thing is that in Borderlands 2, the original Vault Hunters are non-playable characters, meaning we get to talk to them and fight with them unlike anything we got to see in the first game. This time around, we get to know the originals much better, and that, to me, is a fantastic reward.
Bottom Line: If you liked the first game and enjoyed the story, you'll really get some enjoyment out of the second installment. Of course, there are some gameplay differences that may affect the enjoyability of the game overall, but screw it, I'm all about the story.
Video Games, Comics, Movies, and Books. I'll talk about it all, and I'll tell you why it's so awesome!