In the early days of Final Fantasy, Garland appeared as the very first antagonist. When the fabled Warriors of Light appeared outside the gates of Cornelia, they learned of the missing Princess Sarah, kidnapped by the knight, Garland. It’s unclear if Garland is regarded as a once-knight because of his new status as a kidnapper, or if he committed some atrocity in his past. Regardless, at the request of the King of Cornelia, the Light Warriors set out to find Garland and rescue the Princess.
The Dawn of Souls version of Final Fantasy gives us a little more information about Garland, indicating he’s the finest swordsman in the land, and he’s already thwarted one attempt by the kingdom to recover the Princess. Please note Dawn of Souls also puts a twist on matters. The King bars passage from Cornelia unless the Warriors get the Princess back.
The Warriors of Light find Garland in the dilapidated Chaos Shrine to the north of Cornelia. Inside, Garland stands before the kidnapped Princess Sarah, threatening the Light Warriors:
The Light Warriors fight. Garland falls. The Princess is rescued, and while the Warriors of Light begin their journey across the newly built bridge leading away from Cornelia, Garland’s blood leaks out onto the pixilated floor of the Chaos Shrine.
Except that’s far from the end of Garland. While the Light Warriors travel the world in search of a way to restore their crystals to their former glory, the Four Fiends of Chaos revive Garland and send him 2000 years in the past. There, in the unbroken Temple of Chaos, Garland absorbs the power of the Four Fiends and becomes the powerful Chaos. With his newfound power, Chaos sends the Fiends into the future where they will one day send him back to the past, creating a paradox that only the Light Warriors can solve.
After the crystals are lit once again, the Light Warriors travel back to the broken Chaos Shrine and find the means to travel into the past. There, they meet their old foe Garland, now possessed with the power of Chaos. Once more, they do battle, and the Light Warriors win, supposedly breaking the Time-Loop. None of this tells us anything more about Garland’s character except perhaps his penchant for destruction and his wish for immortality. Too many questions remain about the Time-Loop to answer whether it will continue or not, of course, the epilogue clearly states Garland will be waiting for the Warriors when they return to their proper time.
The Final Fantasy game, Dissidia sheds a little more light on Garland’s character. Portrayed as a brutish warrior, relying on strength alone to overcome his enemies, Garland remains a constant ally of Chaos. He is a playable character, a villain whose only desire is to see the war between Chaos and Cosmos continue. In-game reports mention Garland has been freed from the Time-Loop, so perhaps he is truly in two places as once: Chaos is the Garland who will be, and Garland is what Chaos once was.
In the lore of Final Fantasy, the original Garland remains shrouded in mystery. He’s the first boss you ever face, and in the same game, he’s the final boss. It’s sort of poetic. His past is the one piece of his history we know nothing about, and so he may very well be a sympathetic villain. Unfortunately, we’re unlikely to ever find that out, and so Garland’s true character may have to reside in our imaginations.
FUN FACT: The word GARLAND refers to a round wreath of branches, flowers, or leaves that was once worn as a crown. Not only does this reference the Time-Loop Garland falls into, but it could also reference a claim to his kingship.
One of the great things about the internet today is the rapid sharing of information. A Tweet someone sends about a new cupcake bakery could spawn a new customer or even a hundred with the right following. Event organizers can spread the word of a new concert or party, and in a relatively short amount of time, they can attract tons of participants. Small town news stories can spread globally, within hours or days if the right push is behind it.
Of course, there's a huge downside to this as well, a downside we as a digital culture are still figuring out. Sure the message spreads far and wide, but maybe the new cupcake bakery is selling E Coli-riddled muffins. Maybe no one comes to your party because there just wasn't the right spin on it. And maybe that small town news story about an old man who feeds the bird in the park ends up demonizing him because he kind of looks like a version of what Hitler might look like today if he'd actually survived WWII. Of course, the spread of the message is only part of the problem. The other half is the way the message is written.
I'm not here to solve all the problems on the internet today, but I am going to try to bring a little attention to something that has been bugging me for a while now. I'm sure this affects every facet of the internet, but I see it every single day in the world in which I live... the world of geekery.
The internet helps in a lot of cool ways when a new movie or video game is coming along. We can see early production shots of new movies, pictures taken from an adjacent building and posted online. Early tests for new video games can spread quickly across the internet, whereas years ago we'd have to wait for pics posted in a monthly magazine.
What bothers me the most with all of this is that rather than spreading useful information, the internet has turned into a game, a game where the most clicks wins. Most of these articles don't care about whether they're right or wrong, they care about about how much traffic comes to their website. This isn't new information. What gets me is that these articles are being passed off as "news" when it's the farthest thing from it.
I can think up literally anything and post it around the internet as a "newsworthy" article and it will drive traffic to my website. The masses on the internet will click on the link, some will not, and many, many more will simply debate whether the headline is plausible or not (because who has time to read these days). I'll save that gripe for another day.
Look. I'm not going to tell you how to internet. Hell, sometimes I find it fun to browse the Reddit comments on these rumor news posts just to see how bent out of shape some people get. Trolling is an important part of the internet, too. But many of us get wrapped up in the sensationalism of the rumors and spread it around without even thinking about it. Rumors are rumors, and no amount of wishful thinking will prove them true or false. Of course, they might be true...by accident.
Friday afternoon, just after school. It's the mid 90's. As soon as I get home, I make a phone call to the video store. They have one Super Nintendo available to rent. I don't ask about the game I want. I know they have it. They always have it. Mom gets home first. I beg her to take me to the video store. There's a condition usually, a chore that needs to be done first, but in the end, I get the ride I need. A half hour later, I'm in my bedroom, hooking up my rented SNES. The game I rented, the one they always have, is Arcana. And it's one of the most fascinating games I've ever played.
A Simple Not-So-Simple Design
The word "arcana" refers to tarot cards, so it's not surprising the game uses a card-based concept. Everything in the game, from heroes and villains to items, is a card to be played. The protagonist, Rooks, is a Card Master, and as such, he can cast magic in the form of cards, and summon one of four elemental spirits that become his only constant ally.
The game itself is set up as a basic and unimaginative dungeon crawler. Each chapter consists of a series of mazes that increase in difficulty, as well as a different set of characters to play with. The story is basic for a fantasy RPG, and the translation is certainly lacking, but there's something fascinating about the plot.
The World of Elemen
As a young writer who was already immersing myself in an element-based world, Arcana's world felt very close to my own. The Elements of Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire all keep each other in balance. Each element carries a strength and a weakness, bringing a very potent concept of strategy to the came. The first dungeon in the game contains earth-based enemies, a handy coincidence because Rooks' only spirit card is Sylph, a wind-based spirit, and earth has a weakness for wind. However, a healthy dose of fire-based enemies roam this dungeon which is not so handy, after all, fire is strong against wind. This forces Rooks to carry water cards because he hasn't yet obtained the water spirit. Because cards are limited, and usually only found in town, a player must learn to balance physical combat, spirit-wielding, and magic cards, using the latter only when absolutely necessary.
Playing with the different elements and figuring out a sound strategy became the most fun for me. Even today, I find the same enjoyment with the game. That moment when you finally get the earth spirit in the dungeon filled with water-based enemies is incredible, as is find your way through the Ice Mine for the first time. A word of advice on the Ice Mine: Don't use a map. Find your own way. It's deliciously frustrating.
Leave it to the developers at Gearbox to use a refined trope to announce their newest game in the Borderlands franchise. Aren't these typically called "prequels"? Whatever. One of the great things about the Borderlands series is Gearbox isn't afraid to chart entirely new paths.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is set in the years prior to Handsome Jack's takeover of Pandora, and it will introduce new (but familiar) characters and classes, new weapons, and new elements to the franchise.
- Low-gravity/oxygen-powered jetpacks accompany the characters as they explore Pandora's Moon.
- New Cryo element
- New "Laser" weapon class
- Play as familiar characters/classes from Borderlands 1 & 2 including Wilhelm, Athena, Nisha (the Sheriff of Lynchwood), and Claptrap
Perhaps we'll get an inside look into Handsome Jack's motives and tactics during his takeover of Pandora. For sure, it'll be great to relive some of the great moments in Pandoran history that were only alluded to or told via EchoLog in Borderlands 2!
**MINOR SPOILERS BELOW**
I’ve been sick for the last few days, and during some of my “lucid” moments, I’ve reacquainted myself with an old friend. Well, maybe not an old friend. An acquaintance. A buddy from a few years ago that was cool, but also, kind of douchey, and once we lost touch, it didn’t really matter that we weren’t around each other anymore. I’m talking about a game called Final Fantasy XIII. To many, the game broke the franchise, and for a while, I was on the bandwagon. After beginning a second play through, I don’t feel the same way.
When Final Fantasy XIII was announced back in 2006, it was presented as this sleek fighting game with RPG elements slapped around it, garnering much hatred early on. I wasn’t a hater yet. I thought the graphics were impressive, but to me, Final Fantasy has always been about the story, so I wasn’t bothered. But as the release date got closer, and beta testers and reviewers alike began saying how awful the game was, I became worried. Words like “linear” and “annoying characters” made me wonder if Square-Enix had finally dropped the ball. But as any good fan, win or lose, I stuck by my team.
On my first play through, all those years ago, I found myself beautifully thrust into a fantastic world. Perfect! The story was intriguing, the characters weren’t so annoying (and besides, screw the haters!), and the sleek, new ATB system was much more interactive than I first imagined. Still, I felt something hollow in my gut. The story was good, but something was missing. After several hours of playing, I figured it out.
I had no where to go but forward. There’s something poetic about that, but this concept was very unfamiliar for the Final Fantasy franchise. I’m fine with linear gameplay. Sometimes, that’s the only way to tell a story. But lines go two ways, forward and backward, but in FFXIII, they only go forward. During the first twelve hours of gameplay give or take, the main characters are stuck on Cocoon, a small planetoid floating just a couple miles about the surface of the planet. During this time, your only real options are to move forward. This isn’t a totally foreign concept. In Final Fantasy IV, you travel in a somewhat linear path, but at least you can travel back to a town or revisit locations later in the game. In FFXIII, you can NEVER go back once you leave a map. Once you leave behind those early stages and escape Cocoon, they’re gone for the duration of the game.
Why does this matter to the story? If I’m so damn interested in the story, why do I care if I can only move in one direction?
It’s because in every other Final Fantasy, the player controls the flow of the story. In FFXIII, the story is thrust upon you, tamped down your throat like a Redcoat loading his rifle. Not until much later in the game when you’re allowed onto the surface of Gran Pulse can you actually explore. You learn about the world and the story on your own terms.
I think I figured out why this is so important. When you’re reading a book, you imagine the world you’re reading about as you go. But in a video game, the imagination part is mostly done for you. The story can add inspiration and imagination, but the visuals and the sounds are presented for you. Exploration, even reexamination, are vital tools for imagination in a video game. It allows you to discover on your own, to imagine and inspire your own fantasies.
To me, this is the biggest flaw with Final Fantasy XIII. I refuse to call it simply linear. Like a ray, FFXIII can only move in one direction, so I guess, I’ll call it radiant. Sounds nice, but I’m not saying it’s a good thing.
UNTIL my second play through. What I discovered the second time astounded me. During those introductory hours, I found myself rolling my eyes and taking long breaks between areas, all the while just begging to get to Gran Pulse. When I finally got to Gran Pulse, not only was I relieved, but I found what I’d missed before.
The l’Cie, my main characters, are trapped in a fate they cannot escape. At first, they’re forced to run, and even upon discovering their purpose, they’re still funneled into a direction that only their fal’Cie overlords can understand. Only when they take matters into their own hands and challenge everything they’ve ever been told about Gran Pulse, are they opened up to exploration.
What a genius way to get the point across! Let your player go through what the characters are going through. It’s like the “show, don’t tell” rule, but applied to a video game. Suddenly, the past few hours struggling through Cocoon didn’t feel so wasted. I was connected to the characters on a new level. I truly understood the frustration of being l’Cie.
I’m not saying this redeems the flaw of radiant gameplay, but it does give some justification. It provides a brand new experience for an old time Final Fantasy player like myself. Unfortunately, too many people aren’t in it for the story.
I've been an avid fan of the Final Fantasy series since the first game on the NES. I've played most of the games, been impressed by all of them. Even today, they are my biggest sources of inspiration.
One of the most beloved games from my childhood was The Legend of Zelda. I played the original for the NES when I was in grade school, but my fascination with the series really took off when A Link to the Past came out, and there are a couple reasons why. Firstly, Nintendo Power magazine featured a comic book based on the game, a bit of marketing that really helped build the hype. Secondly, my best friend at the time was as big of geek as I was about the game, so having a friend along for the ride helped feed my own fascination.
But probably the most intriguing feature of this new game was that it took us into Hyrule's past, giving us an origin story. The most amazing aspect of this past Hyrule revolved around the so-called, Dark World. Not only would we have the "Light World" of Hyrule to explore, but we also had the Dark World to explore, a mirror image of Hyrule corrupted by Ganon's greed and desires. The worlds were connected by established portals in the Light World, but one of the single most beautiful concepts was how one world affected the other. Drain a dam in one world and you would open a path in the other world. Some items could only be obtained by traveling in between the two worlds, cutting through the reality of each like a sewing needle. Coupled with the games beautiful graphics and soundtrack, the A Link to the Past holds up as a beloved classic.
So naturally, I was pretty excited when I learned about a follow-up game called A Link Between Worlds, released the year for the Nintendo 3DS. A yes, a follow-up, not another freakin' remake! Remakes are fine and all, but I'm a story guy. If you're not doing anything but updated the graphics, it's not enough for me.
A Link Between Worlds takes place several generations after A Link to the Past. At first, it seemed I was pretty much headed for remake territory when I first started playing. Some of the names and features of the world had changed, and taking away the stormy opening sequence of ALttP didn't convince me. It wasn't until I started into the first dungeons and noticed that things only looked similar. Many of the puzzles were completely new, and those that I did recognize came welcome and also with just enough twist that they seemed fresh. When it came time to hit up Hyrule Castle, the place I knew would introduce me to "the other world", I was eager to move forward.
Even though I knew it was coming, I was shocked and even a little disoriented when it first happened. You see, one of the newest mechanics of ALBW is the ability to merge into a wall and become a painting that can move on the surface only, and this new mechanic is exactly what ties the two worlds together.
Another interesting mechanic is the introduction of tool rental. In the past Zelda games, you were pretty much required to go from one specific dungeon to the next because an item in dungeon A would allow you access to dungeon B. There was no real choice, of course a crafty player could figure out how to get around some of those obstacles. In ALBW, Link has the option to "rent" and eventually even buy some of the tools that allow him access not only to one or two of the dungeons, but nearly all of them. Rentals are lost if Link runs out of hearts, but if you can manage to buy them early, they're yours to keep.
I'm not through the game yet because I'm bogged down with work, but the few hours I've played here and there are really shaping up nicely. If you are on the fence about A Link Between Worlds because you think it might be a remake, remember this game only takes place in the same world (or worlds). The story and mechanics are much different, and in some respects, even improved upon.
And as a bonus, A Link Between Worlds adds more story to the already complex Zelda timeline, a world I will never get tired of.
Since the release of the original Borderlands in 2009, and Borderlands 2 last year, one constant has encompassed the franchise like a Rakk circling a horde of bandits:
Loot. These games have TONS of loot.
So what’s so special about loot? I’ve been asking myself that question for a long time now, and with the Borderlands 2 Loot Hunt in full swing, I find myself asking again. After countless hours farming for Bee shields or multiple runs against raid-bosses like Pyro Pete and Terramorphus, the simplest explanation might just be the answer.
Hunting for loot is awesome.
LOW DROP RATES
A common complaint throughout the Borderlands community is that some of the best weapons/mods/shields have extremely low drop rates. One of the rarest weapons in the game, the Cobra, can only be dropped from a specific enemy type. Killing 100 Burners might net one or two sniper rifle drops, and of those one or two drops, there’s only a .88% chance that it will be a Cobra.
But whereas others might choose to complain about the low drops, I personally like them low. I still remember the first pearlescent weapon that fell from a wandering Goliath or that time I found an Infinity pistol in a red chest. These finds were made memorable because they happen so infrequently AND because they were good weapons.
In almost all games, an element of farming is present. Farming is the idea of repeatedly hunting/killed the same enemy or groups of enemies over and over until you net one of their rare prizes. When I was younger, we didn’t call it farming. We called it playing the game. In Final Fantasy IV for the SNES, my best friend and I spent hours killing Red Dragons at the end of the games in the hopes of finding Kain’s Dragoon Lance. We did this because we wanted to find the best the game had to offer.
In Borderlands, the best is always right around the corner. Even once you have a weapon or mod you’re happy with, another will usually come along. The best (if there is such as thing) is also interpretive. My level 72 Caustic SMG might not be the best weapon to another player. Such is the beauty of Borderlands. So many choices and play styles can come together.
THE LOOT HUNT
The Borderlands Loot Hunt is one of the most brilliant pieces of video game marketing that I’ve seen in a long time, if ever. Every day over the course of a month, a new target and challenges are released to anyone who has signed up for the hunt. Every time you kill the daily target, you’re entered into a drawing for $100,000 worth of prizes. After playing Borderlands 2 for so long, I’ll jump at a chance to make some money off my experience.
But the fun of hunting specific targets isn’t nearly as fun as the daily challenges. Every time you kill the daily target, a rare weapon will drop. The daily challenge requires you to take said weapon, and as a community, kill a mass amount of a specific enemy. If all the daily challenge requirements are completed to 100%, yet another rare piece of loot is made available.
The daily challenges breath new life into the game. I was starting to get a little bored mashing up Field Rats with my Unkempt Harold, but yesterday, I had to take my newly acquired Fire Veruc against the Field Rats instead. It was almost like playing a new game, plus, I found love for a weapon I’d found once before and discarded because I didn’t much care for the feel.
In the end, Borderlands is a getaway from the stresses of real life, but finding loot is the icing on the cake, making it all taste that much better.
Spoiler-Free Review of The Last Of Us (PS3)
Most of us are familiar with the zombie apocalypse genre. A virus breaks out and rapidly spreads among the human population. The infected feed on the flesh of the living and spread the virus by biting the healthy. Survivors wall themselves up in camps or the military gets involved or both. Human beings find the worst in themselves in their struggle to survive. They lie, betray, steal, and murder. The honest people either die or become murderers themselves, and humanity sinks into an abyss from which it might never escape.
And fade to black and roll credits. The End. …To Be Continued.
I’m a big fan of the newer zombie genre. Sure, the original Night of the Living Dead was a scary flick to be sure, but the zombies in 28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead were much more violent and predatory. Of course, The Walking Dead comics have proven the shear numbers of infected can be daunting no matter how slow they move. But the one thing I never hear much of in any of the zombie stories, comics, or movies I’ve seen or read is the what happens in the long run. What happens five, ten, or twenty years down the road?
The Last of Us, a survival horror video game for the PS3, brings some answers to that question by taking us 20 years after the initial outbreak, providing interesting gameplay while doing so.
A Compelling Story
Right from the beginning, the story behind The Last of Us swept me up and carried me along. Like any great movie, the voice acting and visuals took no more than they needed to, letting the characters react to the events around them. Playing as Joel, the protagonist so-to-speak, I felt myself caught up in the same events, lost and disoriented at times, struggling to find weapons or an escape. I felt anxious and trapped, just as I imagine I would feel if this life were my own.
This feeling didn’t just flow from cutscene to cutscene, leaving me to figure out the story as I fought through hordes of infected or while searching the landscape. The story progresses even during the gunfights and hand-to-hand combat, giving further glimpses into each of the characters’ development. When there are no infected to battle, the characters often talk to one another, sometimes battering, sometimes consoling, sometimes teaching. The people Joel meets as he travels aren’t always friendly, but they’re still people, and I’ve learned to love them each differently as we travel together.
The “new world” is another huge part of the story. As I stated earlier, the outbreak occurred twenty years prior to the main story, so quite a lot has happened to the world. Quarantine zones run like labor camps while entire cities outside the QZ walls have become overgrown by wilderness. Smaller cities have been abandoned, overrun, or walled off completely. Because so much time has passed, a lot of work has gone into the fortified structures to keep them intact and free of infected. Speaking of which, the infected themselves are subject to the dictates of time, for the longer one is infected, the stronger and more mutated they become. I’ll just leave that right there.
There are a lot of skills to learn and know in this game. Weapons and inventory items are selected through the directional keypad and used simply enough. So far, there are a bunch of little weapons and gadgets to find, upgrade, and use. Upgrades on weapons can only be performed at workbenches and cost “parts” which can be fun to look for as you explore the landscape. Upgrades on Joel’s skills (like extending his “listening” range or health bar) can be done by finding supplements, which again, can be found through your exploratory travels. There’s no “experience points” to earn in this game, so Joel’s skills and strengths can only be increased by the things that he finds. Unfortunately, I can see how this might become a little monotonous after awhile.
The gameplay itself is fluid and reactions from enemies and nonplayable characters are immediate, adding to the realism of the game. The enemy AI is unrelenting in its efficiency. There is no room for error while trying to sneak past infected or while fighting a group of bandits. Ammo and health are limited, so one must choose wisely on their methods of attack or stealth.
Character Development = 5/5
Story Development = 5/5
Dialogue = 5/5
Game Mechanics = 4/5
Over all, The Last of Us is providing an entertaining experience. Characters are fresh and they sound natural. The story is compelling and keeps the player’s attention even between cutscenes. While the gameplay and mechanics are a little lacking in originality, the realism in the game more than makes up for it.
The Geek’s Rating = 23/25
I’ve been a gamer pretty much my entire life. I grew up on consoles like the Commodore 64, the NES, and its predecessor, the SNES. When I was in high school, I was impressed enough with the appearance of one of my favorite franchise games, Final Fantasy VII, which opened me up to the new PlayStation console. Consequently, the PlayStation has been my console of choice of the last decade, with an exception being the Nintendo GameCube and the Wii…you know…for fun.
What does it mean for me to be a gamer? I’ve never really thought about it until lately. A gamer, after all, is just a label. I’ve always been the person I am, and I love playing video games. I love the immersive worlds, the challenge of mind, hand, and eye coordination, and I like the stories in the same way people like getting sucked into good books. I suppose by some small definition of the word “gamer” that makes me one. I also have other hobbies like biking, reading, woodworking, and of course, writing. Does that make me any less of a gamer? I don’t know. But what I do know is…
I’m definitely buying a PlayStation 4.
Of course, there was never much doubt in my mind that I would eventually be buying a PS4. I’ve never really touched an Xbox, and most of the titles I’m interested in are either unavailable for Microsoft or they’re cross-platform. Of course, with the announcement of the PS4 and then the new Xbox console just last month, there was a small possibility that I would branch out. When the PS3 was first released with it’s monstrous $600 price tag, a lot of PlayStation die-hards like myself were suddenly considering siding with Microsoft instead. It seems the opposite has happened this year with the announcement of the Xbox One.
Amongst privacy concerns, used game restrictions, and “always on” technology, I have to wonder why anyone would buy an Xbox One over a PS4…period. One of the only positive reviews I’ve read for the Xbox One was from GIZMODO (http://gizmodo.com/why-im-getting-the-xbox-one-not-the-ps4-ugh-512840127) who really only wanted it as a TV/movie catalogue/streaming device. They literally wanted “One” box to control everything entertainment in their home.
One of the freakiest features of the new Xbox console is the “always on” Kinect. For those of you who don’t know, the Kinect is a camera that you can use to interact with your Xbox. But with the Xbox One, the Kinect is super-freaky-smart. It has a 1080p wide-angle camera with an infrared sensor so it can see in the dark and a microphone that always remains on in order to pick up voice commands even when the Xbox One is in sleep mode. From a purely technological standpoint, this is pretty cool, however amidst talk of government surveillance through major companies like Microsoft, I worry how such a powerful tool could be implemented.
Outside of the voice and motion controls managing the entertainment coursing through your living room, the PS4 offers everything I need. I can play both new and used games independent of an internet connection. I can still watch Netflix and BluRay movies. I have access to tons of cool new games that can also be found on the Xbox One, and other games that are exclusive to the PS4. Perhaps the only real downside on the PS4 is the announcement that online gaming will require a PlayStation Plus membership (rather than remaining free). To be honest though, I’ve been looking for a reason to join PlayStation Plus, and online gaming is just the thing to do it. As soon as I sign up, I’ll have access to an online backup of my game saves, an online library of free games, and discounts on new releases.
So bring it out already, Sony. You’ve made me a lifelong customer with the service you’ve shown and your ability to listen well to your customers. I’m ready to buy.
Pardon me if I sound like I'm gushing about Borderlands 2 (this is the second post I've written about the game, after all). But to be honest, I haven't had a whole lot of time lately to explore my geeky side. Editing a novel is a lot of work, and lately, any free time I've had has been spent playing BL2 because let's face it...it's a great game. With the latest downloadable content release which raised the maximum level your character can achieve AND introduced new weapons AND a new playthrough mode...well, I don't see myself straying from this game for a while.
LEVEL CAP INCREASE
For anyone who doesn't know, a lot of games have a leveling system. For completing missions and defeating enemies, you'll earn experience points that accumulate until you gain a level, thereby increasing your stats. The highest level a player could reach was level 50...until last week when new downloadable content raised the level cap to 61. I've never been so excited about new content like I was last week (still am).
If you've never played a game with a leveling system, you might not understand why this is so important to the game. Prior to the increase, there was still a ton of gameplay value in BL2 even with a max level character. There were side missions to play, bosses to farm, and new weapons, shields, and mods to find, but with a max level character, I started to get bored because there was no progress. The level cap increase changed all that.
When I defeated the Warrior (final boss) on my second playthrough with my level 49 Mecromancer and received not just a level up to 50 but also experience gained towards my next level, I felt like I was playing a whole different game. Once again, I felt my character's progress move forward, and I couldn't wait to start a new game.
ULTIMATE VAULT HUNTER MODE
At the same time we all saw new downloadable content with the level cap increase, a free update opened up a third playthrough for the game: Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode. Borderlands and Borderlands 2 both had second playthroughs which allowed players to keep their current level and weapons. Enemies were harder. Weapons were stronger. And the fun...oh the fun.
But the latest free update introduced a third playthrough for Borderlands 2. Enemies now have 4x the health (which they also regenerate over time), but a game component called Slag received a 4x damage bonus, making it essential to gameplay. Suddenly, the game was no longer familiar. The weapons and shields that made me damn-near invincible in the second playthrough BARELY allowed me to survive in Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode.
And unlike in previous playthroughs where an enemy's level was determined by where you were at story-wise in the game, Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode automatically scaled enemy levels to the highest level of anyone on your team. So on my first co-op night, when my my teammate joined the game at level 58 and I was at a fresh level 51...well...I needed quite a bit of saves. But make no mistake, I had a blast. The challenge provided was astounding, frustrating, and so much fun.
Weapons have played a major role in Borderlands since the beginning. One of the first things I heard about the game was how many guns there were to find in the game, literally thousands, each one different from the next. But this was only part of the fun because there were different tiers of weapon rarity.
When Grandma Burps Patrick Obeys. This is a mnemonic device for the level of rarity in Borderlands. White, Green, Blue, Purple, and Orange. White weapons are the most common drops, while orange (or legendary) weapons are the highest level of rarity...or are they? Like in the original Borderlands, Pearlescent weapons make an appearance in BL2 with the latest downloadable content package. New weapons, new drop rates equals much more fun to be had.
The best part of Borderlands 2 (and its predecessor) is its maker...Gearbox. One of the best parts about playing this game has been the attention its designers have paid to the players. Gearbox listened to critiques from the players and provided updates to fix most of the problems the game had. Downloadable content could be a little longer (more bang for the buck), but overall, I feel like Gearbox holds great value in their players. We're not just a paycheck for them, and as a gamer, I appreciate that more than anything (especially considering how much of my time is devoted away from the console).
Video Games, Comics, Movies, and Books. I'll talk about it all, and I'll tell you why it's so awesome!