Guns... Lots of Guns
After much anticipation, the lid is finally off Borderlands 2 and we spent hours digging into it. First hands-on impressions await you inside.
Published: April 4, 2012
Keep It Classy
One of the few gripes about Borderlands was that the classes didn't feel distinct enough due to the fact that most of the skills were just boring, incremental stat bonuses. It would seem that Gearbox really took that criticism to heart because Borderlands 2 features reworked classes and skill trees that are far more interesting than they were before.
Returning from the last game is the Siren class, though this time her name is Maya instead of Lilith. The first thing I noticed is that her phasewalk ability has been replaced with a new ability called phaselock, which allows you to imprison a single enemy in a sphere of energy, halting their movement and preventing them from taking any action. While there are some skills that represent basic upgrades to damage or rate of fire, many more of them apply additional special attributes to her phaselock. Some are as simple as increasing its duration or decreasing its cooldown. Others are far more interesting, such as one that releases an area effect burst of healing for you and your allies if you manage to kill the phaselocked enemy before the effect wears off, or another which causes the phaselock to switch targets once the first one is killed off.
One of the brand new classes on display was the humorously named Gunzerker, who is so named for being able to dual wield, or rather, “gunzerk” for limited stretches of time. You would imagine from both his look, and his action film inspired skill names that he's merely about blunt force and shooting all the things, but you can be far more artful with him than all that. He has skills that reward him with special bonuses for gunzerking with 2 of a specific weapon type, incentivizing you to specialize in a particular class of weapons.
Personally, I found myself geeking out over the branch of his skill tree dedicated to weapon swapping and reloading. Sound boring? Guess again. He has abilities that confer improved firing rates after reloading, damage buffs for attacking right after switching weapons, and my fave: an ability called “money shot” which gives you huge damage for the last round in your clip. I got creative and combined each of them, firing all but the last shot of one weapon, then switching to a new one and repeating until all of my guns were on the last round. Finally, I would swap back to a weapon with one round left and fire, stacking the damage bonus from the last shot and the weapon switch for huge damage, only to cycle back through my other three guns for three more money shots. Who needs gunzerking? I got gunNERDING. Uh huh. What now?
So, super technical skill combinations aside, something I noticed in general is that there are many more skills that either modify or totally change the functionality of your action skill. Where before it was either “perform your action skill more often/more powerfully/with fire”, now it can be altered to facilitate totally different strategies. A good example would be the reworked Soldier class which is now known as the Commando. The commando still deploys a turret for his action skill, only now it can be augmented with a much wider variety of extra abilities, all of which are represented visually on the turret itself. In addition, melee attacks can be replaced with special abilities as well, giving characters a sort of alternate action skill in addition to their primary one. All of this adds up to a much beefier RPG element that makes experimenting with different builds a lot more rewarding than it was the last time out.