The first taste of Borderlands 2 that I (and the world) got came during last year’s gamescom event where developer Gearbox fully revealed the studio’s next first-person shooter RPG in a world debut presentation.
At that initial showing of the game, Gearbox was adamant to let players of the original Borderlands know that the team had not only listened to qualms surrounding that game, but had gone even further into the realm of role-playing game elements and story, with improvements to AI, character levelling, quests, gun systems and much more, all wrapped up in an insane storyline with even more ludicrous events.
What caught my attention (and has remained jammed in my brain) since then was how during a specific mission, enemy robots are able to be called in from a ‘moon base’ (just that – a base on the moon filled with robots), and as I headed into a new live demonstration of Borderland 2 at gamescom 2012 I hoped to see more crazy elements similar to this.
While I didn’t get to see any of the singleplayer campaign of Borderlands 2, I was given a very thorough look at each of the game’s four classes, as well as a bonus fifth character, as Gearbox Software’s design producer Randy Varnell (along with ‘demo driver’ Adam Fletcher) welcomed their audience to the new world of Pandora.
The Borderlands 2 demo began in a test area that the developer refers to as the ‘Playground,’ a series of rooms and combat areas where Gearbox is able to develop new characters and systems, test settings and tweak various elements of the game with quick access to items, enemies and vehicles to play around with. What else can you find in the Playground? Chunks of enemies suspended in the air, because the developers “have to make sure that they’re up to our high standards of quality – you blow up a bandit you want to make sure that the parts are exactly right,” Varnell joked.
After a quick demonstration of the Character Customisation Station (where you can change heads and skins on your player), we jumped into the presentation proper with looks at the four main characters of Borderlands 2, as well as that extra class.
At only four feet tall, Salvador packs an incredible punch and represents the game’s ‘Gunzerker’ class, which specialises in… well, what else other than guns! Borderlands 2 already holds a Guinness World Record for the most guns in a videogame – not quite the 87 bajillion that’s been exclaimed before, “but really close to that number,” says Varnell – which means that Salvador is in his element.
In designing the Gunzerker class, the team wanted to create a class that was able to use many more guns than any other character in Borderlands 2 to really take advantage of the game’s weapons. Salvador replaces the ‘Berserker’ class from the original Borderlands, Brick, and is able to use the ‘Gunzerk’ Action Skill to great effect which allows him to duel wield weapons for a time.
Players who use Salvador will do well to experiment with different combinations of weapons to get the best result while shooting down the streams of robots, bandits and Pandora’s local (and hostile) wildlife.
The original Borderlands starred a character called Lillith, who happened to be a Siren, a ‘magic user’ in the Borderlands universe that is able to control Phase Energy to pull off special abilities. In Borderlands 2, Maya replaces Lillith as the Siren this time around and instead of being able to ‘Phase Walk’ to invisibly move around the battlefield and explode around enemies, Maya uses ‘Phase Lock’ as her Action Skill.
Phase Lock is used to trap enemies in a powerful bubble of energy at which time Maya and other characters can whittle down the health of that enemy with gunfire… or Maya can leave that foe floating up in the air while fighting more immediate dangers.
Phase Lock is all about controlling the battlefield, says Varnell, and as with all of the classes’ Action Skills in Borderlands 2, you can chain together different abilities found in each of the characters’ three talent trees to create some truly devastating combinations, becoming a major force in a combat situation.
For example, players can look through Maya’s three talent trees (the Harmony Tree, Cataclysm Tree and Motion Tree, respectively) to find and eventually unlock abilities called ‘Converge’ (‘magnetises’ Phase Lock ball to draw in other enemies), ‘Subsequence’ (lets the Phase Lock ball automatically find another target after a trapped enemy dies) and ‘Thought Lock’ (take control of an enemy’s mind to make him fight for you).
Levelling up and unlocking these abilities for use in a fight results in overwhelming power as Maya wades through a group of enemies laying waste to everyone in her path, taking great advantage of this character’s main Action Skill. What’s more, Gearbox is very intent on encouraging players to use their skills as often as possible so cooldown periods for each ability will be very short (and can be shortened further throughout the game.
Varnell described the third character class in Borderlands 2, Zero, as a “mysterious ninja-stealth-assassin-robot-who-knows-what-he-is, type thing with a sword,” who is able to perform remarkable acrobatic moves and sword attack, while disappearing and appearing at will. Zero is a character of extremes, according to Varnell, and it’s possible to take down larger enemies with a single hit if you desire.
Zero’s Action Skill is ‘Deception,’ which at first ejects a hologram of Zero into the world (which attracts enemy attention and fools them into attacking the doppelg