So, it’s Borderlands 2.5 time!  I’m about 16 hours in, taking my time.

How is it?  It’s very Borderlandsy. That’s a relief, since it’s made by a different studio, and we’ve seen that not work so well. But 2K Australia has got the basic elements: the gorgeous visuals, the shooting and looting, the over-the-top characters, the redneck humor.

More things to accidentally drive into!

More things to accidentally drive into!

In terms of gameplay, the big things are the reduced gravity, allowing you to jump up and deal down death from above, and the oxygen mechanic. The O2 is done just about right: it’s rarely onerous (there are frequent O2 fields, and enemies drop canisters), but it provides a light constraint that will sometimes affect your decisionmaking. The jumps are fun; you can also slam down onto the ground, which I haven’t mastered yet. You can also use the oxygen to glide, which takes some getting used to.

There’s also a hovercraft, not like the skimmers from the BL2 DLC, but one that can actually go up in the air, which adds to the theme of verticality. There’s also lasers and guns that freeze your enemies solid.  Oh, and what are basically Portal 2 aerial faith plates (complete with a similar sound effect)

The story this time is set on that big Hyperion space station, and then on the moon, Elpis– which turns out to be populated by Australians. The accents are adorable. More cheekily, they’ve made Handsome Jack from BL2 into a good guy, more or less. Mostly less. He’s a mid-level Hyperion guy, who you have to rescue from an attack on the space station, and who then helps you save Elpis from the pirates who took it over and, for some reason, want to destroy the moon with a giant laser. And you play what were minor villains in BL2: Nisha the sheriff, Wilhelm the cyborg, Athena the assassin. Or a more than usually crazy Claptrap.

So far they’ve handled this very well, principally by keeping Jack’s basic character: he’s a total asshole. The arrogance, the sadism, the amorality, the fratboy pleasure in exercising power, are all there– they just haven’t focused yet into complete psychopathy. They didn’t Anikinize him into an actual nice guy.

I’ve been playing as Nisha, whose skill is a few seconds of auto-aim and high damage– not quite as fun as the Siren powers, but not bad. (It’s not entirely skill-less– she won’t fire at enemies behind you or otherwise out of sight.) I’m eager to try Claptrap, too.

(sound of Western music)

(sound of Western music)

The PCs talk more than in any previous BL. I think all you got in BL1/2 was a few grunts, plus comments when they leveled up or got a critical hit. Nisha talks back to Jack and to quest givers, and I think this makes everybody seem more human. It turns out that a silent protagonist really isn’t more immersive.

The level design is notable for not holding your hand too much. There are multiple routes through any one installation, and buildings you can choose to explore or not. You can get a little lost sometimes, but I like the move away from railroading.

I only have some minor complaints. They took away the “junk” icon– you can still sell all your junk at once, but you do this by marking “favorites”, which seems backwards to me. Some of the vehicle jumps don’t work well. I’d also have to say that Nina, who replaces Dr. Zed, is rather a clumsy stereotype.

Oh, and I still resent the price… $60 is steep, though I’d’ve happily paid $50. But Borderlands is about the only game on my must-buy-now list. Arkham Knight comes close, but there I can wait for a sale.

One more thing… again based on the first 16 hours, the game seems easier than BL2. The boss fights haven’t been as hard, and though you can face a bunch of bandits at once, it’s also rarely hard to find some cover to recover your shield.

Edit: Thoughts on finishing the game.

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