Saturday, August 27, 2011

What I'd Like to See in Borderlands 2

The original Borderlands was apparently successful enough to warrant a sequel, and it sounds as though Gearbox is taking the effort to make Borderlands 2 a worthy sequel, and not just a "re-hash everything and put it in a new box" kind of affair. They're talking about learning from the original game, strengthening and expanding the game's core elements, while getting rid of or revamping the other aspects.

The first game was very entertaining, bringing me back for hundreds of hours hunting for better weapons and trying out new classes. But it felt really shallow and repetitive at times. So in light of my experiences with the original, and with what Gearbox is saying about the sequel, here are the sorts of things I'd like to see in Borderlands 2.
  1. Less Respawn: Enemies respawned a little too quickly and too often. Clearing out certain locations of enemies (like Old Haven) took a long time to collect, sort, and sell all of the loot that dropped, and you end up with enemies respawning on top of you before you've finished cleaning up after the first wave of enemies. At other times it just gets annoying constantly fighting the same enemies in the same spots, especially near fast-travel locations.
  2. More-Varied Enemies: It got a little boring fighting the same basic enemy types of skag, bandit, and spiderant. You get to a new spot and they're just a stronger version of the same enemy that keeps up with your own leveling pace. There's not much variety to the combat (except for your own skills and guns), which could be helped with more unique enemies.
  3. More-Involved Quests: The quests were so simple in the first game that they ceased to be engaging after a while. You pick a quest up, follow the green diamond on the radar, kill target or "use" item, return to quest giver. It's not a role-playing game so the quests don't have to be complicated, but it would nice for there to be perhaps fewer and better quests.
  4. Better Sense of Society: It's established that we're on Pandora, a planet of scavengers and what not, but all of the towns and outposts you visit are completely devoid of life. A bunch of NPCs stand around and all they say is "Did'ja hear? We lost Jess to the rakks." Having NPCs that actually have something worthwhile to say or do with the environment would add to the atmosphere.
  5. Better Enemy Scaling: If you took the time to explore each map and did all of the side-quests, you would up out-leveling the enemies to the point that you didn't even get XP for combat anymore. It was challenging at first, but after a while everything was low-enough level that you only died when a in rare flukes.
In general, I'd like for Borderlands 2 to have less of a "MMORPG" feel. Because that's really what bogged down the first game; boring, shallow, repetitive fetch quests with no engaging storyline to encourage any of it. Leveling-up and collecting loot (along with the capacity for exciting multiplayer co-op) were the saving graces that made the game fun, but it still missed a lot of potential.

So far Randy Pitchford promises less grinding and more meaningful gameplay that's connected to the story. He acknowledges that the ending for the first game sucked, so I don't think we'll have such an underwhelming ending this time around. He's generally talking about reprising all of the good, core aspects of the original gameplay mechanics while adding new variations on top of them.

From what I gathered of the interview, we can expect (or at least hope for):
  1. More variety in how guns function
  2. More dynamic environments
  3. New classes
  4. Split-screen co-op merging with online play
  5. Cloud saves
  6. More/better story emphasis
These are some good claims to be making, but of course it could all just be marketing hype. After all, the original Borderlands promised like ten trillion different guns, but they were really just minor statistical variations of a few dozen different base models. Regardless, I'm remaining optimistic about this sequel and really want to look forward to some more exciting co-op gameplay.

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