There isn’t much left to be said about 2K Games’ massively successful Borderlands franchise. The “Diablo with guns” monicker sums up the franchise nicely, but it doesn’t quite touch on what makes Borderlands such an impressive franchise. The first game earned its fair share of praise, though a lackluster story and heavy emphases on co-op play kept it away from most Game of the Year victories. Borderlands 2, though, is much different in that regard.
You’re back on Pandora for Borderlands 2, and events pick up closely following the end of the first game. You can pick one of four (or five, with DLC) new Vault Hunters, and then you are quickly thrust into a world full of mean creatures and inventive weapons. The first few moments of the game aren’t the most interesting; it takes until level five to unlock your character’s special ability. Once things get going though, you enter into a constantly repeating pattern of questing, looting, shopping, and leveling up. It’s a formula that has worked for years, and will continue to work well beyond Borderlands 2.
Once of the biggest selling points for this game, though, is the much improved story. Unlike in the first game, where there was little plot to speak of early on, Borderlands 2 is constantly pushing you forward with the story. There are plenty of moments when you’ll load up on side quests and grind away for a few hours, but you’ll always come back to the outstanding story missions. On top of that, the game is downright hilarious. Very few video games have ever succeeded at being as funny as Borderlands 2 is. Each new character has their own personality quirk, and while some certainly resonate more than others, you’re likely to remember just about everyone you meet throughout your lengthy journey.
Any issues one may find with Borderlands 2 hardly detract from the experience. Towards the midway point of the game it can start to feel like a drag, but things eventually ramp back up to an exciting third act. As is typical of loot-based games, a lot of the loot is useless, and at times you will spend longer looking at stats and equipment screens than you will killing enemies. Perhaps the most disappointing is how limited the skill system is, much like in the first game, where each character gets one skill and you can level them up based on passive perks to this skill. It provides for very little customization for your character.
Flaws don’t make a game bad, though, and Borderlands 2 is easily one of the best games of the year. It’s fun, funny, and plays like a dream. If you like shooters, or light RPGs, this is the perfect game for you, and that is why it is in the running for Game of the Year.