My latest addiction: guns guns guns
Posted by joeabbott on October 10, 2012
First, an admission: if I had to characterize myself, I’d say I was an oversized momma’s boy. I like reading, went through enough schooling to have a master’s degree, and send my mother cards in the mail regularly (whether there’s a holiday or not). Additionally, I don’t drink or smoke, not a fan of sport killing (i.e., hunting), couldn’t care less about cars (I drive a Saturn Vue when I don’t take the bus) and on the video game front don’t favor FPS (First Person Shooter) games on my Xbox (I’m looking at you, Halo and Call of Duty).
So why am I nuts about Borderlands 2?! No idea, but lets talk about guns guns guns!
Borderlands 2 is, as the name suggests, the second release of the popular Borderlands game: a combination FPS/RPG (Role Playing Game) based in an imaginary world in which your character levels up (improves abilities) as a result of completing quests. While the game has a number of unique features, the most immediately differentiator is the artwork, depicting the characters and world in stylized bold colors that appear lifted from a comic book.
Additionally, a major tenet of the game is “guns guns guns”; that is, weapons are randomly generated and you can play the game many times and never see the same gun twice. Each time a secret cache or “loot box” is opened, a potentially never-before-seen gun might appear. In the first game, Borderlands, there was something like 17.75 million possible weapons; in Borderlands 2, the marketing pitch defines that number as “bazillionier”.
There are classes of guns (pistols, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, etc.), different manufacturers (who specialize in different qualities), there is damage dealt out, reload speed, whether they have a scope, size of clip, and on and on.
My favorite quality of the guns are those with “elemental effects”: guns that, in addition to shooting bullets, have a chance at burning, shocking, exploding, or corroding an enemy! It’s terribly satisfying to be a lousy aim, hit a charging enemy a few times before you flee, and have him die before getting to you due to residual effects of fire, electricity, explosions, or toxicity. Heck yeah!
The guns are the shooter part of the game. The RPG part, the character-leveling quality, comes in via a series of skill points allotted to the player throughout the game (one point per level, starting at level 5), allowing each player to customize one of four characters as they see fit.
I’m playing the “Zer0” character, whose skills are a disparate “melee, up-close assassin” and a sniper. And so I’m happily plunking points into his “sniping branch”, giving my character additional damage for using sniper weapons, additional damage for head shots, improving accuracy overall, etc.
While there are many overall improvement type perks a player can choose, some of the fun comes in with skills like B0re: your shots pierce through enemies. If your shot hits an enemy after piercing an enemy, it causes massive Bonus Damage. These sorts of features encourage a new way of playing the game: lining up shots to ensure getting the bonus damage.
Aside from the “ninja assassin”, the Zer0 character, I could have chosen Axton (the commando … who specializes in a deployable turret), Maya (a “siren” or magic user … who specializes in enclosing enemies in a bubble that elevates and freezes them), or Salvador (a “gunzerker” … a dual gun wielding berserker). Each character can be configured through the skill tree and provides a different load out for the players.
Additionally, Borderlands 2 has some really great voice acting and writing! There’s the humorous “idiot” robot who spouts inane comments, the snide remarks your hero makes when deploying his or her special skill, the absolutely scary shrieking the “psycho” killers make who hunt you down, or the moaning or a lumbering, gun wielding nomad who says things like, “I’m gonna make a coat outta you!” or “Why don’t cha just leave us alone?” Great stuff.
As for the writing, it won’t win awards outside the video game milieu, but it weaves a decent RPG … which, by their nature, can be repetitive: give the player enough quests until they level up to get through the next tougher fights. But many of the optional quests are quite clever (Tiny Tina’s Tea Party) and the dialog is varied enough that you won’t get bored too quickly, even without a very inspired main quest.
There’s just not one thing, though, that explains why I’m enjoying guns, guns, guns so much with this game. The sum is truly greater than the parts.
Sure, there are elements to each part that I like: I’m not really interested in realistic shooters so the art appeals to me, I favor RPGs and building a character, and open world-style fantasy stories always catch my interest. But what binds all this together is also critical to my enjoyment.
Perhaps it’s the clever Easter eggs, maybe fluid feel of the game (except, I’ll be honest, my character can’t back up a bit in the game without getting hung up on something or other), or the very cool loot boxes. Or just maybe I am becoming a gun nut!
Whatever it is, it’s a great combination and I expect I’ll be playing Borderlands 2 a long long time. So, thanks, Gearbox (the game developing company) for the nutty, insane ride that’s a blast. Now I’m heading back to my Xbox to give you a bazillion gun salute!