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Borderlands 2: A Geek’s Fantasy

Alex Hindman, Writer

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There are many classics in life, whether it be books, movies, art, or music. Video games also have many classics: Super Mario Brothers, Team Fortress 2, Elder Scrolls. One such game was released on September 18, 2012 that put a company known as Gearbox Software on the metaphorical map; Borderlands 2. Despite almost 6 years old, the second installment of the Borderlands series is still the most popular and is widely considered to be the best in the series by fans. It is available on PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, and the HD remake of both this and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel can be found in The Handsome Collection, which you can get for Xbox One and PS4. The entire Borderlands franchise is a FPS with RPG elements mixed in: classes, skill trees, side-quests, and the largest loot horde that has ever been seen in a game. Gearbox created a gear randomizer that not only creates different weapons, but also different parts for them; you could have two of the same weapons, but they will have different parts and stats. It is because of this that Borderlands 2 has roughly 87 bazillion different combinations according to one of the commercials for the game. I should put a warning here that there may be small spoilers. They will not, however, ruin the game for you.

 The entire series has a very Mad Max vibe but without the post-apocalyptic part. The areas that you visit can be very different from one another, whether it be the abandoned mining facility filled with pools of acid that is Caustic Caverns, the frozen lab rat den called the Fridge, or the badlands of the Dust crawling with motorized bandits. The story is a simple but effective one. Handsome Jack, the CEO of the Hyperion Corporation, hired a band of vault hunters, those being the playable characters. Instead of wanting their help to find a vault, something left behind by the ancient alien race called the Eridians, he wants them dead, with the train that they are on being a trap and blowing up. You come across a small robot called Claptrap, who wants your help to get out of the frozen wastes and into Sanctuary. There you join the Crimson Raiders, the resistance group fighting Jack, and learn that he plans to control the vault; it turns out to be a monster that has the power to eliminate all life on the planet of Pandora. You meet the playable characters from the previous game and many others, kill some bandits and Jack’s robot army, and loot a countless number of chests along the way. You don’t have to this alone either. Up to three other people can help you on your quest to liberate the borderlands from Jack’s tyranny.

There are four playable characters in the base game; Axton, Maya, Salvador, and Zero. Each have different class mods, action abilities, skill trees, and playstyles. Axton is the commando that can deploy a Sabre Turret to help lay down some addition fire. His three skill trees focus on his turret, gun damage, especially with explosives, and his own survivability, with the added touch of avoiding a finishing blow. He is the jack of all trades character, and thus can’t reach the extremes that the other characters can. Despite this, Axton is probably my favorite character to play, especially with Tediore weapons. Maya is the siren of the bunch, and can hold an enemy in suspension for a few seconds. Her skill trees involve causing chaos on the battlefield, healing herself and other players, and increasing her effectiveness with elemental weapons, excluding explosive. Her playstyle is being both a healer and a heavy damage dealer. Salvador is the gunzerker, who can wield two guns at once. While this may not sound like much, this allows for very interesting weapon combinations and makes him the single strongest character; he can even solo bosses that are meant for four people to take on. His skill trees revolve around high damage output with pistols especially, gunzerking, and tanking damage. While he may be the boss killer of the bunch, he also has the largest difficulty curve out of any character. You will only become that powerful extremely late into the game. He is also my least favorite out of the bunch. Zero is the assassin, being able to throw out a holographic copy of himself and going invisible for a short time to fool enemies. His skill trees are all about using sniper rifles, becoming stealthier with their cloaking ability, and causing devastating damage with melee attacks. Zero has the smallest health pool out of any of the hunters, and is perfect for wanting to take out enemies effectively at both long range and point blank. There are also two characters added through DLC, or downloadable content. These are Krieg the psycho and Gaige the mechromancer. Krieg can go into the classic berserker mode with his handy buzz axe, the signature weapon of the melee enemy that he is based on, gaining increased movement speed and getting all of his health back for every kill. His skill trees include getting a variety of stacking bonuses through killing large swathes of enemies, getting bonuses, especially heavily increased melee damage, while his shield is empty, and being lighten on fire. He has a high-risk, high-reward playstyle that is perfect for getting right in people’s faces and going ham. He can also be extremely tanky with his fire skill tree. On the other hand, Gaige can summon her custom made robot bodyguard, Deathtrap, that will go around and slice enemies to bits. Her skill trees are about helping herself, Deathtrap, and allies, being a force to be reckoned with when dealing shock damage, and gaining stacks of Anarchy, which increases her gun damage while decreasing her accuracy. She is another jack of all trades, but leans more towards support and close range combat. Every character also has a multitude of skin and head modifications for customization. Some you can find or get naturally as you travel across Pandora, others will be DLC exclusive, and some will be DLC all by themselves.

There is a wide variety of gear in the game. First on the list are your main source of damage; guns. Guns have several different variants, each using their own ammo type: pistols, assault rifles, submachine guns, sniper rifles, shotguns, and rocket launchers. There are a multitude of brands, each having their own special qualities and only providing specific weapon types. Some may be as simple as increasing a certain statistic, like Vladof having high fire rate and Hyperion having high accuracy. Some can only use specific damage types, like the all explosive line up of Torgue and Jakobs having no elemental damage whatsoever. Some have even more unique signature qualities, such as Dahl weapons having a burstfire mode while aiming down the sights. Most, however, fall under the first and third category. My personal favorite is Tediore, which has the fastest reload speed out of any other brand. They also have an interesting throwing reload mechanic. When you reload, you throw the weapon like a grenade, with the explosion increasing in damage based on how much ammunition was left in the magazine; the explosion even shares the weapon’s elemental type. The downside is that the ammo that was left in the magazine is consumed. You can quickly deplete your ammo reserves if you aren’t careful, but you do fantastic damage if they are used correctly. Just don’t depend on the reload for their rocket launchers; it has an extremely erratic flight path and is pretty much out of your control once it leaves your hand. There are also shields, which act as a health pool that regenerates after a set amount of time. They also have a variety of affects, like turtle shields having extremely large capacities while decreasing your maximum health, nova shields emitting an explosion of a certain element once it depletes, and booster shields dropping small booster packs that give you a chunk of your shield back instantly. Grenades are the exact same, but can have multiple attributes at once. A MIRV could teleport to its destination, while a transfusion grenade could home in on enemies and stick to their faces. To clarify what those two do, a MIRV will create a number of child grenades upon detonation that will explode shortly after landing, and a transfusion grenade will spawn health stealing orbs that will seek out enemies and bring the stolen health back to you. Class mods are specific to each character and can change how they play some while also boosting certain skills beyond what is normally possible. A very popular one is the cat mod for Maya that increases damage done with SMGs while also lowering the accuracy of SMGs. This class mod can increase Maya’s Mind’s Eye, Wreck, and/or Accelerate by a maximum of six points each. These points are only added if you have a point put into the correct skills already. Finally, there are relics, which can do things that no other gear can. These effect include, but are not limited to: boosting your maximum ammo capacity with a certain weapon type, increasing maximum health, increasing damage done with a particular elemental type, and one even boosting the chance of finding rare loot. Gear also have different qualities that are color coded based on rarity: white, green, blue, unique, purple, E-tech, legendary, seraph, and pearlescent. Unique weapons are blue rarity weapons that have a special quirk. E-tech are magenta rarity and change how a weapon works entirely. Legendary gear is identified by the color orange, and have greatly boosted stats, special names, and a stronger quirk. Seraph gear can only be obtained through the DLC areas by either buying them with seraph crystals or by having a raid boss drop them. They also have a special attribute. Pearlescents are the rarest in the game, and are almost exactly like legendaries. They can only be found if the higher difficulty DLCs are present. If that wasn’t enough, there is also different elements that weapons can be. Non-elemental is just normal, but does less damage against armored enemies. You can tell if an enemy is armored or not if their health bar is yellow instead of red. Fire does more damage against flesh enemies, identified with red health, but does less damage to shields, which is identified by a blue health, and armored enemies. Shock does significantly more damage to shields, but does less to normal health and is slightly decreased against armored targets. Corrosive eats through armor like nothing, and does slightly less damage against both health and shields. Explosive does high damage against all health types, but none of them are weak to this element. Slag works a bit differently than the others. Slag does normal damage against non-slagged targets, but does less damage to those covered in the element. It is the only status effect that does no damage over time, but it instead increases the damage of all other elemental types.

If there wasn’t enough to this game, there is also well over $100 worth of DLC available for the game, which comes with The Handsome Collection. All DLCs that add areas also add enemies and quests. There are the four main area addons: Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty, Mister Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, and the fan favorite, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep. There is one seraph vendor in each major area, all with different inventories that change after a set amount of time, similar to the vending machines. Seraph vendors only accept seraph crystals, which can only be dropped by killing the raid bosses in these addons on the higher difficulties, or by a special feature in Dragon’s Keep that requires eridium, a rare substance used to upgrade your ammo capacities and inventory space. Captain Scarlett takes place in the dried ocean beds of Oasis. You team up with the character herself in order to find the treasure of the sands. There is a custom vehicle that can only be used in these areas; a floating metal boat for “sailing” across the sands. This also adds a series of cursed gear that have big upsides but some kind of downside. The shotgun known as the Orphan Maker deals a lot of damage, but you also take get hurt some for using it. Campaign of Carnage takes place at the site of a newly discovered vault where Mister Torgue, founder and CEO of the Torgue Corporation, is holding a tournament to see who is worthy to open it. The DLC itself suits the character extremely well. It adds the Torgue vending machines, which need special tokens to purchase their wares; each machine even has a guaranteed Torgue legendary weapon in stock, or a special exclusive skin. Big Game Hunt takes place in the deep jungles of Pandora with one of Jack’s scientists, Doctor Nakayama, taking up residence and having the native people attack you. It is full of some of the toughest enemies in the entire game, but is widely considered to be the worst DLC out of the bunch because of it. Finally there is the fan favorite, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep. The entire DLC is one giant homage to geek and gaming culture, making plenty of references, the biggest of which being that it is infact a Dungeons and Dragons parody. While it is a little light hearted on the surface, the story for it has some darker tones, dealing with grief and denial. It also added its own subclass of purple rarity weapons that have gem themed skins based on the company. There are also the level cap increase DLCs and the Attack on Digistruct Peak. It would be wise to not that pearlescent grade weapons can only be found once these are present in your game. Acquiring all three will allow the maximum possible level to be 72, have ultimate vault hunter mode unlocked, which is a third new game plus that is even harder than true vault hunter mode, and Digistruct Peak with its OP levels. These are difficulty increases that go beyond what the normal modes do, buffing enemies significantly, increasing weapon stats, and and decreasing your own damage. It should be noted that you will still do drastically more damage than you did before. In order to unlock the next OP level, you must be on ultimate vault hunter mode, run the gauntlet of Digistruct Peak, and kill the boss whose name is entirely in binary. You can do this to get up to OP 8, the highest difficulty possible. If that wasn’t enough for you, there are also five Headhunter Packs. These are significantly smaller than the main four, are based on some kind of holiday, and have one massive raid boss at the end of each one. These include, in order of release date: T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest, The Horrible Hunger of the Ravenous Wattle Gobbler, How Marcus Saved Mercenary Game, Mad Moxxi and the Wedding Day Massacre, and Sir Hammerlock vs. the Son of Crawmerax. These are based on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and summer vacation respectively. I am not going to go any further into these because this section is already long enough. There is even more bonus content, such as a few arenas for fighting enemies, customization options for characters, and two new characters to shake up the experience.

This game is not excluded from having bugs and glitches. Some are very small things that have minimal to no effect on the experiences, like non-player characters, or NPCs, sitting in each other laps or being a bit to far off of the actual seat. Others are bigger, but don’t actively hinder you while playing, such as a glitch that allows you to farm a rare enemy that drops mountains of loot in a specific part of the game. Then there are those that can break the game, which are very rare in numbers. I myself can only recall three specifically. The first is with the raid boss found in Big Game Hunt, Voracidous the Invincible, sometimes flying directly upwards and despawning itself as soon as it hits the skybox. This can happen to lesser effects to other enemies, most commonly bullymongs in my experiences, but this takes it to the extremes. The second can only be achieved with very specific requirements. You must play as Zero, have the Pimpernel, one of the unique weapons in Captain Scarlett, have the skill B0re, yes that’s how it’s spelled, and be fighting the BNK3R, or Bunker. Shooting the boss with this weapon when you have that skill active will cause massive slowdown to occur, even with the best gaming computers possible. There are three reasons as to why this happens: B0re’s affect, the special stat of the sniper rifle, and the boss itself. The Pimpernel has the bonus of having all shots fired to create a number of shots that spread out in an arcing pattern upon impact. This can cause it to hit multiple enemies with a single shot. B0re makes all shots penetrate enemies, allowing you to hiut larger enemies multiple times with a single shot. All of this combined with the BNK3R’s massive hitbox is why it happens. The game can’t handle all of the damage happening at once. Doing this usually kills the boss in one shot as well, especially if you get a critical hit. The third is one that i didn’t know about until fairly recently. A few friend’s of mine were playing the game together a few months back. They made it to Bloodwing and killed it in just a few seconds. However, instead of the boss crashing into the ground for its death animation, Bloodwing instead was flying completely still above the platform where it lands, with my friends being unable to damage it. All the while Handsome Jack kept screaming, “Electricity!” and, “Corrosion!” over and over again. He was even cutting his words off, mixing them together, and was doing something similar to a stutter. They had to restart the game completely in order to refight the boss, only for the glitch to happen again. The reason why it was happening was because they were killing it too fast for it to go through it’s different phases, which are the various elemental damage types in the game. I was watching their game while this was happening. Even though it was infuriating, everyone laughed about it a good month or two after it happened.

Borderlands 2 may not be perfect, but don’t let the rare bugs ruin the game for you. The characters are very lively, the story is well thought out, the gameplay is smooth, and there are years upon years of replayability in content. The humor is also pretty good albeit a bit dark at times. The loot mechanic always keeps things from getting stale, and the OP levels add some extra challenge. The game itself is an absolute blast to play with friends, and there is definitely plenty to keep everyone busy. I’m going to quote one of the loading screen tips here and say that one thing that you should never do is “ninja loot someone else’s bling bling.” This just means to not just swipe everything from a chest before everyone else gets a chance to look at its contents. One other thing is to not abuse the fact that you can damage Krieg if he has a certain skill active. I have personally been on the butt end of both of these, and it is extremely annoying.

Just try to be civil with each other in the wastes of Pandora and everyone will have a good time. Now go kill some bandits and loot some toilets with your buddies!

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Borderlands 2: A Geek’s Fantasy