As I found myself staring at a pile of useless under-powered loot, praying I wouldn’t have to walk, yet again, back across the continent to turn in my quest, and hoping that I wouldn’t be jumped on my way there by 13 helicopters, 46 bandits, 7 mechs, and a varying number of giant insects, I set my controller down and sighed. “Why do I have to put up with this?” I asked myself, “I paid $60 for a quality game, not the Diablo-with-guns-Death-Simulator.” The truth is, ladies and gentleman, I don’t. I don’t have to put up with it and frankly I won’t. GameStop will be receiving a week old copy of Borderlands 2 tomorrow, and I won’t be sad to see it go. Why, you ask? Why would I give up on a game so seemingly promising that many people appear to be enjoying around the globe as we speak? I simply don’t like it, and in my opinion, it’s a bad product. As well, this is not an official review, as my disposition towards the game appears to be different from many others, and I could only stomach about ¾ of the game before putting it to rest.
My playthrough of the first Borderlands was great. Three friends and I did co-op for about half of it, and I went solo for the other half. I arrived beaten, bloodied, and scarred to the final boss, and left disappointed. For such an epic journey to end in a manner like it did left a bad taste in my mouth. Attempts at beating it once more with other classes were foiled by the general dissatisfaction the ending of the game left me. That was all I thought about in line to get Borderlands 2. I didn’t consider the combat, the story, the characters, nothing. All I hoped for was a good ending to what I was sure would be a great game. Never once did I think that it would disappoint, and boy did it.
Most everyone has played Call of Duty, and if not, Halo or any other shooter will work to a lesser extent in this analogy. You know that gut-wrenchingly irritating feeling when you’re playing great or on a kill streak and you get killed by a barrel exploding, or an enemy camping in a corner; the one that sends pulsing fire down your spine, and leaves you, for a split second, wanting to destroy everything within reach? Imagine that feeling running solid for hours. Embarking on hundreds of fetch quests, ultimately sending you to your doom a minimum of four times at the hands of a monstrous creation with 200,000 hitpoints, to finally drop the beast and loot two pistols and some ammo, is something I don’t wish upon anyone. Apparently Gearbox does. Yes the combat is visceral, and in co-op situations can induce hilarious madness, if only until you realize the 4 spark plugs you looted belong to someone on the other side of the globe. Fast travel be damned, as it might as well not even exist. Walking to the few sparse fast travel beacons is just as bad as walking to the objective itself. Vehicles are the same way, as the only places they actually want you to use one are the biggest and saddest sacks of land I’ve ever seen, god forbid your car blows up, and you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Don’t kid yourself that you’re going to play solo either, as the enemies reach near-impossible to kill difficulty around level 20. Expect to die a lot, walk back to the objective a lot, and be sure to carry a lot of cash to pay for all of your respawns. Even co-op begins to feel like hardcore mode around this time, and there’s no way to remedy it, as Gearbox decidedly left out any difficulty options. It’s not only that the gameplay is painfully hard either, as it’s power curve suffers from near random swings. One minute I’m fighting 3 midgets, the next 9 mechs armed with rocket launchers attack from all sides. It’s truly just not a fun experience.
If you’re looking for depth, run the other way as fast as you can. Mechanics like the skill trees don’t really tweak too much, and the “Badass Tokens” that allow you to customize your character only got me an extra 5% gun damage by level 22. As well, the only thing separating characters classes are their special ability, a relatively under-whelming feature that no matter what class, basically just helps you kill hordes of enemies a little bit faster. Any weapon can be wielded by any class, a stealth agent can use a minigun, the psychic can wield a rocket launcher, and the berserker can dual-wield sniper rifles. While this is part of the beauty Borderlands is intended to be, it doesn’t offer much of an incentive to players to go back and replay as different classes. Each class has three skill trees they can focus on, exactly as you picture it in World of Warcraft. Every class is essentially given the same option; focus on bullet damage, ability damage, or tanking. One would assume a class-based shoot and loot would offer something a bit deeper, but Borderlands 2 is quite lacking.
As I said before, I haven’t played enough to warrant a score, but I’m sure if I forced myself to finish it, it wouldn’t help its odds. I’m glad some are finding it fun, and I hope they continue to do so. I will find solace in paying off my pre-order of Dishonored, and hoping Gearbox does better on their next iteration, which is most certainly going to happen.