How do you like your video games? An open-world adventure with a compelling story, or a linear story-based game with a predictable storyline?
I like the best of both worlds. An open-world game with a linear storyline gives creativity when building your character. An example of a linear story game is God of War from 2018. From the start, you’re introduced to your main villain, and you can assume what your objective is by the end of the game.
An example of an open-world game with a compelling story is the Destiny franchise. From the start, you assume who the main villain is in the Fallen, but you’re introduced to many other races of enemies. You also dive into some of the lore and have to keep guessing who the final villain is for a majority of the story.
What do you get when you mix the best of both worlds? You get Borderlands 2 and its plethora of expansions to go along with the base game.
Borderlands 2 came out on September 18, 2012, about 3 years after the widely popular Borderlands was released in 2009.
I wasn’t able to fully experience the game until about 8th grade when a friend bought it for me. I was in an Xbox party chat with a few friends when we got on the topic of the game, and I explained how I wanted to buy it but didn’t have any money at the time. A few minutes later I got a notification from the system saying that so-and-so bought the game and used the gift feature on the Xbox store to gift it to me. After I saw that I immediately told him “thank you.”
Luckily, it was spring break so I spent the next few days playing through the story bit-by-bit, and I grew to love many of the characters.
To start off the game, we begin on a train traveling along the barren tundra of the planet, Pandora. We are then introduced to our four main playable characters, or vault hunters, as they are called throughout the series. Those four are Axton, the Commando, Maya, the Siren, Zer0, the Assassin, and Salvador, the Gunzerker.
In the game, there are 42 total locations in the base game alone. 29 main locations that you can access through the fast travel system, and 13 sub-locations that can be accessed through the main ones.
With the vast amount of area that there is to explore in the base game, it makes the experience of playing it feels like you are actually traversing on an actual planet-sized map. And, in each map, there are many NPCs that you can interact with to claim missions for great items, and random enemies that spurt out weird voice lines who try to kill you.
The characters are possibly the best part of the game. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of unique characters who are introduced.. The main characters you can choose from are Salvador, Zer0, Maya, and Axton in the base game. In future expansions, the characters Gaige, the Mechromancer, and Krieg, the Psycho, are added as playable characters.
Each character has their own unique back story as to why they are vault hunters. Other than Krieg, they all came to Pandora for the same reason: To seek out the vault and become rich and famous across the galaxy.
Let’s start with Salvador: He is a Pandora native who is a wanted man by the villain corporation, Hyperion after he defended his town of Ovejas from a Hyperion strike team. He is voiced by John Swasey, who is known for his voice acting roles as the English voice actor of Julius Novachrono, in the popular anime Black Clover, and Van Hohenheim, in the highly-rated anime, FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
Up next is the very quiet assassin Zer0. He is an assassin for hire who has his wanted poster on basically every planet in the galaxy. He eventually got bored with assassinating regular targets, like business owners and high-ranking government officials, and eventually landed on Pandora to find a more challenging environment by becoming a vault hunter. Zer0 is voiced by Michael Turner, who is known for his roles as various voices in the popular anime’s FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and Fairy Tail.
The third is the power-wielding siren, Maya. She was found out to be an extremely rare siren who can wield powers that destroy planets. She was taken in by the monks on her home planet of Athenas and trained until she was an adult. After becoming an adult, she was irritated by the short leash she had and escaped the planet to Pandora to learn more about sirens. She is voiced by Martha Harms, who is known for her roles as Kinessa, in the video game Paladins, and as Scorpio, in the popular anime, Fairy Tail.
Fourth is Axton, the commando. He was originally a Dahl soldier who spent 10 years in their military and reached the rank of sergeant before being discharged. After he was discharged, he became a mercenary with his autonomous turret. He grew bored of his mercenary job and traveled to Pandora after he saw an advertisement to become a vault hunter from Handsome Jack. Axton is voiced by Robert McCollum, who is known for his work as the English voice actor of Stain, from the popular anime, My Hero Academia, and Doflamingo in One Piece.
Next up is one of the characters added later in the game’s life cycle. Out of the two, we’re going to start with Gaige. She was a high school student from the planet Eden-5. She is a techno maniac who created her own protective robot called Deathtrap, that would accompany her everywhere. Gaige originally traveled to Pandora to learn about the history of the planet, the vaults, and the very valuable material, Eridium. Gaige is voiced by Luci Christian, who is known for her roles as Medusa Gorgon, in the anime Soul Eater, and as Wrath, in the FullMetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa movie.
The last playable character is Krieg, the Psycho. He has a rather sad and dark backstory, as he was taken away from his bandit family by villain Dr. Benedict. After experimentation, he broke out and freed the children that Benedict had brought, but at a cost. A piece of his inner psyche had been broken, and Psycho Krieg had been created with his sane self being set aside. The “inner voice” that had taken over had become the dominant personality with the sane side being there to keep the psycho-side in check. There is no specific reason why he became a vault hunter, but he does it because his romantic interest, Maya, is also a vault hunter. He is also the only one who keeps Krieg calm. Krieg is voiced by Jason Douglass, who is known for many roles including Beerus, in Dragon Ball Super, Aokiji in One Piece, and Major Miles in FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
There are also many non-playable characters, or NPCs, that are very interesting, and add their own flair to the story. A few characters who are around for most or all of the game are Roland, Brick, Mordecai, and Lilith, who were the playable vault hunters in the first Borderlands.
There’s also Cl4P-TP Steward Bot, also known as Clap Trap. He is with you for the early game and in the final mission of the game. There’s also Sir Allistair Hammerlock, who is a famous hunter on Pandora who took down the thresher Ol’ Slappy. Lastly, is possibly the most liked character in the Borderlands franchise, Tiny Tina. Tina is introduced as a demolitions expert despite being only 13 years old when first appearing. Tina has a sad backstory, very similar to Kriegs in the sense that she and her parents were experimented on instead by Handsome Jack.
The grandfather of looter-shooters Borderlands sticks to its very chaotic but very rewarding combat system from the first game. Borderlands 2 is a first-person shooter where chaos is everywhere, from when you spawn in, to when you defeat a boss.
The combat is addictive, in many areas of the game. For example, when you spawn in, you can walk a couple of steps, and there are red dots on the map that greet you in the form of one of the various enemy types. You have the robot loaders of Handsome Jack, Bandit groups that build meat bicycles, and so many more unique enemy types.
The combat style you choose depends on your character and how you use the character’s unique skills. For Axton, you can rely on your turret to deal damage. Maya can hold people in place and shoot them freely; Zer0 turns invisible and sneaks up on people; Salvador gunzerks and duel wields; Gaige summons a robot to fight for her, and Krieg has a buzz ax with dynamite strapped to it that he can throw.
Each character has their own ability that fits in with their characters, such as Axton’s turret, or Krieg’s buzz ax. There are also skills that buff these main abilities, like Salvador’s “Yippee Ki Yay” skill where his gunzerk ability lasts one second longer for every enemy you kill.
Let’s get to the juicy stuff: the loot. The gearbox is known for putting an absurd amount of weapons in the Borderlands games. In the first Borderlands, the game broke a world record by having 17.75 million guns back in 2012. There isn’t a defined amount for how many weapons there are in the second game, but the developers have stated that Borderlands 2 has at least double the number of guns that the first game has. It gets better than that: In the first Borderlands 3 trailer, it was shown that there are over 1 billion guns in the game, which blows out Borderlands 1, Borderlands 2, and The Pre-Sequel.
Let’s dive deeper into the loot tsunami that Gearbox has created in this world-renowned franchise. In each game there are at least 5 levels of rarity: common(white), uncommon(green), rare(blue), epic(purple), and legendary(orange). In Borderlands 2, there are 9 tiers. The first one is E-Tech weapons, which are very technology-based, which look like they’re from the future, and have a magenta-like color when they are found. The next tier was also in the first game, and it’s called Pearlescent. In the first game, they only appear in the DLC, “The Secret Armory of General Knoxx”, while in the second game, they can only be found in ultimate vault hunter mode. Pearlescents drop with a turquoise color. Next is the Seraph rarity, which is light pink. You can get seraph items from Seraph Guardians in any mode in the game. They all drop seraph crystals that you can use at special vendors to buy the seraph items. The last rarity is Effervescent, which is a rainbow that cycles through all the colors; these items can only be found in the “Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary” DLC.
Among the various rarities, there are then 5 different items you can get: weapons, shields, class mods, relics/artifacts, and grenades. In weapons, there are 6 types of pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers. There are also 6 different grenade types, those being standard MIRV, bouncing betty, area of effect, singularity, and transfusion. There are different types for almost every class of item, but that would take too long to go over. In Borderlands 2, there are 10 manufacturers that make these items: Anshin, Bandit, Dahl, Hyperion, Jakobs, Maliwan, Pangolin, Tediore, Torque, and Vladof. Throughout the series, there are 5 more that appear in the other 3 games. Those manufacturers are Atlas, Scav, Children of the Vault, Eridian, and S&S Ammunition.
You’re geared up and in the story; let’s start from the beginning: You are one of the characters on the Hyperion train looking to work for Handsome Jack to find the vault. Plot twist: he doesn’t want you to work for him, he wants to kill you to make his search easier! You wake up in a frozen tundra, barely conscious, trying to figure out where you are after the train car explodes. Clap-Trap finds you and helps you to get to Liarsberg to meet Sir Hammerlock, and find a way off the iceberg. You fight a few big baddies, those being the brothers, Boom, and Bewm, and then Captain Flynt.
You are now off the tundra and make your way to Sanctuary, where the resistance, known as the Crimson Raiders, has been held up. You get introduced to many characters, like Mad Moxxi, Scooter the Mechanic, and Dr.Zed from the first game. You find out that the leader, Roland, is missing. You find out he’s been captured by bandits who plan to turn him in for money! You bust him out, and bring him back to Sanctuary, and plan how to take down Handsome Jack.
You discover that Angel, the siren, who is being enslaved by Jack, wants to help you after putting you, and your allies, in danger. You travel across the planet to prepare yourself for your fight against Handsome Jack and the vault monster called “The Warrior”. You travel to the Eridium Blight, and then Hero’s Pass where the vault is held. After fighting and critically injuring Handsome Jack, you have to fight the Warrior, which is capable of destroying the entire planet with its strength. After killing the vault monster, you have the choice of killing Handsome Jack or having Lillith kill Handsome Jack. With him defeated you believe there aren’t any more vaults, but the key levitates into the air revealing there are more vaults across the galaxy for them to open.
After the base game story, there are 10 expansions that were made after the game’s release with five of them being their own campaign and five that are called “headhunters.” The headhunters are like the big campaigns but they are only one or two missions with a boss at the end. The end game content that you can jump into after any of the difficulties is a big part of the game’s appeal.
At first glance, you may think that the graphics are really cartoonish for a game that’s rated M, but that is a franchise staple. From looking at the cover art for any of the games, you see that is what the developers are looking to do. They have a very enjoyable and replayable game that gives you a good story and even better graphics. When playing the game, it looks like you are playing through a comic book with the art style that is used.
Let’s look at the DLC’s that were released. The first big story DLC that they released was Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty expansion. In the DLC you help Captain Scarlett rebuild a compass that leads to Captain Blades’ lost treasure. After rebuilding it, she turns on you to take the treasure for herself. You defeat her and claim the treasure for yourself after fighting the Leviathan sandworm.
The second story DLC that Gearbox released was Mr.Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage. In this DLC you enter yourself into Mr.Torgue’s tournament to find out who is the biggest bada** on Pandora. You fight Pyro Pete, Motor Momma, and Piston to climb your way to the number 1 spot on the leaderboard.
The third, and probably least memorable of the four campaign DLC’s, is Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt. In the DLC, you are against Professor Nakayama, who is a fanatic for Handsome Jack and wants to clone him. In the DLC you have to stop him before he can complete his plans to make a Frankenstein clone of Jack.
The last, but also most popular DLC in the entire franchise, is Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep. This DLC is widely regarded as the best expansion in all of the Borderlands franchise. The story is amazing: You are set in the “Bunkers and Bada**es” universe which is a parody of Dungeons and Dragons. Tina acts as the Dungeon Master or DM in this world making numerous appearances when talking to you. You are tasked with saving the queen and returning the kingdom to normal. The main objective is not the reason why it has the best story out of the 4 main expansions. The reason why it has the best story is because it also tells the tale of Tina trying to cope with the death of Roland in the base game story. The ending scene of the DLC is honestly very sad and can make some cry.
Overall, I personally loved the game. From the dynamic characters; to the vast amount of weapons and items there are to collect; to the story that has you hooked from the start, and the many DLC’s that the game offers. This video game is definitely in my top three next to Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and The Crew. I highly recommend this game to anyone who hasn’t played it yet. I promise you will not be disappointed.