Borderlands 2: One Year Later

By Bill Henning, Aaron Daniel, Josh Snyder and Nick Olsen

A year after it’s launch, four Borderlands 2 veteran vault hunters share their opinions on their favorite and least favorite aspects of the game, and what Gearbox can learn from the recent past to ensure that upcoming DLC and future games meet or exceed the standards they’ve established.

Each person will answer two questions: What did you like, what didn’t you like?

Nick

Like: Gaige

Assassin? Check. Siren? Check. Berzerker? Check. Soldier? Check. All of the original character classes from the original Borderlands appear in Borderlands 2 (albeit in modified form), and yet something was missing.That something turned out to be Gaige. But what makes Gaige so great? Well, a number of things actually:

  • She summons a robot with life saving and murderous abilities
  • She’s a great solo character or multiplayer companion
  • Her unique skills are perfectly suited to long-, mid- and close-range combat
  • She has hilarious catch phrases like “Ooh, right in the wingnut!”
  • She’s on Pandora because she accidently blew up her high school science fair rival

Seriously, what’s not to like?

Borderlands 2 Gaige

Just a girl and her murderous robot

By the time Gaige was available as DLC, I’d already played multiple max-level characters, and while I enjoyed the experience, none of the characters suited me the way Mordecai had in the original. Because of my love for Mordecai I started with Zer0, tailored for sniping, but it didn’t feel the same. Part of what made Mordecai so effective in Borderlands was Bloodwing. Bloodwing made for an excellent distraction (and when maxed out, a deadly killing machine) and allowed me adequate time to find the perfect cover for long range sniping. It was glorious and I wanted more. Alas, Zer0 didn’t have a Bloodwing; he had some silly hologram which stayed within too close a proximity to be effective for finding and utilizing cover at a distance.

The first time I used Gaige it was obvious to me that she was the character best suited to my established and beloved playing style. Deathtrap was the new Bloodwing. I could summon the robot who would venture into the world to find enemies to battle, providing a more than adequate distraction for me to snipe to my heart’s content. And should I take massive damage, he’d scurry back to refill my shields. If I succumbed to the damage, an effective Deathtrap could kill an enemy providing me with a second wind. Hallelujah!

Much like having Bloodwing aid Mordecai in the original Borderlands, playing as Gaige is almost like playing permanently in co-op; with Deathtrap as a companion, many of the more challenging missions to solo in Borderlands 2 (kill Doc Mercy, fight The Warrior, etc.) become much more manageable with Deathtrap pulling agro, killing secondary enemies and replenishing your shields. By reducing some of the inherent frustrations associated with these scenarios (dealing with waves of secondary enemies, fighting for second winds) playing solo becomes a much more enjoyable experience, a nice change of pace for a game so acutely tailored to co-op.

Borderlands 2 Gaige skill tree

Quite the variety of skill combinations to choose from

Perhaps most importantly, Gaige is unique in that her skills can be customized to match any play style. We’ve already discussed how she functions as a sniper (my prefered play style), but with skills like “Fancy Mathematics” which improves shield recharge rate and delay, combined with “Close Enough” which allows bullets to ricochet, suddenly Gaige becomes a proficient in-your-face berzerker, especially when equipped with a “Conference Call” shotgun. This example doesn’t even include enhanced mele abilities for both Gaige and Deathtrap, which can be found slotted throughout the skill trees.

Or what if your preference is to be a mid-range player who focuses on elemental damage and rapid-fire weapons like SMGs and combat rifles? Well, there’s a build for that, too. Try selecting “Smaller, Lighter, Faster,” which improves reload speeds and fire rates in exchange for a small clip, and combine it with “Shock and AAAGGGGHHH” which causes a burst of electricity to radiate from your position with each reload. And for good measure, why not a dab of “Make it Sparkle,” which charges Deathtrap with whatever element type you shoot him with, allowing him to do elemental damage as well.

When Gearbox released Borderlands 2 it became obvious they wanted players to focus more on building characters for single play styles (perhaps to encourage more co-op play), and while they succeeded, the lack of Mordecai/Bloodwing-style combo was a real detriment. Each of the four base characters certainly had their charms, but none were as instantly enjoyable as playing Gaige. The ability to customize her to any play style is a huge bonus, but toss in her snicker-worthy catch phrases (Ugh, I’ve got some brain on my shoes. *Sniff* I like it., I need to build you an extra arm JUST for high-fives!), and a hilarious backstory–did I mention she’s escaped to Pandora after accidentally blowing up her rival in the science fair?–and Gaige is the clear cut winner for my character choice.

Dislike: Unnecessary nerfing of The Bee shield

Sometimes something just works too well. Or so Gearbox apparently thought to themselves, when they noticed that players began to “exploit” a weapon and shield combination to great effect. That weapon was the Conference Call shotgun and the shield was The Bee. For the uninitiated here’s the description of each:

 Conference Call:

Let’s just ping everyone all at once. – Fires 5 projectiles per shot. Each projectile generates additional projectiles upon impact or after sufficient distance. Slightly increased magazine size. Slightly reduced accuracy.

The Bee:

Float like a butterfly… – High amp shot damage, 0 amp shot drain. Lowered shield capacity. Increased shield recharge rate. Increased recharge delay.

What this combination allowed players to do was gain a damage boost to each bullet fired, so long as the shield was full, in exchange for sacrificing damage protection with a low capacity shield. Each item in this instance worked exactly as designed: the Conference Call fired many projectiles; The Bee amplified the damage. And it was glorious. But then one day, Gearbox decided that players who had discovered this combination were in someway cheating and decided to nerf The Bee:

“The Bee was rebalanced by Patch 1.2.0. The patch decreased the amount of Amp Damage (by about 10k for a level 50 example), increased Recharge Delay (by 2 more seconds), and reduced Recharge Rate (by 7k). Most significantly, Amp Shields have their Amp damage amount divided among the projectiles from multi-projectile weapons (all weapons with a yellow multiplier in the Damage stat), thus making all Amp shields, including the Bee, less effective on shotguns and other multi-projectile weapons, rather than more so.”

Our glory had been lost.

This was a mistake on the part of Gearbox. By nerfing The Bee, Gearbox actually punished players for playing within the rules and constructs of the game. The reality is, part of what draws gamers to the Borderlands series is exploring the infinite combinations and effects created by combining weapons/shields/class mods/character attributes. By changing the characteristics of these items after players have found a successful combination is essentially sending the message that this type of experimentation is frowned upon.

The result is for players to seek actual exploits and glitches that exist outside of the rules of the game design. The prime example of this after Gearbox nerfed The Bee is when players discovered and began actively exploiting the damage boost associated with the Evil Smasher (a combat rifle in which there is a chance that it will power up upon reloading providing, for the next magazine only, improved stats for: damage, fire rate, recoil reduction, projectile speed)  and applying it to the Infinity (a pistol which does not consume ammunition, therefore never needing to be reloaded) for unending, massively-boosted gun damage well beyond that which the Conference Call/The Bee combo provided and without the penalty of a low capacity shield.

Borderlands 2 modded weapon

Nerfing The Bee led directly to players modding weapons

And this is nothing compared with the modified weapons which people import into the game when they grow tired of seeking native item combinations. Many of these weapons are so powerful that a single shot can defeat the most powerful raid bosses in the game.

These actions from players are the combined results of unnecessary item nerfing layered on top of the need for excessive grinding. So I ask you, Gearbox: which is worse? Players using item combinations in ways which they were originally intended, or players going to further extremes of using major exploits and modded weapons?

The latter destroys the integrity of the game, while the former keeps it intact.

Josh

Like: Variety is the Spice of Life

There were plenty of improvements in Borderlands 2, but one that stood out to me was the sheer amount of variety the game had to offer in almost every aspect. This was most evident in character builds. In Borderlands, there was a great chance that my Roland would play very similar to a friend’s Roland, regardless of which tree we invested our points into. In Borderlands 2, it goes beyond that – class mods can have dramatic impacts, shaping you into a jack-of-all-trades or a focused tool of destruction. Shields, such as the legendary Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, will alter you into a rolling wave of chaos that kills everything within a certain radius of your position, while The Bee shield will most likely cause you to hang back and pick enemies off from a distance. Grenade mods have similar impacts on gameplay, as do artifacts. And this is all without even touching the guns, some of which are so crazy that players create builds specifically around their unique tools of destruction. All of these customizations stack upon each other, and when it’s all said and done, two Axtons rarely play the same.

Borderlands 2 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

The legendary Whiskey Tango Foxtrot shield is just one of many options for customizing characters

There are two benefits to this additional variety. First, it makes replaying through the game fun. Certain missions that were giving you problems with Salvador seem easy with Zer0, and vice versa. Yes, there are still some sections of the game that seem to drag, but these are often lessened by the player’s desire to try out their new build and experiment with new weapons and tools. Half the fun later on in the game is simply trying out a new class mod or grenade mod, a distinction that the first game could not claim.

Second, variety among weapons and shield and everything else makes the pursuit of that loot all the more important. And in a game all about the loot, this effect cannot be understated. Running the same bosses over and over again in the hopes of getting the Baby Maker or the Infinity pistol are only worth it because of those weapons’ unique properties. By allowing their imaginations to run wild and create some really unique items, Gearbox made loot farming infinitely more important in a game all about loot. Without that variety, that simply would not be the case.

And this variety goes further than character classes – I could easily spend the next 2,000 words talking about the varied environments, the fun and twisted characters and the freaky creatures of Pandora. The variety in Borderlands 2 is staggering, and it’s what makes the game so much fun.

Dislike: A Long Way From Home

One of the complaints of the first Borderlands was that it was brown. Too brown. I wrote about the importance of art design in video games, and Borderlands is definitely an example of a developer simply dropping the ball. Cel shading will only take you so far, and it didn’t work in a game filled with levels of endless dirt.

But as I pointed out above, Gearbox learned their lesson, and the worlds of Borderlands 2 were varied and beautiful. And as I pointed out elsewhere, those levels were expertly crafted, guiding players through vast chasms filled with the visions of the most freakish acid flashbacks.

But there is a downside to these new, open levels, one that seriously holds the entire Borderlands 2 experience back: the lack of save points, or respawn points. It’s a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Borderlands 2 Eridium Blight

Purple is the new brown, at least in the Eridium Blight

Take the Eridium Blight for example. The score that accompanies this region is fantastic, and the volcanos and ash add an eerie apocalyptic feeling to the entire level. However, the vast wastes are just that, wastes, with little to see or do. And if you’re unfortunate enough to succumb to one of the millions of hazards of Pandora, you’ll find yourself a long ways away from your previous spot.

When soloing the game, this issue is no more than an annoyance. But when playing with friends, it becomes downright infuriating. Borderlands 2 increases the difficulty according to the number of players in your game, so when one of you dies and has to respawn, everyone feels it. There is a need to spread out the spawn points to an extent – if you simply respawned in the middle of each battle, it would remove a serious penalty from the game. Dying should have consequences, but you should never be more than 30 seconds to one minute removed from a battle. However, as is the case with regions like the Eridium Blight, or most of Tiny Tina’s downloadable content, you will often spend more and more time running back to battle, only to watch helplessly as your friends’ shield and health deplete, and you all have to stop playing and wait for everyone to respawn and run back to battle together.

It’s nice to see Gearbox open up the world and do try something different with the space. But the overwhelming distance between save points makes me regret ever complaining about the levels in the first game. Here’s hoping that in part three, Gearbox will get a bit more creative with their save system, maybe taking a page from games like BioShock, a franchise that managed to have open level design, yet contained little to no back-tracking.

Bill

Like: The Villain or: How I stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Handsome Jack

I have a small confession to make; I love the villains in stories a little more than the heroes. To me they are more interesting than the hero. For a hero, the motivation is always the same handful of classic tropes, save the day, save the girl, get revenge, etc. Some of the setting changes, but most of the basic plot points are always the same.  But villains are something different. Sure they might follow some of the same tropes as other villains, but their twists are always a little bit better than the heroes of the story. You can hate the villain simply by how evil they are, you can sympathize with them but disagree with their actions, you can be scared of them because of what they do, or they can be so likeable you start to root for them. With Leonard from Memento, you cannot really tell if he is a villain or not, and then there are villains like Syndrome from The Incredibles, where you can see why he is doing what he is doing but damn does he know he is evil and twisted.

In the case of Handsome Jack, he is all of those things and more.

Borderlands 2 Handsome Jack

Oh, hi, I’m Handsome Jack; the villain in this story

Our introduction to Handsome Jack is in the opening cut scene, in which Jack has lured the four new vault hunters into a train to kill them. The first words spoken by our feared antagonist is actually a recording from a doll dressed up to look like him, which happens to be rigged with explosives. “It’s cute – y’all think you’re the heroes of this little adventure, but you’re not. Welcome to Pandora kiddos.”

Then the train promptly explodes.

Gearbox learned from their own mistake of handling the villain in the first Borderlands, or lack thereof. It wasn’t until the third DLC, General Knoxx, that they tried making a villain that followed the player around, popping in, chatting with the player, making them remember that he is waiting for them at the end game.

Jack will constantly call you up, chit-chatting with you throughout the game, taunting you and pushing you along. By the closing of the first act I actually started to like the guy, and it isn’t until he tells you that Angel has been working with him and you have been a pawn in his game to kill Roland and the Resistance did I have to rethink about actually wanting kill him again..

By act two, Gearbox does a great job of putting pressure onto the players for them to truly hate Jack, which is accomplished by having him kill Bloodwing, a beloved character from the first game. This terrible moment is only furthered by Jack calling you up talking about how he wanted to play a small violin about how sad it was. Jack is just so beautifully cunning and funny that, though you are laughing at his jokes, you despise him and you are actually looking forward to meeting him, if only to put a bullet in his skull.

One of my all-time favorite Jack moments is actually one of my least favorite missions in the whole game; it is a glorified escort mission in which you follow a giant robot around to cut down statues of Handsome Jack himself. This painfully annoying mission is lightened up by having Jack chime in at the start of every statue, yelling at you and calling you names. At one point he doesn’t understand why you are cutting does these statues, and claims that you are only cutting down a depiction of him reading a book because you must be illiterate. After finishing the last one, he claims he isn’t even upset about that he is just going to build a dozen more of him kicking the crap out of you. Just having some of these hilarious moments with Jack make up for a dreadful escort mission, making it one of the most memorable moments in the whole game.

Borderlands 2 Roland Dies

That blood on the screen? It’s Roland’s and Jack put it there

With any good villain there is a point of no return, where they either take the path of redemption or fall further into their wicked ways. For Handsome Jack it is toward the end of act two – the player has finally made it to Control Core Angel only to find out that Angel, pretty much your guide for the last game and most of this, isn’t an A.I. program but actually a Siren and Jack’s daughter. Jack had thrown his daughter into a device to harness her powers to open the Vault so he can gain amazing power. If that wasn’t enough, Gearbox tosses in one last push to build Jack up on the ultimate villain – he kills Roland.

In the matter of ten minutes the player is forced to come to the realization that this all knowing A.I. and the closest thing to a leading character besides themselves throughout both of the games ISN’T an A.I. but actually Jack’s daughter. The player must also come to grips with actually killing her, and when everything is looking bleak, Jack kills Roland, someone who the player looked up to, not just because he was a main character in the first game but because you could see the amount of good he was doing within the world. And what is the icing on the cake of villainy? During the whole fight to save and then kill Angel, Jack is begging with you, pleading with you to not do this. Jack actually thinks he is doing the right thing by keeping his daughter in this machine.

It is at this point if you really think about Jack you start to understand his motivations, that he truly believes he is doing the right thing. He sees everyone on this planet as bandit scum, but he doesn’t know that there are shreds of humanity still on the planet. Granted, you really have to search for it, but Jack doesn’t care. The only thing we don’t know or understand to make him a truly amazing character, is why he did what did to Angel.

Thankfully, Gearbox thought this through in a mission called “Get to Know Jack.” In it you pick up ECHO recordings of Jack from his past to piece together who he was and what he did to get him to Pandora. One of the first recordings is of a little girl crying asking her father where her mother is, Jack chimes in saying that her mother isn’t coming back because of what she has done. Jack then forces the young Angel into the machine. It is strongly suggested that Angel didn’t have a control over her siren powers and killed her mother and scarred Jack’s face, which is why he wears a mask over his own.

That final piece of Jack’s puzzle gives us an image of the man. A man who honestly thinks he is doing the right thing, who was pushed to the edge of his life over the death of his wife and his own flesh and blood to blame for it. Is it so hard to see how Jack became who he is at the start of the game? Yes he had imprisoned Angel for most of her life but in a sick, twisted way he still cares for her.

At the point in the game when all of this unfolds, I had mixed emotions. I understood his actions and in a way accepted them, but at the same time there would be nothing more satisfying than putting a bullet in his skull.

So what makes a good villain? The villain has to be a well-rounded character like everyone else in the story. The villain has to have motivation that allows their actions to have meaning and for the player to have a little understanding, a little glimpse into their mind, that adds that human element to them, making them a full character and not just a trope. But to make sure that it is properly leveled out with a right amount of hatred toward their actions so they still want to see the villain pay for what they did.

What makes a perfect villain? Just see Handsome Jack.

Dislike:  DLC Blues

Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate Booty, Mister Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt and Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep are what make up the first season of story DLC for Borderlands 2. While overall I have to say that they are great, with some being far superior than others, there are still some issues with each piece of DLC, which detracts from the total experience.

One of my biggest problems with the DLCs was the lack of creativity in the meat of them, most notably Captain Scarlett’s and Sir Hammerlock. With the latter, I felt I could have done very well with a minimal story, giant open maps and an open structure to the missions. We are basically on safari and part of me was digging the feeling of just going to a large open map and killing a giant beast. An open-style mission instead of a storyline could have been amazing, but there weren’t enough missions like that for a safari DLC. Though the story we were given was fine and a little funny at the end, I’ve seen it all before, including the mock final boss fight. I remember the first trailer I saw for this and I was hoping for a more open adventure. Instead what we got was a pretty simple plot that actually felt tacked on and the random side missions I actually enjoyed more than the storyline, having to hunt down rare monsters or killing small raid bosses.  If I was going to break it down it would have been closer to twenty percent of the missions would have been the main story and eighty percent random bounty board missions.

As for Captain Scarlett, I feel like this storyline was far too long and started to run on fumes once we started getting to the end. At one point we have to put a compass together and we are about to gather the last piece and it breaks. So we are sent on a fetch quest to fix it – to recap, this is a fetch quest inside of an already boring fetch quest. It felt more like filler than content to the story since all it does is open up a new map that is utterly unoriginal.

Borderlands 2 sandskiff

The Sandskiff seemed like a cool new ride … at first.

At the same time, both of these DLCs had another issue. Each one introduced a new vehicle – a sandskiff and a hover boat. This sounds cool on paper, but sadly it isn’t at all. The sandskiff is used in one map, and while the map is rather large, there is nothing in there to do. The hover boat is just so sluggishly slow and underpowered that it isn’t worth taking, as well as only being used in two maps (and in one of those maps, only half of the area is accessible with the hover boat). They feel tacked on without much creativity behind them as they were basically the same vehicle in a different setting with slightly different guns, making them mostly pointless.

Mister Torgue and Tina Tina’s DLCs don’t get away scot free here either; both of them severely missed the mark with their content. Torgue gives us a sort of ranking system seen in games like MadWorld, but it could have been spaced out a lot more instead of three boss fights until we made it to the final fight. This is one of those times that some filler could have really helped out; learning when to use filler to actually add to the game and not just to tack on a few hours of time is tough, as is making players feel like they are earning something by completing small tasks (like moving up the leaderboards over doing a fetch quest inside of a fetch quest). I wanted to run around killing random spawn bosses and have Mister Torgue come on over the ECHO and tell me I moved up the rank system. It was a missed opportunity here and it kind of leaves a sour taste in my mouth inside of the main storyline. Sure there are raid bosses at the end, but at that point I already proved I was the “Ultimate Badass” and was just flexing my muscles instead of working my way to the top.

As for Tina’s DLC, it could have used more fetch quests. While we, the players, are inside a Dungeons and Dragons rip off, which is done very well, I felt like we could have gone on a quest to kill twenty rabbits to collect rabbit fur or meet a random person who asked us to go kill a cave full of goblins for a lackluster amount of cash. Some of the most fun I have ever had in a Dungeons and Dragons game was when the players get off-track from the main story and threw the Dungeon Master for a loop. Looking back, I loved every map this DLC had to offer because it was big and wonderful and looked amazingly epic. But a lot of times we were just running through these landscapes instead of exploring.

There were plenty of areas that had amazing details and fun little areas that had nothing in them, nothing for me to go back to. It was a shame to see so much detail put into things and only really visit a place once instead of enjoying it multiple times. One place that I wanted to spend hours in were the dwarven mines, the map was massive but after doing the main storyline and one or two quests there was no reason to go back there. I felt a little sad because I wanted to explore the map and not just run through it.

Borderlands 2 Claptrap Tiny Tina

We could have used more quests from CL4P-TP in Tiny Tina’s DLC

Tiny Tina could also have done more with the characters. Ellie shows up for two missions and isn’t heard from again, while she was on the first teaser for this DLC as well as Roland, I felt like she was underused in the whole thing. I would have loved for her to give me a dozen and a half side missions to do. The same goes for Mad Moxxi, CL4P-TP (Claptrap) or the complete lack of Doctor Zed and Marcus. Granted, both Zed and Marcus showed up in vending machines, but I find it hard to believe we couldn’t have met a magic version of Zed and gone off to collect frog eyes and bat wings to make a better shield, or have Marcus send us into the Mines to build a better gun.These characters could have made an already great experience even greater.

With all their faults I still really enjoyed the first season of DLC for Borderlands 2. There are not that many games out there that I will buy a season pass for and not regret later. Although there are some hiccups and blunders, I can overlook those and see the big picture, that these DLCs are mostly good. But with a little extra time planning and thinking things over, they could have been great.

Aaron

Like: Krieg

When first released, Borderlands 2 was widely heralded as a superb successor to the original. However, many players missed the hilarity that a true melee character brings to the genre. Sure, you can always spec Zer0 out for melee with great results, but it is just not the same as his action skill is not melee-centered. In the first Borderlands we had Brick as our focused melee character, but on May 14th, 2013 we finally had our melee character in Borderlands 2, albeit for ten dollars.

The release of Krieg the Psycho Bandit was preceded by a short film entitled, “A Meat Bicycle Built for Two.” The video was very well done, showed off Krieg’s main attribute of attacking with his buzz-saw axe, and generally excited the entire BL2 crowd. “A Meat Bicycle Built for Two” shows how Krieg meets Maya, gets on the train, and arrives at the start of the game. Moreover, we learn that Krieg is not entirely in control of himself. Krieg has an inner voice that attempts to affect a bit of control but generally fails until his run in with Maya. The ending of the video shows Krieg warning Maya about the rats behind her by yelling, “Turn around, pretty lady,” after being goaded by his inner voice.


Although I do generally love all melee and tanking characters, the one trait of Krieg that enamors me the most is that, to utilize him to his full abilities, requires timing, keen judgment, and a fair amount of skill. Krieg’s ability “Release the Beast” (RTB) becomes much stronger, turning you into a Badass Psycho, filling your health, adding 100 percent melee damage, and 50 percent damage reduction if you activate it when below 33 percent health. When you come out of RTB, you can go right back into it, and every kill while in RTB fills your health. This kind of skill is a game changer for tanking/melee fighters, but using it correctly becomes a number crunching affair of “how many more bullets can I take and still live?” I believe this is a good choice because rather than just give a character constant health buffs or damage reduction as seen in many games, Gearbox makes you work for the benefits. In the roleplaying genre this is a fresh change of pace and something that I believe should be implemented more often.

A huge drawback to Krieg is his lack of back story. As a DLC character, we do not get any information as to where Krieg comes from, how he became a psycho, or why he is different from other psychos. The only bit of information we get is from the short film previously mentioned and what Krieg says in game. Yet even without any back story, Krieg is an interesting character. He is highly quoted by veteran vault hunters both in game and online, and played by a large number of players. This was a great opportunity for Gearbox to expand the story beyond the four characters from the vanilla game with a character that has a large following, and they just dropped the ball. It really didn’t have to be much: “Lost Echos,” or a video would have sufficed. Instead, Krieg is not referenced in any later DLC, nor has there been any more videos. I am of the mind that a character of this magnitude should be given a more pronounced story than what we have received thus far.

Recently on the Borderlands 2 Facebook page an article was posted arguing that both Gaige and Krieg were not released as part of the vanilla game due to the technicality of play required for both characters. I can honestly say that this just isn’t true. Keeping my focus on Krieg, I can say that Krieg could have easily fit into the game as it shipped. Obviously, Krieg isn’t as easy to play as Axton or Salvador, but I don’t believe that he is any harder of a character to play than Zer0. Zero’s skill set is setup for max damage to one enemy, and so is Krieg’s. The only difference between the two characters is that with Krieg you have to take damage before you can take full advantage of his action skill, whereas with Zer0 you only have to wait for the cooldown timer. There is really no reason why Krieg should not have been included in the game as it launched.

Dislike: Grinding

Grinding(v): Engaging in repetitive tasks to achieve a goal.

As a gamer, I fully enjoy being able to play through a story or game again. Playing through again allows the gamer to possibly experience something missed on the first go around or to just relish the same experience again. However, neither of those are applicable when you have to play through the same story again just to grind out levels or farm equipment.

If you do all the side quests, as well as the story missions, your first playthrough of Borderlands 2 will put you at or above level 35 depending on how much killing you do. If you do a few of the side quests in True Vault Hunter (TVH) mode, you will hit 50 well before you reach the end of the story. If you don’t have the Ultimate Vault Hunter (UVH) pack, this means that the majority of the second playthrough is already useless except grinding to the bosses to get better loot. As the two main goals of the game are to gain levels and loot, to make racking up experience at any point during the story useless takes away half of the enjoyment of the game. Naturally, there has to be a level cap somewhere, but to reach it so soon in the second playthrough is an egregious miscalculation on Gearbox’s part.

Lets say that to combat this you went and got UVH. When I leveled up my psycho, I only did story missions and the side quests that were on the way to the story mission way point. I never backtracked, or did side quests in areas that I had to go back to for the story. If I couldn’t do the quests the first time I went to an area, I just did not do them. I still walked into the final boss at level 59. Ergo, even by ignoring more than half of the game, I was almost at the level cap. Why would any game be designed so that if you ignore half of the game you reach level cap? Are you trying to say that the game’s story is that bad that you should just skip half of it?

Borderlands 2 NPC chatter

If shooting them would shut them up, we’d have blasted them off planet.

After getting five characters over level 50, three of them to 61, I am so tired of the cut scenes and having to listen to non-player characters (NPC) talk. During the mission “Bright Lights, Flying City,” my tv stays muted. Between Angel, Roland, Lillith and their drivel, I simply can’t stand that part of the game. Having to stand there and wait while Lillith and Roland argue and talk about our next move drives me insane. All the developer would have to do is make these full cut scenes instead of real time NPC actions. Then the fix would be simple: upon turning in a mission, the start of a cut scene, or whatever it may be, give gamers a choice to either press “A” to watch, or “B” to skip it. Why can’t we skip these scenes? After the first playthrough, why don’t we have that option? This leads to utter frustration while either grinding out levels or grinding your way to bosses, and I believe it to be unfair to the consumer as it is forcing us to rehash things we have already done just to advance the game.

Between the grinding of levels and story there are the legendary weapons. I understand that with the “legendary” tag that these weapons should be hard to get, but that doesn’t mean that it should be blind luck. With drop rates of under one percent, farming bosses becomes the only way to get legendary weapons with any kind of regularity. Some of these bosses are exceedingly hard to beat, taking over 10 minutes to get to, and even longer to kill. If a gamer has to rely on farming bosses with drop rates of less than one percent to get the best equipment in a game, it is poorly designed. The best equipment could easily be found during skill-related activities, in hard to find areas, or be dropped by a boss of high difficulty at a high rate. Blind luck should never be in the equation of top tier equipment.

With proper design, and a generous amount of forethought, games do not have to feature any kind of grinding. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that we as gamers should not be simply “gifted” levels or the best equipment. However, I do firmly believe that the best designed games find ways to keep the gamer coming back that do not involve the boredom of grinding or farming.