Borderlands 2 : Of Its Time

I do enjoy the time capsule effect of playing older games.  In particular games that are more or less static (as compared to Diablo 3 which is a whole lot different today than in 2012).  I rarely fall for the ploy of rose colored glasses – there are extremely few games from yesteryear that can compete with games today.  As great as Ocarina of Time was, it is still a relic compared to something like God of War.  Objective comparisons aren’t fair.

Borderlands 2 is in that bucket.  What it did in 2012 was amazing, and frankly paved the way for Destiny in 2014.  Class-based, looter/shooter, with an attempt at an underlying story, power levels, and a near-infinite grind.  Loot was randomized, had quality, you equipped multiple pieces, and had to use specific tactics to take down difficult targets.  Oh, and multiplayer.  On the surface this is the same model as many games today.

But the execution is what matters.  And Borderlands did an amazing job out of the gate.

Controls are tight, and gun accuracy (as a stat) matters.  You need to leverage the terrain for cover, you need to use your skills, grenades, and shields for maximum effect.  In mass battles, you need to prioritize your targets.  Each class has generally viable builds (up until end game / UVHM / level 61), but plays distinctly from the others.  Shotguns do what shotguns are supposed to do.  Bosses are more than stationary bullet sponges, and most have the ability to summon re-reinforcements that you just can’t ignore.  Lots of player customization (though limited to head/body art).  There’s some vertical combat, but generally limited.

But it’s also 2012. There’s the fact that the entire game is based on the Mountain Dew “to the xtreme!” – though admittedly tongue in cheek as compared to Wildstar.  There are vehicles to move around, but there’s a near ridiculous amount of backtracking / retreading in most zones.  You never really “overpower” a zone in today’s sense.  Some zones are overly long, or repetitious.  The hub/spoke model of questing is in full force, which seems a direct holdover from WoW at the time.

With Borderlands 3 coming in September, I am curious as to which mechanics are under review.  Theme is still the same… if not at a more ridiculous level.  Gun randomness seems put up to 11.  Honestly, looking at Borderlands 2 the major gains we’ve seen over the years are nearly all related to quality of life improvements.  Better multiplayer support, certainly.  More build diversity/balance.  Better map design/usage of space.  A more diverse activity set than just “shoot everything you see”.  Certainly better AI…

Playing through Borderlands 2 really makes me look at today’s games and see what bits of progress we’ve seen.  Or perhaps better stated, what areas have not progressed.

I will end this to say that hitting a loot pinata (aka boss) and seeing it simply rain colored items never gets old.  That feeling is amazing.  Now to see it again in 2019 games would be something!

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