A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to play Borderlands 2 for a couple of hours. The demo showed off two areas – the Wildlife Preserve and the Caustic Caverns. Two of the five classes were available for play, Salvador the Gunzerker and Maya the Siren. I played both.

The Four Most Important Things I Learned about Borderlands 2

There’s plenty that can be said about Gearbox’s sequel (which arrives in stores in late September), but I’ll be to the point. These are the five things that, from the demo, left an impression on me.

Bigger, More Interesting World

Zero BugMorph
Borderlands had two major flaws. The story was half-baked (with a disappointing finale) and the game world had very little variety. It’s impossible with two hours of playtime to say if the story is any better, but I know for certain that the game world has much more to it this time around.

The Caustic Caverns features dangerous toxic lakes, while the Wildlife Preserve is a jungle-like area with a large human instillation smack in the middle. These areas have more vibrant colors than the original Borderlands and, more importantly, a far more interesting set of enemies. Borderlands 2 is still about grinding (and getting loot), but now there’s far more to grind against. Annoying drones buzz overhead and have to be struck quickly before they pass and heavily armed robots act like the Terminator as they continue to fight even as their bodies become crippled from an onslaught of gunfire.

In two areas, I must have seen a dozen different types of enemies with behaviors that were more complex than the simple-minded “go at ‘em mentality” from the first game. In the span of two hours, it felt like I’d already experienced more variety than Borderlands 1. And really, I just saw the tip of the iceberg.

Improved Skill Tree

The skill tree is broken into three sections for each class, with a focus on different aspects of improving your character. There are more skills to choose from with each character, adding some more depth to how characters are customized. That should also mean you’ll have a lot more to play with over a longer period of time. My personal favorite is Salvador’s Come at Me Bro skill, which is a taunt to draw enemy attention. It’s icon if a hand giving the middle finger.

From a brief scanning of the skills, it appears that there’s not single class dedicated to being the medic. Instead, both the Gunzerker and Siren have some measure of personal healing (with Siren able to heal teammates to boot).

This is Not Your Daddy’s Siren

If you played a Siren in the first game and are expecting more of the same, you’re in for a big surprise. The original game’s Lilith had the power to Phasewalk (go invisible), but Maya can Phaselock. She doesn’t go invisible at all. Instead, the Phaselock targets a single enemy and traps them between dimensions. While Phaselocked, the enemy can’t move, leaving it wide open for attack. This is a helpful talent considering how easy it is to be swarmed in Borderlands 2. Maya has other skills that can augment the effects of the Phaselock. The most useful skill was one that dropped health recovery as a phaselocked enemy was damaged.

The Phaselock can’t hold all enemies. So, sadly, it will not trap a boss. However, any enemy that can’t be held by the Phaselock takes instant damage, so it’s never a wasted use of the action skill.

Guns Don’t Kill People, Salvador Kills People

Gunzerker Skills
Borderlands 2 is all about guns. There are more guns than you can hope to imagine and Salvador uses them with efficiency. If you want to be the brute who runs into conflict and has your fingers holding down the trigger for 20 hours, well, Salvador is your man. His primary action skill lets him dual-wield guns. Sure, dual-wielding isn’t anything new to games, but keep in mind that you can dual-wield any two weapons you have equipped. Got an uzi and a rocket launcher? How about a shotgun and an acid blaster. I’d imagine there will be some gun effects that will work well together so that dual-wielding is more than just a matter of doubling the bullets headed at your enemies.

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