Welcome to Sanctuary: the beating heart of Pandora and your primary port-of-call in Borderlands 2. As you can see, Sanctuary is a sleepy mountain resort with a charming neo-Western aesthetic and all the modern conveniences a gun-toting vault-hunter could possibly desire. Boomsticks, bombs, buggies, broads, booze, and some other things that don’t begin with ‘b’ can all be found within its heavily-guarded, double-reinforced concrete walls. Keep an eye open and you might even spot a few familiar faces…
This corpulent gentleman, for example, is Marcus Kinkaid: Pandora’s premier weapons dealer and connoisseur of all things explosive. Some would call him a ruthless, amoral profiteer, whereas others would prefer not to be shot in the kneecaps with a high-powered Hyperion sniper rifle.
The regal looking fellow standing next to Marcus is Sir Hammerlock, a renowned explorer whose field notes provide essential survival tips for greenhorn vault-hunters looking to loot Pandora of its vast material wealth. (Note: Sir Hammerlock’s essential survival tips are only available to those who purchase the Loot Chest edition of Borderlands 2.)
Borderlands 2 offers a wealth of options for the fashion-conscious vault-hunter. Make your character stand out from the slovenly throng with a selection of complete costume ensembles. For example, in the above screenshot our friend the Gunzerker has coupled a traditional warrior-style beard and mohawk with an eye-searing orange t-shirt and white denim slacks. Horrid, right? But just look what happens following a brief trip to one of Pandora’s many convenient Quickchange machines…
Ta-da! The tangerine terror is now a strawberry dream. Note the lack of beard and rakish mulberry bowler hat. But what’s this-? Cockney homosexual not your style? Want something a little imposing – an outfit to strike fear into the hearts of your enemies? Well take a look at this…
We ask you: is there anything more fearsome than a blood-spattered dwarf wielding a shotgun? Look at him there with his prominent facial tattoos, bald-head, and Walter White beard: he looks he just got back from breaking faces at a Slayer concert. Total effin metal, dude.
You will notice that the Gunzerker class, like every other class in the game, has access to three distinct skill-trees. As with the first Borderlands, which skill-trees you choose to focus on – if indeed you choose to focus on one at all – can have a profound impact on the way your character plays.
Here, for example, you can see the Siren using her stasis bubble thingy that we talked about in our last hands-on preview. What we didn’t mention last time is that there are a number of ways to customise this ability to suit your particular approach to the game. You can, for example, focus on damage and select a supernova-style skill that causes the stasis bubble to explode on expiry – very handy – or if you’re more of a medic type, you can elect to have the bubble heal your team-mates and replenish your ammo.
Don’t like how your build’s going? Head on back to a Quickchange machine and, for a nominal fee, you can completely respec. Convenient!
Here we see a Commando deploying his automated turret to shoot bugs and robots. One particular skill – we can’t remember which one exactly – causes this turret to blow-up when you set it down; develop this skill enough and eventually deploying the turret will cause a small nuclear explosion that’ll wipe out almost anything within the immediate vicinity of detonation. Needless to say, it’s pretty freakin badass.
Ah, the frozen tundra: a frosty winter wonderland packed with some of Pandora’s deadliest denizens. Although you can’t see it in the screenshot, the tundra is home to a high-speed rail network, the purpose of which is not entirely clear to us (since we had to skip the quest associated with it). What we do know is that a train comes screaming through the snow at regular intervals, and if you happen to be on the tracks when it does, you’ll be promptly reduced to a blood and gizzard Slurpee. So, yeah: watch out for that.
And last but not least, we’d like to introduce a new character: Tiny Tina. Making her home on the tundra’s edge, Tiny Tina is a hyperactive 13-year-old with a taste for tea-parties and torture. If we’re being completely honest, she’s actually pretty annoying. Evidently Gearbox heard that Borderlands was “funny” and so now they’ve got it into their heads that every single character has to be a comedian and every single line of dialogue has to be wacky-wacky funtimes hilarity. Which is fine in theory, but in practice it’s more than a little exasperating.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Borderlands 2. Beautiful, accessible, addictive, and not quite as funny as it thinks it is. In a nutshell: like the original – only moreso.