Sunday, March 31, 2013

Of Meat Bicycles and Men

This is my fourth attempt at writing a blog post about Borderlands 2. It's not for the lack of things to say about the game, I've definitely been singing praises about this game to anyone I can for the last few weeks. The bigger problem is that in order to write a blog post about Borderlands 2, I need to stop playing Borderlands 2. And every time I've tried, I think to myself, "I'd rather be playing Borderlands 2." And so I go play Borderlands 2.

I have played Borderlands 2 to the point where not only did I finish the main game, but I restarted the game in the hard mode, I restarted the game as a different character, and I would gladly do both again given the opportunity to do so, perhaps if ever I can rope more friends into playing it. (Edit: As of my fifth attempt at writing this blog post, I have started a third class.) This game has so much personality that even on the second or third time through, I'm still cracking up at gags I've already seen and loving every mission I re-encounter.

Before I sound too fanboyish, I should stress that if there's one thing Borderlands 2 sorta drops the ball on, it's bringing new players up to speed with the world of Pandora. The tutorial seems to be written backwards, where you're vaguely instructed to do a certain thing, then you have to figure out the bulk of it yourself, then after you've done the objective, a window pops up and says, "Hey, you just did X! You can do that again by pressing Y." Through an uncomfortable portion of my first runthrough, I died a lot because I didn't know that I could buy or equip a shield or open up a special menu that boosted my stats, until a friend (his name is Nate, I'll be referencing him a few more times in this post) told me how. Also, the plotline relies on you being familiar with characters and elements from the first Borderlands game. Unfortunately, some of these references went straight over my head until Nate pointed them out to me. And that's especially sad because looking back on it, there are several moments which would have been far more poignant and impactful if I was familiar with the context from the first game, but instead they were wasted on a thicko noob like me.

But those moments of awkward cluelessness aside, Borderlands is still a very accessible game. Unlike hyper-realistic military FPSes where you seemingly need to spend hours memorizing the statistics of every gun available in order to find the one that suits your play style, then playing with that gun for days until you unlock every possible doohickey and never changing your arsenal because there's no need to and it's in fact disadvantageous to ever step outside your comfort zone, Borderlands 2 hands you a gun, shows you a number that tells you what it can do, and lets you take it or not. Sure, you might be used to trying to experience a certain "feel" with some guns, but for someone gun-inept like myself, just being able to say "that number's higher than this one" makes the whole gun system a lot easier to digest. I've become comfortable with a wider range of guns here than I ever did in any Call of Duty game, and I think that's a testament to how well the game teaches you to play creatively rather than formulaically.

Also, Borderlands 2 is incredibly well-written and hilarious. It helps that I'm a fan of lead writer Anthony Burch's web series "Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin'?", and a lot of that breed of quick-witted, occasionally juvenile humor carries over here, but there are many scenes, even non-funny ones, that as I'm playing through on repeat runs, I'm still excited to play through again. Most games I play through have only one or two moments like that, but Borderlands 2 has at least a dozen, maybe a couple dozen at that. I repeat that there are some hurdles with the missing backstory as mentioned above, but particularly if you have someone that can fill in the details for you, the story is worth experiencing multiple times.

Let me throw some numbers at you: As I write this post, Borderlands 2 is on sale for $30 at Best Buy (link), the same sale price I bought it for a month or two ago. If you think of it in terms of a brand new $60 game (we're ignoring the fact that the regular price is apparently now $40), that's a savings of thirty dollars... which I would recommend you reinvest in purchasing the DLC Season Pass, which has three extra playable campaigns available now (and a fourth coming in June). Then, plop another $20 down on the extra character classes for even more fun ($10 each, one available now, the other coming in May). Honestly, this game has provided more fun per dollar than any other game I've played in a long time, and that's even after I keep shelling out for the expansions.

I mean, I could continue trying to crunch the numbers to illustrate why you should play Borderlands 2. I could tell a bunch of stories about, if not the events that happened in the game (which would be very spoilery), then how Nate and I loved watching them play out. I don't want to go melodramatic and stake my left kidney on the fact that you'll enjoy this game, but I hope that the mere suggestion of such an event is enough to persuade you to at least give it a go. Please play Borderlands 2, and with friends if you can. It's an amazing experience, and I don't know how else to convey it to you without repeating myself further, so I'll stop writing now. (So I can go play some more Borderlands 2.)