The gameplay model utilised in Borderlands 2 owes a lot to the original: rather than concentrating on RPG elements such as Experience, Character Progression and class Skills, FPS gunplay is very much at the fore. Four classes are available to play at launch - the Siren, Gunzerker, Assassin and Commando - each of which have their own specialisations delivered through the talent system and a unique class skill. As you would expect, levelling and descending a skill tree makes your class skill ever more powerful, but your character in never useless in a particular scenario so long as they have the right gun.
Each class has three tiered talent trees and one upgradeable class skill
The talent trees in the main convey minor improvements to damage and durability, emphasising a focus on the players FPS skills to see them through rather than some quirky combination of class abilities. Reaching 'hexagonal' talents however convey a significant bonus on your class ability or how the class uses a particular weapon(s), ensuring that there is some payoff for focussing on one talent tree, at least initially.
Questing in Borderlands 2 is generally a means for guiding the character through the game and delivering well-paced story, typically amounting to familiar riffs on the kill/collect/deliver/discover formula. We would like to have seen more complicated mechanics involved, but the game sets out to accomplish what it wants well. Objectives aren’t open-ended and the consequence is a fairly linear delivery of storyline rather than the ‘craft your own adventure’ style of a Skyrim-esq RPG. Players who become involved in the story won’t find this to the detriment of the overall experience, but hardened RPG fans may want to approach the game as more of a diversion from the serious business of more hardcore versions.
Following the quest series isn't a hard and fast rule, but you will eventually want to complete the storyline quests to open up new areas and (eventually) complete the game. Completion requires a little more than 30 hours of gameplay according to Gearbox, and that certainly tallies up with our experiences.
Backpack space is expandable, meaning less trips to sell what's dropped
Throughout the game you can pick up various forms of loot, most of which are either weapons or equippable items. On the face of it there are merely seven different types of weapons aside from Melee Combat – Pistols, SMGs, Shotguns, Assault Rifles, Sniper Rifles, Rocket Launchers and Grenades; however in general this only identifies the type of ammo it uses rather than how it works.
The way a gun handles is defined both by its type and the weapon model it uses - that's a little hard to parse but in essence it's the idea that if it looks like a mini-gun it'll fire like a mini-gun even it it's weapon type is 'Assault Rifle'. In addition, every gun has two firing modes: generally defined as 'from the hip' and 'from the shoulder'. Guns without sights aim down the barrel in the second mode, whereas if the model has a sight (even if it's a shotgun) you will aim through the sight. A weapon's fire dynamics will may also change based on the firing mode, such has becoming more accurate or even enabling a burst of shots when zoomed.
Grenades form the seventh weapon type, with effects defined by a chosen grenade template. As with projectile weapons the damage and effect of these grenades are highly variable, but only require the one ammo type.
Hot-swapping weapons from your inventory in combat is possible, even preferable in some cases, but as you progress through the story a 3rd and then 4th weapon slot will be unlocked, making weapon cycling a simpler process as encounters become more complex. Those used to traditional FPS games will feel a little cramped by the 2-4 active weapons at a time, whereas Modern Military Shooter aficionados will feel much more at home.
Other items to collect and replace as you progress are Class Mods - class specific items conveying a boost to your abilities or cooldowns - Relics - more generalised bonuses to some facet of gameplay such as chance to drop rare items - and Shields. The latter are the most important of the four, conveying significant defensive bonuses durability which regenerates over time.
Elemental Damage – Explosive, Electrical, Corrosive, Burning and Slag
Crucial to Borderlands 2 gunplay is the concept of elemental damage. Each weapon you find in game has a chance of elemental damage properties, rendering it extremely strong against some types of foes whilst near-useless against others. For example, early weapons often cause Burning Damage and damage over time which is highly effective against many early human enemies. However use those weapons against the flameproof Pyro’s and they’ll make short work of you.
The distinctive purple indicates it's a Slag weapon. Different colours highlight other elemental weapons
Juggling elemental damage weapons becomes crucial as you progress, especially if you come to favour a particular weapon or play style. Slag represents a unique form of elemental damage which operates more like a status effect than up-front bonus. Slag’d enemies, identified by a purple surface glow, become significantly more vulnerable to other forms of elemental damage for a short period. A single shot with Slag-inflicting weapon before switching to another elemental damage source can greatly improve your fighting effectiveness, as well as the light show.