Borderlands 2 Preview: Mega-Bosses and the Mechromancer

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Posted on September 4, 2012, Matt Hughes Borderlands 2 Preview: Mega-Bosses and the Mechromancer

It was hard to ignore Borderlands 2’s presence at PAX Prime. If the massive banners surrounding 2K’s booths didn’t catch your eye, then surely the larger-than-life statues of the game’s four new characters did (see above). This theme of largeness was ever present during both the hands-off presentation and the hands-on demo immediately after, showing us that Borderlands 2 will be everything you loved about the original cranked up way beyond eleven.

Borderlands 2
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Release date: September 18th, 2012

Our hands-off demo began with four Gearbox employees prepping level-50 characters for a battle against the terrifying mega-boss, Terramorphus the Invincible. We were shown the full skill trees of the Axton the Commando and his special ability, the Sabre turret (which spins 360 degrees and can be reclaimed to speed up the cooldown process). In addition to that sort of normal progression we’ve already seen in the original Borderlands, Borderlands 2 will feature something new: the Badass Rank System.

Baddass Rank is acquired every time you complete specific level challenges. Once you convert your rank into tokens, you can use those tokens to permanently increase your stats. Any increase is profile-wide, which means they transfer to any other character you create or may have created. It’s a great way to reward you for your time and effort when you feel like starting from scratch, not to mention an incentive in itself to do so.

Customization of your character’s appearance has been enhanced, too – far beyond what we’ve seen before. In the original game, you were restricted to simple color changes. In Borderlands 2, you can find clothing and other accessories in the world to make your character as unique-looking as possible.

So, after equipping some this gear along with some of the best guns in the game, the Gearbox team summoned Terramorphus the Invincible – and then quickly got their asses kicked. The point was to simply show the insanity Borderlands 2 is capable of producing, and we definitely witnessed it. Four high-level players using crazy abilities and even crazier guns was definitely a sight to behold, and it made me want to start leveling my own character as soon as possible.

One of those characters happens to be the much-discussed fifth class, Gaige the Mechromancer. Her skill is summoning DeathTrap, a deadly incarnation of ClapTrap. We were shown some impressive ways in which this helper could dole out death via claws, lasers, and explosions as Gaige stood safely back.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect about this class, unfortunately, was not related to her appearance or her skills: apparently, Gaige won’t be available to everyone and she won’t be finished by the time the game releases. Gearbox plans on completing her development sometime in October, and offering her for free to anyone who pre-ordered the game (which means she’ll cost money for anyone who buys the game normally, even at full MSRP). Considering how much DLC Gearbox already has planned, this news was a bitter way to end our hands-off demo.

But then I got to actually play the game, and good times ensued. I chose a level 50 character (Zer0 the Assassin) and was dropped into a horde-like game mode with one other players. Enemies attacked in waves, with stronger robots rushing in to replace the piles scrap metal we created using our arsenal of powerful weapons. The familiar gun types from the first game were there, but they looked better than ever. My favorite was a shotgun that shot multiple rockets. Because one of my Assassin’s skills was enhanced accuracy, this monstrosity of a gun proved to be one of the most satisfying and deadly weapons I had ever used in any shooter.

After my time with Borderlands 2 at PAX, I felt great about the game. Considering I was told nothing about the story and didn’t witness any real missions, that’s saying something. However, I can’t help but feel bitter about the way in which the Mechromancer will be included. Not only is this fifth class not even ready to be released alongside the game, but it will apparently cost money for anyone who doesn’t pre-order. Which inevitably makes me think of the following scenario:

Let’s say you go into the store on September 18th and pick up the game for $60. Then you go home and pay the $30 for the season pass. Guess what? $90+ later, you still won’t get the Mechromancer when it’s made available October… wheneverth. Personally, I think the season pass and the four planned DLC packages are enough when it comes to extra cash grabs. This isn’t the same as buying the game used and paying an extra $10 to access some content that was free to those who bought new. This is buying the game brand new and paying (probably $10) for one of the most significant pre-order bonuses – which won’t be available immediately – I’ve ever seen.

But, I digress. Borderlands 2 will come out in two weeks, I’ll buy it and all of its DLC, and I’ll have lots of fun. Dammit, Borderlands 2, I can’t even stay mad at you for more than two paragraphs.

Game Front is on-site at PAX Prime all weekend (Aug 31-Sep 2), bringing you daily news, hands-on previews, interviews and pictures. Stay tuned for more PC gaming-focused coverage!

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