What do you do when you’ve made something great? Make it again, but better. That seems to be the basic philosophy behind Borderlands 2. I shot Jeramy Cooke, Art Director for BL2 a couple questions about some of the major changes being made to separate it from its predecessor. As it turns out, Gearbox’s number one focus wasn’t the guns or the character classes (although those underwent massive changes as wel); it was the story.
As Jeramy explains, one of the major problems with the first Borderlands was that the story just wasn’t that important to the player. “We had a story. but it wasn’t super strong. It didn’t end very well and you had a lot of objectives that were kind of irrelevant. I think this time what we wanted to do was to make sure that those quests connected to the main plot and that they meant something. You stop feeling like oh i’m just finishing a check list and you start start getting engaged in the plot and finishing the story. That was our focus and the number one thing we wanted to focus on.” Even in the brief demo I played at the 2K booth, it showed. Handsome Jack, who’s statues I was tasked with destroying had something hilarious to say every few seconds, reminding me of the purpose of my mission and turning quests into something meaningful rather than an exercise in running towards a green diamond the entire time.
Story isn’t the only way Borderlands 2 has improved. Jeramy said another area they focused on was the weapons. If you’re like us, you might have played all the way through Borderlands without knowing the difference between the different gun manufacturers or not even knowing there was a difference. That shouldn’t be a problem in BL2. “The focus for [Borderlands 2] was to say ‘We’re going to prove that we have all these guns.”
One of the ways they’re making sure that happens lies in the visual design. Jeramy says that, “When you find a gun, it’s going to look really different than the last gun … If see camo then you know for certain that you’ve got a Dahl. If you see yellow with the white stripe, that’s Hyperion.” Cooke does admit that the unique visual style of each manufacturer might even cause some players to get a little too invested in their weapons. “Some players will use a gun that’s maybe sub-optimal just because of the way they emotionally connect with it.”
In my short time with Borderlands 2, it felt very much like more Borderlands, but that’s not a bad thing. The first game worked very well, and I’m happy to play more of it. But Borderlands 2 is set to go above and beyond in the few areas the first was lacking. In an industry where many of the best games choose to remain stagnant between sequels, it’s refreshing to see a franchise recognize its flaws and work to improve upon them.
Borderlands 2 releases September 18th, giving us a second chance to get all up in that vault.