Game of the Month: Borderlands 2

One of the games that suffered under my prolonged Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer carreer is Borderlands 2. I bought the game last year when it was proclaimed to be the next big Science Fiction multiplayer game by players posting on the BioWare Social Network. In the end I didn’t play the multiplayer mode much (see below) but I finally finished the singleplayer campaign today. And after I got over the fact that this game is definitely not Mass Effect 4 it was actually great fun to play.

Borderlands 2 is a first person shooter with role playing elements. At the beginning of the game you pick one of four (or five with an extra DLC) characters with different abilities like deploying a gun turret, cloaking, using two guns at the same time or freezing your enemies. As you progress through the game your character gains experience that you can use to boost his or her abilities. Another role playing element is the extensive amount of loot that can be found: six kinds of weapons, shields, grenades, ability boosters, new custom looks and other interesting items. As the items are randomly generated you can always find new unique loot. While playing the game you can also complete Bad Ass Challenges e.g. by using specific abilities or killing specific enemies to improve various aspects of your character like gun damage or maximum health.

The story takes your character to a planet called Pandora. Pandora is a hostile environment full of monsters, bandits and an army of deadly robots. Your mission is to defeat Handsome Jack the president of the Hyperion corporation and end his reign of terror over Pandora. To accomplish this you must stop him from opening an alien vault where an undefeatable warrior is hidden. Jack wants to control  this warrior to secure his dominance permanently. The main story is divided into a series of missions each with rewards waiting at the end. Besides the main mission you can complete a vast number of side mission that grant your character extra rewards like credits, unique equipment or experience points.

Borderland 2 is technically a very good game. It doesn’t feature photorealistic graphics, the world looks like a comic strip. This style also keeps the violence (of which there is a lot) tolerable. In return for the simple look you get very smooth animation (even on the ageing PS3), vast maps with many details and fast loading times. The game also never crashed for me which is unfortunately not always a given these days. The game play is very good: controls, weapon balance and level design are all excellent. There is also enough story and humour to keep things interesting. The only problems are the occasional spikes in difficulty. I found the displayed difficulty rating of a lot of the missions was not accurate.

The multiplayer mode is interesting because it allows up to three extra player to join the hosts singleplayer campaign. All the players simply play the current mission together, face tougher enemies and get better loot in return. Due to the level of consensus and cooperation required this is really something you want to play with your friends and not with strangers. And as my favourite fellow players unfortunately never bought this game I didn’t play in this mode a lot.

Overall Borderlands 2 is a really enjoyable game full of action and weird humour. If you try to complete the side missions as well it will keep you occupied for a long time.

End of the Road

A word of warning: this post contains spoilers about the video game Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. If you are currently playing this game or intend to play it in the future you might not want to read the rest of this post.

Last weekend I finally finished the single player campaign of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. I had started playing this game over 7 month ago. But the releases of Borderlands 2Mass Effect 3: Retaliation and Mass Effect kept me occupied in the meantime. It also didn’t help that Revelations is not as good as the two previous games from the same series. The game unfortunately lacks novel content and a good story. And I guess I was also pessimistic about what might expect me at the end of the game.

As Assassin’s Creed:Revelations is the last game that features Ezio Auditore as the main protagonist I was worried that he would have to die. And I wasn’t keen on another depressing end for one of my favourite video game characters. But ultimately I was positively surprised when Ezio is not only allowed to retire after 30 years of fighting for the freedom of mankind but he also finds love. So I got a proper happy ending, which was just what I needed to make the farewell easier.

Game of the Month: Mass Effect

The first part of the Mass Effect Trilogy was originally only published for Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Five years later it is finally available on the PlayStation 3 as well. BioWare even released a patch for Mass Effect 2 that allows to import games from Mass Effect.

Mass Effect tells the beginning of the adventures of Commander Shepard, her appointment as a Spectre and her first encounter with the Reapers. Like its successors the game features story telling, well written characters and dialogs at the highest level. The game play looks very similar too the second part at a quick glance: a third person shooter with elements of a role-playing game. But after playing the game for a while you realise that the RPG elements are much more predominant than in the later games. You e.g. have to manage a massive inventory of equipment that you gain by combat or by looting all kinds of containers (crates, lockers, etc.). Developing the powers of your main character is more important in this part of the series because abilities like charming other persons or opening objects are not a given. If Commander Shepard lacks any of these skills you will have to pick your squad mates accordingly.

The gripping story makes Mass Effect a lot of fun to play. There are however a few annoyances effecting the game play. The mini game for opening containers is a stupid reflex test which I failed far too often. Power classes can by default only use pistols which makes combat unnecessarily difficult. You can work around this if you actually find out how. At that point you probably have to start a new play through from scratch. Your character’s bonus power can only be assigned when you create a character. You can also, just like the points assigned to powers, never change it. Kudos to BioWare who fixed all these problems in Mass Effect 2.

If you haven’t played any of the Mass Effect games I would highly recommend to play the whole trilogy. You will embark on a video game adventure like no other. If you have played Mass Effect 2 or 3 because you like role-play games and good stories you will like the first part as well. If you however mostly like shooters Mass Effect might not be your cup of tea. I personally enjoyed it a lot, in particular the awesome ending.

Taking comfort in the Unfairness of the Universe