By Jared Newman | Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 6:23 pm
In a first-person shooter landscape dominated by rehashes and regurgitation, one shooter that did things differently is getting a sequel of its own.
2K Games has announced that Borderlands 2 is in development, and will be released at some point in fiscal year 2013, which begins April 1, 2012. That’s a long way off, so there’s not a lot of details right now, but Game Informer magazine is supposed to have the scoop in its next issue.
The original Borderlands launched in October 2009, and at first I couldn’t shake the feeling that the game didn’t entirely deserve its plaudits. Its post-apocalyptic setting, while intriguing, never fleshed itself out, and nearly every mission followed a similar routine of flushing out a bunch of similar-looking bad guys, collecting some items and/or killing some kind of target.
But as I sank my teeth deeper into Borderlands during a dull stretch of 2010, I realized why the game became an unexpected hit: This is the first-person shooter equivalent of Farmville. Now seems like a good time to explain.
Zynga’s Farmville has that magical quality of turning work into fun. Painstakingly, players cultivate their farms by plowing land, planting seeds and harvesting crops. There’s light strategy involved in which crops to plant and how to build out the farm, but the game’s main allure lies in the endless cycle of gaining experience, which results in better items, which results in faster gains of experience, and so on. There’s also the social element of becoming “neighbors” with Facebook friends to reap more rewards.
Borderlands works in a similar way. The missions are simple and the rewards are straightforward. If you’re decent at first-person shooters, getting through each mission feels as automatic as clicking on plots of land. Along the way, you’ll earn better guns, upgraded skills and more experience, which allow you to kill harder enemies that provide even better guns, further upgraded skills and even more experience. The real strategy lies in plotting your missions in a way that reaps the most rewards in the shortest amount of time — say, by grouping your missions by location. And like Farmville, teaming up with other players brings added benefits, in this case harder enemies that drop better loot.
Granted, plenty of console games string players along with incremental upgrades and new weapons. Borderlands is different because the main thrust of the game is filling that progress bar at the bottom of the screen, ideally in the company of friends. It’s a devilishly simple concept that turned out to be pretty popular, even among hardcore gamers who swear that Farmville is a mindless time suck. I know; I’m one of them.
My hope for Borderlands 2 is that it includes more stuff that isn’t like Farmville. I want to see that post-apocalyptic world explained and expanded. I want more variety and strategy in each mission. But if none of that happens, I could see myself getting hooked again anyway.