PAX Prime 2011: Bullymongs, bandits, and badasses in Borderlands 2

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The song that plays during the opening scene of Borderlands proclaims that there "ain't no rest for the wicked." If the demo of Borderlands 2 I saw at PAX Prime is any indication, aspiring vault hunters on the planet of Pandora should prepare for another dose of sleep deprivation. 

Everything that made the first game in the series is back — the intense gunplay, the addictive loot system, and the class-based co-op multiplayer — with a few new improvements. And while my 20-minute, hands-off session didn't give away too much, it did pack in some welcome surprises.


Borderlands 2

The demo featured Salvador, a new Gunserker-class character with the ability to dual-wield any two weapons (even rocket launchers or miniguns). He quickly faced off against a few Bullymongs (pictured at top) — multi-limbed, fast-moving arctic creatures. The enemy A.I. seemed much improved from the first game, as the Bullymongs attacked and retreated while picking up objects in the environment (including rocks and even Salvador's vehicle) and hurling them at the player.

The elemental weapon system returns from Borderlands, as well as the different arms manufacturers like Tediore and Vladof. As my demonstrator fought, he would periodically chuck his whole gun at the enemy, where the weapon would explode on impact (while a new one materialized in his hand). After enough damage, the Bullymongs entered a "wounded" state where they moved more slowly and attacked weakly.

Hopping in the new "partywagon" (a four-seat jeep vehicle), Salvador headed off to rescue a familiar face: Roland, the Soldier-class character from the first Borderlands. None of the first game's fighters will be playable for Borderlands 2, but we did catch a glimpse of Maya, a new Siren-class character.  

Borderlands 2

Roland was a captive of the Hyperion corporation, Pandora's new rulers. (They've even got an H-shaped space station orbiting the planet's moon, from which they sent down reinforcements during the jailbreak attempt.) Most of Hyperion's forces in this battle were giant, armored mechs, supported by smaller repair drones that kept the big boys healed and buffed.

Teamwork tactics between Salvador and Maya led to the demise of the superpowered "Badass" droids guarding Roland, but the fight could have gone another way; Borderlands 2 will allow the player to fail some missions, leading to multiple quest paths. The quest system as a whole is much more streamlined…including, thank heavens, a mini-map with objective markers.

It's early yet, but Borderlands 2 looks like it's got all the best parts of the original along with some fresh touches. So get your sleep now — when the game hits sometime in 2012, rest might be a lot harder to come by.

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