Borderlands 2 Launches, Delivers Deeper Story, Same Satisfying, Fun Gameplay

The original Borderlands was a surprise smash hit, selling millions of copies more than its developer, Gearbox, ever thought it would. The first game's randomized weapon generation, unique cell-shaded graphics, steep difficulty, and excellent co-op was a potent combination -- more than enough to overcome complaints about its thin story. Borderlands 2 launched this morning, and early reviews paint it as a further improvement on its predecessor.

The dark humor, crazy NPCs, and frenetic combat of the original game are faithfully replicated and the story is better; Kotaku's Tina Amini writes "The story in Borderlands 2 occasionally gets serious, dark even, and it was something I felt and believed rather than just listened to. I have never been so invested in Pandora and its citizens until this sequel." PC Gamer praises the titles' tweaks to the weapon randomizations, claiming that the end result is an array of weapons that are better tuned to specific instances.

This is a game designed for co-op, quests can be long, brutal, and it's easy to run short of ammo -- but it's also a world that's meant to be explored, observed, and enjoyed. This time around, the main antagonist is a man named Handsome Jack. Jack took credit for the discovery of the Eridian Vault at the end of the original Borderlands and he has a plan to bring the lawless planet of Pandora under control. Needless to say, it's not a very <b>nice</b> plan, and involves killing most of the population and turning the world into an industrial mining center. When the game opens, you're fighting to death in a gladiatorial combat ring for Jack's amusement, then left for dead when your popularity is perceived as a threat. The Guardian Angel from Borderlands revives you, which is where the game begins.

Concept art for the upcoming Mechromancer character

As before, you've got the choice of four unique character classes (Gunzerker, Assassin, Commando, Siren), and the four characters from Borderlands all make NPC appearances at various points in the game. A fifth class, the Mechromancer, drew fire earlier this year for offering what designer John Hemingway referred to as the "girlfriend skill tree," and isn't ready for release yet. She's expected to be added by a DLC content patch at some point in the future.

Ellie. The developers specifically designed her to portray a different view of femininity than games typically show

Borderlands 2 is expected to be one of the major games of Fall 2012, and Nvidia decided to bundle the title with its GeForce 660 Ti that launched last month. Thus far, reactions from players have been just as strong as reviewer impressions; there are some quirks around the game's interface and quest tracking, but nothing as off-putting as, say, Skyrim's default interface. If you've already picked up the game, or are planning to, what's your impression thus far? Does it live up to what Borderlands delivered?