We were overwhelmed by Borderlands - once we got past the initial levels and finally clicked into the bizarre, nine-toed genius that merged FPS and RPG with such gleeful disregard. It's a hard act to follow, but developers Gearbox are aiming to go above and beyond the original with Borderlands 2. Writer Anthony Burch and concept designer Scott Kester chatted with Gamasutra about the upcoming sequel, specifically changes to the setting and characters.
Borderlands 2 has a new antagonist in the handsome form of Handsome Jack, and in the five game years since Borderlands he's fundamentally changed the game world. He's taken over the Hyperion weapons company, and claimed responsibility for finding the original game's vault. In true James Bond-baddy style, he's built an orbital base near Pandora's moon - in the shape of a giant “H”, no less. “You can never forget that Handsome Jack is screwing over the moon,” said Burch.
Each of Borderlands 2's new protagonists is going to have a specific reason for hating Handsome Jack, which will be explained as the game goes on. The advantage of bringing in a new gang of protagonists means the old ones' back stories can be explained in more detail, too. “You get to learn about who the Vault Hunters are as characters now because you're not controlling them,” said Burch. “So you can see like, 'Oh, how did Roland bounce off?', or 'What's Mordecai's story?' or 'What's Brick's story?'”
One of our principal complaints about the first was that no matter how cel-shaded and comic-book-paletted the deserts were, they remained very deserty. The changes Handsome Jack has made to Borderlands 2's world add much-needed variety. “It doesn't feel like I'm walking into the same desert, on the same bus, and dealing with all that kind of stuff,” said Burch. “You have these beautiful new arctic tundra areas, and these grasslands and stuff, and it feels completely new; all you mostly saw in the first game was just dust and dirt and all that stuff.”
But Borderlands 2 isn't suddenly going to go all Crysis on our arses. “It's still harsh -- everything around every corner wants to kill you, but it's just to stay true to the nature of what the game is,” said Kester.