Gearbox Studios harnesses that game rage and uses it to your advantage with their latest player character addition to “Borderlands 2.” Krieg the Psycho, a psycho raised to the power of crazy, is an insane destructive force to wield, causing harm to everyone around him and even himself.
Developers want to take players out of their comfort zone and play a character they are familiar with as an enemy, but also make them do things they wouldn’t normally do with their avatar. The Psycho skill tree is loaded with abilities that enemy psychos use in the game individually and designed to create maximum carnage in nearly every situation.
For example, there are suicide psychos that will rush your position and explode themselves in an effort to create damage. For Krieg, there is the Hellborn skill tree that is all about intentionally setting YOURSELF on fire, creating bonuses to weapon and melee damage as well as actually reducing the damage Krieg suffers.
There are other abilities which help you set enemies on fire, which in turn can set you on fire, which in turn increases all your buffs again. It is actually a survivability tree because the more you are on fire, the more you are likely to grow stronger and destroy your enemies. Totally backward thinking.
The Bloodlust tree maximizes the damage you do to enemies and creates even more damage to subsequent enemies. Damage increases the amount of bloodlust Krieg has and improves weapons magazine sizes, melee speed and skill abilities.
A trio of abilities in the tree work to improve each other. If you kill something with a bullet, your melee gets better; kill with melee and your grenade gets better; blow someone up with a grenade, your guns get better. If you can get the rhythm right (shoot, melee, explode), your damage continues to increase with each successful kill.
The Mania tree is probably the most counter-intuitive thinking skill tree out of the bunch. You want your shields to be down and you want to take damage as much as possible because when you do, your offensive abilities improve dramatically and your kill rate soars.
There is an ability called “Light the Fuse,” that replaces “Fight For Your Life” and turning you into a suicide psycho when you are about to die. You can run after enemies, blow them up, and then regain all your health back.
Using the main ability – the Buzz Axe Rampage – allows you to regain all your health back while you are in rampage mode. It deals incredible damage, but also has a long cooldown period. However, if you take damage during the cooldown, it reduces the time before you can rampage again. Handy if you are about to die and enemies are swarming you.
All the skills are designed to get players doing things they wouldn’t normally do. Usually, players will run away when close to death and focus on health regeneration. With Krieg, you actually want to wade into the battle to do, and receive, more damage so you become even more powerful and get your health back by blowing other people to pieces.
It’s all about being crazy. Do the thing your enemies least expect for the maximum impact and success. While Krieg is just as good with all weapons, players will find him most effective with close and melee weapons to maximize all his abilities.
If there is one drawback to the character, it is his lack of empathy in the storyline. He doesn’t evoke any connection to the narrative. His dialog, while humorous, doesn’t feel like he belongs with the rest of the world. Krieg doesn’t feel like a Vault Hunter so using him in the main story feels forced.
But if you’ve already completed the main mission and are looking to play outside your comfort zone, Krieg is definitely out of the ordinary. It might take a few missions to wire your brain to run TO trouble instead of away from it, but the “whoa” factor when Krieg attacks is well worth it.
Krieg the Psycho is available now as downloadable add-on content for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC.
Gearbox Software decided to throw in a wrinkle with their upcoming DLC for “Borderlands 2” by tapping into another genre filled with killing. “Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep” is the fourth and final full content being offered for the game in the style of a table-top RPG adventure.
The premise is Tiny Tina, a teenage girl obsessed with explosives, is your glorious dungeon master… er, Bunker Master as she weaves a tale for some familiar faces while they play a game called Bunkers & Badasses. The DLC is included in the Season Pass or can be purchased alone for just under $10 starting on June 25.
I was able to get a sneak peek at the content and setting during a demo earlier this month. I’ll be sharing more info when permitted. But for now, just imagine “Borderlands 2” in a … well, you know … setting.
“Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt” offers “Borderlands 2” players another jolt in the wacky, sarcastic and frankly twisted world of Pandora.
The third DLC for the science fiction shooter focuses on its namesake, Sir Hammerlock. You remember him. Cyborg big game hunter who was trying to write a book in the original title? He always reminded me of Van Pelt from “Jumanji” with the big hat and even bigger moustache.
The action takes place on a separate continent called Aegrus, a mix of mountain, swamp land, and a few caves. Upon arrival, you get the immediate idea that this is the land that Pandora forgot. Giant globes hover in the sky; creatures on spindly legs tower over the terrain – these unique creatures are powerful and will test your skills.
In fact, if you haven’t hit level 40 or higher, you may want to hold off venturing here. Oh, and if you haven’t completed the main mission in “Borderlands 2,” don’t go here yet. There are spoilers all over the place.
Hammerlock has invited you here for a chance to hunt these new creatures and possibly bag a trophy or two. Unbeknownst to either of you, a Handsome Jack fanboy, Professor Nakayama, is also here and cooking up a scheme that could shake Pandora to its core.
In great “Borderlands” fashion, Nakayama has some of the best lines in the franchise. Wanting desperately to be treated as an archenemy, he goes through many clichéd lines and actions before realizing he’s only helping you out, which leads to his wonderful freak out moments. He provides some well-placed and well-written humor in this episode.
Nakayama has enlisted the aid of savages from the land to challenge you. These are not your normal bandits or psychos. They usually have a witch doctor in their group who will buff all other savages on the field of combat, increasing their difficulty level, their attack strength and changing their form. This all occurs while instantaneously healing everyone (except you).
So while you are whittling down the bad guys, the witch doctor will bring them back to full health AND also give them more power. Needless to say, kill the witch doctor first. It also appears that the empowerment process occurs more frequently if there is more than one witch doctor in the area.
The battles with the savages are some of the toughest you’ll ever face on Pandora. They actually act like they understand tactics with flanking maneuvers and rush moves. And the witch doctors don’t go down easy, which means NOBODY goes down easy.
Of course, there are some unique weapons available as well and a new vehicle – an air boat – which I felt was difficult to use and barely necessary. You could walk to any location where you could use the air boat.
The quests are what you’d expect from a big game hunt – kill rare creatures, find lairs of creatures, etc. The main mission of battling Nakayama takes you all over the continent and some of those missions are difficult to find. The continent is a rather large place, but much of it isn’t utilized other than window dressing.
Overall, “Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt” is worth playing if you (a) have completed the main mission from “Borderlands 2”, (b) think the enemies in other missions have gotten too easy, and (c) like laughing at well-written dialog.
Prepare to die as you learn new tactics to take on the myriad of new enemies and creatures. And have lots of money for resurrections and ammo. But it is very enjoyable and is a nice addition to Pandora and a good place to get new loot.
“Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt” is available now for purchase as a DLC for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Players who have the Season Pass can get it automatically without making another purchase. It does require “Borderlands 2” to play.
Borderlands 2 wants to raise the stakes and improve upon its signature art style and outlandish weapons while broadening the story on the planet of Pandora.
At a hands-on demo, a pre-alpha build of the new title showed off two classes of characters – one new and one familiar. It also demonstrated how the development team at Gearbox Software learned and applied lessons from their first title and subsequent downloadable content (DLC) releases.
The Gunzerker class is all about the weapons – the more the merrier. This tank of a character can wield two weapons at once, bringing more firepower to fights and dishing out the pain. The best combinations featured one weapon that could bring high fire, but low damage and another weapon that brought serious hurt, but took its time to fire. Working together, the two different types of weapons created a consistent killzone for creatures – no matter how strong or numerous they were.
The other class available for play was the Siren. This class was featured in Borderlands and offered phasewalking (turning intangible) as their special talent. This time, Maya the Siren has the ability to trap foes in a force field hovering in mid-air, making them easy targets for damage.
The art style remains the same with the familiar hand-painted look and dark outlines. Gearbox producer Randy Varnell said they wanted to improve what they had done to make the characters look great and extend it to the surrounding environment.
“It’s warmer. It’s almost water colored with those really harsh, dark edges. Just like you would see in a comic book,” Varnell said. “A lot of it is drawn right on to the texture models themselves. We have a very distinct art style and art guide that all of our artists adhere to.”
The action takes place five years after the conclusion of Borderlands and introduces a villain to the mix, Handsome Jack. Varnell said bringing an antagonist to the plot gave the team more options to make the story personal for the players.
“Why is he mining? What is he mining in the planet? Why is that so much more important than finding a Vault (the final object in the first game)?” he said. “Having a villain puts a personal face on it. Are you racing him for the treasure? Are you trying to keep it from him?”
Varnell said giving the players a focus also helps flesh out the characters and what motivates them. The whole idea was to make the story richer and more fulfilling without changing too much of the gameplay that fans enjoyed.
Senior producer Sean Reardon echoed those sentiments and said community involvement from the first title and the three DLCs was important in figuring out what gamers liked and what worked best. Invoking Einstein and Venn diagrams during the interview, Reardon acknowledged there were problems they hadn’t foreseen until after the games were made, but they were things that could be corrected for Borderlands 2.
“Some of the things we thought before were facts, just truism? Turns out to be problems,” he said. “In Borderlands, it was just a fact that as a four-player (co-op) game, the vehicle had two seats. You don’t see it as a problem. You think they can use two vehicles and everyone like to drive. Turns out, it is an elephant (a problem) and you’ve got to fix that.”
Little refinements, he hopes, will make the gameplay and the experience even more enjoyable for fans of the franchise as well as new players who are seeing Pandora for the first time. Reardon built his development team from people who had worked on the series as well as new talent that he felt were the best at what they do.
He said it was about having the confidence of the people who were putting the game together to trust them and believe that they were smarter than he was about their areas of expertise.
“Get the right people, give them the right mission, get enough resources to do the job, make sure they’re inspired and get out of the way,” he said.
More than 200 unique creature types will be in the way of players as they go through quests, side quests and missions. There are also named creatures who will offer additional challenges and loot for those who defeat them. Also, there are mechanical enemies who are prominent in the game in addition to all the natural wildlife you can battle on Pandora.
The player characters from Borderlands will also show up in the new game as non-player characters, providing backstory and missions for the gamers to complete. Varnell said Borderlands 2 is significantly larger, broader and deeper than its predecessor.
Gamers will have to wait until September 18 to find out if this game is more enjoyable than the first.