Ah Pandora, you do not even know how much I missed running around your barren lands while terrorizing your psychopaths. Now that I am back and causing Handsome Jack all kinds of issues, I can say I truly did miss the musing of CL4P-TP. Oh Pandora, what secrets do you have to hide this time around?
Well, now that I got that out of my system, let’s look at the Borderlands 2 strategy guide that BradyGames assembled for this highly praised sequel. The first few pages take players through the basics of the game. While I knew things like going for the headshot, elemental damage is a viable way to twiddle down health bars, and I need to shoot exploding barrels for extra bang per round, I did not anticipate the added notes and tables diving into greater detail and thus providing me an advantage before I even created my first character. This section is chock full of useful nuggets of info, and I returned a few times to make sure I understood the mechanics and utilized them to their full potential. There is a little something here for novices and veterans alike, so don’t skip it!
Next up in the Borderlands 2 strategy guide is the new Vault Hunters section, and this is something I encourage all players to spend a few moments with. Not only does this look at the four playable characters, but it goes into their skill trees and elaborates what the significance of each branch is and why one may want to invest points in it. This is immensely useful for preplanning, especially for anyone who wants to play with friends. Each character ends with a breakdown on strategies for solo play and co-operative play. The authors even dropped in a “suggested” skill tree to help ease indecisive players into the world of Pandora. I tested two of these suggested builds and found them to be fairly solid for both solo and co-op play. I did modify them after some time to suit my play style, but as a starting point, they are an easy way to alleviate some of the confusion on how to best optimize each character.
Now that a new Vault Hunter is born, it is time to scour the world of Pandora for clues, and this is where the walkthrough becomes as useful as one well placed headshot. Each new area starts with a map that details where to find items like save points, Cult of the Vault markers, bosses, and ammo/life/cars. The pages that follow go into how to obtain those accursed Cult of the Vault markers, how to battle bosses, and details for the main quest line in that area. A nice perk is that each new mission has a small blurb detailing the objective, XP, money, and suggested level, thus making it quick and easy to determine if this is something to tackle now or hold off on for a few levels.
I ended up using the maps in this section quite frequently. They not only helped me get to each Vault marker, but they aided me when I ran out of ammo for my favorite pistol or stumbled upon a data recorder. I did have trouble every so often understanding how I was supposed to get to specific points to nab a Cult of the Vault marker or hidden data recorder, but the included screenshots added visual reference points that eventually got me going in the right direction. Another nicety is that each boss encounter includes strategies for completing the specific challenges for all four of the playable characters, which is a great way to add just one more Badass Point to the list.
What did drive me nuts is that the optional missions don’t sit in the main walkthrough, but rather after it. This ended up leading to a lot of flipping back and forth so I could look at the map and then jump back to read details of each side quest. To add to that frustration, the optional mission section is listed in alphabetical order, and it makes for hunting down details on what to do almost as confusing as finding the Vault itself. I firmly believe that this should be incorporated into the main walkthrough as it makes for an easier time completing everything in one area before us completionists move onto a new segment of the game.
While I can excuse the segregation of main quests from side quests, I have a harder time when it comes to the weapons portion of this guide. There is some great info on what each weapon type does and why a player may choose it for various encounters throughout their time in the game. However, there is too much “classified” information in here. People that buy a strategy guide don’t do it to have chunks of info excluded, and that is exactly what BradyGames does with select items here. I want to know where I can buy the Raket Pawket Badaboom and the specs on it, not be shafted with knowing it exists but it is classified. The section is still nice, but that lack of info is just a punch to the face.
Redemption comes in the last few portions of the Borderlands 2 strategy guide, starting with a fairly complete Bestiary. I believe that every enemy I tried to find from the game came with a brief description along with a table breaking down how their life changed in multiplayer, damage, XP, critical hit area, and any weaknesses they may have. This also includes where the enemy resides and what, if required, optional quest it is on.
Following that is the secrets section, which includes how to unlock every new head for those who want to customize their characters even further. There is also a heap of tables breaking down all of the challenges in the game, and that includes all of the level specific challenges. Anyone looking to maximize their badass points, this is the section to study like a college kid cramming the night before a big final. Completing this is the obligatory breakdown of achievements/trophies and their associated point values.
There is a small portion dedicated to easter eggs that I am still trying to figure out how I feel. The guide mentions them, but it doesn’t tell you how or where to get them–AT ALL. On one hand, this is a strategy guide and I expect all information to be covered throughout the guide. On the other hand, finding an easter egg in the game is fun and adds to the exploration. The jury is still out on just how good or bad this is.
What I found this guide lacked the most was some form of index or detailed table of contents. Sure, the side missions come sorted alphabetically while the main walkthrough follows the game chronologically; however, there is still no easy way to quickly find specific info. This ultimately ends up with a lot more page flipping and hunting than is necessary in a guide with this much content scattered about.
At the end of the day, I found the bulk of the Borderlands 2 strategy guide rich with detail and entertainment. I love the fact that BradyGames included character art and developer quotes throughout the pages. They once again did a great job making the guide feel as though it were part of the game and not just some secondary accessory. I still cannot excuse shafting players with “classified” info, but that is in a relatively small portion of the book yet it is still info that consumers pay for. However, this is a solid buy and I can still recommend it to any hunter. Now, I must go back to blowing the heads off some Psychos!