Borderlands 2 Review
Money is everywhere in Borderlands 2. There are boxes of the stuff in every crevice and cranny, while even unlikely wealthy foes will explode in ludicrous coinage. More often than not it makes even less sense than this, such as when you enter a shop to find sheafs of cash littering every surface, free for the taking.
What's most odd about this though is that you're usually only collecting small amounts of money...but it never, ever looks like it. There'll be inch-thick wads of notes stuffed in a toolbox, but empty the lot into your pockets and you'll find you've picked up less than ten dollars.
Now, call me cynical, but I can't shake the feeling that the disparity between appearance and actuality is a deliberate choice; part of how Borderlands 2 manipulates you into thinking the game is more meaningful than it is. You feel like you're making progress because you're earning all this money, but in reality the amounts you're grabbing are small and the reasons to spend are few.
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So, all money does is keep you clicking because that's all there is to do. Consider it in any depth and you quickly realise that there's little to the game beyond this; Borderlands 2 is a game in which you fight a never-ending stream of incrementally tougher enemies with a never-ending stream of incrementally better weapons. It's a game in which you open boxes which only ever contain the means to open more boxes.
It's a game in which nobody can die but all you can do is kill things.
Money and the appearance of it within the game then are just part of the stylistic veneer to cover this vapidity - and the appearance of money ties into this more than you might think. It's part of the delightfully crude space-western veneer that sits over the game and compensates for all the philosophical flaws. It's this which is Borderlands 2's biggest strength; the quotability of the script, the insanity of the missions and the edginess of the characters.
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The notepad I keep next to my PC when I play is testament to this, scrawled in all sorts of snippets from my adventures. My favourite is a threat from an early mission: "I'm going to play hopscotch in your chest cavity."
It's odd, really. The expectation for Borderlands 2 has always been that the story is disposable and that the game's true merits lie in co-operative play and the frenetic speed of the violence. Instead though, close inspection reveals the violence to have remained staid since the first game, while the co-operative elements are only exactly as good as they should be. There's no new flourish or excellence to how Borderlands 2 plays with friends; it plays better that way, but then every game does.
The story and the wit with which the world has been assembled is the real draw here though. It's pithy, it's self-knowing, it's riddled with more pop-culture references than an entire season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It's what makes the otherwise transparently meaningless gameplay feel worth playing, with friends or alone.