Borderlands 2 (Sleepless) ReviewGuest_Jim_* - October 4, 2012
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(99.9% spoiler free, but a spoiler substitute can be added, upon request)
The story of Borderlands 2 is set about five years after the opening of the Vault in the first game. You do get some information throughout the campaign and side-quests to fill in what has happened during those five years. For example, Lilith and Roland apparently dated for a time, as did Mordecai and Moxxi, but both relationships eventually fell apart for their own reasons. The important information though is that after the Vault opened, the element Eridium began growing like mad across Pandora. The unique properties of this material make it very valuable, which is how Handsome Jack took power. He claimed to be the one who opened the Vault and used the money from the mineral to fund the Hyperion Corporation as it rules the planet. Actually, given his personality, it would be more accurate to say he ruled the planet while Hyperion supplied the force to maintain whatever order he wanted.
While playing the campaign you also learn how the two base-games stories are tightly linked. The simplest way to put it, without spoiling anything, is that there are important reasons why so many of the original game's characters are in the sequel.
Some of these links, however, I feel actually hurt the story. Details in Borderlands 2 lead you to reshape how you view the events of the first game, but I personally feel that is unnecessary and almost cheapen the story of the original game. Perhaps the sequel's story was already basically fleshed out when Borderlands 1 was in development, so the information presented in Borderlands 2 actually reveals what was hidden to us in the first game, but that is not how it felt to me. It felt more like the sequel was revising the original game, instead of revealing, but I feel the original game's story was good on its own. I also believe Borderlands 2's story is good too. It is the, I will say, forced linking I do not care for. If instead of having the sequel literally built atop the foundation of the original, it instead grew its own foundation in addition, I would be much happier. I do feel that would have been possible to do, though to do so may have required more exposition and character introduction/development than Gearbox could dedicate to the title.
Let me repeat that I enjoyed the story of Borderlands 2 and it feels good on its own. It is only the linking with the original Borderlands 1 story I have any issue with. Of course I am not a study of the Borderlands 1 mythos beyond the games, so I may have absolutely no clue what I am talking about in addition to being sleep deprived.
One last thing about the story though. The ending was very good for what Gearbox likely wanted it to be — the beginning of more.
After Sleep Update: I've played some more of the side missions which better explain the links between the two games, and I think I've figured out why exactly I do not care for some of them. It appears that Gearbox was trying to validate the ending of the first game, with the Vault being a prison for an alien monster. Not everyone liked that ending, so they wanted to give that some meaning by tying it to this game. However, I have never had any issue with the end of the first game, so these links actually cheapen the experience of defeating the Destroyer in Borderlands 1 for me.