5 Reasons Borderlands 2 Makes This Game Designer Happy

5 Reasons Borderlands 2

Makes This Game Designer Happy

By: Mari Tokuda

I know that Borderlands 2 has been out for a few months, but to celebrate the recent release of the new DLC, Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, I’d like to discuss the top 5 things I love about it.  It’s a game that really makes me happy. I’m a game designer by trade (and a gamer by hobby), so please bear with me if I get too… um… game designer-y and boring. That happens sometimes.

Confession time – I play the game on a console. Yeah, yeah, I hear you, you PC FPS purists, but most of my friends are on XBox Live (at least that’s what I tell myself when I lie awake at night). And sometimes, when I’m desperate, I also watch dubbed anime. And I wore the same socks two days in a row. DON’T JUDGE ME.

Still with me? You are? Really?! That’s kind of unbelievable. On to my list.


5) Irreverent, self-referential, meta humor

The guys at Gearbox have a great sense of humor and they don’t try to take themselves too seriously. It’s hilarious and refreshing. There’s definitely a place in this world for games that don’t break the fourth wall and are very much aware of their universe… like Red Dead Redemption, say… but sometimes I like a little levity. Don’t you? And having Claptrap explain how to move loot between characters is priceless. There is one caveat – if you’re easily offended, you may want to skip this title.

4) Variety of baddies

They’re invisible, they transform, and they require different tactics and strategies based on how they move or behave. On top of that, they’re visually distinct from each other so there’s no question about what you’re dealing with. It’s so well done. And Gearbox did a great job with the design, making sure that when and how you encounter the different types keeps gameplay interesting. Nothing keeps you on your toes like getting your entire party killed because you accidentally shot the helmet off of a goliath in their midst… not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything… right… and moving on!

borderlands2 play

3) Allowing for radically different playstyles

Granted, it’s a FPS so it’s all about shooting stuff, but within that the gameplay supports the run-and-gunners, the pet class lovers, the snipers, the healers… And it’s well-balanced. This means that he-who-legally-shares-all-of-my-debt (I mean my husband… not the credit union) can continue to play a number of different characters and still keep the game fresh or we can play with our friends and everyone is happy because they can play the way they want to.

2) Upgrading equipment

Getting new equipment in this game is like Christmas (and goes hand in hand with my number one favorite thing… but we’ll get there in a few tangents). The differences between the various types of equipment are drastic and very noticeable and acts as a game all by itself (love that). And the different manufacturers and their particular quirks and specialties remind me of those awesome supplementary books/catalogs for Cyberpunk 2020 (love that more).

An example – pew pew damage versus pew pew damage AND set things on fire with my new Maliwan.


To be fair, I’m totally a Jakobs girl… I don’t need any frills because I like LOTS AND LOTS of damage. As Marcus says, “If you need more than one bullet, you weren’t using a Jakobs.”

I really think that the brand of gun one prefers to use says a lot about a player… someone should psychoanalyze that. But don’t analyze me. I’m already aware of enough of my neuroses; I’d like to remain in denial about the rest, thank you very much.

borderlands two books

1) The reward system

Lastly but not least…ly we have the Diablo 2 style loot system. The way weapons, shields, and money pop out of a chest or a dead body (sometimes a chest on a dead body) is so ridiculously gratifying. And the way the damage counters and experience points are constantly pinging around the UI and the way the big red text that says “CRITICAL” pops up when you hit a… “most vulnerable spot” just makes the reward part of my brain light up and go “yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!”

Gearbox did an amazing job of making this game fun. I’m not playing for the meta-rewards (although those are nice), I’m not playing for some kind of perceived status (although that, too, can be nice), and I’m not playing because of external pressure (Apples to Apples, I’m looking at you). I’m playing because the playing in and of itself is so darn fun.

And that’s what good games do.


All right – your turn. What’s your favorite thing about Borderlands 2? What are the best aspects of the games you love?

About the Author:  Mari Tokuda is a professional game designer, writer and hopeless nerd.  She loves D&D and speculative fiction.  Civilization is her favorite game series.  And she’s way into trying to figure out how to live healthier and happier and geekier.  Ultimately, though, she’s uncomfortable writing about herself in the third person so she’ll stop right here.  Find her at maritokuda.com.