The lights are on
Borderlands 2 came out this week, and thousands of would-be adventurers are descending upon Pandora and trying to unearth its secrets. For completionists, strategy guides can be valuable tools, so let’s look at how Bradygames’ guide for Borderlands 2 stacks up.
Good: Stategy Guide Standards
All of the basic things you expect a guide to deliver are here. Maps, weapons, boss strategies, expanded instructions, and a bestiary do their jobs well. Just flipping the book open to a random page results in something interesting for any Borderlands fan. That’s more impressive than it sounds, considering that the most addictive part of the game – the loot – is randomized and can’t easily be catalogued. That means that other, non-loot information is still presented in a compelling way.
Bad: Annoying Writing
I understand that Borderlands 2 is a silly game, but the guide uses a bunch of snarky writing and references along the way that just doesn’t click for me. It’s supposed to be funny, but the humor misses the mark. I generally prefer a more straightforward presentation of the information instead of section headlines like “Dolla Dolla Bills, Y’all.”
Good: The Depth
In many cases, the guide goes above and beyond things that one could simply find by looking up information online. Developer quotes peppered throughout is a nice touch, and a suggested build for each character helps players know where to start (though more of them would have been nice).
Bad: The Details
This is a big one. With a strategy guide, I assume that I’ll be getting everything worth knowing about a game. That’s why it’s frustrating to see omissions and teases for unexplained content. For example, we posted a video about finding the awesome secret Minecraft area. You should watch the video if you want to know how to do it, because it isn’t in the guide. All you get a vague hint about hidden areas in Caustic Caverns.
Another example is the location/stats of certain weapons. If you want to find out where to find a specific orange gun (the best class of weapon), you may be greeted instead with the message “classified,” like this:
Come on! When people pay for a strategy guide, they should be getting exhaustive and complete information. If they wanted to preserve the sense of mystery, they wouldn’t be using a strategy guide.
Good: Layout and organization
If you’re just paging through the guide, the sections flow well from one to the other, and they look good. That may seem like a small thing, but information that is easy-to-find and interpret is one of the key advantages that print guides have over online walkthroughs. This one gets it right, though you may still want to keep multiple bookmarks as you flip back and forth between the main story sections and the (alphabetized) optional side-missions.
Verdict: Worth It
The Borderlands 2 strategy guide is a good resource, with lots of vital information collected in one place. However, I think it’s a huge mistake to omit information and make gamers turn to online sources; it sends the message that if you just have to look stuff up anyway, you just wasted money on the guide. That’s too bad, because on the whole the Borderlands 2 guide is good. It isn’t essential to the experience, but it grants a few advantages that are helpful as you blast your way across Pandora.
Email the author Joe Juba, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.