A Guided Tour Of Borderlands 2 Concept Art

by Jeff Marchiafava on Aug 22, 2011 at 11:12 AM

Rather than just offer our readers a gallery of Borderlands 2 concept art, we're taking the opportunity to share some of our insights and impressions of what we've seen of the game so far. You can click on any image below to see a larger size version of the art.

The Bandit brand is a new weapons manufacturer being added to Borderlands 2. Gearbox has said that a big focus for the team this time around is to make each manufacturer look and feel unique, to the point that you'll know who made a gun just by looking at it. This shouldn't be hard with Bandit guns, as they are put together from the random scrap found throughout Pandora.

The concept art for this particular Bandit SMG also hints at the unique decals that Gearbox can apply to guns, giving them more individuality. Although it might be hard to tell with Bandit weapons, the look of a gun also conveys its general value, with less powerful guns looking dingy, and rarer weapons sporting a shiny polish.

This image of a new Tediore gun doesn't tell us a whole lot about what's in store for the manufacturer, but luckily Gearbox did. Tediore guns are so inexpensive in Borderlands 2 that the players throw them away instead of reloading them (a handheld digistruct gadget will replace it with a new clone of the gun containing a fresh clip). As we revealed in our cover story, a discarded Tediore gun will blow up on the battlefield similar to a grenade, and the more ammo you leave in the gun, the bigger the explosion it will cause.

This already looked like a fun mechanic when Gearbox showed it to us in the demo, and it will serve as an interesting perk for players who use Tediore weapons. They also made me wonder if you can find Tediore weapons that regenerate ammo like in the first game, or a class mod that allows for regenerating ammo. Would this allow you to constantly spawn and throw out an endless supply of explosive Tediore guns? We don't know for sure, but in a more general conversation the Gearbox team told us they are willing to let imbalanced weapons exist in the game if it makes it more fun to play, so it's a possibility we wouldn't rule out.

Here is a concept sketch of Pandora. I don't think it's an actual location in the new game, but rather it was created to give an idea of the variety the team is aiming to include this time around. Gearbox fully acknowledges the complaints players had about the world in the original game, primarily that it was one giant desert with little variation in color palette. The areas we saw, which included a snowy tundra and green fields, already exhibited a promising amount of variety. These new environments seem like a perfect fit for Borderlands' vibrant art style, which wasn't really able to pop with the brown color palette of the first game.

Here's a fun tidbit: Salvador's character class wasn't even named yet when we went on the cover trip. Gearbox had referred to the new class by a number of names, including Merc and Berzerker, during the demo and interviews, before finally settling on the name Gunzerker. Despite the early uncertainty over the class name, Gearbox knew exactly what playing as the Gunzerker would entail, thanks to his dual-wielding ability.

Of the four characters in the original Borderlands, I never really got into Brick, because I didn't think that punching enemies would be that fun (though I'm sure Jeff Cork would disagree with me on that one). That said, Salvador will be a hard character to pass up, and I hope his dual-wielding ability is a sign that the other character classes will have awesome active abilities as well.

Up next: The new enemies of Borderlands 2...

Handsome Jack is the new villain in Borderlands 2, and although we didn't get a glimpse of him in the game, the character art is revealing. It appears that Handsome Jack is wearing a mask of some kind, which has us intrigued to find out what's underneath it (our guess: it's not handsome).

Aside from his aesthetics, taking down Handsome Jack should provide a tangible goal throughout the game. In our recent video interview, Randy Pitchford stated that the Borderlands team learned a valuable lesson from the disappointing conclusion of the first game (i.e. players not getting any payoff for opening the vault), so hopefully besting your foe will be a more rewarding experience this time around.

The nomad is a new class of bandit in Borderlands 2. In the cover story, we briefly discussed a variant of the enemy called the nomad torturer, who has a psycho midget strapped to the front of his shield. Shooting the chains off of the shield will free the psycho, who will attack the nomad alongside you. It is an interesting gameplay twist that should come in handy when you're playing alone and need a distraction to allow you to flank the nomad.

Beyond that example, we also saw one of the normal nomads in the demo, and they are appropriately imposing. The nomads are slower than most bandits, and really sell a sense of girth as they stomp around the battlefield. The new mo-cap studio Gearbox built allows for much subtler animations, which were readily apparent with the new enemy class. The nomads who sport full body shields will be particularly difficult to take down, but I guess that's what grenades are for.

The robot enemies Gearbox revealed to us showcased some of the most impressive AI improvements we saw during the cover trip. Many of these enemies feature jetpacks, which allow them to fly onto ledges and crates in the environment -- a great improvement over the enemies of the first game, who couldn't interact with their surroundings in any significant way.

Gearbox showed us several types of Handsome Jack's mechanical henchmen, including a suicide bomber robot called the EXP loader (or "exploder"). These robots would try to ambush the player and detonate when they got close enough. The player is capable of shooting their limbs off -- another cool addition to Borderlands 2's engine -- but even without legs the enemy will still crawl towards the player, in a style evocative of the ending of the first Terminator. Gearbox has also improved the path-finding of enemies, so don't expect your foes to always run straight towards you -- EXP loaders snuck up on the player more than once during the demo.

Our cover story also outlined a robot enemy type capable of deflecting incoming fire back at the player and healing its mechanical allies. The best part is that these behaviors aren't pre-scripted, but decided upon in real-time by the AI as the enemies communicate with each other. Borderlands 2's zany world and tone give Gearbox a lot of freedom in dreaming up creative gameplay variations like these, and we can't wait to see what else the team has up its sleeve.

Want to know more about Borderlands 2? Next week we'll be inviting you to ask us questions for an upcoming special edition podcast on the game. In the meantime, check out the Borderlands 2 hub for more exclusive features.