Student – Gamer – Writer

Borderlands 2: A Review

Alright, so I finally got my hands on a copy of Borderlands 2 the other day so that what I’ve been up to for the last couple of days. I got to say, this game is awesome! But let me give you the details…

INTRO-

For anyone who doesn’t know what the heck the Borderlands franchise is, allow me to give you the scoop. In a nut shell, Borderlands 2 is what you get when you cross my two favorite gaming genres- RPG (role-playing game) with FPS (first-person shooter). If you like games Fallout 3 (or New Vegas), Skyrim (both made by Bethesda); or any of the Mass Effect games, then you might like Borderlands 2. BUT! If you thought that Fallout 3 and New Vegas put too much emphasis on the RPG aspect of gameplay or that the Mass Effect games were too linear, then you might like Borderlands 2 even more. Borderlands 2 is a perfect mesh of RPG and FPS. But we’ll get to that…

STORY-

Developed by Gearbox and published by 2K Games, Borderlands 2 is set five years after the first game. This time around, though, players find themselves filling the shoes of four vault hunters who are wanted by a man named Handsome Jack- the main antagonist of the story. Jack is the arrogant, narcissistic leader of the evil Hyperion Corporation, and self-declared dictator of Pandora. The vault hunters (that’s you, and a few friends, if you have any of those) are tasked with stopping Jack and returning peace to the vast and oh so troubled lands of Pandora.

GAMEPLAY-

Because this is what truly matters. If I may reiterate what I’ve already said; this game is awesome! But allow me to elaborate.

If you’re into shooters and you haven’t been living under a rock for the last six years or so, then you’re probably, at least, somewhat familiar with at least one Call of Duty game, right? Right. So basically, the control scheme for Borderlands 2 is pretty much the same. Actually, I think it’s exactly the same, with of course, the option to customize the controls, too.

In Borderlands 2, which, if you’re of the lonely variety, can be played single-player, but if you have exactly three other friends that just happen to be laying around, you may consider taking on these super dangerous post-apocalyptic wastelands locally (split screen) or via XBL (Xbox Live). For tougher enemies and better loot, go with a squad.

You earn experience by taking on missions (or quests). There are story missions, which focus on the main storyline of the game, and there are side missions, which are completely optional and award you for completing them. Because the game is a super-sexy sandboxy adventure (open world, free roam) you’re free to stray as far away from the main storyline as you like and just go out and kill stuff. Who doesn’t like doing that? Uh huh, that’s what I thought.

Experience is earned by completing missions, challenges, and killing stuff with literally (and I do meanliterally) thousands of weapons. It’s guns galore in Borderlands 2 and there’s no such thing as too many weapons.

You level up when you gain enough experience, and you acquire points to level up character skills unique to each class. And then each class also has three additional subclass branches that focus on a different play style, so the playing field is wide open and the choice is absolutely yours to make. And though your character has stats, and each weapon that you find also has its own stats as well, the actual gameplay, or your ability to kill things is entirely dependent on your skill. Meaning, a critical hit is not determined by some imaginary roll of the dice, but your ability to line those crosshairs up with that psycho’s face and score a headshot! In this regard, Borderlands 2 feels more authentic than most other games that claim to combine elements of FPS and RPGs.

Fans of RPGs will know that the four characters players play as are designed around the traditional roles of a typical RPG party. You have Salvador (the Gunzerker), the tank-type class, Maya (the Siren), a healeresque/support type class, Zero (the Assassin) the roguish type class, and Axton (the Commando), a balanced class, able to deal high damage and support his team. In summary, the core gameplay in Borderlands 2 appeals to shooter fans, while also possessing the necessary RPG elements to satisfy fans of that genre as well, while not becoming dull or overbearing in either category.

GRAPHICS/MUSIC/SOUND-

For those that care. I didn’t used to, but after playing Fallout 3 so long ago and listening to the surprisingly epic score in that game, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with soundtracks in video games. As for Borderlands 2, sadly, there’s nothing special or unique in the soundtrack department. But I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing just yet. Regardless, it’s nowhere near enough to turn people away from the game. The voice acting, however, is amazing and very diverse, not to mention HIlarious!- which is a plus for the writers.

The game has beautiful hand drawn, cell-shaded graphics (very colorful too, which is uncommon for a game set in a rundown post-apocalyptic world). It’s refreshing really, and fits the humorous atmosphere of the game perfectly.

REPLAYABILITY-

Is definitely here. Though I haven’t played through the entire game yet, because I’ve spent countless hours already on side missions alone, Borderlands 2 is a long and entertaining investment of your time. And with the bonus downloadable content coming soon, the game is even longer and more awesome. The main storyline clocks in at around 30-40 hours long (not including side missions and downloadable content to be coming soon). The bosses in the game respawn just for your killing pleasure. Basically, you don’t want to rent this game (it’s just too long), you want to add it to your gaming library and love it for the gem that it is!

SO IN CONCLUSION-

Borderlands 2 follows up its predecessor quite nicely. I know with a lot of major titles hitting the shelves soon in time for the holidays (Halo 4, CoD BO II, and so many others) there are a lot of options out there. Borderlands 2 should be on your list. If you played the first game and liked it, get this game. You won’t regret it. But if you’ve never played the first and you’re on the fence about this one and you don’t really have a huge budget for games this year, check out the first Borderlands game and give it a test run. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll love the hell out of it! I don’t know. But I definitely recommend this title for anyone who loves a good RPG and a great FPS game.

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Revival Post…

This will happen now and again, as I get too complacent/lazy/procrastinate/whateverelse.

It’s not like I havn’t been writing, I’m constantly writing, constantly creating but I guess that’s where the complacent part comes in. I’ve just been neglecting this blog, and I promised myself that I would keep up with it. So this is my attempt to get back on track. There’s school (fast approaching exams), my writing (been knocking out the early chapters of a sequel I’m writing under my pen name), gaming (gearing up for Borderlands 2. I’ll probably be posting more on that in the coming days as B2-Day draws nearer. A review will definitely be coming!) .

Other than those things there are no excuses for my being away.

Drediting

Here it comes, the much dreaded editing phase. The day when I sit down and wade through my six-month-old prose, trying to figure out why it pisses me off and what I can do about it.  I havn’t so much as peeked at it once since its completion, and I’d rather not do it now. I’d much rather just slap a DONE! sticker on it and send it on its way, the manuscript, I mean. And when I say ‘send it on its way’ that usually refers to some dark, quiet little corner of my hard drive- not to a publisher. I wont be sending anything to a publisher for a while.

Anywho, also beginning work on a sequal I’ve been bugged to death to write, so I’ll have my plate full for a while. This will be my second novel this year, and the whole process just seems to be getting quicker and quicker, which doesnt translate into it being easier in anyway, just quicker. I think I like this pace though. I think I can knock out two novels a year for the rest of my working life, even if none of them ever get published. There’s so much going on my head…that must be why I love video games so much…and sleep (if I get it).

Well, enough procrastinating, I have some stuff to do, as you now know. Oh, if there’s anyone out there who knows of a few ways to make this drediting stuff less painful, please let me know. I will love you long time!

Voices in My Head…

Are what I awoke to this morning. It wasn’t me talking to myself, but two other people. They were in the mental kitchen of my mental house (not a place for crazy people, just an imaginary place in my head where I sometimes go). I walked in on them talking, and then they immediately fell silent. Why? I have no clue, but I get the feeling they were talking about me.

I know the two guys fairly well. They’ve been guests in my mental house for about 4 or 5 months now. That’s a bit longer than the average tenant; others come and go, but not these guys.

Anyways, so I’m standing there, staring at these guys staring back at me. I can tell they want me to leave, but by this point I’m already suspicious. They give their scripted “good mornings” and then continue to stare at me. Coffee, I think. A good cup of mental coffee to wake me up. So I go over to the coffee pot only find it empty (because I don’t really drink coffee. I just need an excuse to stay in my mental kitchen for a bit longer). I shrug. I guess I’ll have to make more, except, I don’t even know how to make coffee (because I don’t really drink it). I take a closer look at the coffee pot- as if enough eyeballing will miraculously grant me with the knowhow to operate this thing- and I notice something interesting. There’s no coffee and there appears to have never been coffee inside it- not today, not ever! So what?

I turn to the other two guys, still watching me, taking silent sips from their mugs. And so I ask myself: What the hell are they drinking? I open the fridge and it’s empty. I’m not hungry, I’m just trying to figure this thing out. I’m searching every mental cabinet in my little mental kitchen of my mental house and there is no food to be found…anywhere!

Meanwhile, these two guys are still watching me. The blond one finally speaks. Jack, I think his name is. He asks me what I’m looking for, and I tell him I don’t know. And then he asks me if I want to know what it is he’s drinking, so I tell him yeah, sure, why not. He nods, takes another sip, and then doesnt tell me! The other guy, Chris, no, Caleb. He’s a younger guy. He laughs as if it’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard and then he just vanishes. Poof! Just like that. Gone.

Now Jack’s laughing at the expression on my face. I’m dumbfounded. My mouth must be open. He strolls over to me and tells me that everything will be alright, that my greatest fears and frustrations are simply things of my imagination. “You haven’t paid your rent in over a month, Jack,” I say. I don’t know why this particular thought occurs to me, it just does.

He nods, digs through his pockets and pulls out a fat wad of cash, there must be at least a quarter million in that roll. I wonder where he gets that much money. He peels away a few hundreds and pauses.

“Four fifty,” I remind him.

He looks at me, shrugs, and shoves the entire roll into my pockets. “Then that should cover me for the next few years,” he says.

“And then some.”

Another nod, and then he vanishes, too, just like Caleb. I dig in my pockets and pull out a crisp handful of one-hundreds and smile.

But then I wake up. I check my pockets to only find lint, a couple of toothpicks, and a bubblegum wrapper. Brief disappointment, followed by anger, followed by the sudden realization that I don’t own a house in which I rent out to tenants who pretend to drink coffee and vanish into thin air.

Dreams are weird like that. And imagination and desire are conspirators in this grand scheme to drive me crazy!

4 More Tips for that Novel You’re Working On

1. Create every day. A lot of authors will tell you to write every day, and that’s a great tip, but let’s be honest, most of us aren’t going to do that. I don’t do that, and I know a lot of other writers who don’t either. And who the hell wants to write every day anyway? Take some time off, geez.

That being said though, what you (and when I say “you” that’s me talking to myself ‘cause I’m weird and I do that) should and you can do every day is create. This can be writing, thinking (about plot, about setting, character, world building, etc. all the weird things that creative types obsess about), studying structure and storytelling devices found everywhere in life (books, movies, video games, etc.), and just thinking. Thinking is the thing to take from this tip. We all have brains and we all think every day. Just because you’re not writing doesn’t mean that you’re not creating something as a storyteller.

After all, if half of what you do when “writing” is staring blankly at the screen wondering what should happen next, why not save time by thinking about what to write before wasting 5 hours “writing” 2000 of the wrong words.

 

2. Don’t Look Back – Finish It! I’m really bad at this, that’s why I give each chapter a different file. Looking back at what you’ve previously written, and judging yourself based on words you wrote when you most likely weren’t as familiar with the story as you are now, is never a good thing to do. It can be discouraging. If you’re looking back, you’re neglecting what’s happening in the present, and you’re failing to look at what’s ahead.

The thing to remember is that you’re writing the 1st draft. It’s going to suck, and you have to accept that. Finish it, so that you can go back all you want and make it pretty.

3. Pace Yourself. Writing a novel is like running several long and painful miles. Don’t burn yourself out in the beginning, and hustle to the finish line. Remembering the rules of consistency and word count help. Don’t write so much in one day that you don’t feel like ever writing again by the end of it. Be realistic in your goal setting. You’re not Stephen King so you’re probably not going to crank out 4000 words a day and not need at least 8 or 9 drafts.

Stop to eat when you get hungry, bathe every now and again, and brush every so often. Being a writer doesn’t give you the right to feel like crap and hygienically deprive yourself. It’s no secret. We write as well as we feel, so why would you want to jeopardize that?

4. Find Inspiration to keep going. Feedback from friends, family, peer writing groups (preferably where everyone is at the same level thereabouts and their opinions are or should be unbiased). Also, reading books, watching movies and playing games that are in a similar genre to the project you’re working on is beneficial to the process. I would suggest listening to writing podcasts geared towards helping beginning writers.

Here are a few of my top sources for inspiration and information (in no particular order):

For the Advent Gamer/Student

Why choose? Just do both. How? I’ll tell you how in a sec, but first-

School has started, which is awesome, because I’m weird like that. I have a great schedule this year and I’m taking some pretty cool classes; an Anthropology course and a Criminal Investigations class with hands-on forensic labs that I’m really excited about. That kind of stuff, I’m sure, a lot of writers could use.

There are a lot of undergrad students like myself who are really into gaming, and to do it well, you have to do it often. The problem with this is that it tends to get in the way of studying and, if you happen to have this strange urge to write all the time (like me) then it can really get in the way. So on one hand, you have this thing you have to do called studying, so that you can get a good grade, graduate with a degree and hopefully get a half decent job in life. Of course, you can always, as a writer, pump out a bestseller here and there and make millions. But let’s be real.

If you’re anything like me, then you have so many hobbies its ridiculous. But my two biggest pass-times are writing and gaming, both of which are eclipsed by the fact that I’m in school, so hitting the books comes first. So, as an advent gamer/student, how do you balance the two? How do you satisfy the gamer inside AND ensure that you don’t flunk?

These were the questions I asked myself as a Freshman my first semester in college. I want to game, but also want to pass. I struggled with this for a while during my first few weeks. I tried a lot of different strategies, but nothing seemed to work. And ‘Do not touch the controller until I’ve reviewed the chapter’ was easier said than done. That rule looked pretty on paper, but in practice it was impossible. I love games. Pure and simple.

Eventually, I accepted the fact that I liked my xbox more than my Sociology text, and I got real with myself one day. I then redesigned my studying around that fact, and I came up with this, which I still use to this day, and have been getting A’s ever since, while simultaneously quenching my gamer thirst. It may not help everyone, but it helped (and still helps) me. It’s very simple.

Game AND Study

The remedy for my dilemma was a recorder (usually on my IPhone). I record the lectures during class, and then later when it comes time to study I put on some ear phones and put the entire lectures on loop while I play (Halo or CoD or something). Obviously, in class I take good notes as well, but I usually don’t have to look over them again. I may skim scan the chapters for exams ‘n such, but by that time the material is stuck in my head like a bad song with catchy lyrics. But this works for me so that’s what I do.

Again, this isn’t for everyone. I’ve introduced this strategy to friends, some have found it extremely useful, and others have not. If you’re more comfortable with the old fashioned way, then that’s your thing. And this isn’t a study remedy for every class. It works best with those awesome professors who give really great in-class lectures and test on the material that comes out of their mouth, rather than the book. I love that.

Obviously, you have to go to class EVERYDAY for this to work AND take notes, both of these gives you a sense of context when the material is playing in the background. For those of you who get into Halo and CoD or any other game that has a “lobby period”- that annoying, awkward space of time where you’re waiting on the server to find you the next match- you can use that time to look over notes, chapters, and complete study guides while you’re also listening to the lectures.

So the basic thing to take from all of this record and listen. I surprised that so many people don’t already do this, and really it can be applied to really any hobby. The key is stimulation. Find something that doesn’t bore you to death (unlike studying, unless you’re into that) and combine it with that which is essential. You’re brain learns better when it’s stimulated. You’re subconscious mind picks up on a lot of things we do not realize.

So, have fun and study smart!

Ashes

Ashes of a trampled city,

memories of a ruined burg.

From the backstreets, devoid of pity

where the darkest hearts emerge.

In this metropolis of mischance,

in this heartbroken hamlet of gloom-

where the repugnant dance

and the repulsive prance-

death finds the young too soon.

Shadows parade the streets,

marching to the severed synphony of waste.

The truthful tobgues no longer speak,

as they were plagued with a bitter taste.

The worst of men are scorners;

the pity-peddler seeking to smuggle,

and the harlots at every corner,

here in this iron, urban jungle.