Borderlands 2: Playing the Siren

Forget everything you think you know about sirens in Borderlands; Maya has little in common with her predecessor.

Along with Dan Chiappini from GameSpot's Australian team, I recently had an opportunity to play through a lengthy demo of Borderlands 2--the same demo that PAX East attendees will be able to get their hands on later this week. Dan and I played through the demo's two zones cooperatively using the only two characters that were available; Dan played as Salvador the gunzerker, while I played as Maya the siren.

Before jumping into the first of the two zones, titled The Wildlife Preserve, we were told that our characters were already at level 20 but that none of their skill points had been spent yet. Job one, then, was to check out the skill trees and settle on one of three specializations. Surprisingly, none of the skill trees in Borderlands 2 (or at least not in the pre-alpha version of the game that we were playing) appear to have anything to do with specific weapons. (Regardless of which character you play as, you're proficient with all of the weapons in Borderlands 2's extensive arsenal.) Rather, skill trees can be used to augment your chosen character's special ability.

Phaselocked enemies are rendered defenseless for a short time.

Like Lilith, the siren from Borderlands, Maya has a special ability that's the same regardless of where you spend your skill points. Lilith's ability was a phasewalk that simultaneously made her invisible to enemies, immune to damage, and significantly quicker on her feet for a short time. Maya's ability is very different; her phaselock lets you temporarily encase an enemy--even a really big "super badass" one--inside a bubble that hovers a few feet above the ground. Enemies are unable to do anything while phaselocked, but are still vulnerable to attacks. Furthermore, depending on where you spend your skill points, the phaselock ability can have a number of other beneficial effects. The first time I specced out my siren, for example, I put points into the harmony skill tree's "sweet release" skill so that enemies killed while phaselocked would drop healing orbs that homed in on players.

By pouring a lot of skill points into the harmony tree I was able to make my siren a pretty effective healer. "Restoration" gave me the ability to heal other players simply by shooting them, "elated" caused all players' health to regenerate anytime an enemy was phaselocked, and "res" let me resurrect downed teammates by using my phaselock ability on them. Other, less-healer-oriented options on the harmony tree included "mind's eye," which increased my crit and melee damage; "recompense," which gave my shield a chance to regenerate anytime I took damage; and "wreck," which increased my rate of fire with all gun types when I phaselocked an enemy. Abilities like these will surely make the harmony siren a great character to have on your team, but since only two of us were playing on this occasion, there were definitely times when I felt that points spent to deal extra damage might have been more beneficial.

Heading into the second zone, Caustic Caverns, I opted to put all of my skill points into the cataclysm skill tree, which, in massively multiplayer online terms, would be considered the DPS spec. The abilities I chose to put most of my points into included "flicker," for an increased chance to cause status effects; "immolate," which added fire damage to any shots that I fired when down and trying for a second wind; and "cloud kill," which caused my shots to leave behind acid clouds that were harmful to enemies for around five seconds. Other noteworthy abilities on the tree included "foresight," which increases both magazine size and reload speed; "helios," which caused a fiery explosion anytime I killed a phaselocked enemy; and "ricochet," which gave my shots a chance to bounce around multiple enemies for a short time anytime I got a kill. In short, I became far more effective in combat.

Salvadore and Maya make a formidable duo.

I didn't have a chance to mess with the third skill tree, labeled "motion," but it appeared to focus on survivability, and since some of the skills improve Maya's movement, I suspect it will be the tree that most closely resembles playing as Lilith. Something similar to Lilith's phasewalk ability would definitely be welcome, since among the impressive array of new enemy types on show in the demo were a number of wormhole threshers covered in spikes that, after emerging from the ground, have an almost irresistible ability to pull you toward them. Other memorable enemies from the demo are too numerous to detail here, but you can see some of them in action, plus hear Dan and me discuss them in our Borderlands 2 video preview.

Borderlands 2 is currently scheduled for release in September. We look forward to bringing you lots more coverage of the game in the coming weeks and months.

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Discussion

96 comments
sos291
sos291

I wish the loot box wasnt out of stock forever

bloomberg23
bloomberg23

I can't wait for this. Does it have the rumored 6 player co op?

slimsnick
slimsnick

i love borderlands i played borderlands 1 its pretty kool but i cant wait to play borderlands2 on pc by the way love it

BowserShakur
BowserShakur

the characters look promising. 'cept for axton. that guy just looks plain plain. like flavorless yogurt.

bildevo
bildevo

This game better live up to the trailer.

DizzyX59
DizzyX59

Gonneh be pawnage, can't wait! pCe!

vicsrealms
vicsrealms

Geez, September is too far away to wait for this game!

ichigo2862
ichigo2862

damn it stop making me want this game even more than I already do

SnapEye
SnapEye

Glad that they are putting more diverse classes, it will make an even better co-op experience.

The_Mighty_KELP
The_Mighty_KELP

The main thing I want in BL2 would be to turn off the text that appears at the top left of the screen when you pick up ANYTHING. This is especially annoying in splitscreen co-op, which I do a lot - it covers a lot of both players' screens, as there is no text scaling in splitscreen.

anakissed
anakissed

So looking forward to playing this

ZoeZombify
ZoeZombify

Me and my partner completed Borerlands 1 + DLCAnd I personally can't wait to Co-op borderlands 2, Although phaselocking? I'm not too sure I am fond of this at the moment, but it might be better than it sounds,

Enzus
Enzus

Is lol Is me Zero

 

wexorian
wexorian

still gonna Miss Old crew And MY Precious Titan BRICK :)

Winchester39
Winchester39

Need September to come quicker probably most anticipated game of 2012 this or new Bioshock!

williamzamora
williamzamora

dude payed all of borderlands 1/ i can not wait for #2 just saying!

Lord_Uhtred
Lord_Uhtred

@SythisTaru No, I never did beat the game. I got bored with the repetitive gameplay, the grinding quests that were by and large much the same. Perhaps after 100+ hours into it the quest become more varied. Yeah, I am a slow gamer too. A buddy of mine is able to play through games very, very quickly. So, he always hounds me to finish up a game so we can discuss it in full.

ILuvGameSpot123
ILuvGameSpot123

Just make a non-modded weapon creator in the game, which requires materials you find through the game; modded players have their 1337 gunz, and others still don't have to complain ! :D

crusader8463
crusader8463

Here's hoping they make the PC version playable this time around. Still really fumed I spent $60 on a game designed to be played online co-op that had an online co-op that didn't work.

Laharlblaze
Laharlblaze

loved the first will probbly love the second

MN121MN
MN121MN

@SythisTaru I don't think he meant in 20 hours done 1 playthrough... Shame though they just tested Maya....

dicegamer
dicegamer

what ya waiting for let get it going the game is already looking good

SythisTaru
SythisTaru

@Lord_Uhtred How did you have 20 hours!? I played through it coop (which caused me to beat the game even faster than I would have normally. I go slow.) and it took 72 hours. That's just for 1 playthrough and no DLC :X

Cryptic_Shadow
Cryptic_Shadow

keep the info coming. We got 6 months until release. :)

BelmontWolf
BelmontWolf

i'd just love for there to be a close combat specialist guns are great and all but its just not always my thing brick was good but his melee fun time was just too short and was restricted to his fists

AkhilAnilkumar
AkhilAnilkumar

I just hope that there is a great variety to the environments this time.

Sunuva22
Sunuva22

hope to see the same co-op fun as before : )

ProjektInsanity
ProjektInsanity

The first game was probably my favorite videogame of all time, and I'm really anticipating the sequel. That being said, I don't know...tying all of your buff and heal abilities to a gimmicky move like phaselock seems a little lame. Hopefully it'll be better than it sounds in action.

Cronicx-
Cronicx-

@leikeylosh soo you agree with everything I just said.....

leikeylosh
leikeylosh

@Cronicx- Cronicx- says: "you think the mass effect 3 ending was bad? Are you serious? Remember Assassin's Creed? Rage? Half-Life 2: Episode 2? Halo 2? Bioshock?" Ohh, yes, Bioshock ending was terrible, wasn't it? WOULD YOU KINDLY shut your mouth?

xeromagnum
xeromagnum

@Grimlim Agreed. Skyrim mods great! Played alone isn't ruining anothers experience. But there are people who like mods so there needs to be two online types like other games ranked/unranked.

Grimlim
Grimlim

@jestersmiles mods are great but not the type that were in borderlands. If you have modded weapons you shouldnt be able to play online with people who want to play legit. It is not fun for others when modders 1 shot everything. I also hope the glitch of getting other peoples quests isnt on there. It was annoying going online and then when i decided to play offline i had every freaking quest.

Lord_Uhtred
Lord_Uhtred

I'm looking forward to more news about this game. I enjoyed Borderlands, but I did get burned out after 20 hours of gameplay. Doing every little thing, to get the full experience. Still I did have fun and loved the art direction, it seems that the art direction has changed just ever so slightly in a good direction. I tried to play as Lilith, she was easily the coolest character in Borderlands, but not powerful enough for my play style.

silversix_
silversix_

Stasis 2.0? Okay i'll use that, thank you. Now bring motherf*kin phantoms.

clientfail
clientfail

The first screen shot looks like they got the idea from bioshock.

icetone
icetone

just from the screenshots I WANT THE GAME!!!!!! hope to see the other two next

sayoose
sayoose

 @AkhilAnilkumar

 It looks like there will be from the different screen shots I've seen. There's a cool snow covered section too.

DSkinMasque
DSkinMasque

 @leikeylosh 

lets not go there.  It was terrible in the form that it abandoned anything and came up with a magic space child magic love in the last 15 minutes wheras this was never the case in previous titles.  The ending was horrible in the way that ME2 and ME3 were pointless.  You did all that just to end up in indoctrination like Saren.  Your choices didn't matter at all in a game that was being sold to you on that one premise, in the end no MATTER WHAT YOU DID you could choose only 3 options and a variation.