A Re-View on the New-U in Borderlands 2

Handsome Jack is a despicable and dastardly individual. He makes a great villain, but he has one major failing. He never went after the New-U stations. You are his nemesis, the great thorn in his side, and the only real threat to his plans. But you just won’t stay dead. Every time they put the boot down and scrape you off the tread, you just pop back out at a New-U station for a fee, and keep on.

The thing is, the game identifies the New-U stations as being a Hyperion product, they talk about it quite a lot even, and Handsome Jack is in charge of Hyperion. The system which is keeping the player alive is on his network and in his control. Furthermore, why isn’t he on the network? Or his lieutenants? Why are the vault hunters from the original Borderlands on the network for that story, but not this one? (And why isn’t That One using a shield? You know the moment).

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Why isn’t anyone else on the New-U networks? They are physically available in the world, they charge a percentage of your funds rather than a flat rate, they offer a product many would go for, and they are tied into the game world. This is the problem with attention to detail on tertiary elements. The New-U stations have a lot of great lines, but in that they align themselves with your opponent, and have no presence in the world other than to serve you as a player. They don’t even break the fourth wall like Claptrap did regarding the storage locker to move items between characters. Consider a few of the lines the New-U station says when it respawns you:

So long as you believe in yourself, nothing can TRULY kill you! Except Handsome Jack.

The Hyperion corporation: You don’t die, until we say so.

Greetings, clone-of-the-recently-deceased! Good luck in your future endeavors!

It is a tragedy in so many ways. Borderlands 2 has an entertaining and fairly solid story, but the New-U stations punch so many holes into that. Yet they also have some of the best flavor text/audio in the game, they feel so incredibly appropriate for the world of Borderlands and to lose that would hurt as well. The fact is, ¬†you need to maintain the integrity of your game universe. The current implementation makes all character death forced, and all of Handsome Jack’s struggles with you contrived and unnecessary.

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You must be careful at where the game world and the game software intersect. Gearbox tarnished one of their strongest aspects with this. Sometimes things need to simply exist for the person who bought the game, so they can best enjoy it (permadeath in Borderlands would certainly put a damper on the game’s encouragement of wacky battle). Acknowledge when you are serving the user’s functional needs – that is a game as a piece of software – and when you are serving the experience – a game as art and entertainment. If it is consistent, players will do a lot of the work for you, and all will have a better time.