Death in Video Games… Again: Thoughts on “Borderlands 2”

I already posted about death in video games being unrealistic, because you can reload anytime. This was never more evident than when I recently played Dishonored, because when stealth missions failed, I went berserk, hacked at guards until I died, and then reloaded to retry the stealth approach as if nothing happened. On the other hand, XCOM: Enemy Uknown was awesome because my character was not put in a position to die; instead, the game was over for other reasons, and there was no reloading. It made for a more realistic tension, in my opinion.

Respawning feels so good.

Now I’m finally, finally playing Borderlands 2. I did not play the first Borderlands game, so I don’t know how death worked there, but I absolutely love the respawn system in Borderlands 2.

First off, let me say that I’m finding this game to be incredibly challenging. There are no difficulty settings; quests are what they are, and if a mission is labeled “tough,” sometimes I’ll skip it for a while. I’m playing as Zer0, who is fairly squishy, so just on the “normal” missions, I’ve died more than half a dozen times in the first handful of hours.

But that’s okay. I don’t get stressed (which I usually do if I die more than a couple times in a row), because the respawn system is so forgiving. For anyone who hasn’t played Borderlands 2, when my Zer0 dies in the game, a New-U Station uses his DNA to recreate him. This happens at the nearest terminal, but it’s definitely out of the action — which gives me a breather. I do have to pay money to have the new Zer0 created, and there are definitely some jokes in the game if I die often because I’m making the stations some money. Which is great, because that gives me an incentive to, you know, avoid death.

But the best part is that when I return to action, all of the enemies Zer0 killed are still dead. There’s no backtracking; there’s no having to start a quest over. After all, Zer0 really was killed in action and a terminal respawned him in a realistic way.

This is exactly what I was wanting to see more of in video games: realistic alternatives to the old reloading from a previous checkpoint. Plus, having the game save your progress even after you respawn makes the fighting less overwhelming in an otherwise difficult game, because you’re always a little bit closer to your goal than you were before you died.


6 thoughts on “Death in Video Games… Again: Thoughts on “Borderlands 2””

  1. It’s fun until you start getting later on in the game where your death costs you hundreds of thousands of dollars, lol. You can seriously lose nearly all your money if you get stuck and keep dying during New Game Plus. My friend and i actually used one of his other characters as an “offshore account” to protect our money while we died repeatedly against a boss… The jokes are indeed awesome though.

    1. Haha I was wondering how much the price was going to creep up on me! Something to look forward to then… I probably won’t get around to tackling New Game+ (want to do a second playthrough with Gaige though!), however I’ve heard Zer0 gets stronger as the game goes on so I’m crossing my fingers that I can handle the game without tooooo many deaths… or without going broke, I guess!

  2. I just bought the game and started with Zer0. Completed the first quest and haven’t died yet (boasts :P) …The first quest gave me an impression that the health system is a bit soft. Maybe later in the game, its might get hard but at the moment its comfortable ;)

    Can’t wait to play the game when I get home ^_^

    Btw, Dishonored is one AWESOME game (IMHO).

    1. Oh that’s great to hear from somebody else playing as Zer0! Yeah, the first quest and boss fight were pretty easy, but I died once at the first major bullymong hunt quest… and after that things continued to be trying, on and off. I do love playing as Zer0 though, and I just rented the first Borderlands game based on how much fun 2 is so far!

      I like Dishonored too. =) I really enjoyed the supernatural powers, it made the game unlike anything I’d played before.

  3. OH MY GOSH! I’m currently playing Dishonored and I’m doing exactly what you said in your first paragraph. It is completely unrealistic, but I love it. The game itself is such a cool blend of stealth, decision making, and retribution. I’m still pretty early on in the game, but I’m having so much fun sneaking around trying to avoid guards. I’m actually trying to play through without killing anyone…but we’ll see how long that lasts. =P

    1. That’s the way to do it. =) With Dishonored, I actually had more fun just rushing in and attacking everybody… but then I died a lot more that way. The stealth approach was so satisfying when it succeeded, because it was pretty difficult (especially in the beginning, for me). Good luck with your non-lethal approach… I also tried not to kill anybody, but quickly changed that to not killing any civilians, which was a little more feasible for me!

      I agree with you that Dishonored is a great blend of elements. And most RPGs I’ve played so far have decision-making that’s very separate from the combat… like you fight it out, then you have a cutscene where you make a decision. But I thought DIshonored was quite cool and unique because the decision-making is all about how you go through the missions, so it’s completely wrapped up in the combat.

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