There are some things I adore about the Borderlands series. Guns are awesome. The gun action incredibly well modeled so that each weapon feels distinct. It certainly gives me an understanding of the joy that gun-enthusiasts find in shooting down ranges.
And then there’s shiny guns. They’re shiny and they’re pretty. With Borderlands 2 the design and features of each brand of gun are particular to the make. And then as they go up the rarity-ladder (white = common, green = uncommon, blue = rare, purple = very rare, gold = legendary) they get newer and shinier.
I’m pretty sure the Borderlands devs at Gearbox were inspired by the deteriorating guns in Far Cry 2 Common and uncommon guns look like rusty scrap picked up (or reserviced) from old battlefields. Rare guns are in good working order. Purple guns are shiny plated and clean.*
Rarer guns also work better, in that they are more accurate, hit harder, have less recoil (and so on) which brings me to the bone I have to pick about them:
Peak gun quality should be the purple, very-rare guns. Stock models that are new and perfectly kept and upscale plated (which I assume would help keep them in good condition as well as making them pretty). But they aren’t. Instead, guns continue to get generally better at legendary or beyond.
Here’s the thing: Legendary guns each have a special ability. They will feature red text that indicates that the gun goes above and beyond being a great gun, but also does an extra thing or two that guns don’t usually do.
For example the Vladof Bolshy Longnail bypasses shields. Bullets from other guns will be absorbed by a shield until it depletes. But not the Longnail. Its bullets ignore the shield and tear straight into flesh (or armor). That’s amazing, and that makes it legend-worthy. It doesn’t also need to be even better than a Bolshy Droog (on which the Longnail is based).
In Borderlands 2 this became conspicuous in Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode (third play-through). UVHM promised tougher enemies yet better loot, but the toughness of the enemies became such that even very-rare weapons were pretty useless against them. One needed not only legendaries but ones that were legendary for specifically having a heightened damage output. Since such guns proved to still drop very rarely the loot wasn’t better at all.
The difficulty escalation in UVHM was so tedious that it drove me to some outside-the-box solutions (read: cheating like fire) so that I could continue to enjoy the game’s shiny guns (also the skillsets of my high-level characters). In fact, it drove me to learn all about the Borderlands 2 exploits. Some were as tame as duplicating gear or replenishing rockets with a low-level weapon and an absorption shield, and some were as whacked crazy as tricking the game to thinking shotgun pellets did the same damage as a (nuclear-level) rocket launcher, hence hitting a target with the equivalent of twelve very, very big rockets. Hax!**
It looks like the Gearbox team down under attempted to balanced the game better in Borderlands TPS. There are no Seraph or Pearlescent weapons (Glitched and Luneshine weapons are less-rare weapons with modest added features) so the gun escalation stops at legendary. Still, legendary weapons are better overall than very-rares, so I’m curious if UVHM in TPS is going to require an all-legendary loadout to survive.
I’m not there yet.
* Legendary items (or rarer, including Seraph and Pearlescent) not only look new and upscaled, but also with customized exterior finishes, some of which look marvelous and others are unsightly abominations of discordant color. The worst tragedies in this group are guns that look amazing but are not viable weapons to my play-style. Hence they’re only worthy of a display museum (which Borderlands continues to lack). Way too many guns are for display only.
Instead of the categories above legendary TPS gives a bonus features that compound on top of weapons of lesser rarity, either Luneshine which adds a small additional bonus and glowy marbling, or Glitched weapons which run with Matrix rain and static, and will intermittently glitch out and behave… differently.
** Brandon Cackowski-Schnell explained in his article Glitching the Tank (regarding getting the What Are You Trying To Prove achievement in Left 4 Dead) how much fun it can be to attack a problem such as a game or a game challenge that is too hard for its own good, and to be fair I had a heck of a lot of fun learning how to exploit my way through UVHM. My buddies and I eventually had OP8 characters we played in an OP0 world, which made purple weapons (albeit OP8 ones) useful again.
Image: Not a Borderlands gun. It’s pretty, though.