A Physics with Astrophysics graduate and level designer specializing in the Source engine. You can contact me here or by yelling really loud.

Borderlands 2 is actively punishing solo players

Borderlands 2

This post is spoiler free:

I’ve been playing far more Borderlands in the last few weeks than I ought, it’s a fantastic game that has taken the good aspects from the previous game and polished them into a mirror shine. There are also many welcome new features like Badass rank and Steamworks, but there is only major element of the game that hasn’t improved in quite the way I’d have liked. It’s called ‘Fight for Your Life’.

In the first game I, unfortunately could only play solo due to the cackhanded way Gearbox decided to do Co-Op support. I found the combination of using gamespy and requiring router port forwarding to be worse than pulling teeth so I gave up and settled for singleplayer. Now the sequel has come around and the best addition of all has been made, Steamworks, I can play the game as it was meant to be played, no not with an Nvidia, with friends.

There are more differences than just enemy difficulty and loot quality that change when player count increases. From my own experiences I’ve noticed the Fight for Your Life time rises greatly. This has two effects: you have more time to snag a kill and revive yourself, although with more players the chance someone else will steal your reviving kill is increased greatly too and there is increased time for your teammates to come and help you up, something that obviously can’t happen in solo play.

Another difference in solo play is that when you fail to gain the Second Wind and have to respawn, every enemy that was damaged regains 100% of its health and 100% of its shield, should it have one. This does not happen when just one, two or three players die simultaneously during Co-Op since there is a fourth alive who would find it rather disheartening if the enemies they were fighting suddenly regenerated fully.

Fight for Your Life!


These two effects combined can be incredibly punitive against solo players fighting a boss. They can whittle the boss down to 10% health and if they have to respawn, start all over again. Sans any ammunition used of course and if you’re anything like me you spam the heck out of your rocket launcher against these tough enemies, leaving your second or third attempt onwards rocket free and even harder. If you had just one teammate, who wasn’t even attacking the boss or helping you up when you’re in Fight for Your Life, you could whittle it down to 10% as before, die, and when you respawn finish off the last 10% without any help.

But wait, isn’t the game supposed to get tougher when more players join? That’s what it says in some of the loading screens.

Harder enemies in Co-Op mode

Yes it is even though with enemies not regenerating health, longer Fight for Your Life times and the chance of an ally reviving you it’s a complete fallacy. The game is much tougher solo.

I’m finding this incredibly frustrating when playing solo, not because I can’t deal with dying lots, I’m now well into my second playthrough and glad for the difficulty ramp up but because I know in the back of my mind someone at Gearbox chose to make Fight for Your Life shorter in single player where you need it more and that someone chose to have enemies regenerate health and shields when dying in solo play. Choices that unnecessarily penalise solo play.

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