When you first start up borderlands 2, you will come to a title screen that tells you to press any key to continue. Wait. That’s right. Wait. For the first time, and whenever you want, just don’t press any button and a video will start that I think is fun, and goes along with a catchy soundtrack from The Heavy. It shows you a glimpse of the four original playable characters in the game: 1. the commando; 2. the siren; 3. the gunzerker; and 4. the assasin. (More on each of those below.)
Also, when you first start the game, it begins with a video that you can skip. I recommend watching and listening to the video the first time because it tells the story of what happened (I think) in Borderlands 1 or at least sets the scene for what is going on in borderlands 2. Anyway, it is easy to skip, but I recommend watching it at least once.
One of the first things that I recommend you doing is starting to accumulate shift codes because they can expire. More keep coming along, but you can’t get the old ones that you have missed. It will take a while before you are able to use the keys that many of the shift codes provide, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t start accumulating them now.
From the main menu of the game, select “Extras” and then select “SHiFT code”. Do what it tells you to do to sign up for the thing–you can enter a fake email address as far as I can tell. You only have to do it once, but once you sign up, whenever you log onto borderlands 2, you can go to the SHiFT codes.
Another note, though, before you go entering in all of the codes at once: there is a limit of 255 golden keys that you can have, I think, at a time. Whenever you log into a character for the first time after redeeming a shift code, it will tell you how many golden keys you have. So, if you enter codes that put the sum total of your keys above 255, you are wasting those codes.
You can cut-and-paste the whole code, alt-tab to borderlands 2 screen to enter the codes, and then submit them.
So what do these golden keys do that you are accumulating? Well, further along in the game, there is a chest that can only be opened with the golden keys. Whenever you open the chest, it removes one golden key, and inside the chest will be one or more random item or weapon. These are always leveled specifically for whatever your level is when you first open the chest. But they are really good for your current level.
It can be helpful, if you find yourself being out-gunned, to be able to go to the chest and pull out some new good loot that is set for your current level. You can always choose when or how to use it, but without the golden keys that you get through the SHiFT codes, you don’t have that choice.
So, I recommend going ahead and starting to get the SHiFT codes that will expire into your account.
There are four original character classes, and two DLC added classes (6 classes total) that you need to choose between when you start the game. Every character can use any of the weapons (as long as the character is high enough level for the weapon), although some classes have bonuses that you can select as you level that boost something about a certain category of weapon.
As you get to higher levels, the play styles for the different classes can be very different. There is a lot written about the end-game strategies and abilities. But this guide is for the precisely opposite end of the spectrum.
The first four levels of any character are the exact same.
Then, at level 5, the special ability is unlocked for the character. Each class has its own special ability. The abilities are major advantages, and so different play styles emerge for each class just because they can each do such different things with their abilities. One of the things that has given the game so much replayability for me is that, while the story and side quests remain the same, the experience of going through them with the different characters is so different it keeps it a new experience fighting a particular boss or area based on what character you were using.
After level 5, each level lets you upgrade something about the character, and each character has different things that can be upgraded that are unique. While you can’t change classes (you can always start a new game with another class), it is relatively easy to change how you spec your character’s stats for each level.
But you need to start with one character, so here is a very very basic description of each character, their abilities, what their playstyle might look like, and if they are able to get even better at certain types of weapons.
1. Axton the commando:
The commando’s ability is to deploy a stationary turret that fires at enemies. The turret can be upgraded in different ways as you level up. You can reclaim the turret when it is deployed before its timer has run out, and that will cause its cooldown to be shorter for the next time you want to be able to deploy it. The turret can be used as a distraction (put it down and run as enemies attack it), as another way to kill stuff, or at a much higher level, as a shield. He can also specialize in using assault rifles.
2. Maya the siren:
The siren’s ability is to “phaselock” an enemy, which temporarily freezes an enemy in mid-air for everyone to shoot at. It works against almost all enemies, including some bosses. The ones that it doesn’t work on, it takes a chunk of their health away instead. The phaselock also has the shortest cooldown timer of all of the classes’ abilities, so it can be done pretty regularly. The siren also has some healing abilities that can be activated as she levels up. She can do the support/crowd control role pretty well.
3. Salvador the gunzerker:
The gunzerker’s ability is to be able to duel wield ranged weapons. During the gunzerker rage, ammo and health are regenerated. Basically, this character is able to “tank” (survive getting attacked a lot) and “dps” (do a lot of damage) at the same time while in the rage. The gunzerker can also specialize in pistols. Sniping (or anything that requires aiming) doesn’t really work well with the ability because, while duel-wielding, you can’t aim either gun (you just face a direction and shoot).
4. Zero the assasin:
The assasin’s ability is to become invisible for about 5 seconds, and during that time, to project a hologram that the enemies will attack instead. Once you attack from being invisible, you become visible again, but you do bonus damage (which increases the longer you had stayed invisible). This can be used to make really deadly attacks or to escape. The assasin can also specialize in, and become really deadly with, melee damage or sniper rifles.
Then there are the dlc characters;
5. Gaige the Mechromancer:
Gaige is able to deploy “deathtrap,” a flying robot that mostly goes around to enemies and melee attacks them (or it has a ranged attack for flying creatures) and then, after that enemy dies, moves onto another until either the robot is killed or its timer runs out. The cooldown for the robot is the longest of the abilities, i think, and you can’t withdraw the robot when you don’t need him anymore to reduce the cooldown timer, like the commando can do with the turret. The mechromancer also has an interesting ability called “anarchy” that creates a “stack” for every reload after emptying a magazine in combat and every kill you make (deathtrap’s kills don’t build up anarchy stacks). You lose all of your anarchy stacks if you reload your gun before you empty your magazine. Each stack increases the damage you inflict, but decreases your accuracy. At high amounts of anarchy stacks, you can do ridiculous amounts of damage–if you can hit something. That dynamic creates a totally different playstyle than any of the other characters.
6. Kreig the Psycho:
The psycho’s ability is to go into a rage where you switch your weapon to an axe that everytime you kill an enemy with it (you can either melee with the axe, or you can throw it), you gain full health. And it does a lot of damage. The rages lend themselves to playstyles that the psycho runs into the mix of things, slashes things up, and comes out with full health. Or he dies trying. He is also has an interesting set of skills that you can choose at higher levels that basically trade health for damage output. He can specialize in explosive stuff–launchers and grenades.
If you want to look into the specific skills available for different classes at higher levels, you can look at a website (the one I use is: http://bl2skills.com/ ) to play with different levelling options. Like I wrote earlier, it is simple to re-spec your character and reallocate where your points go within that a specific class’s skill trees.