If you played the original Borderlands, you're familiar with the Soldier. Like every other class he mostly relied on guns to kill things, but was also able to deploy a turret to help out. At its most basic level the turret let you deal additional damage, but by investing in the skill tree it could be modified to heal and resupply. Gearbox's plan for the Commando in Borderlands 2 is to make the turret a much more modifiable, important part of a battle.
And in case you're not familiar with Borderlands at all, it's a first-person shooter meant to be played cooperatively. There are quests and vehicles and story, but mostly it's about mercilessly gunning down anything that moves and then looting bodies for weapon, grenade and shield upgrades. As you level you earn skill points that can be used to customize your chosen class' primary action skill. The Gunzerker can dual-wield any weapon in the game, the Siren can magically phaselock targets, and the Commando drops a turret to the ground to help out in a fight.
Borderlands 2 Doomsday Trailer
The general idea of the Commando remains the same as the original Borderlands's Soldier, though within Borderlands 2's fiction, the Commando is meant to be more advanced and highly trained. "We wanted to do a class that was similar to the Soldier but we felt like we wanted to level him up and make him even more badass than the original Soldier, so we created the Commando," said Jeramy Cooke, art director on Borderlands 2. "He's our special forces type of character. He actually has a little bit of story. I don't want to kind of get into too many of the details, maybe one interesting thing is he wears the dog tag from his wife who was also in the military and she's now dead."
To reinforce the notion of the Commando as an elite Soldier, Gearbox created a more sophisticated system for customizing turret functionality. "We brought back a type of turret but this is sort of the next generation," said Cooke. "[It's] created by the Dahl Corporation which has grown and gotten more advanced as time has passed and so they've built a lot of new features into the new turret. We're not going to get into all the fine details of it but it can do a lot of really unique things. If you're familiar with longbow grenades from the first game, you can throw a grenade and it would instantly teleport like a real gunshot all the way to where you're pointing. You can now actually have longbow turret so instead of just dropping the turret at your feet you can fire it out at long range, use it to pull enemies or to begin combat. Each [skill] tree has its own kind of big change to the turret and many of the skills modify, upgrade, and visually change the way it looks. So again, when you see somebody throw out a turret you're going to really understand kind of what their build is if you're familiar with the class."
If you're a fan of sniper rifles, upgrading the turret with longbow functionality might be a good choice, letting you drop it into the middle of a faraway pack of enemies. While they're busy trying to blow up the turret, you can stand at a distance and line up headshots through a scope. That being said, it doesn't mean you can only use a sniper rifle if you decide to modify the turret this way. Gearbox is designing Borderlands 2 so it makes sense to use any gun with any class. There will be very specific builds that could work better with specific guns, but just because you pick a Commando doesn't mean you should only use sniper rifles.
Borderlands 2 Rewind Theater
Cooke mentioned that the Soldier was one of the most popular classes in the first game. If you happened to play a Soldier, the Commando will initially feel familiar. "We did want it to feel comfortable for people that enjoyed that play style," said Cooke. "If you were to make an analogy to Dungeons and Dragons, the Commando is like our fighter, you know? The game just really fundamentally needs and wants, our universe needs and wants these guys to exist. It's a really fun play style...you're using your action skill in very different context."
Like the rest of Borderlands 2's classes, the Commando will have three main branches of his skill tree that focus on different aspects of combat. As Cooke explains, "We have what we call our Guerilla tree which is kind of all about getting in there and fighting. It's short range and it has a lot of aggro features built into the turret where you can fight with a shotgun." Basically, that means the turret will be able to hold the attention of enemies and absorb damage while you run around blasting shotguns or SMGs or whatever else.
If you'd rather keep your distance, the Commando's two other trees may be of interest. "Some of these names may be subject to change, by the way, but right now we have our gunpowder tree which is sort of medium range combat. It has the longbow turret in it and it focuses more heavily on medium range explosives and to some extent some sniping. Then we have our Survival tree which is all about defense and it has a lot of cool utility powers in it as well. It's a little more of a technical, tactical kind of a tree. It has a ton of depth if you really want to explore all the different ways you can leverage those skills. It's really fun to splash that Survival tree in with one of the other ones and you can create a lot of unique combinations of play styles out of that."
Paul Hellquist, creative director at Gearbox on Borderlands 2 talked more about how to invest in varying skill lines. "Pretty much every class has trees for varying levels of gamer in terms how casual to hardcore you are. They all have a tree that's pretty straightforward and pretty obvious of what the benefits are at one end of the spectrum. Then they sort of have a middle ground. Then most of them have a tree that's [for] the guy who likes to see the connections between all these skills and realize the power that they can work together, whereas on the surface they might not be as obviously as powerful as some of the more casual skills."
So what's a specific example of how skill selection can alter the Commando's play style? Hellquist explained a skill called Pressure. "It grants you reload speed and shield recharge bonuses based on how much health you have remaining. So the lower your health is the higher your bonuses are." In other words, as you near death, you become more deadly. Cooke added, "I think our expert players and people that really want to dig will find that there's a lot more depth to be sort of had out of the skill trees this time around."
Gear items also help define your character. You won't be equipping a huge range of gear items, but will be swapping out grenade types and shield mods and artifacts, all of which have different bonuses. "You might see a piece of gear that does something and think 'Oh, that's okay I guess," said Hellquist. "But then you notice this skill in your tree. 'Wait a second, if I use that type of gear with this skill my fire rate is going to get through the roof,' and it's going to be insane. So now I want to get that, I want to find that piece of gear and really focus on that skill and see what that feels like."
Based on what you've read, do you think you'll play the Commando class? Or maybe try out the Gunzerker and Siren? Or perhaps you're holding out for the katana-wielding Assassin, Borderlands 2's fourth class that you can find profiled on the site very soon.