The original Borderlands ran in the opposite direction of most modern shooters.  With a colorful art style, a decidedly light-hearted tone and a loot emphasis, the game became a surprising hit for many, and as a result, Borderlands 2 has received a high level of anticipation.  Set to release on September 18, Gearbox Software looks to improve upon everything that made the original so endearing…and insane.

Gearbox demonstrated a bit of the game’s higher-level gameplay at PAX in an effort to cater to what the developer knows fans want to experience.  The demo featured a battle with the seemingly harmless Terramorphous the Destroyer, a land and sea-faring creature with giant tentacles, a monster the team members on hand claimed they had not defeated all day.  Having to stay on a plateau, Terramorphous would employ a varied move set as its health depleted, weaving its way through the water and rocks to make short work of the combatants.

And while our pal Terramorphous proved to be a formidable opponent, it was an engaging battle reminiscent of some of the original’s DLC, which should please dedicated fans to see in the main game.  The battle served as a quick introduction, however, to what Gearbox had in store to demonstrate.  The game’s appropriately named “Badass Rank” is one of the newest additions that the demo showed off.  Every time a player completes challenges, the game awards him or her tokens while increasing this rank.

Oh, what beautiful mayhem.

These tokens can be spent on additional buffs like extra strength or agility, which will remain active with every character a player starts.  It’s an interesting meta rank that can reward longterm players for their dedication, but if someone wants to prove these perks are unnecessary, the entire system can be shut off.

A few other additions were shown, like the soldier’s improved turret, which can now be placed on any surface and even reclaim it while in battle, but it was the game’s upcoming fifth class that demonstrated the most promise.  Though originally set to release two to three months after the game for free for those who pre-ordered the title, Gearbox has made such surprising progress that the company expects to have the class ready for an October debut.

Gaige the Mechromancer looks to be an impressive addition to the playable cast.  A spunky, machine-oriented gal, Gaige can call on a mechanical creation known as Deathtrap (who I can only hope is a distant cousin of Claptrap’s).  Deathtrap is an incredibly customizable choice, with a skill tree all his own.  At first he is simply an impressively constructed mechanical soldier, but as different abilities are assigned, his appearance is altered.

Don't be too alarmed but you're likely to see a few explosions during your trip to Pandora.

A spiked shoulder plate or an improved chest piece designates Deathtrap’s progression, and his attacks are equally fascinating.  One in particular I loved was his “Thunderclap” move, which, though it is exactly what you would think from the name, completely obliterates foes.  Though I only saw Gaige and her pet for a few moments, I became as excited to play with her as I am for the other four characters.  I did have a brief time to play the game, and it was as fun as a fan of the original might expect.  Thrown into an arena, a swarm of foes descended upon a teammate and me after taking on the mission from a lewd malfunctioning robot.  The demo served only as a brief reintroduction into the game’s solid shooting mechanics, but with a scoped shotgun and a buffed up sniper, I quickly sank back into the groove of the franchise’s chaotic gunplay.

What I did have the opportunity to play reassured me that what made the original Borderlands has returned, and what I glimpsed in the hands of the developers promised a more refined and exciting experience.  With so much promise, I expect, and so should many fans, to lose a few dozen hours in Borderlands 2 when it releases in just a few short weeks for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.