Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (PC, Mac, Linux, XBox 360, and PS3)

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After Roland and his friends opened The Vault of The Destroyer in Borderlands 1, but before Jack held Pandora in peril by opening The Vault of the Warrior there was a bit of a transitory period. The one we know as Handsome Jack wasn’t always the terrifying, maniacal, and deluded dictator we met in Borderlands 2. Before his meteoric rise to power he was a simple code-monkey named John. John was assigned to the Hyperion planetary orbiting space station, Helios, and used its facilities to learn about The Vault of the Watcher on Pandora’s moon, Elpis.

As soon as John hires four — or six depending on whether you bought the DLC or not — Vault Hunters to track it down Helios is attacked by a group of ex-Dahl corporation soldiers known only as the Lost Legion. Lead by their commander, Zarpedon — the game treats the name with all the respect it deserves — and assisted by a strange Eridian being they conquer Helios.

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And I do mean Strange with a capital S or whatever letter or word that’s supposed to be.

 

You play as one of these Vault Hunters as you run and gun your way across the foreign moon. Use your abilities, jump in sweet moon gravity, slam, and try not to run out of air or get killed by the desperate natives of Elpis.

History

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was developed by 2K Australia, assisted by Gearbox Software, and published by 2K Games. Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford remarked that there was no current plan for a third installment in the Borderlands series because, “We don’t know what that is yet. We can imagine what it must achieve, but we don’t know what it is yet.” I personally think they wanted to keep the Borderlands momentum going so Tales from the Borderlands and the Pre-Sequel got the green light.

2K Australia used their position as primary developer to include a lot of Australia culture — in short, Elpis is literally space Australia (Rugged terrain, monstrous creatures, tough locals… sounds like Australia to me). That all being said, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is the last game 2K Australia would ever make and would get shut down on April 15th 2015.

Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel was released on October 14th, 2014. It’s competition was The Evil Within (PC, XBox 360, XBox One, PS3, and PS4), Bayonetta 2 (WiiU), and Civilization: Beyond Earth (PC, Mac, Linux).

Experiences

So, Claptrap is a playable character in this game and I do not know anyone who likes playing him or playing alongside him… except me. Playing him is a super troll tactic because his abilities are actually incredibly powerful but then… you have to listen to him and have him on your team. Now, here’s the thing, I’ve never found Claptrap to be particularly annoying. I understand that he’s got a squeaky voice, occasionally breaks into dub-step solos, has an addiction to high-fives, and is generally awful at everything but I’m luke-warm on it. I think what really pisses people off is that when Claptrap uses his action skill, Vault Hunter.EXE, it prevents or forces all other Vault Hunters to do something. So… naturally I play him all the time.

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That being said the Vault Hunter.EXE effects are really powerful… but pseudo random.

Gameplay

Like all Borderlands that came before it, this game is about guns, loot, leveling up, a sprinkling of story, and high silliness in a hostile environment. The setting of the day is Pandora’s, shockingly habitable, moon known of Elpis — I see what they did there with their Greek myth references. The thing that differentiates Elpis from Pandora is that it’s filled with Australians, oh yeah it also has diminished gravity and no oxygen. The creatures are tough and the locals are tougher and they’re all gonna stop you from getting into the Vault of the Watcher.

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Zarpedon might be a doofy name but the Lost Legion’s commander will wreck you with or without her robot suit.

Being on Elpis brings unique challenges and mechanics. Since the moon’s got no oxygen you’ve got to keep an eye on your oxygen levels — except you don’t because most enemies drop O2 tanks. And since the moon has less gravity you can jump really high and use a little oxygen to propel you forward. While you’re up there you can also expend O2 to propel yourself into the ground producing a slam that damages all nearby enemies. You can also use O2 to revive downed teammates faster so… O2 is an ever-present and useful resources… cool.

The Gush

Each character now has their own unique vocal responses to campaign dialogue. Some of them even have totally unique banter with NPCs. Playing through the game as every character offers that character’s understanding on things — Except Wilhelm, that guy kinda just cares about the money.

It feels SOOOO good to get off Pandora. Elpis has got laser weapons, a lot of the same problems, but — even though there’s no atmosphere– it was a giant breath of fresh air. It showed me how the galactic corporations screwed over and exploited the resources of other planets in addition to Pandora. And while you’re on Elpis…

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… YOU CAN DRAW THE MIGHTY EXCALIBASTARD FROM THE ROCK or…

You can meet a new cast of kooky characters! Meet Janey Springs, The Merriff, and kill a sentient AI who’s only crime was trusting the universe to be just — that got really dark… I loved chatting with and doing quests for the denizens of Elpis.

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Not to mention the return of many familiar faces.

Oh man, don’t you hate it when you’ve got that backpack full of useless and crappy weapons? Well now you can shove them in The Grinder and turn them into a new weapon of the same quality and level and have the chance to grind them into a weapon of a higher quality. Including the ability to turn epic weapons into legendary ones. I know the odds are slim, but any odds is better than nothing at all. And anything I can do with my spare weapons that isn’t sell them for nearly useless money is a welcome addition.

The Kvush

I’m a little torn about a game showing Jack’s rise to power. I didn’t think it was really necessary or treading new ground. Borderlands 2’s insights into Jack’s past told me everything I needed to know about him. He loves his wife, loves his daughter, his daughter’s a siren, she loses control of her siren powers, incinerates mom, Jack does everything in his power to provide for her and control her power, gets obsessed with control, gets obsessed with doing the right thing, and that leads him to control the company that tried to grind him into the dirt –which would have threatened Angel’s safety– and then he loses all the bearing on his moral compass when he actually comes into all the power he ‘deserved the whole time’. I definitely found the story about the Vault of the Watcher to be interesting if only because it expands on the connection between Eridians, mortals, and sirens. I know that it had to show all the stuff going on with Jack but I just wish it had been in an better package, I suppose. That’s why this is in the Kvush instead of either of the other sections.

The Kvetch

New characters, new skills, new laser weapons, new elemental type, new butt-slam attack, and despite it all the game feels a little stale. It’s still just a game of kill, loot, kill, quest, kill, loot until you’re satisfied or simply done with it all. Because the game runs on Borderlands 2’s engine the game even looks and feels the same as its predecessor — especially when you’re not in a low gravity environment. If you had your fill of Borderlands 2, The Pre-Sequel might taste like more of the same.

Half of the DLC in this game is functionally worthless. The new characters and Claptrap’s Claptastic Journey were a great value that I found loads of fun. Even so the ending of the Claptastic Journey let me down hard — then again, it’s about Claptrap, maybe that was the point. Skip on the season pass and just grab the stuff you want.

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Oh man, look at how cool they make this trash look!

It’s a small complaint but it really gets on my nerves. In Borderlands 2, after you defeated the Warrior he would vomit loot all over the battlefield before perishing. Disregarding the convenience of the act, that’s awesome — I love loot. And if you went back to his den he’d be magically returned to life, ready to die and vomit more high class weaponry and junk all over the place. For whatever reason, despite being harder to get to, The Watcher can only be fought again on a higher difficulty with the expenditure of this game’s rare currency, moonstones. Why? Why you gotta play me like that?

The Verdict

I really enjoyed Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel –with inverse proportionality to how difficult it is to type. (Seriously, a colon and a dash is just too much for me). Even after I played Borderlands 2 I was still hungry for more silly gun/looting action and this really scratched the itch. Throw in a new setting and the ability to annoy my friends *AHEM* I mean the privilege to play as Claptrap and then go into his incredibly depressed and depressing head and they’ve got me hook, line, and sinker.

Next Week: Charles Barkley: Shut up and Jam Gaiden.

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