I initially went into Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel with almost no knowledge of what the game had to offer. I didn’t pay much attention to the small amount of hype prior to the game’s release, other than the 8 minute trailer featuring two beloved characters in the series: the gentleman zoologist Sir Hammerlock, and Mr. Torgue, whose personality can only be described as explosive.
Having completed Borderlands 2 about a week before launch, it created its own hype for the Pre-Sequel. I was excited to delve a little into the back story of what exactly went down on Pandora between games that put a character such as Handsome Jack in charge of the bandit-ridden planet.
Upon starting up the game, I found the menu system to be extremely easy to navigate and familiar; 2K Australia essentially copied over the menu systems from the previous two Borderlands games into this one. I chose Athena for my playthrough, and was thrust into the story in a fashion much like the previous titles: arrival in an unfamiliar area where my first goal was to meet up with someone, in this case Jack.
It was fascinating to see the change in Jack as the story progressed. On first encounter, he struck me as a very mild-mannered and polite character, even going so far as to compliment Athena on her past accomplishments. His only initial motive is to save the Helios space station from the Dahl Corporation’s abrupt and seemingly uncalled for invasion. As circumstances arose, the change in his character wasn’t in your face so to speak, but extremely subtle. A harsh command or retort to a side character was met with puzzlement, but obedience. When Jack’s true intentions came through in his desire for wealth and what lay hidden in the Vault, ultimately Athena grew sick and wearisome of Jack’s actions and behaviors.
Familiar characters such as Moxxi, Torgue, Crazy Earl, and the original Vault hunters also made an appearance in the Pre-Sequel. It was a fun surprise to find them all and discover their intentions as to why they were located on Elpis, Pandora’s moon. Several new characters were added to the cast as well in the form of Davis Pickle, a young thief who helps you acquire certain important items pertinent to the story; Gladstone, a doctor Jack recruits to help take Helios back from the Dahl; and Janey Springs, a mechanic who not only is the first person you encounter after being rocketed to the moon, but helps you acquire your first oxygen kit, vehicles, and use of the Grinder in Concordia, Elpis’ main city. I’ll go into a bit more detail on those later.
The gameplay itself I found to be a breath of fresh O2. Since the game takes place on Pandora’s moon, gravity is much lower than it was on Pandora itself. Borderlands coupled with the extremely low gravity is a match made in heaven. Being able to add that more vertical aspect to the game made firefights more exciting, as you battled enemies for the better position, and made exploring more opportunistic. Double jump up onto a hidden crevice you normally wouldn’t be able to access, and you’ll more than likely find a hidden chest, shortcut, or another cool secret.
Borderlands coupled with the extremely low gravity is a match made in heaven.
Navigation was another experience I found pleasant overall. Vehicles make a return in the Pre-Sequel in two forms: the familiar two person car, or the single rider hoverbike. I found myself choosing the hoverbike more often than not as the driving mechanics felt so incredibly smooth to me. Steering is possible by way of the mouse and WASD keys, so you can look in one direction but hover to the left or right. The only complaint I have with vehicles is that some of the jumps over gaps could have used a little tweaking. There were two that were necessary to the story where I found myself constantly respawning after my car or bike couldn’t get enough air. Until I found the perfect angle to actually make the jump, my wallet was looking sad in its depleted state.
While I really enjoyed the game overall, I felt there were a few areas where it was lacking. The story itself was quite good, but many of the missions I found were just plain tedious. Anyone familiar with RPG’s is more than likely aware of how they work: leave headquarters, travel to area to kill or collect something, travel back to headquarters, profit. However, upon returning, a mission almost always found some menial way to continue itself. My friends and I found ourselves groaning out loud for a few missions that we wanted to end. Elpis itself is also much smaller than Pandora, so many of these tasks involved returning to an area we had already explored. Seeing the same environment over and over got very old very fast.
I was floored to hear the story and the characters actually adapt to the character I was playing as. In Borderlands 2 I played as the Siren, and there were so many instances where I felt the story should have changed from the arc of the other characters (me being a Siren and Lilith being barred from helping fight Jack because she is also a Siren *cough cough*). While I felt the Pre-Sequel did a decent job with individualizing the main characters, I think they could have done a bit more. Some more dialogue in battle would have been a very welcome addition. There’s only so many times I can ask Wilhelm if he built his drones himself before it gets extremely old. Hearing the playable characters respond to Jack and others throughout the game was awesome and I think it did a good job of showing their personalities, but a bit more diversity in some of those lines would have really been the icing on the cake.
Hearing the playable characters respond to Jack and others throughout the game was awesome and I think it did a good job of showing their personalities, but a bit more diversity in some of those lines would have really been the icing on the cake.
The Grinder was another new addition to the Borderlands franchise that I also felt could have either been tweaked or removed altogether. It works in a similar fashion to the Trade-Up Contract system in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive; add three guns of the same rarity to the Grinder, and it has a chance to spit out something of a higher quality. Emphasis here on chance. The only way you can guarantee to get a better item is to grind the three weapons with Moonstones, the Pre-Sequel’s version of Eridium. It wasn’t like Moonstones were hard to come by, but they could have been used for things I felt were far more important, like buying upgrades from Crazy Earl or opening certain chests. The Grinder also doesn’t work very well with items that are the second highest rarity. You can’t add purple guns to get a legendary orange one, at least not in my experience. Each time I tried, the game refused to make the transition. It’s not the end of the world, but it would have been nice to at least be able to have a pop-up explain to me what I’m doing wrong rather than spend all of those frustrating minutes trying different gun combinations and smashing the E button hoping I’ll get my weapon this time.
Ultimately, I found the Pre-Sequel to be a great gap closer between the first two games. I had a lot of fun working with my friends to progress through the story and explore Elpis. My experience, though tedious at times and marred by one instance where my game crashed as I was halfway through a level, was pleasant overall and I would recommend the game to anyone who enjoyed the first two titles as much as I did. But if you need more convincing, then read what I have written here very carefully. Claptrap is a playable character. Need I say more? Although knowing Claptrap, I probably just dissuaded a lot of people huh? Crap.
Guns and Australian accents. In Space!!
Expands on the back story behind Borderlands 2
Many many overlooked details with a lack of polish
Wait for sales unless you’re a Borderlands fanatic
For details on release dates and other related info, head to Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel’s game page.
** When is it worth the price? — In lieu of review scores, we opt to give our opinion on whether the game is worthy of it’s release day price, or if you should wait for a patch or a sale. **
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