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The Rundown

 

Borderlands 1 and 2 were both loot driven action FPS games with RPG influences that gave you interesting characters to play in a zany world filled with comic book villains. As a series of games they certainly have carved out their own corner of the market and have found much financial success for developer Gearbox and publisher 2K. The Pre-Sequel has been made under the banner of 2K Australia with a new development team taking the reigns, but does the game hold up under the circumstances?

Story

The game introduces 4 new Vault Hunters in the form of Athena, Wilhelm, Nisha and Claptrap, and the 4 Vault Hunters from Borderlands 1 all make a return in the form of cutscenes and audio interactions throughout the game. The Master of Ceremonies though is once again Jack, just Jack when we first meet him taking a kicking from some Dahl troopers and very much in over his head.

Jack is a loyal worker of Hyperion who calls in some Vault Hunters to help him track down the coveted Vault. However, on their way to the Helios space station they are ambushed, and find themselves in an evolving struggle with the Lost Legion, who are a contingent of Dahl troopers. From that point on the missions get zany, the dialogue gets zanier, and we are slowly introduced to the Pre-Sequel cast of characters. Moxy returns and new people like Nurse Nina, the Merriff, and Springs all make an appearance.

Over the course of the game we learn more about the characters and what makes them tick by doing missions and the old Borderlands staple of collecting ECHO devices from around the game world. The strongest aspect of the storyline however centers around Jack. When we first meet him he is hungry to find the vault, but is quickly willing to divert his efforts to stopping the Lost Legion when they take over the Helios space station, and begin to pose a threat to the entire world of Pandora. His concern for other people is genuine, not an affectation.

Over the course of the story though, Jack is betrayed and double crossed, people try to kill him, and he has to kill them to survive. The thrill of the kill begins to grow within him and a lust for power becomes more and more apparent. In Borderlands 2 Jack was a fantastic and at times hilarious villain, and watching him turn into that almost as a reaction to the situations he suddenly finds himself in adds a far deeper level to him as a character, and is certainly some of the best character progression we have seen in Borderlands as a series.

Unfortunately other members of the supporting cast tend to lack the wit and humour that Borderlands relies on to give them purpose, and they become little more than Bounty Boards with character skins. It’s a challenge to become either interested or invested in why they want what they want beyond the simple fact that appeasing them will get you some experience points and a nice shiney new gun. Even the main villain Zarpedon is strangely two dimensional, and fan favourite Moxxy lacks her usual snap and wit.

In Borderlands 2 Jack was a fantastic and at times hilarious villain, and watching him turn into that almost as a reaction to the situations he suddenly finds himself in adds a far deeper level to him as a character, and is certainly some of the best character progression we have seen in Borderlands as a series.

Gameplay

Gameplay wise it is largely business as usual. You do missions and shoot things with a large variety of different weapons. Each playable class has their own Skill Trees that give you 3 main ways you can develop the character.Through careful choosing of class buffs and equipped shields, weapons, and equipment, you can see your character turn into a prodigious fighter.

New to the game this time however is the low gravity effect and the need for oxygen when outside on the moon’s surface. The low gravity makes jumping more fun and brings with it the butt slam ability, seeing you use some of your stored oxygen to propel yourself downwards and smash your enemies. Sadly this brings with it some issues of its own. Borderlands was never designed as a serious game with free roaming verticality in mind, and at times it is telling. Areas that look like they should be accessible are not, either as a method to keep you on certain paths, or simply due to a clash between an objects visible art and its large chunky hit boxing.

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Another issue that caused me some heartache is watching much needed loot go sailing through the air and over the edge of a cliff. It’s annoying to finish up a boss fight and have the resultant loot explosion see half of it go flying away from you and fall into lava.

The guns have always been the heart of Borderlands, and the real stars of the show, and in the Pre-Sequel it is no different. All the usual favourites return with Sniper Rifles, Shotguns and Rocket Launchers aplenty, but this time out they are joined by new additions such as Laser Rifles and Rail Guns. We also have Cryo Damage added into the elemental mix, allowing you to freeze, slow and shatter enemies, as well as burn them with fire, acid, or electrical damage. By far one of the most useful damage types I found was Explosive. If you find a solid Explosive Assault Rifle, then treasure, it for it will cut through shields, armour and flesh with reckless abandon.

One thing that the game does very well is present you with different types of damage resistances in the same fights, making it incredibly useful to have 4 weapons that all do different damage types available. I personally very much enjoyed the beam laser weapons in the game and found that they almost completely replaced Sniper Rifles for me as I played with Wilhelm. I would just jump into the middle of any fight and tank it out, using my robot friends Wolf and Saint to dish out damage and keep me in the fight. When I went down, the Termination Protocol ability kept me in the game, and all in all the game did a good job of making me the badass Vault Hunter you want to be in Borderlands while still presenting a solid challenge at the right times.

Enemies feel a little smarter, and are more likely to roll to dodge fire, and or take cover, which is a welcome change to their normal desire to either stand there and take your damage, or just run straight at you. Sadly the design of them mostly follows established Borderlands archetypes, and it is only towards the end of the game that we begin to see some truly unique designs for the series.

It is also enemies that provide one of my major bugbears with the game, how they can enter arenas. One of the best things about previous Borderlands games was all bad guys were in a given area when you entered it, or they would spawn into it in a way that made sense, such as from a building or an a grate the would suddenly open. It added a lot of the game as it effectively made the areas you fought in dynamic, and you would need to account for each new source of a possible enemy in your movements. In the Pre-Sequel there were more than a few instances of enemies simply appearing mid fight, not having come from any logical place. More than a few of the enemies in the game can pretty much one shot you as well, and it was especially aggravating to have a guy spawn in right on top of you and then instantly kill you, only to clip behind a wall leaving you no way to get back up with the fight for your life mechanic.

Enemies feel a little smarter, and are more likely to roll to dodge fire, and or take cover, which is a welcome change to their normal desire to either stand there and take your damage, or just run straight at you. Sadly the design of them mostly follows established Borderlands archetypes, and it is only towards the end of the game that we begin to see some truly unique designs for the series.

Setting

The main portion of the games take place on either the surface of Pandora’s Moon or on the space station Helios. The moon itself is a completely new environment for the series and feels unique, although after about 20 hours of gameplay things started to feel a little samey, and sadly much of Helios feels like just another Hyperion themed environment. Most of the really interesting area design comes after you leave the Helios for the last time and begin to search for the Vault proper.

The layouts of the areas themselves are largely Borderlands standard, but like so many areas of the game seem to be lacking the usual level of polish that we grew used to with Borderlands 2. Occasionally, destinations can be a little bit confusing to reach due to the level layout, and sometimes missions can be very badly spaced, dragging us across much of the map for no reason other than to turn in a mission or hit a switch and then instantly return to where ever we came from originally. It feels a little bit like adding artificial length in the game and this badly impacts some of the side missions as well. In fact one mission appears in the game twice, an exact replica of itself with the same jokes, the same objectives and everything.

A lack of polish also shows when walking through areas where you have already completed missions. Every time I would hit certain points of geography that had mission dialogue attached to it the dialogue would play, even if i had long ago completed the mission and in some cases even after the character saying the dialogue was actually dead. It was both jarring and annoying, needlessly pulling me out of whatever game moment I was in and transported me back to previous ones.

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Failings Of The Game

From certain corners Borderlands the Pre-Sequel was accused of being little more than DLC for Borderlands 2 and I find this to be inaccurate. It is very much its own game with its own settings, story and characters, and watching the evolution of Jack from reasonably nice Programmer to the maniacal Handsome Jack we all know and love (including the answer to what happened to his face) is fun, but overall what drags the game down is a simple lack of polish that made Borderlands 2 such fun.

They may seem like minor issues, but having loot disappear and moving through environments in a buggy that were obviously designed for a Hover bike you haven’t unlocked yet, as well as having bad guys appear and glitch behind walls, can be annoying. I also had several instances of locked doors not opening that I needed to move through to progress, or important game items not spawning in that would force me to restart the game and the mission.

After the weapons themselves, Borderlands has always been about Boss Fights, and sadly the game is lacking on this front. They are rare and occasional and often poorly designed, either feeling like rehashed fights from the previous games, or in the case of one fight, limiting you to really just one weapon that is any way effective. The final boss is fun, but the mechanic behind beating them is overplayed, and once again it feels like its there to make things last just a little longer than they would have otherwise. It is this consistent lack of polish which lets the game down, and while the Pre-Sequel is the most impressive outing in the series graphically, in all other areas it just seems to fall a little behind the previous installments.

As a final note, I played the game on PC, and for the first time ever with a Borderlands title on I found the game crashing, often close to the end of long, pivotal sequences which would then need to be replayed. It didn’t occur often, and in and of itself isn’t a major issue, but when added to the list of other problems or oversights within the game it is enough to stop a potentially great game from being just that, great.

Bottom Line

Borderlands was a great and fun title and Borderlands 2 built on what had come before to provide a great advancement for the series. The Pre-Sequel is very much a game that was built in the shadow of what came before it, and sadly it fails to step out from under that shadow. While it is not a bad game by any means, it is not a great game either and this is coming from a big fan of the franchise. For me many of the jokes fell a little flat and the writing lacked the spark that previous game at times possessed, but I honestly don’t see anything here that would overly disappoint fans of the series. While it lacks the punch of previous games, it is entertaining and fun in its own right, but you may want to wait a while before investing in the game if you feel the launch price is a little high for a game that is, at the end of the day, less than the ones that came before it.

If you have never played a Borderlands game however, I would still recommend Borderlands 2, due to its almost constant presence on sale somewhere on the internet, the polish and refinement of the mechanics over Borderlands 1, and just the general sharpness of it in all areas. The Pre-Sequel was fun but its telling that I find myself looking forward to what Borderlands 3 might bring us than the slew of DLC for The Pre-Sequel, even if the tradition for DLC with this particular series is a strong one.


The Rundown

6 word story

Lots of Guns, Slightly Less Fun

Strength

Does What A Borderlands Game Should Do

Weakness

Doesn’t Do Them As Well As It Should

PLATFORM

PC

Pick it up

Now For Diehards, Sale For Others


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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In lieu of review scores, we opt to give our opinion on whether the product is worth it's release day price, or if you should wait for a sale.

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