Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

It may not be on the expected consoles, but another very welcome Borderlands game is just about released. This time around you are with Jack, not against, as you follow his ascent to Borderlands 2 antagonist. Rumoured and announced in quick succession in April this year  the game no longer takes place on Pandora but this time on Elpis, Hyperion’s Moon Base. And being on the moon you get all the fun of this outing’s unique selling points, being jet packs and low gravity. Unfortunately or not depending whether you wanted more of the same or a brand new experience, that is about as far as the majority of the changes go. New features are either not integrated or just not important; Watching oxygen levels has not been a problem and lasers are not used in favour of any other guns. Not truly worthy of the expected Borderlands 3 moniker, Borderlands The Pre-Sequel is a great stop-gap before we get the ‘true’ third game in the franchise.

You may not know about the release and setting of The Pre-Sequel as there has hardly been the deserved hype train with this excursion.  The low visibility of this new title may have something to do with the game not being on the PS4 and Xbox One and it is certainly the last big franchise to be releasing solely on last gen consoles. The fanfare before Borderlands 2 was palpable and built upon the surprising reception of the first Borderlands with its left-at-the-traffic-lights design and master-stroke of managing to sell a new RPG IP to the Call of Duty masses by successfully disguising it as an FPS. There really is a noticeable lack of advertising for what should now be a AAA franchise. You will see Borderlands the Pre-Sequel on the Steam homepage but this is targeting people who have already decided if they are going to buy it or not. Word of mouth may improve this and this is necessary as the co-op is always where the games have shined. The Pre-Sequel is no different.

Those who have played either of the first two Borderlands will feel right at home and those new to the game will get to grips quickly due to the initial handholding. Starting characters in the Pre-Sequel slightly mirror those who have come before, apart from Claptrap (or Fragtrap, as he is this time) whose major skill is to change his abilities depending on the situation you are in. I find this a wee bit gimmicky and taking control away from the player just a tad too much, but I’m sure he will be supremely popular online. Thank God that the dialogue library has been increased, as previously even as just an NPC he was grating.

While on the point of voice work, being that 2K Australia have taken the development reigns this time around the majority of the voices have an Australian twang, as do a number of the quests. This is far more charming than you’d expect and apart from a few cringes at some meme-centric dialogue, the game is very funny in some parts.

Personally, I’m starting my solo play through as Nisha, whose game play revolves around speed and damage. Myself and Matty B argue if Borderlands is or is not a true RPG, my argument being that players can actually be bad from an action and reaction point of view, rather than from chance – outcomes are definitely not predetermined. The Dragons Keep DLC of Borderlands 2 may have had some very tongue in cheek references to D&D, but you still have to hit where you’re aiming, especially with Criticals. So from a skill perspective, Nisha reminds me of playing as a rushing class on a number of online FPSs and has so far been great fun.

I’m sure by the time the last DLC comes out I would have played through all of the characters and found my favourite, but as always this is a BIG game so this could take years.

Between both the Xbox 360 and PC versions of both Borderlands and Borderlands 2 I have put in hundreds of hours. Without putting in the same amount of it’s difficult to tell if I’m going to have the same level of experience with Borderlands the Pre-sequel. Borderlands 2 was where I cut my teeth on the PC versions of the games, and although having a forgivably broken loot system (where to legitimately get the top-tier goods you would have to spend more time than would be mentally possible and where strangers were practically dying to give away duplicates of all of their best stuff), an extremely steep difficulty curve near the higher levels meant that this was one exploit everyone was fairly happy with. Even when you have been given a ridiculously high damage gun and waited long enough to level up to use it, it may only be good for one or two more levels before it’s doing pathetic damage against the higher-level mobs. The Xbox on the other hand presents another challenge. Unless you’re playing with real friends, you would not believe the levels of dickishness and non-cooperation in a game that revolves around teamwork at the higher levels. So online and community behaviour along with rarity of loot in the Pre-Sequel are two things I will have to revisit.

Early indications suggest that the game overall is an improvement over the previous two, building on that which has been well received without missing too much to justify a new next gen build. The reusing of the same engine means the game handles sharply and even more precisely; heads will be flying off in no time! One thing Borderlands has never been guilty of is generic presentation and Borderlands the Pre-Sequel is no exception; colours galore across the different but somehow familiar terrains and enemies. There are zero brown characters on a brown background under a brown sky, and the non-cutting edge engine means that those on both ends of the hardware scale will see everything in its glorious details.

With the season pass already on sale at launch, there will be the inevitable DLCs and extra characters added over the next 18 months. Borderlands has always been very good at the DLCs released, never just putting in a new skin or gun as is increasingly becoming the norm in some games (cough, call of duty), but giving fairly in-depth experiences to what is basically grinding up to the maximum levels. Being that our American friends get Borderlands the Pre-Sequel a few days before us, I’m going plough through the main campaign on solo before having it inevitably spoiled by higher ranked people rushing through it. Aside from this though there are oodles of side quests on the standard kill X or collect Y which I cannot wait to jump into with three other players.

Overall, the game feels extremely familiar; no envelopes are pushed but no bears are poked. As always, the first playthrough is not the ‘true’ experience – you will have to complete the main quest once to unlock the Vault Hunter modes. So new players who may have been scared away by a very enthusiastic community have nothing to fear and will be able to jump in with ease. Borderlands 1 and 2 were excellent and overall Borderlands the Pre-Sequel feels like an extension of them, rather than an evolution.