Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is more of everything you love about Borderlands 2, which is both its strength and its weakness. Announced just in April this year, and only for last-gen consoles as well as PC, Mac, and Linux, this addition to the Borderlands series has been developed predominantly by 2K Australia, with support from Gearbox Software, and despite not being the sequel to Borderlands 2 people were hoping for, the game is no less spectacular.
The game is narrated by Athena, one of the four new playable characters in the game, in what seems to be the ‘present’, just after the end of Borderlands 2; she describes the events that occurred after the end of Borderlands which comprises the gameplay in The Pre-Sequel. The story reveals the journey that Claptrap, Nisha, Wilhelm and Athena take while trying to aid Handsome Jack, and in general focuses on how Jack becomes the villain seen in Borderlands 2, and his actions to take over Hyperion. Additional background information can be found about each of the four playable characters describing their past life and how they are affected by these events. A number of unique and interesting characters are introduced and many from previous games make appearances as well. The overall story provides a lot of interesting lore for the series, however the interlinking stories may not appeal to those that have not played past games.
The overall gameplay is remarkably similar to Borderlands 2, being mostly variations of go here and shoot that. Each playable character has a new skill tree and a unique special ability, Wilhelm’s appearance in particular will alter as he levels up, displaying his gradual transformation to the cybernetic being found in Borderlands 2. Several new mechanics have been added including the low gravity environment of Elpis, Pandora’s moon, allowing players to jump higher in many parts of the game. This is coupled with the lack of atmosphere, which has given rise to a new type of item: Oz Kits. Oz Kits are small oxygen tanks for players, and they have been used to great effect by the developers to be more than just an oxygen bar. The features of the Oz Kit include the ability to expel oxygen during flight, allowing short gliding, and slamming onto the ground damaging nearby enemies. A few smaller features are linked to the oxygen system, such as fire weapons being less effective in a vacuum. The Oz Kits have been very well balanced, having just enough oxygen to make them fun, but not enough to completely forget about your dwindling air supply.
Two of the more notable features added are laser and cryo weapons. Laser weapons are a new type of weapon available to each weapon manufacturer, with a brand new set of graphical effects. They are extremely varied in the appearances and effects and make an excellent addition to the game. Cryo is a new weapon elemental effect that causes ice damage and is capable of freezing enemies solid, stopping them from moving and firing. They seem to be an obvious addition to complement fire based weapons and like all other elemental effects are available to any type of weapon in the game.
The problem with these is that they are really the only new mechanics in the game; there are a few others but nothing quite as significant. Considering this game stands separate from Borderlands 2, more new mechanics could have been expected, and while still greatly enjoyable, those focusing on the gameplay won’t find much difference to Borderlands 2. As in past games, The Pre-Sequel allows drop-in/drop-out cooperative play.
The game’s graphics follow the distinctive cel shading style seen in previous titles, and textures used in the game are of similar quality, but the game world, and character and weapon models are much more detailed. Several areas of the game contain structures meticulously detailed to a degree that could be considered excessive for the amount of game time spent there, but this hasn’t stopped every area of the world being beautifully made. Unfortunately, these graphical elements seem somewhat wasted on the mostly barren environment of Elpis, since much of the moon is merely a gray rock. PhysX has been used more heavily to enhance gameplay further with better fluid simulation and more particle effects. The sound quality of weapons and effects has also been improved slightly, and while still one of the weaker areas of the game, they’re in no way forgotten. The only bugs I have experienced were one or two characters clipping into the ground, but then quickly fixing their positions, overall the game appears to be made to an exceptional level of reliability.
While sharing much resemblance to Borderlands 2, the main standout area of The Pre-Sequel is hours of new witty dialogue. No part of the game is left out of the tongue-in-cheek speech and it will encourage you to seek out every mission and character in the game. The same humor is found in several other ways such as signs, character names, or descriptions throughout the game. Although mostly humorous, you are occasionally reminded of the dark universe the game is set in, which helps to understand the motives behind some of the characters’ actions.
In a number of ways, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is little more than a large expansion for Borderlands 2, and many people may have been wanting more, however this doesn’t stop the game being marvelous in its own right, and while it does rely heavily on entertaining dialogue to keep it interesting, it has provided exactly that. This combined with good sound, great animation, and great graphics make up for mediocre combat, creating a welcome entry to the series. The Pre-Sequel will feature at least 4 DLC expansions.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is available now for PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox 360, and PS3.