Fans of the Borderlands franchise rejoiced when Gearbox announced that a new game would come out for the series. Set between the original game and Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre Sequel (a made-up word that’s a play on prequel and sequel) would be the fix fans of the game needed while patiently waiting for Gearbox to start working on Borderlands 3. So did it live up to what fans were expecting? For the most part, yes. However, despite being the best new game that I’ve played this year, it still does not compare to its predecessors. But that’s okay. It’s still a blast to play.
Borderlands: The Pre Sequel is a first-person shooter that supports both single player or online cooperative (up to four players). It was developed primarily by 2K Australia instead of Gearbox, who is the original developer of the series, and was published by 2K Games. However, Gearbox did work with 2K Australia during development. Much to the dismay of many fans, it was released only for PC, PS3, and XBox 360 on October 14. Gearbox stated that this was because there is much more of a demand of the game for the last generation of consoles versus the current generation (Source: Gamasutra.com).
The Pre Sequel is a nice addition to the Borderlands franchise.
Taking place between Borderlands 1 and 2, the player gets to see Handsome Jack (or just “Jack” at this point) go from hero to the much-hated (or much-beloved, depending on who you talk to) villain of Borderlands 2. At this point, he’s just an employee of Hyperion, a corporate conglomerate with its eye making tons of money from Pandora (a wild, wild west type planet with a lot of resources; hence, “Borderlands”). However, after the company’s Helios space station is attacked by a group called the Lost Legion, Jack must become the hero and save Helios and Pandora’s moon, Elpis. In order to do this, he commissions the help of a group of colorful characters to go to the moon and gain back control. It certainly was interesting to see Jack as the hero instead of the villain.
I will have to say that the set of playable characters you get to choose from this time are absolutely awesome. I actually had a hard time choosing which one I wanted to play first. They are all pretty cool characters, and it doesn’t seem like you can go wrong with any of them. There’s Athena, the Gladiator. Her special skill involves a Captain America-like shield that players can either use to block attacks or swing to kill an enemy. Wilhelm is the Enforcer. He’s the character that I’ve played the lease but has a cool little drone that flies around and helps you kill bad guys. Nisha is the Lawbringer, and she is the character that I have played the most. Her skill involves an auto-lock firing sequence that is actually quite powerful. Then there’s Claptrap. He is by far the most fun character to play, especially when playing in a group. His special skill basically is a malware program that could be one of many different skills, some good and some not so good. If you are playing with others, the program can actually affect your friends as well. It sounds annoying, but it’s actually hilariously delightful. Sure, your teammates might moan and groan if they get affected, but at the end of the day, everyone’s laughing. The Jack Doppelganger is a DLC-added character as well. I have yet to play as this character, but will update what I think of him in another article.
The Pre Sequel has a group of really fun characters to play. It was hard to choose which to play first.
One of the things that makes the Borderlands franchise so special is the fact that the setting and characters are so memorable, especially some of the non-playable characters. Although some favorites from the first two games make appearances (my personal favorite happens to be Torgue), the new characters on and around Elpis don’t seem to be as memorable in the Pre Sequel. Sure, there is still wacky humor and some interesting satire, but it’s not quite up to the same level as Borderlands 1 or 2. The feel of the game is even a bit different, since it’s on a moon instead of on Pandora. The whole Firefly-like space western vibe that the other two games had going on is lost a bit with the change in setting. However, I did enjoy the futuristic electronic soundtrack. It felt a bit Tron Legacy like in sound, but to me, that made it enjoyable (also, speaking of Tron Legacy: there are two characters on Elpis that look like Daft Punk, and I thought it was quite amusing).
The game play has not changed too much from Borderlands 2. Zainy missions, skills trees, Badass Rankings, and tons and tons of weapon choices and loot are still there. There have been a few new game play elements that were added as well. Laser guns were added because, you know, it’s the moon and why not? Besides the usual elemental effects for guns, a freeze one has been added, though it’s probably my least favorite of all of them. Due to Elpis’ low gravity, players can jump higher and do “Butt Slams” (no, I didn’t make that up), where the players smash down on enemies from above. Also, since it’s a moon without an atmosphere, non-robotic characters must wear Oz kits in order to breathe. Oz kits also generate effects for Butt Slams. I played with one in particular that made farting sounds every time I did a butt slam. It was quite hilarious. All of these new elements were pretty good additions. However, the one thing that I really did not like was the wacky level designs for many of the areas. Because of the low gravity game play, a lot–and I mean A LOT–of vertical level designs were used. That might sound fun, but it can be quite frustrating when where to go isn’t exactly clear. I had to go to YouTube several times to figure out where I needed to be to complete a mission. Also, there were too many cracks and crevices throughout some of the larger maps. Those made it very hard to just goof around with friends when there is constant worry about jumping over places.
The cooperative is pretty much the same as Borderlands 2. It’s four player co-op at its best. I wish that there were other games like it, but at this point, it’s pretty unique since I can play by myself as much as I want, and then invite a group of people into my game without missing a beat. One of the things that I love about Borderlands is that it really does encourage goofiness and fun among a team. You really can’t take the game that seriously with how it presents itself, and that’s a good thing, since I can’t stand when people take online FPS games too seriously. The game was a bit glitchy at launch and didn’t seem as polished as Borderlands 2. Still, it wasn’t too bad, and I was able to play both by myself and with friends without any major issues.
The Pre Sequel isn’t as polished as Borderlands 2, but it is still a blast to play.
The graphics are pretty similar to Borderlands 2. Obviously, if you are looking for a pretty game to play, choosing the cell-shaded Borderlands franchise and a last-gen game probably isn’t for you. With the new group of games that have come out, the graphics do show their age a bit, but that’s okay. You don’t play Borderlands for the graphics. You play it for the game play and the goofiness. You play it for the amazingly fun online cooperative. In a way, the very original style that Borderlands creates with its cell shading is making waves in its own way. It’s immediately distinguishable from other games, and it also lets the play know that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. I maintain that if it had been “pretty,” it wouldn’t have done as well. Most fans would also argue that they wouldn’t want it any other way.
At the end of the day, games are here for our enjoyment. Borderlands: The Pre Sequel hits high marks under this category. The zany story and characters are good enough to keep a player’s attention, the game play is a blast (even with a few issues), and the online cooperative is still probably the best in the industry. It’s one of those games that you can get on with a good group of friends and have a blast and goof around. The game will keep you laughing, regardless of whether it is something in the story, a silly character, or one of the crazy weapons. For me though, the best part is the fact that I don’t have to be online to play if I don’t want to. I don’t have to worry about if a server is working or not. My game doesn’t become a paperweight if the Internet is out, which is one (of many) things I really don’t like about Destiny. Sometimes it’s just okay to play on your own. However, if you want the awesome team experience, it’s right there for you.
The Pre Sequel is the most fun I’ve had in gaming all year.
Unfortunately, the time frame that the Pre Sequel came out was a little too late. Many people have moved on to a newer console and some have even sold their last-gen console. I’m not seeing as many people playing, and there is a lot of steep competition from this fall’s slew of next-gen games. The Pre Sequel probably could have done a lot better if it had game had come out in the summer when there was a dry spell in the industry for new games. However, the game is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of the franchise. It’s actually been the most enjoyable game I’ve played this year.