Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Preview: Handsome Jack’s Rise
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was only a rumor a little over a week ago, but at PAX East 2014, I got a chance to see the game in action for the first time in a hands-off demo.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is set after the events of Borderlands and prior to those of Borderlands 2. Set on the moon above Pandora, you’ll be playing as one of Borderlands 2 antagonist Handsome Jack’s lieutenants as you assist him in his rise to power. If you’ve played Borderlands 2, you know that Handsome Jack is the head of Hyperion, the titular ‘evil corporation,’ in that game. In the Pre-Sequel, you’ll be helping him reach that lofty position.
The Pre-Sequel will feature four playable characters, just like the other Borderlands titles. All of the characters will be familiar to fans of the series, as they’ve shown up in the other Borderlands games as well.
- Athena: A former assassin for The Crimson Lance, Athena first appeared in The Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC for Borderlands. Athena was the star of the demo I saw, which highlighted her ability to charge her shield by using it to absorb damage, and then flinging it at enemies to deal damage.
- Nisha: Nisha appears in Borderlands 2 as the Sheriff of Lynchwood, and Handsome Jack’s love interest.
- Wilhelm: A boss in Borderlands 2, Wilhelm is part man, part machine. According to what we learn from the original Vault Hunters, he nearly killed them after the events of the first Borderlands.
- Fragtrap: A weaponized Claptrap, Fragtrap will no doubt spout the one-liners we’ve all come to expect from Borderlands’ robotic mascot.
Besides the new characters, The Pre-Sequel also adds two new weapon types — “Laser” and “Cryo.” Laser guns can be the “pew-pew” type of laser, ala Star Wars (single, spaced shots), or the plasma beam type that fires a continuous beam. Cryo guns freeze enemies solid if you hit them with enough bullets, allowing a simple melee attack to shatter them into pieces.
Since The Pre-Sequel takes place on a moon with little to no atmosphere, you need a little help to breathe when you’re outside. The new Oz kit creates a digital helmet and gives you an oxygen resource bar. Anytime you’re outside, the bar slowly depletes as you breathe. You can also vent your oxygen tanks to jump higher or farther in the moon’s low-gravity environment, or to change directions in mid-air. Oxygen can be replenished at recharging stations, or from oxygen vents on the moon’s surface. 2K Australia reps said that these opportunities to recharge would be plentiful, as they want players to use their oxygen for cool movement opportunities.
While the addition of an oxygen mechanic sounds cool by itself, it also adds yet another way to dispatch your enemies. If you can deal enough damage to the digistructed helmet, it will disappear, leaving your target unable to breathe in the moon’s thin atmosphere. The low-gravity environment also means that you can toss a grenade and literally blow someone into orbit. It all looks quite satisfying.
2K Australia, best known for its work on Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite, is heading up the development of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. That makes it the first Borderlands title developed outside Gearbox Software, although Gearbox is assisting in development.
Gearbox President Randy Pitchford said in a recent video that development of The Pre-Sequel is the first time he could look at Borderlands “as a fan.” While it looks like 2K Australia is hewing close to the Gearbox line with The Pre-Sequel, it is putting its own touches on the material.
One example of this is in the voice acting. Borderlands is well-known for having a large portion of its voice work done in-house. Randy Pitchford provides the voice of Crazy Earl, for example, and Chief Creative “Champion” Mikey Neumann voices Scooter. Similarly, the 2K Australia folks did a large amount of voice work for the residents of the moon, and now, Neumann said, everyone from the moon is Australian.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is bringing some minor but meaningful changes to the Borderlands series. The new guns and characters appear to be right in line with what you’d expect from Borderlands, and the new guns embody all of the destructive zaniness you’d expect if you played the previous titles. The oxygen and gravity mechanics necessitated by the setting seem like they’ll add spice to an already fun formula. We still haven’t actually gotten our hands on the game yet, but what what we’ve been shown so far, it’s shaping up to be pretty much exactly what fans of the series want: more Borderlands.