Posted on October 13, 2014, Ron Whitaker Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review: To the Moon!
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel changes very little from franchise’s previous installments, and that’s a great design decision.
When rumors surfaced that Gearbox was working on a new Borderlands project, no one was surprised. After all, Borderlands 2 was a huge success (it even finished second in our 2012 Game of the Year voting). Naturally, we all thought we’d be hearing about Borderlands 3. So it was something of a surprise that not only was the new game not a direct sequel, it was actually being developed by 2K Australia.
While there was some understandable trepidation about the developer switch, it turns out that 2K Australia and Gearbox have teamed up to produce a title worthy of the Borderlands name.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
Platform: PC (Reviewed), Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: 2K Australia, Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: Oct. 14, 2014
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel takes place between the events of the first two games. The original Vault has been opened, and there are rumors of another Vault on Elpis, the moon of Pandora. Elpis is a barren place, rocky and lacking in gravity, but Jack, a low-level programmer working for Hyperion, the evil corporation from Borderlands 2, has hired a new team of Vault Hunters to head to the moon and look for the Vault..
In fact, The Pre-Sequel basically centers around Jack, who isn’t quite Handsome yet. Instead, he’s toiling away on the Hyperion Helios space station, trying to make a name for himself. If you’ve ever played Borderlands 2 and wondered how Jack ended up the crazed, slightly mad psychopath that he is, this game answers that question. To avoid spoiling any of it, let’s just say that the Jack you meet early on in the Pre-Sequel is not the same man you see later in the game. Events will change him.
The Vault Hunters in The Pre-Sequel are much more well-rounded characters than their counterparts in the previous games. 2K Australia had said they wanted the characters to have more interaction and dialogue, and they’ve accomplished both of those things in fine fashion. It’s not unusual to have your Vault Hunter actually carry on a conversation while accepting a quest or receiving an ECHO call, rather than just mutely acquiescing and carrying on.
The additional dialogue is a really nice touch, as it gives you more of an insight into the character that you’re playing. Rather than the nearly-silent protagonist of past Borderlands games, you get a glimpse of what each Vault Hunter’s motivations are here, and it adds immensely to the experience. There’s always been an incentive to replay Borderlands in the “True Vault Hunter” modes and beyond, and this new dialogue actually makes me want to replay it with all the different characters as well. Add to that the addition of Tiny Tina as a supplemental narrator, and you’ve got all the incentive you should need to spend a ton of time with this game. This could have been a tedious moment, but instead it becomes one of the highlights of the game. It’s presented as a re-telling of the original story to people who haven’t heard it yet, and the interjections of characters like Tina and Mr. Torgue are simply too good to miss.
The Pre-Sequel doesn’t tamper much with the ludicrous number of guns you usually get access to in Borderlands games. Instead, it adds to it with two new types of weapons: Cryo and Laser.
Cryo guns will freeze enemies solid if you deal enough damage, allowing you to then shatter them into tiny pieces with a well-placed blow. It also acts as a bit of crowd control in some situations. Laser weapons come in in both the Star Wars-style repeating blasters, or the Star Trek-style continuous-beam variety. Both types are fun to use, and of course offer the full range of elemental damage bonuses.
Also added to the mix in The Pre-Sequel are the O2, or “OZ” Kits. You’ll always need one of these equipped, as it provides you with oxygen to breathe when you’re out on the moon’s surface. In addition, the kit provides a number of effects, depending on what stats you have. Some kits might increase you damage with a certain elemental type, while others let oxygen canisters also act as healing. Managing your oxygen becomes a bit of a game within the game, although there are so many places to recharge that you’ll rarely have to run far if you run out. Oxygen also powers one of my favorite mechanics in the game: boosting.
When you jump, you can vent your oxygen to jump farther, higher, or even change directions in midair. This, coupled with the complete lack of falling damage in Borderlands, opens up a world of possibilities for exploration, and 2K Australia has wisely chosen to reward that instinct. You’ll find lore stored on ECHO recorders, crates and weapons caches in the out-of-the-way places you can access with this newfound mobility.