It’s been well established by this point that I have an addiction to the loot system. Open a chest, find loot, shoot an enemy, get loot, be badass enough, get yourself the best loot. The rush of loot is awesome and never-ending. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is yet another entry in the series that glorifies its abundance of gun-based loot ranging from your weakest peashooter to the most powerful of explosive artillery. And yes, it takes place before Borderlands 2.
The bright side
The Pre-Sequel does a number of similar things compared to its predecessors (Pre-Decessors?) such as offer up endless rivers of weaponry, inject the mission-based quest structure with off brand humor and put the player into the bodies of four able-and-willing Vault Hunters. Only this time, it’s Jack’s story. Handsome Jack, the loud-mouthed, kind-of-a-dick antagonist from Borderlands 2, returns as the pre-villainous Jack in a tale about how Elpis, the planet of Pandora’s moon, was saved with your help.
There are plenty of familiar faces on the moon, because, duh, that’s how pre-sequels work. Roland and Lilith, two of the original game’s Vault Hunters, play their parts as well as B-side staples like Sir Hammerlock, Torgue and Moxxi (who sings one of the goofiest songs to herself at one point). New characters like Janey Springs and a tyke named Pickle are welcome additions to the cast, mostly because of their straight-from-the-outback voices. The fact that a majority of the moon’s residents have thick Australian accents is just something I had to learn to accept outside of the fact that 2K Australia worked on this game. To their credit, some of The Land Down Under’s slang is “ace.”
One of Borderlands’s aspects that keeps me returning for more is the writing. The humor of the “Borderverse” lies in divisive territory, spanning pop culture references, poop jokes and liberal shouting of terms like YOLO and SWAG. Sure, it’s often immature, but there’s an underlying sense of commentary to the proceedings. One of the earlier missions involves respecting a dying man’s final wishes by calling some guy a dick. Admittedly, there’s probably no commentary there.
Wax on, wane off
The four new (old?) Vault Hunters have a wide range of skills such as sword-and-shield, drones and… being Claptrap. At the end of the day, any character is easy to pick up and play, but their unique skills keep the action snappy and fun. My first playthrough involved a strong reliance on Athena’s shield, blocking all frontal damage and then ending with a mighty toss to deal damage to my foes. By the end of the game, I was charging that shield with elemental power from enemy projectiles and even hitting my friend with it while he was downed to get him back into the fight. Step your game up, Captain America!
With a new environment comes other new changes to the Borderlands formula. Being on the moon causes a loss in gravity and an increase in sweet hops as players now launch into the air and float around like little psychopaths in a snowglobe. Unfortunately, with great bounds comes a dependency on oxygen… unless you’re Claptrap. Players are strapped with oxygen tanks (mistakenly known as Oz tanks) that empty over time unless you stop in an oxygen geyser or find other areas ripe with breathable atmosphere. These same tanks also grant the ability to boost around once per leap as well as dive-bombing back to the surface in a most satisfying and damaging slam. Turning the game into one big underwater level is a drag on one hand, but the other hand means gunfights have more vertical depth. Plus I also love to slam, slam, slam.
A big pizza pie
For all the fun I’m having with The Pre-Sequel, I can’t shake the feeling (deja vu?) that this feels like a large expansion to Borderlands 2. There are a couple new weapon types and the low-gravity has made me a true moon believer, but the rest of it feels like old territory. There’s a bit of backtracking through nearly vacant areas, quests still need to be turned in, and it takes a really long time before you can equip 4 guns at once. However, I’m growing increasingly wishful for a smoother vault hunting experience. There are much-appreciated small improvements here alongside The Pre-Sequel‘s experimentation. I feel like Borderlands is getting better overall.
The-Pre-Sequel is solid and worth a lunar trip if you’re jonesing for more Borderlands flavor. Just make sure you’re absolutely 100% sure you want to play as or with a Claptrap. Trust me.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was released on October 14, 2014 and is available for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.