Guns… In… Spaaaace – The most Borderlands Game Since The Last Borderlands Game
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a game that feels very much at odds with itself. It attempts to revitalize the formula that Borderlands 2 set into place with low gravity and limited oxygen mechanics (along with a new type of gear, the o2 kit or “Oz Kit”), but neither of these changes feel substantive enough to make any noticeable mechanical difference. The core gameplay of Borderlands 2 is still present though, so if you enjoyed it you’ll likely enjoy Pre-Sequel. But frankly, after an entire game and nearly a dozen pieces of downloadable content, I don’t know if I’m in for more Borderlands.
Pre-Sequel begins right after Borderlands leaves off, and immediately introduces the new group of ragtag mercenaries. I chose Wilhelm the Enforcer, because the character description said he is a “Cyber Warrior” or something like that. Dope. Anyway, weird stuff happens that basically mirrors the other two games’ openings and the mercenaries’ rocket crashes into the giant Hyperion satellite orbiting above Pandora. I’ll be honest: the story in Pre-Sequel is nothing to write home about. Although it is mostly hilarious and well-written — definitely more so than Borderlands 2, much of which I found kind of corny and stupid — the storytelling isn’t particularly interesting. It’s actually pretty spooky how closely the narrative mirrors Borderlands 2 in both pacing and execution, right down to the character arcs and the ending itself (spoiler alert: you’re hunting a Vault, as if you couldn’t have figured that out).
Wilhelm’s Action Skill, Wolf & Saint, deploys two drones, one of which heals the player and provides them various defensive buffs, and one which flies around and fires homing projectiles at enemies. The other three characters have equally entertaining Action Skills, although Fragtrap’s vaulthunter.exe is arguably the most interesting: depending on the situation, he can gain anything from a dual-wielding “gunzerker”-type mode to transmogrification into a pirate ship complete with cannons.
I found the addition of o2 more conceptually frustrating than actually interesting. Having a limited o2 supply is intended to force you to continually move forward, but oxygen canisters and oxygen vents are so plentiful that as long as you’re in an area with enemies, you never need to worry about it. Having an Oz Kit also allows you to do a kind of double jump which drains some of your supply in addition to allowing you to perform a ground slam which, based on your Oz Kit, deals various kinds of elemental damage. The word that comes to mind when thinking about the o2 supply mechanic is “baffling.” Why even implement a system at all if it’s just going to punish the player for exploring? Perhaps I’m expecting something that Pre-Sequel was never intended to provide, but finding the weird easter eggs ended up being one of the more interesting parts of Borderlands 2 for me.
I’ve always had kind of a problem with the shooting in Borderlands and (to a much greater extent) Borderlands 2. On their own, they’re not bad shooters — most people would agree that the most lauded first-person shooters have that certain je ne sais quoi to their gunplay — but with the absolutely incredible variety of loot types and what I’ve begun describing as “gun feel” that Borderlands 2 has, most guns feel unique but completely unusable. The addition of a new weapon type, laser, doesn’t do a whole lot to assuage these misgivings I have with Borderlands’ shooting. It’s an interesting new weapon type, to be sure, especially given that different laser guns can perform any of the archetypes of other guns (except for Launchers) in addition to potentially having one continuous beam. I didn’t really use laser weapons at all (I found most of them to be totally niche) despite one of my class’ skills giving laser guns a bigger magazine and higher accuracy. I mean, look: I just want a regular assault rifle that doesn’t shoot rockets or that doesn’t consume nine rounds with every shot. I found a lot of bog standard weapons in the first Borderlands, probably because that game didn’t have a ton of variety in loot generation, but it’s an understatement to say that I found more than ninety-five percent of the guns in Borderlands 2/Pre-Sequel completely worthless. Another addition to Pre-Sequel is the Cryo elemental type, which does exactly what you’d think. It feels less like a novel addition, and more like something that in retrospect seems missing in Borderlands 2.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel provides a lot of entertainment, and it’s certainly a sound investment if you enjoyed the other two games to the extent that most people seemed to. The changes that 2K Australia made to the core formula feel right at home in the general zaniness of the Borderlands universe, even if I don’t necessarily think that all of them make a lot of mechanical sense. Maybe I’m just cynical. Maybe I’m just a hater. But I found myself falling asleep towards the end. Don’t get me wrong: there is a lot of fun to be had here, especially if you’re a fan of the other two games, but at $60 I don’t know that I would willingly buy it.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Mac, Linux, PS3, Xbox 360; Publisher: 2K Games; Developer: 2K Australia, Gearbox Software; Players: 1-4 ; Released: October 14, 2014; Genre: First-Person Shooter, RPG; MSRP: $59.99
This review is based on a retail copy of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel purchased by Hey Poor Player.