Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Preview - E3 2014
We're going to space
Borderlands and its 2012 sequel put Gearbox Software on the map and ignited a franchise which millions of players have to come to love. Borderlands has become so popular Gearbox has decided to move forward in publishing two new games in the universe this year in order to keep the fans satisfied until a proper Borderlands 3 is announced. One of these games, meant to sate the hungry Borderlands faithful, is Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. The game takes place in between the first and second numerical installments and is set on a Hyperion Moon Base.
The setting of The Pre-Sequel is its most distinct feature. Not only do the craters and canyons give away the new lunar locale, but the low gravity makes for a whole new physics experience. Jumping gives you a long hang time and while airborne, you can curl up into a ball and slam into the ground, taking down your enemies. This slamming ability can be upgraded, but it’s not the only thing new to this Borderlands game.
There are four playable characters in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, all of which were enemy bosses in Borderlands 2 and its subsequent DLC. The demo I played only allowed the use of the beefy Wilhelm who could use his mechanical arm to sock enemies and Athena who could create a special shield. The one playable character who doesn’t later become an enemy is Claptrap, the loveable robot companion from the first two games. All of these characters are working for the villain of Borderlands 2, Handsome Jack, who has yet to turn to his evil ways.
Along with some familiar characters comes a familiar leveling system. As you gain experience you level up and can distribute skill points in passive skills. For example allowing you to do more damage with lasers or improve your shields. It’s all very similar for anyone who spent time with either of the previous Borderlands games.
As I hopped around the planet, I could already sense the weightlessness of the moon changing my approach not only to combat, but the way you travel. Canyons can be cleared with a well timed jump or high up platforms can be reached. This opens up opportunities for some minor platforming in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, nothing too daunting, but enough to keep your attention.
Borderlands has built a reputation around its strong co-operative play. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel looks to continue this trend. Even when demoing the game as press, Gearbox insisted we played with a partner. While the idea is solid, my partner spent most of their time aimlessly wandering, falling into the abyss, and getting into battles without me. Unfortunately, pairing us up did not rekindle the love of Borderlands co-op, it simply made for frustration.
While Borderlands can’t help a player who can’t read a map, they can craft a solid shooting experience and that’s exactly what the people at 2K Australia have done. The shooting in the Pre-Sequel is as good - if not potentially better - than its predecessors. Snapping between looking through your sights and simply trying to lay down cover fire feels great. Which is important because the combat comes fast and furious. After hopping across a chasm I was attacked by Moon monsters, four-legged beasts which charge you with reckless abandon. When with me, my co-op companion used their cryogun - a weapon-type new to this entry - to stop these charging beasts dead in their tracks. Meanwhile, I shattered the frozen monstrosities with a blast from my shotgun.
The monsters on the moon are different, but the familiar Psychos continue to strike the balance between new and old The Pre-Sequel seems to be going for. These psychos come at you in a whole new way, using the low gravity of the moon to float down from above, sometimes catching you by surprise. After my shotgun ran out of ammo battling the hordes of enemies, I switch to my laser gun, the other weapon-type new to Pre-Sequel, which fires continuous laser doing damage to enemies over time.
I continued my way to the objective and was informed over commlink by a couple of characters that I am getting close to my objective. Speaking with exaggerated accents and saying outlandish things, the dialogue of The Pre-Sequel maintains the same zaniness the series has become well-known for. While the characters are still fun, the narrative is confusing. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going or what I am doing, but the reflex to shoot-first-and-ask questions later is really all you need to work your way through Borderlands.
Luckily, as I got to the end of the demo, my partner showed up and lended a hand as we fought in the climactic battle. Enemies, a mix between the moon beasts and the psychos, flew into my screen. Together, we blasted through this mix of seemingly endless foes, until the objective has been cleared.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a game which is haunted by its best feature: it plays just like Borderlands. Obviously, fans of the series will be delighted to know the award-winning formula of the previous two games is intact, but such an experience doesn’t offer anything new or fresh. It is just more Borderlands for those looking to get their fill. If you are ready to hop back into the franchise, the game will be released on October 14th, 2014 on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.