So, you want to hear another story, eh? One where the very fate of Pandora hangs in the balance? If not, too bad – I’m telling you anyway.
Our story begins just like it always has, with four Vault Hunters: Athena the Gladiator, Wilhelm the Enforcer, Nisha the Lawbringer and Claptrap the Fragtrap. Immediately, three of those characters should be familiar to anyone who has played Borderlands 2: Nisha, who will later become the sheriff of Lynchwood, Wilhelm, who will be a boss encounter early in your progress through Borderlands 2, and of course CL4P-TP (or Claptrap), possibly the most iconic of Borderlands’ cast, as a playable character for the first time.
In fact, not just the cast will be immediately recognizable; a lot of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will seem very familiar to you and for a good reason. Although this is the third game in the series, not a lot has changed since the previous titles; for better or worse, this is the Borderlands you know. Only it’s in space. As far as new gameplay features go, Borderlands: The Pre Sequel is sorely lacking – there are only three things of note, and even they are relatively minor and hardly game-changing.
First, we’ve got lasers. Laaaasers. A rapid-fire weapon type guaranteed to have some sort of additional elemental effect – veterans of the series will recognize them simply as hi-tech Maliwan assault rifles with a different firing graphic. Their high rate of fire and low recoil make them seem a bit overpowered but fun nonetheless.
Second, we’ve got a new elemental damage type: Cryo. This one is actually quite fun – with a chance of turning your opponents into a solid slab of ice for a few seconds (and shattering it afterward). It can even provide a limited form of crowd control by keeping a particularly tough enemy frozen while handling the easier ones first. Freezing flying enemies works especially well – even with Elpis’ reduced gravity, what goes up must eventually come down, ideally in frozen pieces just the right size to go into your drink.
Last but not least is a brand new gameplay mechanic in the form of oxygen. Since Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel takes place on Elpis, Pandora’s atmosphere-less moon, you will need to carry your air with you. This takes the form of a new item type, the “Oz Kit”, which replaces the relic slot in previous Borderlands titles. The airless low-gravity environment does lend itself well to all sorts of shenanigans from the butt-stomp mechanic, already shown in so many occasions, to expansive levels that make you think more vertically.
Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel the new mechanic is sorely under-used: there are oxygen-filling vents in the ground every other step as well as atmosphere generators that can be activated (or shot from a distance if you’re lazy) to create a small area of breathable air. For added fun, shatter the oxygen masks of enemies to watch them suffocate.
As you can see, there’s almost nothing significantly new in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and herein lies the crux of the issue. There is absolutely nothing deserving of the title “sequel” (or even that of a “pre-sequel) to be found in the game. At most, it is an expansion of rather large proportions. It has all the hallmarks of one: new characters, new areas, and some new toys to play with but it has all been done before – twice.
Same goes for the story. It’s your typical misguided villain with a goofy name (seriously, who names their child “Zarpedon”?!) out to destroy a moon using a giant space laser. You can almost hear the James Bond music playing – although, in typical Borderlands fashion, everything is a lot more silly than you would think.
I would like to take a moment and share some of my personal gameplay experience with Claptrap, though – he is without a doubt the most unique character and honestly, the one I was looking forward to playing the most. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed. To begin with, Claptrap’s action skill is the only one you’re not exactly sure what’s going to happen once you trigger it. VaultHunter.exe (currently classified as malware) attempts to analyze the situation and respond accordingly – sometimes by creating a small flaming mini-trap, sometimes by duplicating your gun and letting you gunzerk, and sometimes by creating a giant rubber ducky.
Claptrap’s skill trees are split into Boomtrap for explosive-oriented goodness, I Love You Guys for support and life gain and Fragmented Fragtrap which is a bit hard to define but takes a bit of everything and tosses it into a mix (it makes a laser rainbow. Why? Because!). The I Love You Guys tree is certainly the most Claptrap-y one of all as it relies a bit on your team to really bring out the best in it, culminating in a final skill which actually requires your team to give you a high-five if they want to get a boost to most of their stats. However, if they snub you, a “Screw You Guys” buff activates instead, giving bonuses to yourself only. Finally, Claptrap will get all the high-fives he so desperately needs.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel also has quite a few side-stories intertwined into the main narrative, most importantly the story of (not-yet-Handsome) Jack. You get to see Jack change from a pleasant “save the innocents” approach to the murderous villain we all know from Borderlands 2. The step-by-step progression is done quite well and the first step will probably surprise you even though you already know he is destined to become a villain of grand proportions.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is not a bad game but it’s not a great one. The new gameplay mechanics, while fun, aren’t really game-changing. The story is mediocre at best and we already know how it ends, so there’s nothing to look forward to. Add to it some off-color jokes and a couple of exceptionally annoying lava areas and the final mix is an average game I can’t honestly recommend to anyone who isn’t either a complete newcomer to the series, or an extremely hardcore fan.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.