In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! you play as the villains. Sort of? You choose from a band of 4 misfit Vault Hunters, that crash land on the Moon of Elpis. On the space station Helios, they meet a lowly employee named Jack, and their fates are forever intertwined. You can choose from Athena, a hooded rogue that wields her shield like a weapon, Nisha the Lawbringer, a cowgirl with a penchant for violence, the mercenary Wilhelm and his robotic sidekicks Wolf and Saint, and the loveable little Claptrap with his random bag of tricks.
The Pre-Sequel takes place after the events of Borderlands 1, but before Borderlands 2. The story begins with Lilith interrogating a captured Athena, which takes place after the end of Borderlands 2. Don’t worry, it’s not as confusing as it sounds. It makes perfect sense once you play. Athena tells her story, and you play her flashbacks. Hence, the Pre-Sequel. Get it? As you play, the original Vault Hunters and Athena will quip and banter over your gameplay, giving thoughts and insight into the events that led to Handsome Jack’s rise to power.
Once you choose one of the four main Vault Hunters and watch the opening cutscene, you’re thrown into the Helios Space Station, and eventually cast onto the Moon of Elpis. Pre-Sequel, likes the games before it, is bullet chaos from the get go. It’s a first person shooter with an extreme emphasis on looting and gathering over a gazillion guns. Yes, blasting at anything that moves is the name of the game. You’ll loot downed enemies, chests, and junk piles in order to grow your arsenal of weapons.
New to the Pre-Sequel is the inclusion of zero atmospheric areas and Oz kits. Most of the game takes place on the Moon of Elpis, where there’s a severe lack of oxygen. There isn’t any. In order to breathe, you’ll need to gather Oz kits. These face masks have a finite amount of oxygen, and will deplete rather quickly as you utilize special skills, like the ability to hover briefly or drop from the air, ground slamming and dealing damage to enemies below. When the oxygen is gone, you will start to lose health.
Some Oz kits create elemental explosions when you land, some heal, while others have larger oxygen capacities. You’ll switch Oz kits as often as you do your guns. Once depleted you can replenish lost oxygen by walking over vents on the moons surface, or finding canisters dropped by enemies or found in chests.
The writing is interesting, as always. The story of Jack and his band of merry Vault Hunters turned galaxy killing henchman is a great ride. Handsome Jack was easily one of my favorite characters in Borderlands 2, so it was nice to see his story fleshed out a bit more. Also being able to play and learn more about his main henchmen was an appreciated touch.
The action is fast paced and chaotic. Just the way I like it! The controls are solid, and whether you’re hovering in the air, or running and gunning, landing shots feels great. With so much action going on, you’ll never fumble against the controls. The Oz kits and the ability to hover and butt slam are a fun addition to the gunplay, and adds some depth the the shooting formula.
Characters are great and well written, as you’d expect in the Borderlands verse. They’re odd, off the wall, and quirkiness abounds. Newcomers, like Janey Springs and Pickle, are welcome additions to the cast. The off the wall NPCs will have you smiling as you listen to their deranged, albeit delightful, banter. Once again, well done!
Loot, loot, and more loot! The game seriously delivers on the promise of a gazillion guns. I love searching and finding new weapons and items. It was extremely satisfying when I finally came across something that was better than my current gear. There’s a dizzying amount of loot to be found, and you’ll never be at a loss for another weapon. I also have to say that I enjoyed the ability to input the Golden Keys, in game.
However, it was a bit too short? At least to me. Since it feels very similar to Borderlands 2, I almost feel like this was just one huge DLC, or a larger add on. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just love the world so much that I’d like to explore a lot more of it. Even with the new characters, zero atmosphere, Oz kits, and the brand new story, it still felt like it should have been longer or more fleshed out. The amount of missions this time around also felt a bit lacking.
I appreciate the outer space type of feel that they were going for in the music, but nothing really stood out. Even the songs that played during battle segments didn’t suit the frenetic pace of the action on screen. It didn’t pump me up or fill me with the need to run and gun. Or perhaps I simply miss the rugged, kinetic, western type music from the previous games, which felt a little edgier, and more fitting to the chaos.
Action and gunplay was fantastic, but even in the very end, I couldn’t help but feel like I was kind of slowly lumbering about? Shooting things had a great sense of speed, but while I was moving from place to place, I always hoped there was a way I could move about faster? Even the vehicles felt like they needed a severe boost in speed.
Story was okay, but I was hoping to get a lot more from it. I wanted to see how everything in Borerlands 2 came together. All the answers came in the form of still drawings during the credits. Which is cool, but I wanted to play and see it all unfold, you know? I wanted to be a part of the strike that decimated Fyrestone. In Borderlands 2, when I finally got to that stage, it broke my heart. It would have held so much emotional weight for the player (especially those that have been following the series) to see just how Jack went about exacting justice on Fyrestone and the Vault Hunters.
I wanted to see Wilhelms transformation into a powerhouse robot (I realize his skill tree changes his voice and appearance, but I wanted it to have some bearing on the story). I wanted to visit Lynchwood and witness how Jack eventually made Nisha the sheriff. They’re key enemies in Borderlands 2, and you never got to see their story. I thought the whole point of the Pre-Sequel was to flesh out their tale, not just how Handsome Jack rose to power?
I also thought that this was going to be a story of how Jack was a well meaning, misunderstood member of Helios that wanted to be a hero, and was forced to become a cruel, vicious dictator. I wanted to root for him, and be terribly saddened when he fell from grace. But he was a dbag from the very beginning. There was really nothing redeeming about him, aside from saving you on Helios. Other than that, he was always cruel, selfish, and out to murder everyone who stood in his way. That made it hard for me to care about him, or what I was doing.
I felt odd playing the villain. I mean, I was expecting Nisha to make a gradual slide to the dark side. But, like Jack, she also starts off being a brutal killer that’s thrilled to gun down anyone that gets in her way. I was hoping for some kind of character arc. The game was also missing why she gets together with Jack to begin with. Maybe it’s found in an echo recorder that I never came across, but from what I could tell through a standard playthorugh, there was no grounds for their relationship.
In the end, Borderlands the Pre-Sequel was a pretty good game. I had fun, the story was entertaining, and it delivered on action, gunplay, and loot! Always a good thing. The story could have been a lot deeper, and there were a lot of missed opportunities to tie the previous games into the narrative. What you have is something that feels more like an extended DLC than a full fledged game. I enjoyed it, but now I’m really looking forward to the next installment in the serious. Seriously, that ending has me all kinds of excited!