Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel – Preview

Title   Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
Developer  2K Australia
Publisher  2K Games
Platform  Windows PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (previewed)
Genre  First-person shooter, action role-playing
Release Date  October 17, 2014

There are many franchises which sustain their following on the strength of repetition and reiteration, where the name on the box art may change slightly but the gameplay remains the same.  For some, it’s exactly what they want, as any changes made to the model may be seen as unnecessary if the formula works, but others take the opposing stance where there is no incentive to purchase if nothing changes.  When Borderlands 2 was first announced, there was a mixture of excitement and trepidation churning around inside my stomach as there was a possibility that I’d either be disappointed by too much change or not enough.  While the gameplay itself barely changed, the addition of a much stronger storyline and a sense of purpose was enough to convince me that it was a worthwhile purchase.  Several times over, as it turned out.

Can the same be said for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, however?  How long before milking the same gameplay mechanics and tongue-in-cheek humour reaches the point where it’s no longer acceptable and the franchise dies on its arse?  Thankfully, the folk over at 2K Australia (you may know them from a couple of small titles such as BioShock Infinite and The Bureau) have done more than slap together a new story thread with existing assets, add another 87 bajillion guns, and thud four new characters on to the table so we can all debate over which one will best suit our preferred play style.  From what we’ve seen thus far, it is exactly what fans should want, but with a few twists and turns along the way.

The most notable difference is that we’re no longer tearing around a brightly-lit Pandora, as our base is none other than Elpis, the moon that would later become overshadowed by the domineering Hyperion base (and which takes its name from the last thing to be freed from Pandora’s Box), and this means that our playground has limited gravity.  As you’d expect, this serves to introduce a new gameplay mechanic to the Borderlands world, at least in terms of continual play.  Those who have yawned their way through the eight or so hours required to max out the tedious achievements for the Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot DLC may remember the random occurrence of low gravity (and, like me, probably exploited it in an attempt to reach Moxxi’s platform), well imagine if your entire game played out under these conditions.

It may sound daunting and, to some degree, I did question the validity of such a bizarre notion in a game where evading rapid gunfire was the order of the day, but once you have that controller in hand and get to experience full-on combat where evasive manoeuvres can actually become more creative due to the fluid movement within the low-gravity environment, it’s easy to embrace the change.  As there’s no air, you’re relying on an oxygen supply to keep you alive, and this can be used to your advantage where expelling bursts of air from the tanks serves as additional thrust to either propel you faster than you would ordinarily move, go for a double jump, or to hold you above the surface a little longer in order to rain down death from above.

The aforementioned oxygen tanks are their own gameplay mechanic, however, as you’re no longer keeping an eye solely on your shield and health levels.  In The Pre-Sequel, it’s also necessary to keep your oxygen supply at a safe level otherwise you’ll find yourself starting to flag.  In fact, I was the first person on my bank of consoles to complete the main objective during the E3 hands-on session and used that extra time to go on the hunt for more enemies to, you know, shoot in the face.  Typically, I forgot all about the oxygen and was concentrating on killing as many guys as I could, picking up ammo and health wherever possible and then, just as I killed my last enemy, it happened… I went into the bleed-out stage as my oxygen had entirely depleted, but there was nobody around to kill. This may have been a coincidence, but I’m pretty positive that I ran out of oxygen.

As well as the need for oxygen, the new characters (all of whom you’ll undoubtedly know about already – Willhelm, Nisha (aka the Sheriff of Lynchwood), Athena, and Claptrap) bring their own play styles to the table.  Playing as Athena, the she-devil responsible for my million instadeaths in the Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC when I stupidly assumed that I’d actually be able to play it with a low-level character, there was a sense of urgency that was akin to Zer0′s frenetic style, but with a more natural approach.  Her ‘Gladiator’ class allows her to take an insane amount of damage and, in a nod to someone dubbed ‘Schmaptain America’, her special ability is to produce an Apsis – a a shield which absorbs and stores energy from enemy attacks and uses it against them, bouncing from one enemy to another much like Bloodwing did for Mordecai.

Also on offer during the hands-on session was the commanding ‘Enforcer’ class, Willhelm.  Before Handsome Jack went all ‘The Man With Two Brains‘ on us and shoved Willhelm’s consciousness into an oversized mech, he was a brute of a man who could digistruct warrior drones to do his will, and the higher end of his skill tree allows him to bridge the gap between man and machine by adding robotic enhancements.  He may start off as flesh and blood, but it’s clear that the option is there for players to pave the way towards the Willhelm we know from the End Of The Line mission in Borderlands 2. What we’ll learn about Handsome Jack himself, however, is something that 2K Australia are playing very close to their chests but, as someone who adores the man behind the facade of evil (and vice versa), it should prove to be an interesting insight.

Ultimately, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is everything that Borderlands and Borderlands 2 were – a humour-packed romp in an alien landscape with larger-than-life characters and even more fantastical enemies and creatures, loot drops galore, guns blazing all over the place, a beautiful cel-shaded art style, and enough sarcasm to put George Carlin or Bill Hicks to shame.  Even the gaming industry’s most annoying animated trash can, Claptrap, may actually turn out to be enjoyable to play… although we’ll have to wait until October to see if that’s the case.

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. SimonJK says:

    I’m definitely up for more of Borderlands as long as they recognise they few things they did wrong between 1 and 2.
    Firstly, having bazillions of guns to find is great unless you are a loot hoarder and get stressed out by having to choose between they as you have a very limited storage space. Secondly, stop messing with it! Borderlands 1 was great and players found various glitches that made the game fun and easier but when 2 came around they started fixing all the glitches and always in ways that seem to punish the player. Finally thirdly the loot drop percentage on actually getting the decent stuff was so low many people just got too bored trying to get stuff that other people nabbed without even trying:(

    My only thought is about the low gravity, great fun as it will be it can ruin the gameplay of other games. If anyone played a serious amount of Crackdown and then tried to play any other FPS, it turn any jump or agility into an elephant hop, lol.

  2. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    As a fellow loot hoarder, the best thing I found was to create multiple characters and use them as storage. Once I went over to PC with it though, it didn’t matter as I had an unlimited-slot bank over at Moxxi’s.

    I hate to play devil’s advocate… but I’m a software developer myself and a ‘glitch’ is an error. It’s something that shouldn’t be there, and people are paying money for a product which should be perfect (take note, EA and Bethesda) so the fact that Gearbox actually kept fixing all the glitches simply means that they were staying true to the people who bought the game and making sure it ran like it was supposed to. Exploiting glitches may be fun (and I did it myself, and still do) but it’s not wrong for them to fix them… it’s wrong for them to leave them.

  3. SimonJK says:

    @Markus. They made Eridium vanish from the normal playthough, it effectively cut off the player from it unless he played with others. All the special bosses are near impossible to do solo. The way I’ve seen so far in my playing history is that bosses have a weakness or easy method of killing them. it seemed to me that Gearbox sat on forums, found ways people found to easy kill things and updated against it. Not everything they ‘fixed’ were game breaking glitches just some of the game breaking things they ignored.

  4. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Ahhhh but that’s not what you said or I wouldn’t have replied as I did :) My response was specifically to your “players found various glitches that made the game fun and easier but when 2 came around they started fixing all the glitches”. Those that you’re talking about aren’t glitches, they’re fundamental changes. I wouldn’t have stuck up for them like I did if you’d just said “they changed some shit and made it worse”. But anyway, to be fair, the bosses in Borderlands (the first game) were far too easy to kill so I think it’s only right that with so many people complaining (including me, and those with whom I’ve played co-op, as well as most folk I’ve ever seen on a BL forum) they ramped up the boss difficulty for the second one. Even with that being said, Terramorphous wasn’t that tough to kill solo if you timed everything well. Tougher than Crawmerax, certainly, but not as tough as some other bosses I’ve come across in my time.

    I also wasn’t aware that they’d removed Eridium from the normal playthrough and can’t find any mention of it through Google so I can’t really comment. It’s still there in all my versions, even when playing solo… so I don’t understand how I’ve managed to escape that particular patch. Is that in a particular console or across the board?

  5. SImonjk says:

    My ‘additional’ statement was simple cause I didn’t want to get into the fixing glitches argument as it heavily weighs on personal opinion. I played until I finished the last season pass DLC but downloaded but haven’t played the extra stuff so stuff may have changed again with Eridium. They did removed it from the lowest play though and I personally felt having glitches that made bosses possible for the solo player not important to fix.

    As a multiple forum user, I noticed a pattern, person finds a glitch either boss beater or equipment maximiser – bee shield, rocket inf ammo er, blah, blah, blah and then the next update it got fixed. I just felt every fix punished the solo player.

    I am curious about some thing you said – infinite moxxi storage on PC? is that a mod? cause arguing between glitch using and then a PC user modding a game is kind of ‘pot and kettle’.

  6. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I never said the unlimited storage was a glitch, and I also never argued about it. It was just me talking with a fellow Borderlands fan, telling them how I got around the storage problem as a loot hoarder. I’m not going to comment further on this thread as you’re getting argumentative and personal with it now by saying that I said things that I never, and it’s both unnecessary and unwarranted.

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