Good day, Bruce! Good thing you could come visit mate, we have a bit of an issue here on Elpis. You see, there are all these horrible scavengers and monsters that need a firm bullet to the head, in exchange for some EXP and some shiny new gear. Are you up for the task?
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel tells the story you didn’t think you wanted to know, while adding a few memorable moments on the way. From the tragicomedy that is Claptrap to the unhinged, abrasive and apathetic Wilhelm, having voiced characters that take part in conversations make for richer dialogues, with purpose and thoughts or doubts regarding the current situation in the game. The narrative of the game occurs after the events in Borderlands 2, where one of the new vault hunters must tell a tale before execution. This opens up moments for commentary, and reminders of Jack’s crazy and evil plots. But he wasn’t always like that. Hell, he was a likeable, though egotistical man with a vision of being a hero.
One section midway through the game breaks away from the standard fetch quest side-quest hub and takes you through a compelling scene where Jack’s slow, almost hidden transformation appears above the surface, rearing a callous, though apologetic man who will sacrifice one to save many. During this quest you realise that you are the main reason for some of the most annoying enemies in Borderlands 2 existing, which brings a twinge of revulsion as you witness its grisly birth.
After this, Jack’s attempts to save Pandora slowly take a backseat as he starts to revel in murder, his hunger for power revealing a dark edge that inexorably takes over. It is something that we know has to happen, but the path there is at times grey and slow, with the pacing of some story elements feeling a bit drawn out to make space for side quest hubs. It adds a lot of depth to the character of Jack, whose superb character was already the glue that held Borderlands 2 together.
Thankfully the side quests, for the most part, do their best to have worthwhile rewards and bits of story worth experiencing, or have the whacky humour that made Borderlands stick out in the first place. Having Elpis as an Australian fit perfectly with the tone and humour, and the introduction of low gravity environments and the quest for oxygen adds a lot to the gameplay. Butt-slams are no joke, and will save your life more than a few times. The added verticality changes the format and scale of platforming puzzles and the way you look for enemies or a safe spot to recharge shields. Thankfully oxygen is fairly abundant in the forms of drops or locations with air supplies, meaning it never becomes a resource that makes you stress about managing it in the same way as, say, Dead Space does. You are a Vault Hunter, why would running out of oxygen do anything more than slowly cause your health to drop?
The new classes add something fresh to the gameplay, as the standard gunplay is pretty much tweaked and refined from the previous two games. Athena is the party’s shield, absorbing damage to reflect back at her enemies. Nisha is the surgical striker of the group, dealing massive weapon damage by automatically aiming at enemy weak points for big criticals. Wilhelm is somewhat a mix of the two, who isn’t afraid of getting in close and dropping into a fight for your life mode to get the job done. His skill summons a healing flying bot named Saint and a fighter jet named Wolf to harass the enemy. Claptrap is the uh, well, you know Claptrap. He is the mouth of the group, the noise filled with a lot of randomness that could lead to helping the group. At least, he intends to help the group, anyway. The addition of cryo makes for some interesting weapon juggling, without creating the necessity to weapon juggle that the now-absent slag weapons caused at later levels.
Laser weapons are pretty awesome (Don’t let Mr Torgue know I said this), ranging from shotgun styled shredders, machine gun type blasters, target penetrating beam weapons and continuous streams of death. All laser weapons are elemental too, adding to their destructive power and function in your arsenal.
Arguably the best addition to the first-person looter is the Grinder in town. This machine works similarly to the Horadric Cube in Diablo 2. Adding three weapons of the same rarity will result in a better weapon being made, sometimes of blue rarity. This recycling of the rubbish loot into worthy purple-grade items makes all those green drops (and boy are there many of them) into a much more worthwhile way to get rid of loot. Normally, selling rubbish weapons for measly sale prices in the hopes that a vendor would have a powerful weapon on sale was far too slow and felt all too random. Thanks to the grinder, there is a point to all those inferior quality items and some of the recipes allow you to have a modicum of control over what type of item will pop out as a result. It means more trips to town, but it can result in a few helpful upgrades when the shops are empty and the RNG is being unfair to you.
If you missed Borderlands 1 or 2, you should not play this game, as the references and lack of tutorial will leave you confused and frustrated. If you played the other titles, and want something akin to a massive DLC with all new characters and classes, you should get Borderlands: TPS. It doesn’t do much to progress the story of the Borderlands saga, but it sure as hell takes the time to flesh it out a bit. This one is definitely going straight to the Pool Room.
Now if you don’t mind, I am off to play more Borderlands. Elpis has a lot of treasures yet to be found, and I want to get a few more legendary weapons. That drives my friends crazy as I start a new game as Claptrap. UNTS UNTS UNTS UNTS, get down!