Title: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
Developer: 2K Australia
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360
As I sit down to start penning my blatantly delayed review of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, I think about how I can approach this review. Sure, are there already gazillions of reviews online which do good justice to the game, but I noticed one thing common in all of them, that Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is reviewed more as a follow up to Borderlands 2 than as an independent game. This puts me an unlikely position, I have played Borderlands and Borderlands 2, but only for a cumulative total of 20 hours. It is with The Pre-Sequel that I decided to go all the way, i.e. play the game above 40 hours, finish the single player campaign and throw in a couple of co-op missions here and there. And thus, I’ll review Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel as an independent entity unaware of the existence of its predecessors.
And here we go….
So Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a first-person shooter set on Elpis, the moon in the world of Pandora. On Elpis, you’re told the story of the rise of Handsome Jack, who was the villain in Borderlands 2. The way the game works is simple: you’re given missions, you shoot enemies, you gain experience and you unlock class specific abilities. With that, the game lays immense focus on loot collection, the Diablo way, literally.
When you begin the campaign, you have to select from three playable characters: Nisha, Athena and Claptrap. Among these three choices, the differentiation in their abilities is enough to warrant a playthrough with each character. Their uniqueness is evident and they all require a different approach towards slaughtering swathes of enemies. Nisha can slow down time and can lock onto targets in rapid succession. Athena has a shield that absorbs damage, and can be discharged to to deal damage to enemies. Claptrap can summon a fellow robot to aid during combat.
It would be easy to dismiss The Pre-Sequel as a standard stopgap game in between proper “new” releases, something that has really tarnished gaming in 2014, but that is not the case here. Being on the moon means you don’t have gravitational force, which in turn adds in extra an element in combat: verticality. Also, the moon doesn’t have oxygen, so that adds some spice to your journey through the revolving satellite.
As you traverse through the lands of Elpis, there is a whole lot of variety to be found in weapons, grenades, shields and Oz-kits. Oz-kits are shields that have an oxygen tank, which depletes when you’re not in an oxygen atmosphere, and can be refilled from oxygen environments. Zero-G on Elpis means you can jump really high, and you can also slam the ground to do damage to grounded foes. You can charge your jumps to cover extra distance, at the cost of more oxygen in your tank. When all these mechanics come together, they work flawlessly and provide for fun, erratic and challenging encounters. Things get more intense once your enemies start double jumping and slamming. If Titanfall did vertical combat the Pre-Sequel way, it would have been a much better game.
Even with all these new additions, The Pre-Sequel still feels pretty much like a Borderlands game. Players of the series will feel right at home. The game carries forward the Borderlands charm, those silly jokes from those silly characters with silly needs. 2K Australia, the developer of this game has pulled of a good one giving enough local charm to the game. No wonder oxygen tanks are called “Oz-kits”. The story of The Pre-Sequel isn’t that profound, but with the humour and wit that it presents itself, it does a solid job to masking the average plot.
Once you start the game, leveling up allows you to unlock abilities from a three-branch skill tree. These abilities ranges from enhancing your character’s unique ability (the shield, slow time) and other more general abilities, like increasing your health, weapon accuracy, etc. The Pre-Sequel here retains the same formula from its predecessor.
The immense variety of weapons make experimentation a whole lotta fun. Especially laser weapons, a new introduction to the game. In oxygen environments, laser weapons can prove devastating for enemies as they can either freeze or burn an enemy. If you’ve frozen an enemy, just walk to him and melee to see him shatter into bits. The sheer combinations in how weapons work make The Pre-Sequel an absolute delight as a shooter.
I played the game on my GTX 770 SLI setup, with 120 fps and 1080p resolution downsampled from 4k. I had no performance issues whatsoever, the game ran at a smooth 120 frames per second without any issues. There were no crashes and niggling bugs. 2K Australia has released a product that runs with stability.