Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review
For a game set in the farthest reaches of space, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel spends a lot of time with it's feet firmly planted on the ground. That's not to say that the game fails to deliver; in fact it's quite the contrary. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is chocked full of everything that fans of the series have come to love, great writing, gear, guns and loot. Unfortunately though, it also delivers some of the many problems that have plagued the series since it's inception and though the new gimmicks are fun additions to the formula, they're not enough to stop you from noticing how aged the formula can feel. Be sure though that if you're a Borderlands fan, The Pre-Sequel will do more than whet your appetite for the next true installment in the franchise.
Set in-between the events of the original Borderlands and it's sequel, The Pre-Sequel is the story of how Handsome Jack became, well...Handsome Jack. It's interesting to see how Jack went from semi-hero to one of the Galaxy's most hated villains and he's written with just as much snark and ego-centric comments as you'd expect. Despite everything that The Pre-Sequel adds, Handsome Jack is easily the star of the game, and the writers have done a great job in making him seem likable yet always reminding us just why everyone hates this guy. Perhaps more importantly, they avoid the expected tropes seen in so many stories that try to tell a villain's origins.
"...does a great job rewarding whatever play style you may use..."
If you've played either of the previous Borderlands games you'll feel right at home with The Pre-Sequel. Choose one of the four new playable characters, Athena the Gladiator, Nisha the Lawblinger, Wilhelm the enforcer and Claptrap (yes, that Claptrap) and empty bullets into your enemies in search of loot and more guns. Like the previous games, The Pre-Sequel is extremely generous with it's loot, so it's still as fun as ever to blast through a field of enemies and see what they drop. There's a natural progression to each character, but also a surprisingly deep (even for this franchise) amount of character customization that goes into each skill-tree and even more in the previous games, I found myself digging deep into each character. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel does a great job rewarding whatever play style you may use, and the results are not only incredibly fun but they also allow for a huge amount of replay value.
The Pre-Sequel's biggest addition to the Borderland's formula is the addition of zero-gravity mechanics and while they do change up a lot in some of the game's bigger sections, they do tend to underwhelm more than they impress. Throughout the game you'll go between indoor sections with normal gravity and outdoor ones where you'll be able to manipulate gravity to put new spins on your attacks. You can use it to hover above your enemies or slam to the ground in a punishing attack. Each of these takes away from your oxygen meter, and you'll die if it reaches zero but this rarely feels like the gamble it should thanks to the fact that nearly every enemy drops oxygen tank refills when they die, which makes sense but it took a lot of the drama out of the experience.
The real problem with the anti-gravity mechanics is how much it tends to slow down the Borderlands experience we've all come to know. Like in previous games, the action happens quick in The Pre-Sequel, and I couldn't help but feel like the areas where I was almost forced to use the anti-gravity ruined that for me. At the very least it made me vulnerable to more enemy attacks while in the air. Some of these jumps, especially those with jump-pads early in the game take a frustratingly long time and though it can all be modified by equipping different items and skills, it just feels like the game becomes unnecessarily complicated as a result of the addition.
"...a little innovation wouldn't have hurt anyone."
By far though the biggest disappointment with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is how it fails to address a number of problems that have plagued the series since it's inception. Missions still require you to trace all the way back to the starting point to obtain your reward (a bigger issue this time around thanks to the added oxygen level mechanic) and there are entire sections that are void of enemies and make the entire game feel like more of a slog than it needs to be. I was at least hoping that Gearbox would fix the broken way-point system but it's still as broken as ever and it's disappointing to say the least. I get that The Pre-Sequel was supposed to be something to tide you over until the next real installment, but a little innovation wouldn't have hurt anyone.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a really expensive appetizer for a main course that you don't when it's coming, but know it's going to be really good. It whets your appetite and gets you thinking just how much you want that main course, but it won't satisfy you — especially if you're looking for something new. It delivers everything you want from a Borderlands game and does so very well but you're constantly reminded of how much you want Borderlands 3, and how much this isn't that. Borderlands fan will eat up this latest piece of their beloved franchise.
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