Borderlands has been a series that I swing between enjoying and getting frustrated by. The combination of FPS gameplay with RPG progression and loot is one of the best examples of combining player skill with abstraction that I’ve seen. But numerous little issues and confusing game mechanics always chip away at the game for me.
With Borderlands the Presequel, we have a game that tries to be both old and new at the same time and while it’s an okay game on its own, the “sequel” part of its title is a bit misleading.
Narrative wise, the breakout star from Borderlands 2 would have to be the main bad guy Handsome Jack, whose disturbing behavior and dialogue made him a great villain you love to hate. The presequel focuses on the story of how Jack rose to become the owner of Hyperion and set the stage for Borderlands 2 where he tries to kill everyone.
When a military group attacks the Hyperion moon base which fans of Borderlands 2 will remember, Jack summons four vault hunters to help him take things back, with the majority of the game taking place on Pandora’s moon. The four new characters were all previously seen in Borderlands 1 and 2 with Nisha and Wilhelm bosses from the last game.
To the developer’s credit, the four classes are diverse and feature some cool abilities. Wilhelm for instance is the “pet class” with twin drones that heal and attack when summoned while claptrap’s action skill is random each time you use it.
And for the first time in the series, people will talk to them and the dialogue is customized for each vault hunter.
Gameplay wise, taking place on the moon presents a few new tricks to the experience. Laser weapons can now be found along with a new freezing elemental type. Because there isn’t any oxygen on the moon, O2 kits or Oz kits can be equipped that add another type of equipment to enhance your characters.
With the low gravity, the presequel features more vertical and jumping areas thanks to the oz kits providing double jumping and jump pads scattered around. There are new enemies but most of the enemies fall into the same attack patterns you’ve seen in previous games.
And talking about seeing things before, the presequel’s biggest problem is that you’re going to be seeing a lot of what was in Borderlands 2 and I’m not just talking about gameplay.
The main problem is that the developers did not do anything to improve the Borderlands experience. All the bugs, UI problems, mechanic issues, weapon balance and loot table concerns are present here. I could spend the next 500 or so words simply listing all the problems here and that’s not good. You can pretty much pick any problems from Borderlands 2 and they will apply to the presequel.
The trip to the new moon also presents some new problems. The level design has gotten worse now that the developers don’t have to worry as much about gravity. Many areas are just sprawling messes with no sense of architecture. Surprisingly there aren’t a lot of areas to use vehicles which would have made things bearable.
The O2 concern becomes more and more of a determinant when you are fighting bosses outside and have to run out of cover to get your needed oxygen. Enemies continue to have their magical ability to snipe you from half way across the map which the wider areas of the presequel are more abundant with. And the series still has the same scaling problem with enemies who either out level you or you out level them due to side quests.
And at this point, they really need to do more work with properly balancing the game between multiplayer and singleplayer as there was one required fight that would have ended my time with the game if I didn’t have a friend on to help.
Granted you could make a case for the new ability to grind up unneeded gear and laser weapons as a plus, but that doesn’t fix the fact that the UI still feels designed for a console audience and multiple quest and item bugs. The game also ends on a flat note which seems to indicate the desire to finish things with DLC missions.
Earlier this year I talked about Batman Arkham Origins and felt that the developers copied too much from the original formula. But at least they were willing to add new features and enemies to try and put their stamp on the design. Here, 2K Australia really did just copy and paste the entire experience from the last game and I have to grade them more harshly because of it.
The only new thing would have to be the story which was pretty interesting to see how Jack became the villain in the next game. But not taking the chance to fix the glaring problems from the last game was a huge mistake.
Borderlands the Presequel feels more like an expansion pack due to how much of the previous game’s faults make up its foundation. If you love the Borderlands series and can look past these issues, this is more to love. But if the last game tired you out or are bored with this formula, then this trip to the moon just isn’t worth it.