Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Preview
It isn’t exactly Borderlands 3 but you know, it’ll do. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, a collaborative effort between Gearbox and 2K Australia, is set on the low-gravity moon of Pandora, and the game should feel a lot fresher than you might initially believe. Sure, it’s still a shooter, and it’ll maintain that same over-the-top kookiness thanks to Handsome Jack and the colorful vault hunters. But with new obstacles, characters, weapons, and even gameplay mechanics, this prequel shouldn’t be discounted just ‘cuz it’s not on next-gen consoles.
Perhaps the biggest difference between The Pre-Sequel and previous entries is the aforementioned lack of gravity, which allows vault hunters to leap incredibly long distances. This also allows for something the developers are calling the “butt stomp” (a big-time slam from high up) and it enables a different sort of movement system with greatly varying speeds. Sprinting, bolting into the air, using boosters in mid-air; it will all have a dramatic impact on the standard FPS formula. So yeah, it’s not just about new weapons and skill trees; it’s about experiencing the always entertaining world of Borderlands with a few significant gameplay twists.
The designers are also implementing more elemental effects, as the new cryo weapons are bound to be big-time crowd-pleasers. Soaking a nasty foe with water and then breaking out a cryo gun to freeze them solid should be ridiculously fun, right? Taking your fancy new arsenal out for a spin will result in new strategies and encounters, and the level design reflects the low-gravity environment. Jump pads that let you launch into the air add verticality to a genre that typically stays on the ground, and the new Kraggon enemy (some weird ice monster of sorts) will cause you fits with their unique “dividing” technique. This is just a small sample of what to expect, so calling this a “glorified piece of DLC” would be a critical mistake.
Don’t forget that the thin atmosphere results in yet another new mechanic, which involves the continual need for oxygen. This gets its own meter on the HUD and it slowly depletes as you explore the lunar surface. You have to get oxygen from generators and oxygen vents that will refill your tanks, but you needn’t worry about the potential obnoxiousness of this system: Gearbox won’t make it a huge challenge to have air. The focus remains on the combat, as it always has. And speaking of which, that lack of oxygen allows you to inflict extra pain on your enemies; for instance, shoot off an opponent’s helmet and watch him suffocate.
The environment will also present you with other obstacles, such as dangerous pools of methane that should be avoided at all costs. The developers are teasing that the moon is volcanically active, too, so you had best be on the lookout for vents on the verge! Exploring this forbidding landscape will involve tapping into your character’s deep repertoire of abilities and skills, some of which will be brand new. Powering up a specific class has always been a major highlight of this series and of course, that will take center-stage yet again. Just be careful, because death may be more difficult to avoid this time around…
If you’re wondering, the level cap for the game will begin at 50, and reports are that your first play-through will get you to around Lv. 25 or so. Given the appreciated distinctness of the hunters, there’s always good reason to replay the game, and multiplayer action is always a huge draw. This is a franchise that really puts an emphasis on cooperative gameplay, and shooter fans everywhere love it. So, when Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel arrives on October 14, don’t think of it as a spin-off or a quick cash grab. Don’t say, “meh, I’ll wait for a true sequel on PS4 or Xbox One.” This is a fully realized, fully fleshed-out new installment, so give it some respect!
6/11/2014 Ben Dutka