Yeah yeah, I know, I'm only slightly a little bit late to the party with this one. But in the wake of the imminent coming of Borderlands 3, I finally decided to get off my lazy ass and finish up this series once and for all. As you guys may or may not know, Borderlands 2 was my favorite "looter shooter" game with lots of ingenuity, care, and cleverly disguised memes that makes the experience worth it. But does the Pre-Sequel live up to one of the most iconic games of this generation? Let's take a look and find out below.
Contrary to popular belief, I actually enjoyed the story much more than Borderlands 2. As this is NOT going to be a spoiler-free playthrough, it is highly advised that you go ahead and skip this section. HERE IT IS IN BIG BRIGHT BOLD LETTERS TO GIVE YOU YOUR WARNING OTHERWISE DON'T BLAME ME FOR WHAT'S ABOUT TO HAPPEN.
The story follows...soon to be "Handsome" Jack before he became the head of the Hyperion corporation. But it is told through a sort of flashback sequence through the narrative of Athena's eyes, one of the characters that you get to play in the game. Contrary to Borderlands 2, in the Pre-Sequel, you can play as one of three of Jack's different henchman. The fourth is a sodding CL4P-TP unit, who actually comes with his own perk. More of that is explained later on in the gameplay section of the game. The story starts with Jack and the 4 characters aboard the Space Station "Helios", which is the large artifact that orbits around Pandora's surface. The story gets right into it, straight away, with a faction called The Lost Legion attacking the Space Station and trying to overthrow Hyperion in a coup fashion. The mastermind behind all this is Colonel Zarpedon (yes, that is her actual fucking name), who orchestrated the coup. Jack is forced to stay behind on Helios ultimately while the four henchman, Nisha, Wilhelm, Athena, and.....dipshit....are sealed into an escape pod aboard the Helios, and are sent crashing down into Pandora's moon, named Elpis.
Since Zarpedon now has control of the Helios, the Eye in the Sky, she now uses the power of Helios to torment and terrify the people of Elpis and Pandora alike, sending multiple laser beams from the Eye of Helios to destroy multiple settlements on both planets under the guise of doing something good for the better of everyone else. One death to save millions of others. This actually becomes a plot point later on in the story.
Eventually, Jack comes up with the malicious plan of creating an entire robot army to overthrow Zarpedon and take back the Helios Space Station. You befriend a robot AI named Felicity, which you later sacrifice to create the Constructor Bot AI. And even though she is glitched (in more ways than one) to hell and back, seeing Felicity be sacrificed really set something straight in my mind: Jack would really stop at nothing to make sure he has complete and dominant control over Elpis and Pandora alike. This is when you start to see the signs, and this is what really pulled me into liking the story, as it specifically tells as to how Handsome Jack, the, in my opinion most well crafted villain that I've met in a first person game, became the way he is.
Jack, after taking down Colonel Zarpedon, leads you down to the Eye of Helios aboard the Space Station, where it is said that he used the Eye of the previous Vault Guardian (the one you fight in Borderlands 1) to power the entirety of the beam array, which is what was giving it all that power and destruction. He then hints that he is going to find another Vault, and enlists the aid of two additional vault hunters who we are very familiar with: Roland and Lilith. Under the service of Mad Moxxi, Roland, Lilith, and Moxxi all betray Jack by siphoning the power of the Eye of Helios, and destroy it outright.
This is when Jack snaps.
He then gets the idea to open a grand Eridian Vault, that was mined up on the surface of Elpis (which is the coolest dungeon in the game). Eventually, you fight through massive hordes of Eridian defenders, much like in the first game, to go and defeat the Sentinel that occupies the Eridian vault.
Now under the pretense that he wants to wipe out the Vault Hunters once and for all, he uses the power of the Eridian Sentinel to dig deep into Pandora's surface, and unlock a much more menacing beast: The Warrior. Who just so happens to be the final boss of Borderlands 2. After his debut, however, Lilith comes through the Eridian portal (shown above) and brands Jack with the Vault symbol, by giving him a good ol' fashioned bitchslap. This demoralizes him and forces Jack to play his final card. At this point in the story, Jack has gone completely insane, going down a path of destruction and torment.
The best part of the story is Jack himself. Which I know is an odd thing to say, but it really is the best part of this entire game, as it ties up a lot of things about Borderlands 2 and what made him so menacing. Now it all starts to make sense. Because when I first loaded up Borderlands 2 after playing Borderlands 1 I was like "Who is this fuck"? And now it makes sense.
However, there were some inconsistencies in the story primarily, and I'm just going to throw them out here for people to ponder over. Where the fuck is Angel? It was mentioned that Jack had a daughter, but between the events of Borderlands 1 and Borderlands 2, we are given no indication that Angel was Jack's daughter right until the end of Borderlands 2. I know I'm spoiling Borderlands 2 here but it kind of ties in with the big complaint that I have with this game's story: There is no mention of Angel anywhere. And given the fact that he was so desperate on unlocking the power of The Warrior in Borderlands 2, and used Angel to power the Eridian Key to unlock the Vault, I honestly felt like Angel's inclusion in this story was a missed opportunity. It would have showed the audience just how maniacal and depraved Handsome Jack became to be, and it would have hit home to see him go down that path.
After the final scene, Athena leaves the madman behind, claiming that he wasn't the hero he once was. Rightfully so, considering the above caption. This is when Jack returns to the Space Station Helios, and takes his claim as the leader of the Hyperion corporation, with Jack becoming "the new face of Hyperion". Which sets in motion the events that happen in Borderlands 2.
It all ties in together really well, even though there were some missed opportunities to show off Jack's conniving attitude, maliciousness, and just in general douchebaggery.
Alright. So, we all know that Borderlands 2 paved the way to becoming a vast, rich-quality looter shooter with horde-style combat and makes the experience much more fantastic. The Pre-Sequel does not live this down, and in fact, introduces a whole new array of weapon combination and strategies.
In the Pre-Sequel, the all too familiar Slag element is replaced with Cryo, which is a welcome edition as Slag weapons upset the balance of Borderlands 2 in my opinion. It was impossible to play through True Vault Hunter mode without the use of a Slag weapon. Here, since Slag was taken out of the game and replaced with an entirely new element all together, it made the game balance that much more fun to play. Plus, you didn't have to center your build around using Slag weaponry or making the most use out of your Slag weapons by speccing straight into Weapon Swap Speed. Yes, looking at you Axton.
Weapons are still fun and amazing, and there are lots and lots of different weapons for you to play around with and customize. In fact, there are multiple different styles of weapons that you can choose from, with each manufacturer of weapons having a different perk. For those that don't know, there is Jakobs, Vladof, Maliwan, Tediore, Hyperion, Dahl, and Torgue. Jakobs weapons are old fashioned: high recoil but insane damage, and are actually one of my greatest guilty pleasures as a Nisha player. Vladof weapons are ALL rapid fire, full auto bullet hoses. Maliwan makes only purely elemental weaponry. Tediore weapons are the most annoying and honestly the worst archetype of weapons in my opinion. When you run out of ammo in a Tediore weapon, you throw the weapon like a grenade shortly thereafter, which causes damage to the enemy. This gimmick is honestly horrible and deals very little damage for what you actually put into the weapon. Of course, because of this, they have the highest reload speeds, but the weapons themselves still suck and don't do nearly enough damage to be worth using. Hyperion weapons come with stabilizers built in, meaning that the more you fire, the more accurate they become. Aside from Sniper Rifles, which suck, the stabilizers actually make Hyperion the most damaging and most pristine weapon choice for people who like spraying, but not praying. Hyperion SMGs and Shotguns are honestly overpowered just because of the sheer accuracy they can accrue. Dahl weapons have burst fire when zoomed in, which keeps recoil low but damage output high. Unfortunately, the problem with Dahl weapons, like Tediore weapons, is that their base damage is subpar, and you won't know the contents of how many bullets you'll be firing until you zoom in and fire. Ever had a Sniper Rifle shoot 7 bullets at once in burst fire? It's kind of stupid, and not in a good way. Finally, Torgue weapons are the second most awful weapons. They only make Explosive weaponry, but the problem with Torgue weapons is simply they aren't hitscan, like most of the weapons in the game. They fire slowly, are clunky to handle, and are just downright awful. But they have some of the greatest weapon names in existence.
Aside from gunplay, there are four different characters that you can play as: Athena, Wilhelm, Nisha, and CL4P-TP. Athena is built around using her melee weapon, which isn't very fun in a game filled with guns. Wilhelm has a drone that can either protect and heal you, or dish out damage to enemies. Nisha is a Lawbringer, a caricature of old sheriffs back in the day, and she was honestly the most fun to play as. Her ultimate ability is basically Soldier 76's aimbot, which makes her that much more stupid. Finally, CL4P-TP has some random abilities tied into his ultimate, but his perk is that he does not need an oxygen mask when traveling on the surface of the moon.
Which, while I'm here talking about it, is a good point to bring up. Since you are on the surface of the moon in this game, you need an oxygen mask if you want to survive for any length of time. A lot of people, and I mean A LOT of people, were turned off by this fact, calling O2 management "a chore, unfun and incredibly stupid". Honestly, it's not all that bad, as O2 is plentiful EVERYWHERE. There were some sections where you get into a large fight and you didn't have enough time to run to an oxygen vent, which made me annoyed only slightly, but I never outright died as a result from not being able to breathe.
There's a new archetype of weapon that wasn't available in Borderlands 2, and that's lasergun/railguns. These were a welcome addition to the game and I like them a lot, but I feel there were too many of them that littered the loot pool in lieu of other weapons. In the example above, there are 3 different lasergun/railgun weapons, 3 different rocket launchers (which I never use because they're awful), 1 shotgun, and 1 peeeeestol. It was pretty much like that with all of the other weapon vending machines in the game. It becomes excruciatingly annoying during the ending of the game where you are fighting the Lost Legion, and ALL they drop is laserguns/railguns. And they're white trash weapons.
The difficulty was...a little bit ramped up this time around. On Borderlands 2 it was a little bit more tame, but this time, the difficulty was a little bit more unforgiving in some sections, and there were just moments of pure bullshit and fuckery that made me lose interest in the game for a little bit at a time. But the game was better balanced as a result. Remember when I talked about Slag weapons before and how it made the game near impossible to play without one? Now that that was taken out of the game, it made enemies much easier to kill and you didn't spend 30 minutes trying to fight a single trash mob. It's much more balanced in the player's favor this time around.
The single greatest change from Borderlands 2, however? There are more weapon machines around and they are plenty more accessible. ALSO THE LEVEL OF THE WEAPONS SCALES WITH YOU. So for example, if you were Level 25, the weapon vending machines will sell you Level 24-25 weapons where if you were earlier in the game at Level 11, the vending machine will sell Level 10-11 weapons. This is a great addition and I hope it is added to Borderlands 3. The single thing that pissed me off the most about Borderlands 2 was that weapons didn't scale with you, and I'm glad that was remedied.
All in all, it's still the same Borderlands experience with a few new gimmicks.
Mostly the same as it was from Borderlands 2. The atmosphere of the moon's surface was amazing, even though my ears started hurting at the sounds of all my enemies dying as I mowed them down with Showdown. The soundtrack was barely there, which is sad. I would have loved to hear more of the game's soundtrack other than just the final Eridian palace. The controls were fine, used KB+M to play the game. Everything felt as perfect as it should have been. Graphics are amazing and they recently added a new package that upscales everything to 4k. So if you are a graphics geek, unlike myself, then that would definitely be something that would interest you.
This was kind of a short section as the game's quality is honestly an 8, but Randy Bitchford's quality is a 1. So it balances out.
Just like in Borderlands 2, there is True Vault Hunter mode. This is essentially an even more ramped up version of the game with stronger enemies but better loot. This gives you an extra incentive to play through the game again just to see all the ridiculous loot you can get your grubby little hands on. You can also make a new character at any time and play through the game using that character, so if you are getting bored of playing as Nisha, you can swap to an Athena build, Wilhelm build, or CL4P-TP build. Nothing has really changed in regards to the replayability factor from Borderlands 2: No one playthrough is ever going to be the same. And if it is, you've got some serious black magic tricks I want to get my hands on.
Now, it's time for the final wrap-up. In this section, I'll detail if this game is truly one for you, and if you should decide to play it or not.
Would I recommend this game?:
I think there's no question here that the Pre-Sequel lives just as much to the expectations as Borderlands 2 did. It's still as good of a game as Borderlands 2 was, but made everything a bit more accessible and perfect. For the asking price of $40, I would say its well worth it.
Overall: 7.8/10. Great!