Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a strange entry in the series. It’s purpose, or lack thereof, is to tell Jack’s origin story. On the surface, and even inches deep into its more obvious mechanics, The Pre-Sequel is very much a Borderlands game, buttload-of-guns-and-all. There’re still hordes of baddies to beat, a tongue-and-cheekiness that shines through every line of Australian dialogue, and the same ridiculous looting that made exiting the game a genuine challenge. There are both subtle and drastic differences, however. Indeed, Borderlands is still Borderlands, but the meshing of familiarity and newness work together to create what is possibly the best slice of the series to date.
Let’s begin with the biggest of the bunch: the location. Perhaps the most shocking of revelations is that Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel takes place entirely on that chunk of rock we may or may not have visited in 1969. The moon, for those unfamiliar with American conspiracy theories, is where the game takes place. The moon, at first glance, could easily pass for another piece of Borderlands pie; rocky surfaces, familiar textures, obscure constructions and the occasional safe/crate/box of bullets or cash. This time around, however, the world is both unique and fundamental to the experience.
For starters, low-gravity plays a large role in the newest bundle of shenanigans. Leaps, double-jumps and slow jetpack hovering are all additions to the Borderlands roster of approved traversal techniques. There’s a certain satisfaction to butt-stomping a group of aliens and watching as gravity drags them through space like ragdoll puppets — something I’ll be doing too much of, I’m sure. Unlike Pandora, the moon also lacks oxygen — a necessary component in both staying alive and, evidently, killing groups of enemies. While you’ll require that tasty gas in order to survive, it’s available in nearly an unlimited capacity, and will mostly be utilized to fuel some creative fun (such as leaping across giant formations and firing shots at unsuspecting baddies below).
New weapon types were also presented during the short demo, including lasers. That’s right, lasers — the bright red, pew pew, “firin’ mah” gosh darn lasers. Unlike some of Borderlands’ other popular weapon types, lasers will range quite drastically in function and appearance. One brand, for example, will fire a constant beam of shiny death, while others will simply produce various rates of fire. The “cryo” type — another addition to the Borderlands gun-fam — will allow players to freeze enemies with a few shots. In itself, the power is quite useful, especially during hectic or overwhelming combat situations. Formalities aside, however, I’ll be butt stomping frozen aliens at every opportune moment — which, amazingly, has them shatter into a bunch of pretty icicles.
Since the game takes place between both previous Borderlands titles, there are several familiar characters that will pop-up, including some of the playable variety. One such character is Wilhelm “The Enforcer,” Handsome Jack’s second in command in Borderlands 2. Another is Claptrap, the annoying-but-lovable robotic mascot, as well as Athena “The Gladiator” and Nisha “the Lawbringer.” Characters weren’t detailed much during the demo, but each will have a full-featured skill tree as well as a unique power.
The PAX demo, which was less than half an hour long, exhibited everything from the bombastic combat, to the stronger and more focused narrative. Humor, a Borderlands staple, makes a strong comeback too, and exploring Jack’s backstory seems most appropriate in terms of intrigue. Borderlands 3 would have been the safest title to tackle next, and is likely — at the very least — on paper at Gearbox, but The Pre-Sequel looks as fun as previous entries, if different enough to showcase 2K’s love and dedication to the franchise. Plenty of additions were merely skimmed, such as a new hovercraft vehicle type and explosive oxygen exploitation, but it was clear from the onset that The Pre-Sequel wouldn’t be a simple cash-in. Fans of Borderlands rejoice — and hold on to your last-gen consoles — this fall might just prove to be out of this world.