When I first saw the Hyperion base and moon in Borderlands 2, I knew I'd be travelling there someday. And the vessel taking us there turned out to be Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. We're sent to Pandora's cosmic neighbour Elpis, and on which we experience an incredibly trippy adventure to the world of Handsome Jack. We meet familiar acquaintances, some new faces, and play as Claptrap - which doesn't sound half as crazy as it ultimately is.
In the role of one of four "new" hunters, we witness the rise of Handsome Jack, the antagonist of the second Borderlands game. The story is set between the first and second games, and revolves around an intergalactic rescue mission, revenge and - of course - a legendary treasure trove of alien technology. The campaign is told in flashback from gladiator Athena's point of view. She was involved in the events on Elpis, worked for Jack and was therefore arrested by the hunters who tried to figure out how Handsome Jack became the megalomaniac Hyperion boss who is responsible for what happens in Borderlands 2.
Athena is one of the playable characters. She has a protective shield that absorbs damage from enemies for a short time and casts back the stored amount at her attackers. This makes her a great support for any team and incredibly strong in single combat.
William the Enforcer is a real fighting machine and has numerous cybernetic implants, and is the darkest character in the game because he kills for pleasure and money. His action skill includes the two drones Saint and Wolf, who will fight alongside him for some time.
Nisha is a cowgirl with a strong whip as a melee attack. With her action skill Nisha gains auto-aim and her shots have a huge damage boost.
Then there's Claptrap. Conceptually the short robot is best suited to the Borderlands universe, because he equals absolute chaos. Claptrap's action skill is a random program that responds differently depending on the situation. His arsenal ranges from helpless jumping rubber ducks to a laser-firing disco ball - and that makes him a ticking time bomb. In addition the small metal box has access to all other the action skills and can just as easily play as ninja, Gunzerker or Mechromancer. Unfortunately you can never really be sure what he's going to do next and so any new activation of the skill is a real gamble, as not all skills are helpful to the current situation.
Fans of the series will be inevitably recognise many of the iconic figures from previous Borderlands games, and the narrative focus from four different perspectives offers a lot of additional information about the universe.
Each playable character is unique and reacts differently to the events of the game. My Claptrap, for example, provides a lot of comments that at times are laugh out loud funny, other times sad. The heartfelt dilemma as to whether Claptrap will become just another killing machine is smartly handled - and tragic, as its free will is suppressed by its program code.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel has very excellent dialogue that unfortunately you can miss, as lengthy NPC monologues end up overlapping, if say, someone moves ahead and triggers a new progression point. Quicker players will notice this from the very start as a character leaves an intro monologue unfinished to start talking about something else.
The distinctive humour of the series is not lost in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Whether it is to clean up pollution in the name of an animal rights organisation, or to draw the legendary weapon 'Excalibastard' from a stone, things always turn out differently than what you may imagine. The range of the quests is great, even if there's the occasional amount of backtracking.
Of course, it's all about gunning things down, but the game succeeds in always give you the right motivation to do so. And even if not all the side characters on Elpis are as unique as their counterparts on Pandora, the devs did build an equally interesting experience.
Pandora's moon offers gameplay additions. Since there is no oxygen in large parts of the game, we have a special kit that provides the hunters with a limited oxygen supply, a jet engine and a ramming attack. The reduced gravity allows us to jump very high and walk much faster. If we jump in the air a second time, some air flows from the oxygen kit and allows us to make double jumps, allowing access to remote areas.
If your air supply is empty, Elpis shows its true face and robs you of health every second. The lack of plant life means the game has a barren, sometimes bland look that can't match the boundless vegetation of Pandora. Basically there are only the larger sections on the lunar surface, arms factories and numerous moon bases, and thus the biggest issue is a lack of personality, of diversity, when it comes to the game's environments. Unfortunately you find the same monotony in the new alien races that inhabit the moon and the other enemies of the game.
Being a huge Borderlands fan I really enjoyed The Pre-Sequel and I will certainly play on for a few weeks, as the story and endgame are really a gun nut's paradise.
But unfortunately there is a lack of new, innovative ideas: this is just more of the same (great) stuff. If you had fun with the series, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will not disappoint at all. It's a truly crazy action role-playing game with bitter black humour, magnificent gameplay and a fantastic universe. But it's not on par with Borderlands 2.
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