Wednesday, 19 November 2014

[PC Game Review] Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Platform: PC (Steam)
Released: 2014
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: 2K Australia
Publisher: 2K Games

To say I was hyped about the Pre-Sequel is an understatement. Borderlands and Borderlands 2 have both quickly become some of my favourite shooters of all time, with Borderlands 2 admittedly taking the spot as my favourite game of all time. The mix of RPG and FPS with an insane amount of customization and not to mention, an insane amount of guns, combined with humor and a very unique graphical style, has made these games very dear to me and hold a special place in my library.

The Pre-Sequel pretty much is what it says. It's the sequel to Borderlands but also a prequel to Borderlands 2. While I think the term "mid-quel" might be more appropriate, I think "pre-sequel" has a better ring to it. The story follows the rise of Handsome Jack and you play as four (with more characters available in DLCs) vault hunters who follow him and aid him in his rise to power. Athena, who in many ways is the protagonist of the story, appeared in the first game's General Knoxx DLC as a sort of mercenary who worked for the Atlas corporation. After the fall of the corporation she became a bounty hunter with a certain code of honor. Among the characters, she is the only one with a distinct morality to her. Nisha, who I chose as my main character, is a self-proclaimed Lawbringer who ends up as Handsome Jack's love interest in the game. Wilhelm, who like Nisha served as a boss in Borderlands 2, is addicted to cybernetic enhancements. Claptrap is... annoying as usual but has a unique and very interesting playstyle. Together, they form the team that helps Jack into the Vault on Pandora's moon Elpis.

What I noticed right away is that while the game looks and plays very similar to Borderlands 2, it definitely has a unique feel to it. Everything is a bit smaller, so the gameplay is actually faster in terms of leveling, since it's scaled to the length of the game. While it may be seen as a negative that the game lacks a bit in size compared to Borderlands 2, it does make the game feel more focused and fun. I especially enjoyed being able to have my action skill at level 3 and feeling like I actually progressed much faster than in Borderlands 2. The setting is also unique compared to any other Borderlands game as so far, none of the games have actually taken place outside Pandora. The Pre-Sequel's setting is the moon Elpis and the Helios space station, both serving as very fresh and interesting locales that feel like a breath of fresh air after playing Borderlands 2 which, granted it did expand on the environments from Borderlands 1 but the difference in the Pre-Sequel is much bigger.

The main difference to notice is that there is low gravity on the moon and also no air. To remedy this you are given O2 kits (pronounced "Oz" by the locals due to how the 2 resembles a Z). O2 kits can be used to not only breathe in vacuum but also give you boosts, making the gameplay more vertical and bouncy. I cannot stress enough how much of a difference this makes and the Pre-Sequel really has its own unique playstyle compared to Borderlands 2. In fact, I find it difficult to go back to the earlier games after playing this.

The weapons are mostly the same from Borderlands 2, retaining the individual gun manufacturer designs from that game, though there is a new weapon type, namely lasers. Lasers come in several different types as well and can be charged with any kind of element. Speaking of, there is a new element called Cryo which, you guessed it, freezes your enemies. It's one of the elements that me and my friend have been wanting for a long time and it's awesome to finally see it in a Borderlands game.

Legendaries are also easier to get in this game. Stores actually sell them now, and much like in the first game, they are super expensive, but at least available, something I missed in Borderlands 2. You also have a new tool, called the Grinder, where you can insert guns and get a new one of potentially higher rarity and even with unique bonuses given from the moonstones you pick up during gameplay.
The moonstones serve various purposes and work as a replacement for Eridium from Borderlands 2. Thankfully, moonstones are much more easily obtained in this game, and I actually had all the SDUs before reaching playthrough 2.

Despite using the same game engine, graphically the game looks amazing and actually a bit better than Borderlands 2. I know a lot of people see it as a mere standalone DLC to BL2 but the graphical upgrade is noticable. The different setting allows for more unique visuals as well and gives the game a unique atmosphere. I haven't been able to see the PhysX effects since I use an AMD card but assume they are as cool as in Borderlands 2. Even without PhysX the effects when you shatter frozen enemies and such are really cool (pardon the pun).

The music is nothing memorable but works fine within the game. A lot of it reminds me of Mass Effect actually, which is fitting considering the space theme. The sounds are also pretty good and I love the voice acting. The game actually has a Mature rating and the script has a much more adult feel to it which I greatly approve of. While some of the performances left some to be desired, I generally enjoyed the different feel to the writing and humor as the game feels a bit darker and more adult overall, which I think a lot of fans will enjoy. A new thing I especially like is that the vault hunters actually talk to each other and the NPC's, giving them more personality beyond the usual grunts.

All in all, the Pre-Sequel is more than just a standalone DLC to Borderlands 2, it is a different and honestly improved experience compared to BL2, and while it is shorter, I think the improvements make up for it and there is plenty of reason for repeated playthroughs. My only gripe with it is the short length, but I hope DLC will be released that expands on it and maybe adds a higher level cap.

STORY: 9/10
SOUND: 8/10

TOTAL: 8/10