Once upon a time, four Vault Hunters landed on the distant planet of Pandora in search of (you guessed it) a Vault, an ancient cache of alien weaponry. Unfortunately, the Vault was loaded not with loot, but an alien badass called the Destroyer, but the Vault Hunters beat the Destroyer and saved Pandora. The End.
BUT then! Five years later, four new Vault Hunters descended on Pandora to free it from the tyranny of Handsome Jack, the president of the Hyperion Corporation. Also, they were after another Vault. Also, Handsome Jack was after the same Vault because he knew an ancient alien entity called the Warrior was locked inside it. With the Warrior, Jack wanted to scour Pandora with cleansing fire. The new Vault Hunters and the old Vault Hunters united and fought Handsome Jack and the Warrior, killing them both. The End.
Now, let's all go out for ice cream...
BUT THEN...the Pre-Sequel. The prequel to Borderlands 2, and the sequel to the original Borderlands. Set somewhere early on in the five years between BL1 and BL2, the Pre-Sequel tells the story of Non-Handsome Jack's heroic (if not questionable) quest to save Pandora's moon, Elpis. We all know he's going to succeed, but discovering how a Hyperion programmer named Jack turned into a maniacal handsome monster is fun and fascinating.
The Pre-Sequel operates much like the previous two Borderlands games. This is a good thing for the most part. Improvements are geared more towards online play with a new feature that allows you to see another player's inventory, skill points, and Badass Rank. There's also new uses for the secondary currency (Moonstones) such as opening chests and for use with the Grinder, yet another new element to the Borderlands series. The Grinder finally addresses the overwhelming amount of loot you can acquire during the game by allowing you to grind three types of loot, thereby making it into something more awesome.
The gameplay to me feels much more like BL1 than BL2. Loot drops much more freely, and chests appear at every turn in TPS, and I constantly find myself drooling over the Item of the Day in most vending machines. That's a good feeling! BL1 also gave us the ability to carry some weapons over the course of a hand full of levels, which I've also found to be the case in TPS. I even received a random legendary drop within the first few hours of playing. Was it random? Or did GearBox alter the drop percentages in this game to reflect BL1?
EDIT: Holy crap! How could I forget about the low-gravity gameplay. The gravity on Elpis is much lower than on Pandora. As such, you can jump farther and higher, and with the added feature of an O2 or OZ Kit, you can boost your jumps even further. I've heard a few people complain about this and how frustrating some of the environments can be, however I've experienced none of that. Low gravity gun fighting is by far one of the most notable improvements on gameplay.
New Vault Hunters means new action skills:
Wilhelm, The Enforcer can summon two drones, Wolf and Saint, to simultaneously buff characters and attack enemies. Upgrading skills cans also enhance Wilhelm's cybernetic implants, making him less man and more machine as you play.
Athena, The Gladiator brings up her Aspis shield, allowing her to absorb enemy attacks for a time and redirect that energy into an assault in which she throws the shield at the end of the action skill. Her skill tree focuses on melee attacks and buffs to the Aspis shield. As a fan of melee play (and of Captain America), playing Athena is a fun one.
Nisha, the Lawbringer focuses on gunplay, similar to what Salvador did in BL2. Her action skill allows her to auto-aim on enemies, and her skill tree focuses on overall damage, both in the melee and gun variety.
Claptrap, the Fragtrap is perhaps one of the most fascinating classes we've seen in the Borderlands series. His action skill, VaultHunter.exe, runs a program that assesses the battle situation and selects one of several action skills (some awesome, others less so). His skill tree reflects this concept, granting buffs while sacrificing buffs, and generating randomness to gameplay. This is a lot of fun to play, but it won't be for everyone.
As is the case with most video games, I'm into them for the story. The Pre-Sequel doesn't fail me there. The new Vault Hunters begin their journey as hired mercenaries for a Hyperion programmer named Jack. Jack wants to locate and open a Vault on Pandora's moon of Elpis, but in the middle of recruiting his new Vault Hunters, the Hyperion moon base is attacked. The Lost Legion, a group of Dahl soldiers, takes over the HeFlios moon base and begins firing on Elpis. An ambiguous champion, Jack sends his Vault Hunters to Elpis to try to fix the damage the Lost Legion is doing.
Yes, Jack is the hero. Anyone who's played BL2 knows what Jack turns into, and this is the story of how that transformation took place. Early on, we see some of the questionable methods Jack uses to protect the people of Elpis. The question you have to ask yourself though is Jack doing this to protect Elpis, or to protect the Vault.
With more chatter between the characters, and points that connect on both BL1 and BL2, the story of the Pre-Sequel is told well. Random Echo logs fill in a lot of the blanks, as do the numerous side missions. My only real complaint about the story is how short it is, however, I'm sure future DLC will help fill in those gaps. Unfortunately, I don't feel that great about paying more money for more of the story.
Now for the bad stuff. Short story aside, the most disappointing part about Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is the unpolished look it has. I'm not talking about the environments (which I happen to enjoy) or the overall graphics. I'm talking about BUGS! There seem to be a high degree of gameplay-experience-affecting glitches in game from players not being visible during online play to invisible walls to the mother of all glitches, a bug that undoes your skill point buffs upon getting out of a vehicle. WHAT? This will surely get fixed soon, but still, what a bummer.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will provide many hours of fun entertainment, and very different classes will allow for new experiences through multiple playthroughs. The story is great and will answer many questions left between BL1 and BL2. And while the gameplay is buggy, the amount of loot and new environments and characters help to fill this void.
I'm looking forward to future games and installments!
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