By Diego Barros-Barnes and George Hyde
In 2010, players were first introduced to the world of “Borderlands,” a strange mix of “Mad Max” with “Diablo” with a wickedly dark sense of humor. The world expanded and became bigger and better with “Borderlands 2,” but now players are faced with a somewhat stagnant new entry, whose title embraces said stagnation: “Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.”
“Pre-Sequel,” as the title says, takes place between the first two titles on the moon of Pandora — the planet from those titles — called Elpis. Handsome Jack, who will go on to become the villain in the second game, is a low-level programmer who is trapped on a base near the moon. He hires four vault hunters to search for a vault on Elpis, but a jamming signal coming from Elpis complicates matters for Jack, and the group heads down to see what’s the matter.
The strongest part of “Pre-Sequel” is Jack himself. He starts the game with relatively noble intentions, but as the tale goes on, he starts to succumb to evil. Plus, even though he starts as a good guy, he’s still the lovable jerk that he’s always been in the second game. Or always will be.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered by “Pre-Sequel’s” story. There are some moments that contradict with other moments in the other two titles, and several important plot threads are left unmentioned.
“Pre-Sequel” has little else to offer. The game’s big selling point, the low-gravity moon shenanigans, amounts to little and even hinders with gameplay at times. For example, the vehicles in “Pre-Sequel” handle terribly.
Disregarding the relative lack of gravity, everything feels similar to the second game. The engine, menus, mechanics and even the game’s quick-start icon for the PC ports are ripped wholesale from “Borderlands 2.”
This gives the game a pervading sense of laziness that makes it hard to appreciate the experience. It’s still fun, sure — the shoot-and-loot gameplay is back and still as addictive as ever, even though a lot of the quests still feel very drudging. And while a lot of the series’ trademark humor has been lost, a lot of the characters are still very entertaining. But there’s also bugs everywhere, suggesting that “Pre-Sequel” has been rushed and/or poorly playtested.
It’s hard to shake the feeling that this title should have cost $30 as a “Borderlands 2” expansion instead of $60 as a full game, plus another $30 for the downloadable content that will inevitably come to “Pre-Sequel.” To charge $60 feels criminal, especially to those playing alone.
It will please hardcore “Borderlands” nuts who crave more “Borderlands” at any cost, as well as those who simply want to hear more of Handsome Jack’s backstory. But there’s little value in this package aside from that. When it goes on sale, it may be worth checking out. But for now it’s not worth the money.