Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was an interesting release for the series. Not just because of the strange title for the game, but more because of the gameplay changes introduced, and our chance to witness the rise of one of the best video game villains: Handsome Jack.
Reflecting on this game as part of the series is conflicting for fans, because some hate it, while others love it. And with that, we shall dive into The Pre-Sequel to remind ourselves of what the game was about and how it was to play. Perhaps even re-thinking our thoughts or reinforcing our set opinions on this often forgotten entry in the Borderlands franchise.
Similar to how Arkham Origins is the forgotten third child of the Arkham franchise, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is often regarded as the worst game in the series. Though that’s not to say that it’s a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a good one in fact, just one that is extremely interesting in terms of how it added to the Borderlands lore.
Playing as Wilhelm (of Borderlands 2 fame), Athena (ditto), Nisha, and Claptrap, you journey from the Hyperion station to the Pandora moon, assisting Handsome Jack along the way, to help him topple his oppressive bosses. Fulfilling the standard Borderlands formula of lootin’ and shootin’, you’ll be directly causing the rise of Handsome Jack, and witness him become the terror you fight in Borderlands 2. Claptrap is the standout for the vault hunters, not only because of his unfortunately undeniable humour, but because he doesn’t require oxygen whatsoever throughout the game. A mechanic we will dive into later.
This is probably one of the smallest Borderlands experiences with a similar scope and size to the first game. That doesn’t stop the game being just as fun as you’d expect. With the typical bombastic side missions, characters and dialogue (with an Australian twist this time around), and most importantly, great shooting. If you’re a fan of the series then this entry is definitely worth your time for at least one playthrough.
Because the setting is on the Pandora moon of Elpis, you now have to manage your oxygen level most of the time, utilising an oxygen tank meter and oxygen bubbles scattered around the moon. Despite the realism that this mechanic brings, the only thing it’s typically consistent with is causing a small sense of frustration due to the constant need to keep an eye on your oxygen meter, although that never hindered me greatly as I was playing through its 15-20 hour campaign. They also added a machine which you could use to upgrade your gun level by sacrificing a few waepons below that level – a cool idea but not as attractive as you might think in practice.
More new mechanics included ice weapons and low gravity environments which found their way into a couple of areas in Borderlands 3, serving as a nice (if the only) nod to the Pre-Sequel. Again, the low-gravity environments allow players to use gravity to their advantage in fun and interesting ways, and the vehicles are more of a priority here too, because of the many open areas, which leads onto the level design. Unfortunately it isn’t fantastic, and the spaces are too big and empty, even for Borderlands.
The ending of The Pre-Sequel helps make up for this however by being both memorable and, at what I thought at the time, seemingly important for the series. As Athena retells the story of the Pre-Sequel in the present day, we then witness the opening proposition for Borderlands 3, whilst also learning why Jack wears his infamous mask. But you’ll want to forget all that when you play Borderlands 3, if only because Gearbox did when they made it.
This was the first and last AAA game for 2K Australia who were unfortunately shut down after its release. That’s a shame since it’s clear that the game was made under heavy pressure, with the use of many Borderlands 2 assets and a tight time frame; they had to release the game in just two years after Borderlands 2.
I have fond memories of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Playing through the campaign with the standard Borderlands expectations, it didn’t particularly grab me the same as Borderlands 1, 2 and 3, did, but I have still always thought it was a worthy addition to the franchise. A fun game without question, but it is not the best in the series, still, there were memorable moments such as the Daft Punk duo in the bar, the troublesome mayor, and the poor level designs in some areas, causing confusion and too-much back-peddling.
I’ll defend The Pre-Sequel whenever somebody slates it as a poor game because it is actually a pretty decent playthrough. When the series’ we love produce siblings which don’t quite live up to the hype – Bioshock, Arkham and Gears of War as examples – we forget that these sibling games are all probably good at the very least. They just struggle to shine bright when the games before, and after, them are found to be blinding.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel released on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC in October 2014 before moving to Xbox One and PS4 as part of The Handsome Collection in 2015. If you wish to give it a go, head on over to the Xbox Store.