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Published on April 17th, 2014 | by Justin Smith

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Borderlands: The Pre Sequel PAX East Preview

Honestly one of the biggest surprises of PAX East was this title from 2K Australia. It had been announced only about a week before the show, and really not much had been known about it. To be honest it had a few things going against it in my mind as I read about its announcement. It isn’t Gearbox – it’s another company. It’s running on the same engine as Borderlands 2, effectively making it “sort-of” an expansion and less like a full-fledged Borderlands 3, it takes place between Borderlands 1 and 2, ect. However, when I watched the demo I completely changed my mind. First of all, the developers at 2K Australia really seem like they know exactly what they’re doing, and having a brand new set of competent eyes on this franchise could be one of the best things for it.

For one they’re daring to set it in a completely new environment, Pandora’s moon, which really changes up some fundamental gameplay elements of Borderlands. Low gravity introduces new physics, from jumping extremely far to watching individual shards of shattered frozen enemies (more on that later) slowly explode outward from the point of impact – each shard interacting beautifully with the environment. Both enemies and objects are sent flying in slow motion from explosions or strong impacts. A moon-like environment also means low oxygen, which introduces a new item type in the form of oxygen tanks. These tanks, like grenades, can have various random effects that allow you to use your oxygen in interesting ways – like a jetpack or a booster to slam into the ground. They said that you don’t have to think of oxygen as another life bar, but they did not elaborate what happens when you run out… However they did imply that it at least does not mean death.

Cryo damage makes a debut in this Borderlands, slowing enemies and eventually freezing them solid. When you attack frozen enemies they can shatter, and as mentioned earlier it is a spectacularly awesome effect in low gravity. Rounding out the additions to gunplay are laser weapons. While iridium weapons in Borderlands 2 were somewhat “laser-like” (they were energy weapons) this game adds full-fledged lasers. Like, Ghostbusters “don’t cross the beams” lasers. We didn’t get to see them in combat (I suspect some of the effects are still being worked on) but the presenter did fire one briefly. It looked to be an awesome addition. You can’t have the moon without lasers, they assured us. I completely agree.

The plot has a lot of interesting potential. For starters, two of the playable characters are major bosses you fight throughout Borderlands 2, the Jack-supporting Wilhelm and Warden. Also playable is Claptrap and one of General Knox’s old lieutenants. They only showed the last character in detail, who is sort of a Captain America of sorts. Her power is an energy shield that absorbs damage, and she can throw it at enemies to dish that damage back to them. Various abilities on her tech-tree allow it to bounce or deal elemental damage, or other fun shield-based buffs. Wilhelm was described in interesting fashion as a human who slowly becomes more cyborg as you travel down his tech-tree, getting closer to his eventual mechanical form you see in Borderlands 2. The underlying plot of the Pre-Sequel explains how these “good guys” become the villains you see in Borderlands 2. Even Jack, who you work for throughout the game, starts out as a good guy – which begs the question just who is so evil in this game that it would drive Jack to become the ass he is in Borderlands 2. Also, very observant players will remember that the moon was fine in Borderlands but shattered in Borderlands 2. 2K Australia seems to have an interesting story to tell as to how that came about.

So, yeah, it’s a bit like an expansion instead of a Borderlands 3, as it just builds upon the Borderlands 2 foundation and engine with some new gameplay, environments, and characters. But, if you enjoyed Borderlands 2 this is definitely one to follow until its release later this year.


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