Wot I Think: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

It’s a little tricky to avoid feeling that a review of The Pre-Sequel (!) is superfluous. Surely everyone in the world has had a taste of Borderlands at this point, and have made their minds up about it? This is very much more of that same formula, with zaniness turned up to… What’s that, Steve? You’ve never played a Borderlands game? Wow.

Well then, I’d better explain!

Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and the many DLCs, are all part of Gearbox’s most successful experiment with the FPS. The experiment went like this: they created a system for basically infinite variations of guns, bolted that into a quest-driven, “wide corridor” FPS structure, then threw in a cartoony art style, added some salted and pickled jokes, then mashed the whole thing up with a four-player co-op “drop in/drop-out” functionality. It’s pretty much what happens when you try and tick all the boxes, and it tastes a little like loot-driven dungeon crawlers crashing headlong into traditional FPS games, and the entire mess catching fire in a wrecked candy store.

And catch fire it did. The Borderlands games are co-optacularly popular, with The Pre-Sequel having already shot to the top of the space charts.

That said, I feel like The Pre-Sequel is the weakest of the games so far, with the formula being squeezed for every last drop of its potential, and the entire thing being relocated to the moon for reasons unclear. Handsome Jack – the baddy in B’lands 2 – is a main character here, and we get to learn much of his story. I probably could attempt to explain the plot in some handy way, but that would be spoiling things, and it seems entirely more useful to explain that the game introduces three new vault hunters and – for some reason – comedy robot Claptrap as a playable character. The game asks you if you are serious about your selection when you choose to play him at the start.

This is probably a signifier of how the series needs a complete reboot or overhaul, too, because Claptrap’s special ability – all the characters get one, and there are new ones for all here, too – is a random cocktail of abilities from all the other games, as well as a lot of odd stuff that occurs dependent on the situation. It’s a big, silly idea, but really I think – boringly, perhaps – that I’d rather have had the ability to play any of the characters from all the games.

Anyway, there are two complaints I see aired regularly when it comes to Borderlands. One is that it isn’t funny. That’s sometimes true, but I have to admit I tittered at least as much as usual at The Pre-Sequels quips: there really are some good jokes amid the screaming mania of it all. That won’t do much for the decided Borderlands grumpyfaces, and that’s fine, but at least this game means what it says. I think it’s just worth noting that it’s sometimes as well written as most other comedy games manage to be, and occasionally clever with its ideas on that front. Even if it’s not To Your Tastes, it seems like the amount of work and thought put in shouldn’t be denied.

Sometimes, though, it feels pretty empty. It’s as if they had some big ideas – the moon is basically Australian outback to Pandora’s American bandit-West, for example, and riffs on that notion throughout – but then the big ideas weren’t enough to fill the vacuum of a full AAA game. (It’s perhaps worth noting that this is a game from 2K Australia with help from Gearbox, rather than Gearbox themselves.)

The other complaint that gets raised is more fundamental, and it’s that the game is only a middling combat game, and really requires co-op to be entertaining. That’s probably fair, although I’ve always rather liked this loot-piñata of a game, and its systemic core: guns, guns, compare the guns, shoot the guns, and some other stuff going on but basically guns. What the Pre-Sequel’s not really doing is improving the ongoing model for what you do through most of the game: fight through connected arenas and landscapes. The bits you found boring are still boring, and it’s still a strange game of repeatedly dashing across the same monster-spewing bits of terrain that you have already seen, covering gaps between far apart checkpoints.

But it’s set on the moon! And that means there’s lower gravity! Which is… a worse feeling game? Yeah, I am not really sure they thought that through, even if they clearly did follow it through. What I mean is: there are mechanics that work because of the setting (collecting air while outside, low gravity movement), so they’ve definitely taken advantage of the moon thing, but I am not sure they should have gone there in the first place. Does that make sense? Probably not. Who is editing this stuff? Are you even reading this, Graham? [Yes. It makes close enough to sense? –Graham]

Look: I find both sets of new mechanics an annoyance. That’s all.

On the upside it means the level design is more vertical than usual and you get to do stuff like ponderously leap over lava-filled canyons, but Borderlands was never the tightest feeling FPS to begin with. The jumpy floatiness of this low-G world just amplifies that feeling. It’s not a fatal flaw, but I dislike it enough to say that it spoils my game in the low-gravity areas. Skating about is one thing, but the weird “I’m disconnected from the ground” leaping just feels oily and incongruous. I’ve long enjoyed the “just get back into cover when your shield is down” sort of play, and that feels compromised here.

The payoff for this is the slam, which is an air-drop move which sets off an AoE shockwave, knocking back enemies. It’s fun. It’s probably not fun enough.

Ultimately, though, the Pre-Sequel just fails to hold my attention. This could be in part to overall Borderlands fatigue, but I think it’s more simply down to this not being quite the cohesive whole or formidable package that it might have been. There were a load of chuckles, but I didn’t find it funny overall. There are some spectacular locations, but I found myself bored by the world. The bosses come as fast and as furious as ever, and none of them stuck in my mind. The playable Claptrap is funny, but all the new vault hunters felt like the guys you wouldn’t have chosen in the previous games.

There’s a lot of but. Big but.

Hmm.

Borderlands 2 felt like a huge step on from the original, and it was more colourful, with interesting characters and intense situations. The Pre-Sequel seems to try so, so hard to keep up, but this is not Borderlands 3, and the game – and everyone who plays it – knows that.

In conclusion: Seven out of We Don’t Do Scores.

104 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    Yeah, that’s the feeling I’ve been getting. I basically bought a computer and took a vacation when Borderlands 2 came out, and it was probably high up on my top 10 list of favourite games ever. I was already on vacation when The Pre-Sequel came out, and I still haven’t bought it.

    If any of my closest Steam friends start playing it, I’ll grab it in an instant to join them, but I just wasn’t getting the same vibe from it, and I’m holding out for co-op action and/or a decent sale, whichever comes first.

    (On that note: I reeeeally want a feature to tell me whenever any of my Steam friends plays a particular game, not just whenever a particular Steam friend plays any game. Pleeease Gabe? I won’t send you death threats?)

    • Revolving Ocelot says:

      On that same note I’d like the “Looking to Play” tag to actually, y’know, state WHAT to play. I’d have had it on for Borderlands 2 for years.

      Due to the above failure I’m not getting the Pre-Sequel until it’s discounted 50% or more, as I expect to be stuck soloing it.

      • Cephas says:

        You know if you head over to the forum you’ll find plenty of people who’re co-op with you?

  2. dsch says:

    It’s not a “signifier.”

    If you’re going to go for the “ironically pretentious” pose, at least do your research. Also see the “epistemological question” of building a PC from a couple weeks ago.

    • Asurmen says:

      How is it not a signifier?

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Damn, you beat me to it.

      • dsch says:

        A signifier is part of a network of signifiers that produce meaning based on their mutual differentiation. This is not it. The writer is trying to fancy up the normal word “sign.”

        • Hex says:

          Wat.

          • Myrdinn says:

            The signified is the concept, the meaning, the thing indicated by the signifier. It need not be a ‘real object’ but is some referent to which the signifier refers. The thing signified is created in the perceiver and is internal to them. Whilst we share concepts, we do so via signifiers. Whilst the signifier is more stable, the signified varies between people and contexts. The signified does stabilize with habit, as the signifier cues thoughts and images.

            The relationship between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary. A real object need not actually exist ‘out there’. Whilst the letters ‘c-a-t’ spell cat, they do not embody ‘catness’. The French ‘chat’ is not identical to the English ‘cat’ in the signified that it creates (to the French, ‘chat’ has differences of meaning). In French, ‘mouton’ means both ‘mutton’ and a living ‘sheep’, whilst the English does not differentiate.

            The signifier-signified is stable only if one term is final and incapable of referring beyond itself, which is not true. Meaning is deferred as you slide between signs.

        • Rizlar says:

          Sooo the range of character abilities are a network of signifiers that build meaning into the characters. Claptrap’s identity as a bit of everything that came before means that they have run out of new ideas. That makes sense, right?

        • Asurmen says:

          That isn’t the definition bring used here. So again, how is it not a signifier?

    • SVW says:

      It is a semiotic signifier. – not a linguistic, if that’s what you are confusing it with.
      edit – meant as an reply to dscn.

      • dsch says:

        Elaborate?

        • Premium User Badge

          SuddenSight says:

          Signifier as in “one which signifies.” To signify means “To be a sign of.” In this case, it is a sign of how the series needs an overhaul (to quote the author above).

          Why didn’t the author just use the word sign, which also works? Because English has too many synonyms.

          • dsch says:

            The whole point is that “signifier” is not a synonym for “sign.” A sign is a sign of something. A signifier signifies; it is not a sign of something else.

          • gwathdring says:

            Sign has a lot of meanings. One of the fairly common ones is a thing that indicates something or conveys information.

            This is, it so happens, also the definition of a signifier–something that signifies that is to say something that indicates or denotes or conveys.

            The two are, in some contexts, synonyms. I don’t know what you’re on about with “the whole point…”

            There isn’t a damn “point.” The English language isn’t designed top-down by some kind of guiding hand! Besides, I could rather more sensibly say “the whole point” is that the words signify and signifier very clearly relate to the word sign. Signify is one of two main ways to verbify Sign and the meaning it contains. It makes sense, then, that the noun form of the verb of part of the meaning contained within sign goes back to being part of the meaning contained within sign.

    • Bull0 says:

      It wasn’t “ironically pretentious”, it was just a bit flowery for your tastes, apparently. People throw “signifier” around quite a lot in speech, and sure, maybe “sign” would have done, but it works. Don’t be that guy, nobody likes that guy.

      • dsch says:

        I like ironically pretentious when it’s clear that the writer knows what he’s talking about. People who throw around “signifier” in speech are either a) not using it as an inappropriate synonym for “sign”, or b) the annoying kind of pretentious with nothing to back it up (this is “that guy”).

        • joa says:

          You’re wrong, people are always saying “this signifies that blah blah”. Are you saying it’s more correct to say “this signs that blah blah”? Because I’ve never heard that in my life.

      • Hex says:

        I like that guy when he’s right, and when he doesn’t make a typo in his comment.

        EDIT: Ah, I assumed he meant “prose.” Probably my mistake.

        EDIT 2: Let’s try to work this out. A signifier is a sign’s physical form —

        The game asks you if you are serious about your selection when you choose to play him at the start.” <– this is a physical manifestation "of how the series needs a complete reboot or overhaul … It’s a big, silly idea, but really … I’d rather have had the ability to play any of the characters from all the games.

        Makes sense to me.

        • dsch says:

          No, because (as above) a signifier is part of a network of signifiers that produce meaning based on their mutual differentiation. The concept of network and difference is part of the essential meaning of the term “signifier,” without which it would actually be meaningless. This is why the use of “signifier” here is simply empty.

          • Hex says:

            As above — wat.

          • dsch says:

            Care to elaborate?

          • Cataclysm says:

            Are you trying to say because he only mentioned one thing that signifies it, he can’t use the word signify, but if he mentions another thing that also signifies it, it becomes the beginning of a network that signifies it and thus he can use the word signify? The writers use of the word seems right to me, as he doesn’t say its the ONLY thing that signifies the series needing a reboot, its simply the only reason out of a possible many reasons that the series needs a reboot.

          • Harvey says:

            Oh my gosh, you guys. shhh. SHHHH!

    • Lamb Chop says:

      Unless you’re asking people to venture into linguistic philosophy, in general speech the difference between signifier and sign is only that the form refers specifically to the form of the sign, while sign refers to both the form and the meaning. So almost by definition, when you extract the meaning from the sign out as an object in the sentence (a sign that, or a signifier that), sign and signifier become interchangeable. A stop sign could both reasonably be described as a sign and a signifier that I should stop.

      Of course, as a writer, sign is simpler and clearer and doesn’t carry the baggage of this conversation. I think you’re objecting to florid prose, rather than misuse.

      • dsch says:

        As I explained above, “signifier” has a very specific meaning and is not used in normal speech. The word didn’t even have this meaning before the early 20th century.

        • Hex says:

          There’s an alternative to repeating half-sensical things that presumably someone you trust once told you — you can look up “signifier” pretty easily on the internet, and immediately see that there are any number of definitions for and meanings behind the word.

          Trying to nail down the use of language is a losing proposition. I’d recommend reading what David Foster Wallace has to say about it.

          • PopeRatzo says:

            Or better yet, let Rudy Ray Moore explain it to you:

            link to youtu.be

          • dsch says:

            @Hex

            Ah, condescension from someone who thinks that just because something is “half-sensical” to him, no one else can possibly understand it either. All you have demonstrated is that you wear your ignorance with pride. Well done.

        • Premium User Badge

          SuddenSight says:

          The word signifier is very old. It’s usage in linguistics and semiotics (the system of symbols that are used by their mutual differentiation thing) is recent. That new definition doesn’t discredit all previous uses, however.

          • dsch says:

            The old meaning is “someone or something that signifies,” which is still not the meaning wanted here.

            Edit: In any case, my contention is that the writer did not mean the old meaning, but the new one. This is the whole point of wanting to seem smart (ironically or not).

          • Premium User Badge

            SuddenSight says:

            My contention is that the definition of signifier as a synonym for sign is both appropriate in this case, and in common use.

            As evidence, I point you to a brief google news search on the term signifier. Looking at just the first page for me, it brought up 2 french articles (because the word is more common in french), 1 article that used your definition, 1 that seemed ambiguous, and 6 that used it as a synonym for sign.

          • dsch says:

            Most of them are in a linguistic/semiotic context. Not as in “sign of disease,” which is what this article is going for.

        • gwathdring says:

          You are completely full of it.

          It is used in common speech. It has been used to mean “sign, thing that signifies or indicates” since the 13th century.

          Modern jargon does not magically erase centuries of common usage. Stop the elitist nonsense!

    • amateurviking says:

      Strewth chaps. Life’s too short.

    • gwathdring says:

      Jargon is not the only way of communicating. As it happens, most people communicate with all but their immediate peers in “standard” and/or colloquial language.

      To that end, one of the incredibly obvious definitions of “signifier” is something that signifies, here meaning indicates, alludes to, expresses, denotes, etc.

      But by all means presume other people are using words wrong when they use the words in ways that make sense. Clearly, the intent is to use jargon that doesn’t work in context instead of plain speech that does.

  3. Eight Rooks says:

    Even if it’s not To Your Tastes, it seems like the amount of work and thought put in shouldn’t be denied.

    But I’m not denying it. I’m just saying it hasn’t produced anything worth celebrating. Well, haven’t played this, but B2 was wonderfully inclusive and diverse and all the rest of it, rah rah rah, and I still found it brainless, dull and uninvolving. I don’t understand how anyone could care at all what happens in Borderlands’ universe.

    And I’m being That Guy who comments on something he doesn’t like because as long as people continue to swallow the silly idea that Borderlands has an infinite variety of guns it’ll continue to angry up my blood. Not in any way that should count, it doesn’t. It has an arrow comparison engine. It’s as valid a criticism as John getting angry with Call of Duty over it not being a game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      It has permutations of gun parts, and the number of permutations can be calculated. A lot of those permutations only affect stats rather than actual weapon mechanics, but it’s about finding those rare ones where all the parts align to min/max the weapon in the exact way you want. So yeah, not infinite, but they never claimed that.

      Ultimately, the idea was just to hand out random guns the same way that dungeon crawlers or MMOs hand out random gear. I’m not sure why this is so anger-inducing?

      Also, I personally love Borderlands’ humour, with the TIny Tina DLC being the high point IMO. But, humour is one of the most subjective things, which is probably why so few games make it their core aspect.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Claptrap is probably the most divisive, followed by Tiny Tina which spawned a lot of non sense over the interwebz about racism and god knows what ( and for which reason ).

        I personally think the one that needs to die the most is Scooter though. Oh, and Tiny Tina is Brilliant and Jack’s an awesome villain. FACT. Don’t argue with my science.

        • Foosnark says:

          I thought Claptrap was pretty funny most of the time, Tiny Tina was almost completely unfunny (and I don’t claim racism there) and Scooter was mostly unfunny.

          • Foosnark says:

            The best character in the Borderlands universe was General Knoxx.

          • Premium User Badge

            Wisq says:

            Annnnd this is what I mean about humour being subjective. :)

            I guess Anthony has an answer to the question he asked during his talk re: why there are so few humour games.

          • mouton says:

            @Wisq

            Borderlands series is the most hit-and-miss case I have ever known, though. Other games’ humor tends to be either wholly liked or wholly disliked. Myself, I found many titles to be funny mostly without reservations. Borderlands, on the other hand, are a patchwork.

        • derbefrier says:

          I was enjoying B2 up until they introduced Tiny Tina. That has to be the most annoying, aggravating character ever made. I love imature humor when done right, Tina was not done right. She was just an overexaggerated stereotype, that was the whole joke with her and it wasn’t funny at all. When Tiny Tina was introduced I uninstalled the game ITS THAT BAD. I generally liked borderlands sense of humor too but Tiny Tina was a bridge to far for me. IF tiny Tina was a real person. I’d punch her in the face.

          • mouton says:

            My adventure with hating certain elements of Borderlands humor began at the very beginning, with claptrap. BL2, in particular, had some hilarious stuff, but claptrap has been horrible throughout.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        If you don’t think that 1) Gearbox actively want people to think of Borderlands as “that game with fifty billion different guns” and 2) lots of people do actually discuss it as if this were literally true, then… I don’t agree. *shrug* Sure, they’re referring to permutations, but they’re at pains to make it sound like it’s quite the opposite. As far as I’m concerned the vast majority of those permutations don’t amount to anything in practice. It’s not grounds for OMG CITE THE TRADE DESCRIPTIONS ACT or anything, but I find it worryingly disingenuous and I think it isn’t remotely grounds for the praise the series gets. People like it because it gives a million billion totally different items of loot, when in fact they’re barely different at all and those differences do not commonly change the game in any meaningful way.

        And it’s less about the humour not hitting home – I’ll admit B2 occasionally got a smile out of me – than the writing simply not being very good. Pandora isn’t remotely convincing as an actual place, with no attempt to paint it as a world that actually functions or functioned at any point, Jack’s a terrible villain, completely one-dimensional, with nothing to him other than lame jokes and a tired inferiority complex, none of the serious things the game attempts to touch on fit with the constant wackiness – why the hell do you care what happened to Tina’s parents when you’re murdering fifty million people every few minutes? Why? Why do you care what happens to any of the main characters when you never find out anything about them as people anyway? Whyyyyy?

        To bring it back to my original comment I’m perfectly prepared to admit the first two games were solid, functional products with a ton of content and a whole lot of Things To Do. Still didn’t stop me finding them excruciatingly boring all too often, mind. I’m honestly trying to be serious – I really don’t see how “Well, they did try pretty hard” automatically wins the argument, so to speak.

  4. Catchcart says:

    To summarize: Meh. M-e-h, meh.

    “This could be in part to overall Borderlands fatigue, but I think it’s more simply down to this not being quite the cohesive whole or formidable package that it might have been.”

    I think the meh feeling is partly due to expectations of the franchise developing into something else, something more because of the glimmerings of intelligence that it betrays. It ain’t clever, it never will be. It’s just guns, as Jim points out. And numbers and colors and silly one-liners. Which is nice enough of in and by itself. Don’t expect more.

    • AyeBraine says:

      But the second installment WAS smart. You can not like it, you can love it, but it’s strange to hear people dismissing it out-of-hand as a dumb gunplay with a side-dish of wackiness. Not when it’s so vast and enormous, with tens of thousands of lines of dialogue spanning I think over a hundred little individual stories, scripted and all. If you compare it to the smartest, most thoughtful indie game that’s one hour long, it’s like comparing a big-budget 5-season show with… well, an indie short.

      Even if, suppose, the big TV show is flawed and obnoxious, but has at least a strong writer (it does) and good actors (it does), then it exists, as a text, as a cultural phenomenon. Even such a flawed silly TV show is NOT a 50-hour long advertisement slash silly music video. It has goals, and it tries to reach them. It has thousands of artistic man-hours put into it, much more than a spur-of-the-moment indie short. So it deserves to be discussed as a text, not as a bauble.

  5. Laurentius says:

    I thought so, more gimicky FPS stuff. I like Borderlands 1 because it was basicly what people called it Diablo with guns and it was a FPS game for me beacuse I generally don’t like and play FPS games. Unsurprising, most people do play FPS and called Borderlands 1 pretty boring in terms of shooting and mechanics. So in B2 gearbox already added all gimicky mechanics like these huge number of dreaded flying enemies. Now zero gravity and no oxygen that force to play in that special “entertaining”, well for me I liked playing Mordecai and crawling slowly and headshoting enemies beyond their weapon range. Now it seems no, no for that type of play. Simply I would like more of Borderlands 1 but not Borderlands 2 with even more gimmick FPS stuff. Meh…

    • Asurmen says:

      Er, how is enemy variation a gimmick? Also there wasn’t that many. Far more ground than air.

      • Laurentius says:

        Not gimmick per se, but gimmick for me, someone who doesn’t like FPS, enemy variation is introduced to make player change strategy , don’t fall into too comfortable type of play, to shake things up. It is something that players who are acustomed with FPS wanted. I didn’t, I had fun with Borderlands 1 because I didn’t have to change my cautious “boring” playstyle, it was relaxing, slow paced but still saytysfaying to plant headshots and watch numbers spill, and I could play like that 90 % of the time.

      • Chuckleluck says:

        According to RPS’ Rules for Games:
        Don’t: have flying baddies in your game. Sure, there may be examples of the odd few that have worked. The rest haven’t. It’s so, so unpleasant. Like a lovely walk in the woods ruined by the constant assault of gnats in your face. Fun, people. We want to have fun. Not be constantly irritated. Fun.

    • thekelvingreen says:

      For what it’s worth I’m playing it in my usual cautious creeping-about-hiding-behind-rocks-and-popping-up-now-and-then-to-shoot-someone-with-my-sniper-rifle mode and the new mechanics aren’t fighting me.

      Even so I do like those new mechanics; the ground slam is great fun.

  6. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    My biggest complain is about the guns: they are the very same ones, same balance, same models and same randomizatron™ logic about them. If Borderlands 2 had ice weapons and laser ones, this game wouldn’t even have a reason to exist. Most importantly, though, is the wasted chance to bring back some of the real randomization that happened in the very first BL, which had a vastly higher number of significant combinations.

    I’m not talking out of my ass either, i’ve used a savegame editor for BL2 just to check the various variables governing how loot is constructed, and there are a whole lot of safety nets and really “too sensible” limits on how stuff gets made, and that grew worse the higher the quality. Most of the different stuff was in in “red text” uniques, but then it was hardscripted to be like that and mostly exclusive, with even less options of randomization.

    Still, i didn’t mind this careful approach in BL2, even though i sort of wanted a wackier middleroad, but that could still be excused on the basis that BL2 for me is a minor masterpiece in pretty much any other way, something i really can’t say about this one.

    I also share the sentiment about the low gravity. It’s hard to explain why, because it can easily be a brilliant mechanic, but there’s something lacking in the execution and i can’t really put my finger on what. I agree on the world aswell, there are plenty of great pieces but the whole package ultimately bored me plenty.

    Well, i guess the biggest high point is Handsome Jack, but i bet some people might disagree, so yeah.

    Oh, and the grinder, and the fact that “item of the day” deals have yet again a reason to exist.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Also agree on the low grav/jetpack thing. Borderlands is, at heart, a cover shooter. And I too enjoy the tactical ability to use cover to regenerate shields and such. It adds to a genre from which cover mechanics usually only detract, in my opinion.

      Borderlands is built around cover. The games keep enemies in front of you, constantly giving you the feeling that you are invading enemy territory. Encroaching on hostile terrain, and moving cautiously ever deeper into same.

      This game lacks that feeling. It replaces the slow, tactical movement using cover with haphazard bouncing around. It loses cover and replaces it with frantically trying to bunny hop about in order to dodge bullets. The seriousness of the need for cover to avoid injury and death was the last bit of seriousness Borderlands entertained and it formed sort of a counterweight to the rampant silliness throughout.

      And now that Counterweight is missing. The silliness of dialogue and callouts and story bits that was counter balanced by the serious need for cover while raiding enemy strongholds is now…”complimented” by the silliness of bouncing around those strongholds like a kid on a pogo stick, trying desperately not to get hit whilst watching your enemies do the same thing. All of you positioning for “butt slams” the while.

      Its like Borderlands tried a full on Saints Row. Forget the last bit of seriousness; embrace the silly. Except…except, it failed here, somehow.

      Dont get me wrong: It still a good game. Still a Borderlands game. But its not as good a Borderlands game are previous titles. Despite what it fixes, its still just not as good.

      But it does fix some things. Damage scaling is more reasonable. Items of the Day are always blue/purple (beginning around level 10) and thus always useful. The grinder, imperfect though it is, is useful enough. Some nice touches, but losing that cover mechanic and pairing the new, more frantic pace of combat with missions that are on average twice as long as those from previous games, was perhaps a mistake.

      I once thought the only thing Borderlands needs in order to be better, were jetpacks. I now hope this is the last time I see them in this title.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        Borderlands is a cover shooter? I don’t think I’ve used cover ever in either of the first two games.

        • derbefrier says:

          yeah really, I am sure you could play it that way but its purely optional and probably not very fun. Borderlands isnt and never was a strict cover shooter.

          • AyeBraine says:

            I would even say, as a compliment to the game (I loved B2) that it has the coveted “flow”. You have to use cover, especially on solo + higher difficulties, but to stop moving fluidly and constantly is a death sentence. Which makes the gameplay so fun for me.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Good point about the guns. I have finally been playing BL2 recently, and it is noticeable. I want a pistol that does 800 damage but only holds two shots, dammit! I want a rifle that is wildly inaccurate but fires 40 rounds per second. I want a sniper rifle with 10 regular damage and 2000 critical damage. Most of this is missing from BL2, which also feels very samey.

      • mouton says:

        Yeah, BL is considerably inferior in almost everything to BL2, but even I still remember the crazy-ass guns one could sometimes find there. In BL2, weapons are almost wholly formed by its brand and type. “oh, nice, a jacobs sniper rifle. oh, nice, a better maliwan elemental smg. oh, nice, a bigger torgue rocket launcher”. Boooring.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        That’s totally spot on, you simply don’t have big enough variables in order to get that odd item that might suck on everything but overpowered in the particular thing you like, if used cleverly.

        I spawned countless of items trying to understand how far i could reach but the sad truth is that 80% of a certain piece is tied to it’s “model” ( other than the brand ).
        The random things are actually just parts like scopes, stocks, barrels and so on, and they can be of any manufacturer which obviously changes the looks, but with little consequence in terms of actual usability. Basically, if all the parts match your manufacturer, you get the best possible stats, EG: a Maliwan should be all Maliwan parts to perform best, otherwise all the other stats just just get worse instead of actually making it do something different, with slower releoad, mag size, accuracy and so on.

        Maybe the only big difference is the barrel, you could opt for a Vladof barrel on a Jackobs sniper rifle in order to get some very fast action in exchange for damage, but in most situations barrel changes just mean worse stats if not matched and when there’s something to “lock” on a legendary, it’s usually the barrel.

        Next comes the “attachments”. Now you can have some extra variety but nothing special either, you could get the added critical boost, or a bayonet, or more recoil control and in some rare cases the dual shot, stuff like that. Again, the wacky stuff is unique to the quest rewards, some rare drops and legendaries, and again those are even more limited in variables than the normal stuff.

        The last variable is the elemental one, which is locked on some manufacturers unless we’re talking about specific unique items, and something i can agree with. This is where you get even more limitations, especially on legendaries. I can agree that the “hellfire” SMG should be fire based, but what about a random chance to get a secondary dual element in exchange for some raw damage output? Some people would spend days in order to find the perfect fire/electric or fire/slag.

        There is so much stuff that should be tried in order to have the GAJILLION guns mechanic being worth something. Gearbox didn’t want to go too deep into the random road because that can clearly mean a lot of useless junk gets generated. I agree that some boundaries must be set, i simply think that they’re being far too cautious.

      • AyeBraine says:

        To be fair, there are weapons almost exactly like you describe. The variability is vast, and stands on two principles: first, by studying the weapon generator you learn to seek out different part/elemental combinations that DO provide very wide margin of variables (up to x4 difference in damage and crit damage and elemental damage at the same level, with wide variations in all other respects). Second, the unique and rare weapons have these extremes you’ve mentioned, they’re just harder to acquire. (Like the pistol that’s meh on base damage, but x8 or more on crits, or “wildly inaccurate but ultrafast” guns). Plus, they all have a backstory/theme to them. What’s more, there are tons of weapons that have undocumented, “hidden” gameplay mechanics that make them completely different. So I would say this goal has been met, with notable success.

    • MattM says:

      I felt like too much of the weapon variety was reserved for the oranges and the blue uniques. You only got one shot per play-through for the blue uniques and the rapid level scaling meant that they quickly became useless. The oranges were either too rare or locked behind the toughest raid bosses as a rare drop. Some people really wanted a farming endgame, but once I had beaten a boss once I really didn’t want to repeat the same fight so I missed out on many of the neatest weapons. The random weapons generation was so constrained that new guns were usually just higher level versions of ones I had in my inventory.

  7. quarpec says:

    borderlands games: they’re all shit and shame on you for playing them and giving money to gearbox and randy pitchford, who is also shit

  8. golem09 says:

    For BL3 I serioulsy hope we get some kind of upgrading/crafting of the guns and some skills the include crazy mobility stuff. Coincidentally I’m finally playing through the BL2 dlc atm.

    • mouton says:

      Howe about a reasonable PC UI, for a start? Jesus, that inventory, I was astonished when I saw they left it almost untouched in BL 1.5

  9. Premium User Badge

    steves says:

    “What’s that, Steve? You’ve never played a Borderlands game? Wow.”

    Why is it always Steve? Thought you might abusing the fact that you know my name, and customising the text accordingly, but seems it’s “Steve” even when logged out?.

    Either way, it would have been a lot better had that told me I’d played the shit out of all the Borderlands games, ’cause I have, and this one is…just like the others, but with all the same annoyances.

    I love the floaty gravity, double jump & butt-slamming most of the time, but the fact it’s almost-but-not-quite enough to get you over 90% of the obstacles is infuriating. Also, fuck invisible walls.

    New laser weapons & stat boosting oxygen helmet things are great. General loot quality is still comically bad, although they have massively improved the chances of rare & epic loot from vending machines, so there’s that.

    Shitty minimap is as bad as ever, only now with even more verticality. The UI in general is still basically horrible, and inventory & vendor stuff is a huge chore.

    The amount of backtracking, pointless travelling & getting lost (see above re. map) and paucity of fast travel is unforgivable.

    The “let’s take the piss out of ourselves” Aussie humour is pretty good in my opinion (Peepot is hilarious), but the player characters and a lot of the supporting cast are awful – Claptrap is probably the most likeable now!

    This all sounds rather negative, but I still love the core shooty madness that is Borderlands, and the humour, and the art style, and just the whole general silliness, but it’s let down by many irritating details, and a hefty dose of console-itis.

    I’d recommend waiting ’til this is on sale, and getting the inevitable cheat engine stuff working so you can alleviate some of the annoyances, asking full price for this is a bit much.

  10. Imprecision says:

    For what it’s worth I love the low gravity, the jetting and slamming — and a number of my friends who are salty old Arena FPS veterans feel the same. There are already so many FPS games on the market where you can feed your urge to curl up behind a chest-high wall and have a short cry every time you get shot. I’m glad the new Borderlands took a different route.

    A lot of the old annoyances from BL2 are present, but many of them have been improved, and for that reason this one’s my favorite yet. It’s a case of “do it the same, but better.” Is it the same kind of step up from BL2 that 2 was from 1? Not even close. But I think it’s a good game in its own right.

    • Snidesworth says:

      That’s pretty much how I feel as well. I also found the end game run far more enjoyable than BL2’s. It was just the right amount of challenging too and managed to reintroduce an old enemy from BL1 and make them fun to fight. Also the final boss was amazing.

      That said the game can quickly become unfun if you find yourself without an effective weapon or you make a misstep with your build, just like in BL2. Vending machines now regularly stock rare and epic items however, even legendaries on occasion, making them well worth checking and meaning that you’re never totally stuck if you haven’t found the right gun yet.

      • Premium User Badge

        steves says:

        “make a misstep with your build”

        How do you manage that? Dirt-cheap re-specs are one of the really good features.

        Quick change stations (there’s one in Concordia) let you change skills as well as appearance, go wild with ’em.

  11. GeneJacket says:

    You’re saying the series needs a reboot after 2.5 games because you didn’t find Claptrap fun to play as? This game didn’t impress a jaded, cynical critic, let’s scrap it all and start over! Seems rather absurd, don’t you think?

    I may be a bit bias, since I absolutely adore the universe and it’s characters, but I think The Pre-Sequel is not only great, but better than the original. The formula isn’t as fresh, but at least this game has a clear-cut narrative and characters that are more than just exposition deliverers, something I can’t say about the original. I’ll give you that Elpis’ environments aren’t as varied or interesting as either of the first two games and some of the side missions are incredibly tedious and boring, but overall, it’s the second best game in the series.

    • Stevostin says:

      Ah, someone understanding what it’s all about. How is the soundtrack ? It was a huge part of the charm for me.

      • GeneJacket says:

        It’s pretty great overall. It’s got a nice 80’s sci-fi/horror vibe. Very John Carpenter and very cool. I haven’t spent as much time with it as BL2, but I think it’s just as good.

  12. sharkh20 says:

    This game has one thing that absolutely makes me rage. You add the ability to jump high enough to jump over things yet you fill the entire game with invisible walls so that you can’t jump over said things.

  13. shinygerbil says:

    Every single screenshot I see (and every time I have tried to play any Borderlands game) I completely and utterly fail to figure out what is in the foreground, background, neither or both.

  14. Soapeh says:

    I do rather enjoy the Borderlands games and even if the formula is getting very tired, coop is so much fun. The main gripe that I and a lot of people have had is that you have to play through the campaign 3 times to get to the ‘end game’ content which may be bearable if you only want to play as one character but for completionists that want to play all the classes it’s just a chore. Unskippable cutscenes are unforgivable in this scenario.

    For B2 I just used the save editor to copy my ultimate vault hunter mode commando playthrough into the remaining classes and it was all the more fun for it, and I can see myself doing the same for 2.5 once the cap inevitably rises. There should be the option to go from 1-72 in one single campaign sitting (plus optional DLCs) with UVH mode difficulty and drops. Job done.

  15. Stevostin says:

    “The other complaint that gets raised is more fundamental, and it’s that the game is only a middling combat game, and really requires co-op to be entertaining. ”

    This is what PR says but actually it’s the least interesting way to play it. Everything gets bland and tasteless if you play co op, you can’t read story, let cutscenes play and more importantly choices stop to matter anymore because as long as some of the team is standing, show is going on. Moreover the game is so unprotected vs cheat everyone’s having stupid guns everywhere, so multi is deeply broken on PC.

    But if you play solo, it’s an entirely different thing and sometimes it’s just challenging, especially when you learn how to solo “group” boss fights, but even with the random packs sometimes beeing just horribles combo. Even learning “glitches” was very enjoyable for me. But the core of the games are the gun, and by this I mean you’ll have to go at the shooting range because not everything shows in the gun’s characteristics. On the top of that the philosophy for skill trees is “multiply, several time” so you can get crazy number with combo (forget how Blizzard would handle it. You can have a 60K damage gun ending hup with 2 milllions damage if you use it right for instance). I found that deeply enjoyable but all of this is easy to miss if you play multi.

    So DON’T play multi. Play Solo. Then, if you really liked it, make the second run multi (maybe). That’s my informed opinion (over 100h in B1 and 300h in B2).

    • MattM says:

      I’ve tried Borderlands 2 solo, co-op random, and co-op with steam friends and I have the most fun playing by my self. I get to putter around exploring the nooks and crannies of the world, listen to dialogue, and agonize over weapon choices without feeling any pressure. The co-op doesn’t really add the kind of coordinated play (think l4d) that makes co-op action games fun for me and the difficulty in most parts feels better balanced for solo play. That seems to happen a lot in co-op fps/tps, co-op emphasizes continual progression and turns down the difficulty which can make the game feel shallower.
      The raid bosses are balanced for co-op in kind of a cheap way. The bosses are really good at taking down one target, but resurrection was trivial for a siren.

  16. Stevostin says:

    Also for the record, BL2 isn’t “as good as other commedy”. It’s insane, it’s brilliant, it’s crazy and it looks like nothing else. Sure it’s comic booky, by the scene, etc, but to me it’s one of the most interesting writing currently available. I am glad to see they said in a recent video “were the hero of BL1 that good, BTW” because if you look what they do, they’re actually a bunch of killers and psychos and it’s really not clear if Jack’s ruling wouldn’t be better than what they offer.

  17. Schiraman says:

    For my money the PreSequel is mostly more of the same, but done well. If you’re bored of Borderlands or hate certain elements of it, it won’t fix that – but the new location and new characters are a breath of fresh air and can be a lot of fun. It’s perhaps best to think of it as a really awesome expansion pack.

    I don’t understand Jim’s contempt for the new characters at all. Like the Mechromancer before them, they’re far more characterful, mechanically interesting and fun to play than the stodgy basic characters in BL2 (who always felt like oddly character-free clones of the BL1 characters to me).

    Not only are their special abilities more fun and interesting (with the possible exception of Nisha the Lawbringer), their skill trees give you lots of options to really change how you play the game, in ways that feel much more significant than those available to the basic BL2 characters. Also, as annoying as Claptrap can be, the fact that his special ability acts as a random game modifier *for the whole party* really mixes things up and makes things interesting. Overall there’s a lot more imagination here than in BL2, which helps to bring the game to life.

  18. Enkinan says:

    Is England on more drugs than normal tonight? Sounds like y’all are.

    Not saying that is a bad thing.

    Also, I agree. This formula is shit except the co-op.

  19. Monggerel says:

    So, I had two thoughts:
    1. You gotta hack the game like a sonofabitch if you want to have fun with it.

    2.Why… why even bother making anything, after Krieg? You can rest now, Borderlands. You’ve fulfilled your purpose.

  20. quietone says:

    I have, like many in here, hundreds of games. I keep many of them installed. Great, classic games. But 7 oput of 10 times I decide to play a game it ends up being BL2. And 1 of the remaining times I play BL1. I played them again and again and still have lots of fun with each, even if I know where each tiny box with ammo or $$ is located.

    That said, I of course played BLPS since day one. And I keep playing it. But unlike the other two, I am playing it while my mind keeps yelling “come on, be fun, please!”. It has new characters with crazy skills, it has a couple of new mechanics. I never had my hopes too high, knowing that this was since its inception more of a BL2.5 than a BL3. And still…It’s one of those guys who arrive late to the party, yelling and laughing very loud and completely drunk…when everybody is already thinking about going to bed.

  21. Lakshmi says:

    I play most games co-op – so a new one – even a new good-ish one – is always useful. The well is dry at the moment, having played through every-bloody-thing that’s taken our fancy. Still, we’re waiting for this to go on sale before we try it. Good to know we’re not missing too much.

    • Ryuuga says:

      Off-topic, but what’re your fave co-op games? Me and a friend have played thru Borderlands 1 any number of times, we both love that one, but it does feel like we know it a bit too well.

  22. Premium User Badge

    samsharp99 says:

    I’ve kind of always expected that borderlands games will follow the same formula as the original (including DLC). The gun play isn’t great but I like exploring the worlds and the humour generally appeals to me. I’m playing it now with friends above lots of other games I’ve been wanting to play for a while. We’re playing as 4 clap-traps just for the hell of it – when we all Vaulthunter.exe at the same time it gets pretty crazy!

    I’d never play the game alone.

    Also…having a game with Australian characters/accents feels oddly satisfying…probably because it’s quite rare.

  23. Niente says:

    I feel exactly the same as Rossignol does. It’s OK, tired in places.

    BL TPS is Die Hard 3. Borderlands 2 is Die Hard 2.

  24. Scelous says:

    I thought I was getting tired of the Borderlands formula, and I wasn’t very interested in BL:TPS. However, I did get it, and I’m having a surprising amount of fun with it. I like the characters. The storyline is good enough. I’ve gotten used to and am enjoying the space jump mechanics. I’ve only seen this happen once so far, but there was one time where I was high up and ground-stomped so hard that the enemy went flying into space until he vanished with a little twinkle.

    The characters’ abilities also seem the most different from BL1/BL2 (except for Claptrap), which I really appreciate. I’ve been playing BL:TPS both co-op and solo. So I’m definitely enjoying it.

    • Ryuuga says:

      Did you enjoy the storyline of Borderlands 2? (Trying to establish if we’re on the same wavelength, approximately, at least when it comes to Borderlands storylines..)

  25. Ryuuga says:

    Gimme other FPS-loot-n-shoots!

    Seems too much like Borderlands 2, and from what I hear, it does the lack of the wider, more random gun generation found in Borderlands 1, which is probably the major drawback. The new mechanics… low-grav could be fun, at least for a while, but the oxygen mechanic I am less sure about. Really didn’t enjoy Jack on any level, either, so another game about him doesn’t feel right. The (at least in comparison) more subdued story & voice-over of Borderlands 1 suited me better. Playing a villain from Borderlands 2 doesn’t really appeal to me, either.

    On the other hand, if one wants a co-op FPS with a wide variety of lootable guns, and one has already played the first two Borderlands games, well, what else is there?

    Might grab it when it gets a real, real cheap sale. 10 euro or less sounds about right.

  26. Tram says:

    I love the Borderlands universe, but there is no doubt that this is indeed the weakest addition to the franchise. Im so glad that Gearbox and 2k decided to delve deeper into the mind of on of the best villains in video game history, Handsome Jack. It was a fantastic experience watching Jack’s mind slowly become corrupt through betrayal and lust for power. But thats just the thing. The only really cracking feature of the Pre-Sequel is learning of Jack’s rise to power. The Co-Op is brilliant, and the skill tree’s and were well planned out, but there is still so much that Borderlands The Pre-Sequel failed to accomplish.

    Is it just me, or did the general dialogue of characters exclusive to the Pre-Sequel seem so much blander and predictable than a majority of the NPC’s in Borderlands 2? Springs for one is a terribly weak character in my opinion, full of foreseeable gags, the Meriff was shoddy, and Pickle. Don’t get me started on that obnoxious little…

    Although Anthony Burch, the lead writer of Borderlands 2 denies it, I believe that his writing does indeed provide the life and soul of game, not solely the combat mechanics. However from what I understand, Burch only stated that he had roughly 30% involvement in writing for this instalment. So why did Australia 2k attempt to ghost write him? Too many cooks spoil the broth. And if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. It felt like a lot of the Pre-Sequel characters were poor caricatures of the kind of characters that Burch managed to implement in BL2. They clearly trying to emulate the same kind of humour as that from Borderlands 2, but it just didn’t… work. There were moments of forced humour such as the classic “Ask this guy for something, then kill him because reasons” formula, which couldn’t even come close to rivalling the hilarity of the more original side quests such as the slam dunk (in which a basketball star attempts a slam dunk off a jump pad, but over shoots and ends up leaving the Moons orbit.)

    I was concerned about the setting taking place on the Moon. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the vast emptiness of the moon would get bland rather quickly, and hoped that maybe under the Moons surface would be some rich diverse atmospheres that would at least change the game up a little. It was interesting hopping between Helios and the Moon, however the scale and diversity of Elpis’s surface was still fairly disappointing. If you open up the world map on Borderlands 2, there is this vast in your face huge open world. Open up the Pre-Sequel map and you’d think you were playing a DLC.

    Claptrap… Im schitzophrenic about the fact they made him a playable character in the game. Claptrap is arguably the heart and soul of Borderlands, who’s non-chalent, insensitive yet sometimes surprisingly affectionate humour brings a special quality to the game. We all love him, but making him a playable character was a risky move. Personally, by the time i’d finished the campaign twice with Claptrap, I just simply didn’t find his humour funny anymore. As with Tiny Tina, it’s Claptrap’s infrequent input that makes his appeal, but by making him an ever present character I feel like they’ve drained Claptrap dry a little. I can only hope that they pull out all the stops with Claptrap in the future and rejuvenate his character in a unique way.

    The Pre-Sequel is an excellent co-op game, as it fills in many of the gaps in the story of Borderlands universe, has an amazing combat system, especially with the new Cryo weapons and “butt-slams” , and continues to keep you hungering for more Borderlands, and more answers. Yet the Pre-Sequel doesn’t feel complete, it’s too large to be a DLC, but not quite filled out enough to be called a full game. Overall, I was under the impression that the Pre-Sequel was going to tie up a lot of loose ends. But it would be more appropriate to say that it is more of a red carpet for the NEXT Borderlands game.

    Also… Another DnD DLC… I have my fingers crossed.

  27. lanelor says:

    Seriously, this is why I read RPS. Please, do tell what is wrong with a game, not only the good, overmarketinged(?) parts.

    After this review the score is 7/N :) Quite ‘meh’, a tad boring, but worth 7/10

  28. Synt_x says:

    Thanks for the great review.

    I play Borderlands with my wife (split-screen – way to rare on xbox) and that’s probably the only game we got all the DLCs for. We also have Borderlands 2 but are insisting to finish off every possible mission in the original (both level 65 now).

    All that takes time – and it’s a great time. Once we do manage to complete it, we also have 2 to look forward to. We’ve also considered the pre-sequel but like all things “third”, a bit apprehensive. Looks like we’ll avoid it based on the review and comments.