Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review Day: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

According to Steam, I have 217 hours invested in Borderlands 2, the second longest playtime after Skyrim. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a standalone game made with the BL 2 engine. It's gotten mixed reviews online, although the basic theme seems to be that people who loved BL 2, will also love this one.

The core gameplay of shooting things and getting better guns is intact -- the array of available guns, shields, and mods are similar to the previous game, with new, fun additions that complement well (like laser guns and freezing effects). The biggest shift from the last game is a change in gravity. Since this story takes place on a moon, gravity is greatly reduced and jumps are very floaty.

Floaty jumping gives more freedom in combat, but is particular frustrating in the many jumping puzzles scattered throughout the game. Jupming puzzles weren't fun in Ultima 8, and still aren't fun on the moon. You will often just-miss a long jump, sometimes falling all the way down a tall structure, Super Mario style. Explanations of the new features are poor (especially the new Stingray vehicle which can apparently jump long distances), but can be figured out through trial and error.

BL: TPS retains the biggest flaw I found in BL 2: the world is too vast and empty, with minimal reward for completionist exploration, and far too much backtracking to do all of the quests. The first two hours are incredibly boring, with humour that felt way too forced, and mostly just made me want to play the original game again. Quests are of the "one-off" variety, where the original goal is very simple, but you continue to get sidetracked by unexpected obstacles, to pad the length of the game out.

The game does improve once you pass the tutorial phase, and the characters and skill trees are fun to play. However, I doubt I'll end up replaying this as much as BL 2 after completion. Overall, it's good enough to provide a little more Borderlands action if you really liked the earlier games, but doesn't include enough improvements to stand on its own as a great game -- it would have been a perfect fit for DLC.

Final Grade: C at full price, B in a Steam sale

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