Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel - No Spoilers Gameplay Review

This past weekend, just in time to pick up Dragon Age 2, I finished Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Does anybody else actually play these games for the story? If so, you'll probably like this one, since it's probably the most story-based game in the series.

However, I'll handle all that spoilery story stuff in another post. This one is all about the gameplay

Much of the familiar trappings of a Borderlands are all present: it's a first-person shooter with a leveling system, four characters each with unique abilities and skill trees that allow you to further focus on one aspect of the character or another, and lots and lots of guns of various sizes, powers, and abilities. Much of the game is spent exploring and re-exploring different areas to complete quests, explore maps, and find chests that contain better equipment.
The new mechanics are part of what makes this installment stand out: low gravity environments and OZ Kits.

The low gravity environments make jumping and platforming a much larger focus in this game, as well as a much funner activity. Bouncing around the surface of the moon is just really, really fun. I'm not sure why jumping around like I'm in a first-person Mario game is so much fun, but it adds a whole new, fun layer to what could have easily been a stale, new installment to the series. Though, really, in many ways the game feels more like a first person Cave Story game, especially after Quote gets the Booster device. This is mostly because of the OZ Kits.

After landing on the moon and discovering that oxygen is kind of at a premium there, you quickly find yourself searching desperately for a source of O2. As it turns out, these devices are all over the place on the moon as a practical necessity. Called OZ Kits because some dude made a poor font choice early in their development, these devices primarily store oxygen, which is slowly used up in low-atmosphere environments and refilled when in oxygen-rich environments.

These kits make exploration a little more exciting, even as they make it harder. Or, more accurately, the lack of oxygen makes exploration harder, as when you're exploring most of the low atmosphere environments you're constantly keeping an eye on your O2 levels as well as mapping things out in your mind so you know where you can go if your O2 gets low.

However, the the OZ Kits serve another, arguably more important function: the boost.

When you're in the air, usually after a jump, if you press the jump button again you will expend some of the O2 in your OZ kit to shoot in the direction of your choosing. This even works in normal-gravity environments, though not nearly so well. In oxygen-rich environments, though, it's effectively a limitless double-jump, since the O2 expended in the boost is immediately replenished. Even when in low-atmosphere environments, though, I tended to use the boost pretty much constantly.

The final new ability is something that I think has a proper name, but everyone just calls it the butt-slam. Basically, if you press the crouch button while a certain distance in the air, you will rapidly shoot down to the ground, causing an explosive impact whose damage and elemental type depends on your OZ Kit. So, in a very real way, your OZ Kit is also a weapon.

As much as I enjoyed these new parts of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, though, there are definitely still plenty of problems.

First, the constant backtracking can get tiresome after a while, especially since the enemies respawn fairly quickly. There were several times when I just got tired of fighting my way through some area for the Nth time and just ran through, which is probably what you're supposed to do at a certain point anyway.

The game can also spike in difficulty dramatically without much warning. Some enemies in particular can turn a standard group of enemies into an "oh shit oh shit oh shit" situation at the drop of a hat--I'm thinking particularly of a group of fire-based soldier-types.

Plus, some enemies are just completely not fun to fight. Nightstalkers, for instance.

Finally, weapons dropped by enemies and found in chests are almost always crap. Luckily there's a new machine called a Grinder that eats your weapons and spits out a new one that might be better, but rather than bothering with that thing I usually just used Golden Keys every few levels to get powerful, level-appropriate equipment. Golden Keys are given out via codes that Gearbox gives out every once in a while via Twitter and Facebook, so at least they're free. Still, I almost never ended up using anything I found in the game, so I started to wonder why I even bothered looking. On the other hand, though, I think that loot generally improves in quality when you're playing with friends.

Anyway, final analysis: if you enjoyed the other Borderlands games, I think you'll really enjoy this one. It's a bit shorter than the previous ones, but the low-gravity mechanics make it worthwhile in my book. I bet playing with friends is even more fun, but I didn't get to do that to much. I should coordinate with people more often.

No comments:

Post a Comment