My Brief Hands-On With Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

blps large

Another game that was high on my list to play at the GameStop Expo was Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. I have played literally hundreds of hours of the first two installments, so to say I’ve been looking forward to the Pre-Sequel would be an understatement.

There were four demo stations set up, one for each character. I’ve been chomping at the bit to see how Claptrap handles on the battlefield, so that’s the station I waited for.

clap demo 01

At the beginning of the demo, it gave me a chunk of experience points to spend however I saw fit. I admit that I hurriedly dumped them into whatever sounded interesting, as I knew there was a line behind me waiting to play Clap as well. I was told the demo was around ten minutes, so I didn’t want to drag out the process by meticulously choosing where to spend my points.

In doing so, I noticed there were an abundance of one-point skills, so that’s where I directed as many points as possible.

When the demo got underway, the first thing I noticed was how colorful the game was. I noticed it right down to the particle effects of explosions, however I don’t know how all this will translate to the console versions, as the demo was running on PC (with 360 controllers).

There has been a lot of speculation about the need for oxygen in the Pre-Sequel, but it was never an issue for me. I tried the new “butt-stomp” feature (which uses an amount of your oxygen), and while mildly helpful, it didn’t take too much of my reserves.

I did enjoy the effects of O2 on my double-jump, however this took some getting used to. The action takes place on multiple levels in the same environment, and while you can control your trajectory, navigating mid-air can be a bit unwieldy. I found when I was trying to land on narrow walkways or railings, I would sometimes over or under shoot my target. I doubt this will be fine-tuned, as the game is a month from release and I imagine it will go gold any day now.

The action taking place on so many levels is interesting, but also mildly frustrating at times. Certain waypoints are only accessible from certain platforms or angles, and if you miss your double-jump to the appropriate place, you end up having to reroute yourself which can be time-consuming. I noticed both myself and my demo partner having to do this on more than one occasion.

clap demo 02

The main reason I had wanted to play the demo as Claptrap was to see how his action skill/s played out on the battlefield. I’d had some concerns going into it, and they turned out to be founded, at least for me.

Prior to the demo, I was all about playing the game as Clappy. After the demo, he is the last character I would choose.

When I heard he would have a roulette wheel of action skills, I was intrigued. I had read that there was an algorithm in place to determine the best skill for the given situation. I can tell you that if the algorithm exists, it is flawed. There were times when enemies were at range, and I was given a skill that was only useful for enemies in close proximity. Another skill tossed out a dozen or so Torgue grenades which not only didn’t take down any of my enemies, but also made it impossible to see what I was doing, thus I had to rely on the minimap just to see where the enemies were so I could be aware of their attacks. Another skill was akin to the Gunzerker, and while dual-wielding guns, the animation made it difficult to see where the enemies were.

All in all, it was an unpredictable hot mess. Not once in the demo did my action skill prove to be useful. That’s a bit of a let down. The one real perk to being Clappy was when I was going from one place to another: I could hear his little wheel running. It made me smile.

Another concern, which had nothing to do with character selection, was how the mission played out. When you would reach a particular waypoint, the voice over would kick in and while it was explaining the next thing you needed to do, no new waypoint would be placed on the map. Only when the voice over was completely finished would the waypoint appear. Sometimes the voice over was lengthy, which meant there was a lot of standing around. Twice I had ample time to search my current environment for ammo, etc. and still had plenty of time left over just waiting. I thought perhaps it was just me, but my demo-mate (who was playing co-op with me as Athena) was also standing around just waiting. This seems like a step back from Borderlands 2.

The gunplay felt solid, and I wouldn’t expect any less from the Borderlands series. I noticed one gun manufacturer was called “Scav” and I’m assuming this is the alternate of the Bandit manufacturer, though that’s complete speculation.

clap large

While I’m glad they included Clappy in the roster of playable characters, I left the demo feeling disappointed, and I never would have expected that to be the case. I know for certain I won’t choose him, as I could never count on his action skill to be useful, nor on the algorithm to know what skill is helpful in a given situation. I will spend the time until release researching the other vault hunters to see which direction to go from here.

I appreciate my time with the demo, however it left me feeling a bit less excited for the game than I ever thought I’d be. Hopefully this changes once I get my hands on the full retail release. I have such love for the Borderlands series, and I feel hopeful about the game, despite my reservations from this experience.

Just be forewarned: if you choose Claptrap he will be unpredictable!

Categories: games

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