The new addition to the series takes its looting FPS action to the moon. This new environment creates opportunities to change the typical “Borderland” conventions. For instance, the moon has no oxygen, so players will have to manage a new oxygen meter in the HUD. This new meter will progressively tick away when outdoors. Patches of ground will seep oxygen from the moon’s surface, and standing on these vents will refill the meter. Oxygen stations scattered around the moon will also replenish oxygen levels.
I’m not entirely sold on the addition of a stressful mechanic like this one. Although the developers promise that they have found creative ways to make oxygen management fun, I’ll have to see it to believe it. Exploring the many locations of Pandora is what makes “Borderlands” fun. Restricting that freedom seems like a mistake, but I’ll reserve final judgement for the finished product. This just seems like it’s turning the game into a perpetual water level, where you’re constantly worried about finding the next air pocket.
Oxygen doesn’t just keep players alive. It also powers the player’s jetpack. Since this is the moon, low gravity will be in effect. Jumping gets characters much higher in the air, and expending some oxygen creates a double-jump. This allows for some platforming opportunities. Larger gaps can be crossed, and higher cliffs can be scaled.
Low gravity has been woven into the game’s combat. Characters will be able to perform a Mario-esque butt drop when in the air in low gravity, dealing damage to enemies in a radius below.
Gravity looks like it will play a large role in the combat. The hands-off demo showed the use of jumping to gain high ground, and using the jump jet to gain altitude and shoot down at the enemies below. Oh, and even the grenades float. This will make combat quite different to what fans are used to.
And then there is the thing that gives “Borderlands” its mass appeal: it’s unparalleled arsenal of weapons. The pre-sequel brings some new tricks along like cryo ammo, which freezes enemies (I can’t believe this wasn’t in the first two games), and laser guns. Since different weapon manufacturers have their own take on different weapon types, laser types will depend on the gun’s brand. One manufacturer’s laser weapon shot a steady laser stream, while another was a rapid-fire barrage.
The “Pre-Sequel” will feature new playable characters, but ones that are familiar faces from previous DLC. Claptrap will also be playable, but, for some reason, will also require oxygen. I look forward to seeing how they explain that.
New characters means new abilities. The one shown was a charge shield that absorbs energy, which can then be hurled back at enemies. The final ability in the power tree powers the shield to ricochet between four enemies, making you a Captain America of Borderlands.
A new vehicle called the stingray was glossed over. It exists, but it was never shown in action.
It came as a bit of a surprise that the “Pre-Sequel” would be available on the recently replaced Xbox 360 and PS3, but given the large install base of these two consoles the move makes sense. The standalone game will be available in the summer of this year.