I’ve been mostly ambivalent about the new Borderlands. Set on Pandora’s Moon, Elpis. the game charts Handsome Jack’s decent in to lunacy, before he’s the bad guy. Here’s he’s assembled a team of vault hunters who aren’t even close to being the good guys – but it’s their job to get rid of even badder guys, and save the world.
As you by now are undoubtedly aware, there is a whole new cast of playable vault hunters. You have Athena, the rogue assassin whose kinetic Aspis shield can absorb energy and which allows her to throw it about like some patriotic super hero who shan’t be named for fear of copyright infringement. She’s got a triad of skill trees that allows her to branch out in to different focuses; buffing her shield, creating electric storms and one that gives her particularly blade-focused melee damage buffs.
Wilhelm, the very same one you blew up in Borderlands 2, functions as your commander, though he’s got a bit of a cybernetic bent, becoming more and more augmented as the game goes on. His action skill is called Wolf and Saint, and allows him to summon two drones that aid in battle, and help him recharge his shields respectively. His branching skill trees allow him to focus on either of the drones, or on augmenting his own body.
Nisha the Lawbringer is the closest to the Gunzerker, with an action skill called Showdown that lets her go all Clint Eastwood and mow down everything with her dastardly pistol. With the right skills, she can permanently dual wield guns too, making her a formidable force on the battlefield. Nisha’s also got a whip with which to melee her enemies.
The last hunter, and the one I got to use in my hands-on sessions, is the divisive and annoying robot everyone loves..or loves to hate, Claptrap. He’s actually a bit ridiculous, to be honest. He serves as an agent of chaos, as his action skill, VaultHunter.exe, runs a random program that changes how things work. You get a random Action Package from a roulette wheel of fun based on the situation, that infers weird bonuses that can help or hinder. One makes all of your teammates throw out grenades all the time, while another makes them all bounce on the ground without any sort of control.
He’s also got a weird high five skill. If you throw out a high five, and one of your team mates high fives you back, the entire team gets damage and health buffs. If they don’t return the favour, the buffs will only affect him…a bit of a “screw you guys.”
He’s an odd character to play, and an odd one to have in a team; just as divisive on the battlefield as he is in the narrative. He actually requires quite a high degree of skill to use properly, as he can either be like some sort of damage-dealing savant, or just screw things up completely. Basically, he’s Claptrap.
Beyond the new vault hunters, there are a few changes to the gameplay. Of course, being set on the Moon it’s all about the low gravity, and the lack of breathable Oxygen. Low Gravity means you spend quite a bit of time jumping high in to the air, which then allows you to butt stomp your way to the ground, dealing damage and pushing unfortunate enemies over the edge to their deaths. There are also new cryogenic weapons, along with continuous-beam laser weapons that are good for melting faces off.
In the end though, it still looks, feels and plays a lot like Borderlands. That’s not a bad thing.
It’s coming in October, to the old consoles and PC.
Last Updated: August 18, 2014