[Review] A Spell in the Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel! (PC)

For half of 2013 and 2014, the hubs and I spent time in the acrid, dangerous and awesome world that is Borderlands 1 and 2 (written about previously here). We took a hiatus while we awaited the long anticipated release of  the third chapter in the Borderlands franchise, Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel! and once released in the Fall of 2014, waited for it to go on sale cheap enough to pull the trigger. Lucky us, we found two cheap hard copies for the PC thanks to a random sale at Best Buy ($10 each). Soon thereafter, we got a hankering to explore a fresh adventure in the Borderlands once again. We began playing together in Co-op via Steam in August 2015 and from there, dedicated at least 37 hours of gameplay, which took us to Christmastime 2015. Aside from a few nit-picky things, it was an interesting trip!

Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel! fits right in the middle of Borderlands 1 and 2 in chronology. In past Borderlands games, you played as a Vault Hunter, in search for priceless hidden booty on Pandora, a bleak planet that once housed mining colonies. In this game, you again play as a Vault Hunter assisting on a mission to explore Pandora’s moon, Elpis, and to take over a space station.  In an interesting and surprising turn, you inadvertently assist a well-known villain in the Borderlands canon on their journey from their humble beginnings to their corruption. The plot, quite like the other two Borderlands stories, is secondary to this massive mission-based game, and can be a little confusing to follow if you try to dig too deep.

You will see several familiar faces in the Pre-Sequel, such as ClapTrap (in several iterations), Roland and Lilith, but this round, you are given the option of playing one of four Vault Hunters that were never playable before, but that are familiar in the Borderlands Universe. I played Athena, a kick-ass Gladiatrix who is equipped with a special shield that can block damage caused by enemies by absorbing its energy, then using that energy to attack enemies in return.

This game has a very similar look and feel to its predecessors. The hyper-realism with cel-shaded graphics that players are familiar with is left intact, and I couldn’t be happier! The gameplay mechanics are also similar in this game to Borderlands 2, with some interesting additions. First, weaponry has been upgraded to include laser and cryogenic guns, which can obliterate or freeze your opponent.There is also something called the Grinder, which could be used to obtain weapon upgrades by combining two lower level weapons.

Because you were exploring on a moon (Elpis, Pandora’s moon), you were often dealing with low-gravity environments while in gameplay which provided your character with the ability to make giant leaps over long distances. These leaps were often aided by jump pads that would propel you into the air. This activity was fun and challenging for me as I would often over-shoot my target landing spot, and end up falling into the abyss.

The environment outside also lacked oxygen. Not only were you having to manage your health, weapons, and shields in this game, you were also having to manage your oxygen levels. Along the way, you were able to top up your air or open up oxygen-filled areas. This was fine in the beginning stages as you were leveling up, but, I was half expecting (hoping?) to be able to pick up a self-regen oxygen pack of some type that would regenerate your oxygen permanently; but this never came. This might be a nit-picky thing, but searching and worrying about the oxygen levels got ridiculous by the end of the game.

Because Elpis was rather expansive, you were given the familiar moon buggy of past Borderlands games to traverse the barren landscape. In an interesting twist, though, you were also provided with stingrays – one-person hover-craft rides that propelled on a jetpack. I never got the hang of them, to be honest, and would often respawn after falling off a cliff while riding one of those things. But, it was something different, and it being a one-man ride, you had to rely on your own devices to survive on them.

Although, overall, Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel! is not my favourite in the Borderlands franchise (Number 1 is), it is a familiar and fun game that should be experienced.


Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!
Gearbox / 2K Australia
October 2014

[Review] My Year in the Borderlands (PC)

This past summer my husband and I finished playing Borderlands 2. It took us a little over a year to complete both Borderlands games together in co-op. I was frankly sad to see it all come to an end, which might be why it took us so long to finish both games.

When I am reading a great book, or binge watching a great TV show, I often drop it for a bit to savour the experience. Aw man, sometimes it’s too good; I don’t want it to come to an end.

I felt the same way about Borderlands.

The hubs and I clocked in probably over a 100 hours of gameplay on both Borderlands games…You could say, for a while, visiting the Borderlands was a huge part of our leisure time.

Borderlands takes place on a planet called Pandora. Known to be full of mineral deposits as well as alien technology artifacts, Pandora was entrenched in a war between two mining companies. They were in a race to be the first to find this alien technology that supposedly is hidden in a vault somewhere on the planet. Both mining companies pulled the plug on the whole thing and abandoned the planet when they couldn’t find what they were looking for. They left their industrial trash and the residents of Pandora behind; most of whom were part of a penal colony used by the mines as drones. There isn’t much left to Pandora…it’s pretty much a trashy acrid wasteland. But, somehow the residents have persevered, developing gangs and a varitable Mad Max environment and mentality, willing to kill themselves to protect themselves, and attack you to take from you.

You play as a bounty hunter, attracted to Pandora for the ultimate Vault jackpot. On your journey you dodge bandits and mutant creatures to find this hidden treasure.

Borderlands, an action Role-playing First Person Shooter, was one of those games that I got a lot out of the actual gameplay. I always feel I can use the experience in switching out weapons and making sure I have enough ammo to see through a level. It was Pandora’s immersive atmosphere and interesting missions that kept me coming back for more. This game looked amazing for a barren planet, and at times felt a bit like home. Some of that rocky landscape on Pandora frankly reminded me of the outskirts of my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario in the 1980s…minus the mutant creatures and bandits.

The game surrounds you with an odd cast of characters that never quit for a pee break, a sandwich or a shower. Some have odd names like Moxxi, Dr. Zed and Lilith. Characters called psychos – these shirtless masked weirdos- saw it fit whenever possible to run up to you and suicide bomb themselves, or axe you. Not to mention ClapTrap – a talking robot with a superiority complex. This game never takes itself seriously, naming characters, missions and worlds in very tongue-in-cheek fashion.

And then there is the music!

DJ Champion? There is no heaven, and don’t talk about it! Better Cage that Elephant because there ain’t no rest for the wicked, and money don’t grow on trees…(not that there are a lot of living trees to be found on Pandora)…The rest carries your heart only long enough to beat it into an electronic metalheaded pulp.

I paid no particular attention to the plot in either Borderlands game while actually playing the game. Some would probably say I totally missed out – but I don’t think that way at all. I feel the games are mission-based with a story weaved in. You level grind with each mission, so that you can fight an end boss. It was fine by me to concentrate solely on missions. Borderlands kicked our asses, no doubt about it – but in a fun way.

Borderlands 3, also known as Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel! is due to be released this October. I am looking forward to seeing what that game will be like!

If you even have an inkling to play either Borderlands or Borderlands 2 after reading this, I can guarantee you an awesome gaming experience. Get your weapons ready and leave your life behind; you might just get sucked into a year in the Borderlands too.


Borderlands and Borderlands 2
Developer: 2K / Gearbox
Released: 2009 and 2012