Each new game has a new slate of vault hunters. As with Borderlands 2, there are 4 canonical or “core” vault hunters, and two additional ones as DLC.
Let’s meet the new crew…
Wilhelm is a boss in Borderlands 2. He’s Jack’s right-hand man, and Jack basically sacrificed him to make sure that the player would get their hands on the trapped power coreAccording to the wiki, there’s an unused audio log in the game assets where Jack states that he poisoned Wilhelm prior to his fight with the player, which was probably intended to explain why the player was able to defeat him when the combined might of Roland, Mordecai, Brick, and Lilith had failed to damage him at some unspecified point in the past.. Here we’re sort of playing through his origin story where he meets Jack.
In Borderlands 2 he was (or will be, if you see what I mean) 90% robot. Here he looks like a mostly normal guy. He’s addicted to cybernetic implants, and apparently between now and the events of Borderlands 2 he’s going to have an extreme metal makeover. If you spend points in the right skill tree you can kickstart this process yourself, making him half-robot in the process. I love this integration of character and gameplay.
Earlier in this series I said that when I use my special power, I’m doing it because I’m trying to avoid dying or I’m trying to deal out a ton of damage. Athena does both. She’s got this whole gladiator theme going on, with a high-tech sword and shield. Her character answers the question, “What if Wonder Woman used Captain America’s shield?”Yes, Wonder Woman used a shield in the 2017 movie, but she doesn’t use it as a Frisbee boomerang, and I NEED that, okay?
When you activate her power, she raises her shield, which will absorb and harness all damage coming from in front of you. As it gathers, it begins to glow and spin, emitting a rising tone to give you a sense of how much energy it’s absorbed. When you’re ready – or when the five-second timer runs out – you’ll whip the shield at the foe directly in front of you, unleashing all of the captured damage on them. Then the shield bounces back and she catches it, Captain America-style.
I can’t describe how good this feels. It’s satisfying to blast someone with all of that energy, and the meaty slam the shield makes on impact is the best sound in the game. For most characters I like to save the special ability for when I’m in trouble, but Athena’s power is so fun to use I’m always looking to use it the moment it comes off cooldown.
Late in the game she unlocks the ability to have the shield bounce around and hit up to 4 enemiesWith diminishing damage returns for each one. before coming back. It’s not that much more effective at killing dudes, but it’s super effective at making me really happy. She’s my favorite character in the entire series.
Unlike most of the other vault hunters this time, Athena isn’t a villainous jerk. She’s noble and serious. Judging by how she acts in this game, I’d say if she shows up again she’ll likely fit into Roland’s role as the socially awkward stiff.
The entire game is actually a flashback told from her perspective, which makes her kind of the “main” character. Even if you play as (say) Wilhelm, it will still be Athena recounting the events of the story.
In Borderlands 2 there was this sprawling town called Lynchwood. It was packed with quests and lore. The town was ruled by the ruthless sheriff and her reluctant helper, Deputy Winger. The sheriff is Handsome Jack’s girlfriend, and the town was evidently a gift from him to her. The amazing thing about this town is that it’s all extra content. The main quest will never send you to this town. It’s packed with named, voiced characters and a variety of quests, yet it’s possible to go through the whole game without even realizing you missed it.
Here in the Pre-Sequel we can play as the up-and-coming sheriff of Lynchwood and future girlfriend of Handsome Jack.
In Borderlands 2, there’s an optional quest where you can kill the sheriffWith a bonus objective to spare the deputy, naturally. which means that – like Wilhelm – Nisha doesn’t survive the events of Borderlands 2.
Her special ability turns her into an aimbot, where the crosshair will automatically snap to the foe closest to the center of the screen. It’s got a short cooldown, so you can do it really often. I haven’t really played her into the mid game, but for the first third of the game she felt ridiculously powerful. Her special ability doesn’t offer much in the way of defense, but her offensive abilities are crazy.
Sometimes the best way to punish someone is to give them what they want. Some smartasses in the Gearbox forums probably demanded to play as Claptrap, and here we are. Handsome Jack evidently thought it would be a good idea to hotwire a Claptrap so it could engage in combat. The result is the most unique playable character in the series. Also the shortest. Seriously, it’s really strange looking out at the world from Claptrap’s eye level.
It’s cute. His special ability is… random. He runs a program that analyzes the current situation (Playing solo? Low shields? Boss present? Badass around? Lots of foes? Low on ammo?) and chooses from a list of possible actions. They’re all useful but also absurd and unwieldy. For example: One is called “Funzerker” where you’re suddenly holding a weapon in each hand and they’re both firing at some ridiculously accelerated rate, and you can’t. stop. shooting.
Claptrap is an interesting character. He’s annoying, but he’s annoying on purpose. The comedy doesn’t always come from him directly, but from the way everyone else reacts to him. That’s a hard line to walk. You need to make him behave in a way that’s endearing or funny to the player, but plausibly grating to the NPCs.
Ah, I guess we have to have a couple of tacked-on DLC characters again, don’t we?
The Baroness is filthy rich and has powers based around cold elemental damage. Her special ability fires out this thing that creates a zone of cold damage. It does decent damage, but it doesn’t have a lot of visceral punch. She’s just not very interesting to play.
Her personality is grating. I think the idea of a spoiled, rich, shallow, callous jerk who takes up vault hunting as a cure for boredom is a fantastic hook for a character. You can go the Kardashian route and make a character that’s obsessed with image, gossip, and pop-culture trivialities. You can go the Richie Rich / Thurston Howell III route and make a character who is pointlessly decadent with their inexhaustible wealth. But Baroness… They didn’t really go anywhere with Baroness. Yes, she’s shallow, rich, and cruel. But none of that translates into jokes. When she tosses out some dialog, it’s usually just a line talking about being rich, and “is snooty” isn’t a joke. It would be like if Axton’s dialog was just him saying he was a soldier all the time. Also, her languid delivery really doesn’t help the comedy.
No jokes, boring gameplay, and her visual design isn’t anything particularly special or interesting. I think she’s the worst playable character in the series.
In Borderlands 2, the story established that Handsome Jack uses body doubles. If you buy this DLC character then you get to be one of those doubles.
I didn’t get this DLC so I can’t comment on it. The trailer looks fun, but it’s a Borderlands trailer. They all look fun.
The one funny detail is that the Doppelganger’s power is to summon two holographic clones. This means that if you get together with three friends, and you all get this DLC, and you get in a game together, and you all gather around the real Handsome Jack, and you all activate your special power at the same time, then you’ll be standing in a room with 13 Handsome Jacks.
I’m not suggesting you do that or anything. I’m just saying it’s possible.
 According to the wiki, there’s an unused audio log in the game assets where Jack states that he poisoned Wilhelm prior to his fight with the player, which was probably intended to explain why the player was able to defeat him when the combined might of Roland, Mordecai, Brick, and Lilith had failed to damage him at some unspecified point in the past.
 Yes, Wonder Woman used a shield in the 2017 movie, but she doesn’t use it as a Frisbee boomerang, and I NEED that, okay?
 With diminishing damage returns for each one.
 With a bonus objective to spare the deputy, naturally.
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