Borderlands Part 24: The Rise of Handsome Jack

By Shamus
on Jan 11, 2018
Filed under:
Borderlands

So Lilith, Roland, and Moxxi have conspired to betray Jack and murder him by killing him and everyone else on Helios Station. Moxxi even gloats as she sentences Jack and his vault hunters (and thus the player) to death. Her behavior is exactly how villains are portrayed, and she’s way out of character. Moxxi says, “If you come down from Helios station alive, a lot of innocent people will die.” Again, that’s probably true. But that’s a pretty hardcore approach to justice. “I know you will do evil someday so I must kill you now but I must do so in a way that kills innocent people and also looks kinda cowardly.” This story can’t decide if Moxxi and company are a rogues or paladins.

Wait, Who Is the Bad Guy Again?

Jack, you`re a power-hungry psychopath, so I`ve decided to use the doom laser to murder you and everyone on the station. While laughing. Remember, I`m with the good guys!

Jack, you`re a power-hungry psychopath, so I`ve decided to use the doom laser to murder you and everyone on the station. While laughing. Remember, I`m with the good guys!

We’re supposed to be witnessing Jack’s turn to evil, and instead the story is retconning Moxxi as self-righteous and craven. It also seems to be trying to retroactively justify Jack’s later behavior by showing he had a reason for his vendetta against Lilith and company. But if you justify his later evil deeds, then aren’t you actually making them less evil? This is exactly the opposite of the thing the writer should be doing!

The writer has twisted the characters in knots to get us here, and after all that messing around they still can’t make anyone’s motivations or actions make sense. And there aren’t even any jokes to make this fun. This doesn’t feel like the playful, winking, lampshading, genre-savvy Borderlands 2. This feels like “Boilerplate AAA videogame” with a quirky art style.

After the betrayal, the plot settles down into a race for the vault. The player is trying to reach the vault for Jack, and Lilith and Roland are trying to beat him to it. Earlier in the story Lilith and Roland specifically said they were out of the vault-hunting game. They don’t actually want the vault. They just don’t want him to have it.

The Slog

It might feel like we`re in the home stretch, but we`re hours from the end.

It might feel like we`re in the home stretch, but we`re hours from the end.

The Pre-Sequel is the shortest of the main Borderlands titles. I’d be okay with that, particularly if it meant we got a more focused game with less filler. And for most the of Pre-Sequel, we do. But then here at the end we get dumped into an epic slog. It feels roughly equal in length to the final stage of the original Borderlands. I realize it’s slightly unfair to ding Pre-Sequel for this. The original was kind of a slog all the way through, and Pre-Sequel doesn’t become a slog until the end. Technically this should be a point in favor of Pre-Sequel, but this time the end-game slog really stands out because the rest of the game is much more tightly paced.

Part of the problem is that the whole section suffers from a bad case of “Are we there yet?” You enter the crater of Vorago Solitude and you think, “Ah, I need to reach the bottom of the crater and I’ll find the vault.” The game even gives you a big flashy intro for the showdown with the alien guardians in a quasi-boss fight, and follows that up with another boss fightThis second fight is the most obnoxious in the game for having a foe with a gargantuan HP bar, repetitive attack patterns, and endlessly repeating combat taunts. Seriously, screw the fight with the airship. That guy sucks..

After those boss fights, you must be on the threshold of the vault right? No. Next you have to go down a huge shaft. The place is filled with alien scenery and you’re thinking, “Ah! NOW I’m getting close!” But no again. At the bottom of the shaft are a series of stadium-sized tunnels. The space is so immense it feels like a vehicle section where the designer forgot to include the vehicle.

After that big push, it really feels like you ought to be getting near the end. But no, it’s yet another area of Tron-style alien catwalks and waves of foes. There’s no story here and very little dialog. It honestly felt like they got to the end of the game, realized it was way too short, and then just kept on adding levels until they thought it was long enough.

The Vault

*POKE*

*POKE*

After you beat the big boss, Jack enters the vault with you. It’s this strange purple void with freaky alien stuff all around. There’s a floating glyph in here, in the shape of the vault symbol. Jack touches it and he gets a mind-expanding blast of exposition foreshadowing, letting him know about the next vault. (Which is the vault we open in Borderlands 2.)

In the middle of this fantastic journey, Lilith appears and punches him in the face through the glyph. This knocks him out of the vision and scorches the vault symbol onto his face.

So this explains why Jack wore that mask in Borderlands 2. Lilith horribly disfigured him.

I’d cry foul that this cutscene plays out while the player character stands by and does nothing, but that’s not nearly as big a foul as the fact that Lilith walks away without killing Jack.

Apparently the entire Borderlands 2 war with Handsome Jack was a fight the Borderlands 1 vault hunters started with a craven backstab, followed by another backstab. They pissed him off, but then didn’t kill him. Lilith ran all the way to the vault so she could punch him in the face and then leave? This is both craven and stupid, and neither of those attributes fits her character.

We learn that Jack’s bloodlust against them in Borderlands 2 was kind of justified. His cruelty towards civilians is of course 100% evil, but his raging vendetta against Roland’s crew is just continuing the fight that Roland and Lilith started.

Jack is writhing on the ground with his face on fire, and Lilith casually teleports away without finishing the job. (While the player characters stand by and do nothing.)

Jack is writhing on the ground with his face on fire, and Lilith casually teleports away without finishing the job. (While the player characters stand by and do nothing.)

This makes it look like the Borderlands 1 heroes were kind of dicks for not telling the Borderlands 2 player characters the truth, and instead pretended like Jack was attacking them for no reason. In light of these events, you’d think Roland and Lilith might say something like this in Borderlands 2:

“I wish we’d killed him when we had the chance.”

“I kinda regret pissing him off.”

“I wish we hadn’t worked for him in the first place.”

You’d think Borderlands 2 Jack would bring this stuff up:

“I’m gonna make you guys pay for all your treachery. You’re gonna be sorry you crossed me, pumpkin.”

But no. In Borderlands 2, neither side in the conflict ever makes reference to this, the inciting incident. This reveal does not mesh with what the previous game told us, so this doesn’t feel genuine.

End

Let`s subject this sympathetic character and former ally to interrogation-by-firing squad and then execute her without even naming a crime, much less proving guilt. Remember, we`re the good guys!
Let's subject this sympathetic character and former ally to interrogation-by-firing squad and then execute her without even naming a crime, much less proving guilt. Remember, we're the good guys!

On top of this, there’s the uncomfortable fact that this entire story is being told as a flashback.

Lilith has Athena standing on trial for her “crimes”. This “trial” is taking place in front of a firing squad. The story of the Pre-Sequel is Athena’s account, trying to explain why she worked for Handsome Jack. When we get to the end of the game, it’s clear that Athena acted honorablyBy Pandoran standards, anyway. I mean, she killed thousands of dudes but everyone kills thousands of dudes. and risked her own life to save Pandora. Not only has she never wronged Lilith, but Lilith has wronged Athena. Athena would have been killed along with Jack if their first assassination attempt had worked.

Roland and Lilith’s betrayal nearly killed her, yet Athena didn’t seek revenge. She just walked away once the job was done. And yet Lilith orders the firing squad to kill AthenaAthena is saved by aliens at the last minute.. She doesn’t even offer a good reason. Lilith is being straight-up evil here. She’s completely out of character.

Wasn’t this story supposed to be about Jack’s turn to evil?

“But Shamus, Jack killed Roland in front of her, so it’s kind of understandable that she’s going overboard!”

The writer went all-in and had Lilith actually give the execution order. An alien saves Athena at the last minute.
The writer went all-in and had Lilith actually give the execution order. An alien saves Athena at the last minute.

If you play the Dragon Keep DLC, you’ll see we end up spending a lot of time with Lilith. That story makes it clear that Lilith is not crazed with bloodlust over Roland’s death. In fact, the entire theme of the DLC is about accepting and dealing with loss. She helps Tiny Tina cope with this same loss. The Lilith we see in Dragon Keep does not fit with the Lilith we see in the framing story of the Pre-Sequel. This really stands out because these two events happen next to each other in terms of the Borderlands chronology.

This would be okay if this was some side character or a joke story, but Lilith is at the center of both of these plots and these character moments are not aiming for comedy.

This is supposed to be the story of how Jack fell to the dark side, but instead the writer made it look like Roland, Lilith, and Moxxi were kind of secretly bad guys all along. And kinda idiots. And it doesn’t really mesh with the events of Borderlands 2. And it’s not funny.

This story does not work. It makes our cool heroes less cool and less heroic. It makes our fun villain less fun and villainous. I guess this makes the universe of Borderlands a lot more nuanced, but that’s not really what I was looking for in a comedy game about double-jumping and ice lasers. It turns out everyone is a stupid asshole, not just Handsome Jack?

This Could Have Been Better

This rivalry from Robocop would have made a far more coherent foundation than the messy retcons and character alterations the Pre-Sequel gave us.

This rivalry from Robocop would have made a far more coherent foundation than the messy retcons and character alterations the Pre-Sequel gave us.

I think rather than trying to depict Jack’s turn to evil, we could have just started with him evil and instead shown his rise to power. Ditch the moon-saving plot and instead make it a story about reaching a vault as a means to wealth, fame, and power. Just embrace the scheming.

We didn’t need to make the Borderlands 1 vault hunters into villains. This story already has a pretty good villain in Tassiter, the no-fun-allowed corporate stooge who is Jack’s supervisor. This could have been a Robocop-style intra-company rivalry between these two guys as they race to the vault, vying for power and prestige within the company.

This plot would be a much better foundation for absurd jokes about corporate infighting and excess. It wouldn’t have turned our former heroes into jerks. It wouldn’t have required messy retcons and lore-patches like Lilith’s sudden malicious stupidity or Moxxi’s abrupt tech skills.

We don’t have sales numbers, so it’s hard to really compare how the Pre-Sequel did compared to the preceding game. If you value Metacritic, it’s worth noting that the community gave the Pre-Sequel 6.2 compared to the 8.2 of Borderlands 2. It certainly left a smaller impression on the fans. Borderlands 2 was talked about and obsessed over for years after release, but the Pre-Sequel seemed to fade into the background as soon as it hit the shelves.

The Pre-Sequel was far smaller than Borderlands 2, both in scope and variety. There were fewer areas to explore. Fewer sidequests to do. Fewer characters to meet. Fewer enemy types. Even if the story had clicked into place and delivered on the laughs, it’s possible the game might have struggled anyway.

I want to stress that the Pre-Sequel isn’t a horrible game. I know I’ve been negative, but that’s because I’ve been focusing on what went wrong with the premise. There are several good moments in the Pre-Sequel, and if you take the time to do the sidequests you’ll find quite a few laughs in the style of Borderlands 2. The failings I’ve been obsessing over aren’t some horrible affront to storytelling or a betrayal of the series. It’s just a story that doesn’t have a lot of punch, doesn’t have a lot of laughs, and is kind of off-putting in a couple of spots.

That’s it for Pre-Sequel. Next week I’ll end this series with a few comments on the franchise as a whole.

Footnotes:

[1] This second fight is the most obnoxious in the game for having a foe with a gargantuan HP bar, repetitive attack patterns, and endlessly repeating combat taunts. Seriously, screw the fight with the airship. That guy sucks.

[2] By Pandoran standards, anyway. I mean, she killed thousands of dudes but everyone kills thousands of dudes.

[3] Athena is saved by aliens at the last minute.


Comments (49)

From the Archives:

  1. Grudgeal says:

    This may not be a very popular opinion, but despite its harrowing sequence of final levels I actually thought the final boss of the Borderland Pre-Sequel was the best final boss of the series. The Destroyer just stood still and shot you with insta-kill lasers you had to cover from behind rocks, and the Warrior played peek-a-boo with you for five minutes until you finally got to whittle its health down. The Guardian was the first final boss that actually felt like you fought it in a 3D space where you were able to use all three dimensions against it, instead of just corner camping/non-lava area camping like with the last two. Heck I probably rank it higher than several of the DLC bosses, if only because you could move around freely in the arena and it didn’t have any insta-kill attacks that instantly forfeited the whole battle if it connected like the Torgue DLC boss.

    Sort of a pity you didn’t mention it at all, though it makes sense from a storyline perspective since it’s practically irrelevant to the story. Zarpodon was more or less the ‘final boss’ story-wise.

    • Fizban says:

      I can get behind that. For all the limping story, I definitely felt way more of a sense of “oh shit” when the pre-sequel final boss showed up and I had to figure out how to cycle through attacking its heads and surviving its lethal floor while efficiently farming the adds for ammo and applying my character (Athena on the first run)’s combat style, while locked inside its personal glowy arena and having to look nigh straight up to even target it. Though like all the bosses, once you’ve got it figured out it dies pretty dang quick. I think a big part of this was the three headed/masked thing it had going on, vaguely reminiscent of some eastern symbols that’s way more striking than a squid or wingless beast-thing.

      Was also a good showcase of how some skill trees kinda stop caring about weapon power. Athena’s storm tree gives so much bonus damage its far more important to be using the right energy types, and I was wielding two trash-tier guns I’d just picked up against the final boss, ruining it because the type and delivery method was more important than the base damage. I don’t think any other character can have quite the same effect, but it was pretty dang awesome.

  2. GargamelLeNoir says:

    I preferred the final stages a lot more than most of pre-sequel because at least we were moving forward, instead of constantly backtracking everywhere. The backtracking was my biggest problem with this game by far, especially since it’s so short!
    Anyway it’s a shame you won’t cover the Claptastic Voyage, I’d be curious to see what you think of it. I feel like they made a much stronger effort at gameplay, variety and coherent storyline/characterization in it.

    • IanTheM1 says:

      Yeah, seriously, even as someone who didn’t hate Claptrap to begin with the DLC does so much to redeem his character. Plus, Tron stuff!

      My only complaints were that the final boss was a nightmare and one sidequest was gross and transphobic (a real shame because the premise was pretty hilarious).

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Ah, during the last Steam sale the one friend I play multiplayer stuff with and I were considering if we should get just the base game or include the DLCs, we decided for the latter and I’m glad to hear that’s likely to pay off (in comments to an earlier posts people were rather positive about the Jack’s body double character and I think I might try that one). Too bad about the transphobic sidequest, that’s probably going to sour my mood for that gaming session.

  3. Joshua says:

    “You enter the carter”

    *crater*

    Plus mouseover text is already appearing below all of the pictures?

    As far as the article, messy retcons are fun, no? Yet another reason to not do prequels, or at least be very, very careful if you do one.

    Have there ever been any prequels that were nigh-uniformly viewed as having been done really well?

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      In the area of games, Metal Gear Solid 3 is a pretty universally loved prequel. Assassin’s Creed Origins is more of a chronologically backwards sequel, but people liked that one. More relevantly, AC Black Flag is a direct prequel to AC III and people like Black Flag more than III (for good reasons). The first Fire Emblem released in America was a prequel to an earlier title, people prefer the one we got to the chronologically later game. I haven’t played it, but the Life is Strange prequel is getting good reviews.

      • Joshua says:

        Do the games mostly avoid the annoying tendency of movies to do callbacks to the original films? Maybe they’re also more interested in exploring the open space left in the history of earlier games than trying to leave a trail of breadcrumbs from how A got to Z (unlike the Borderlands Prequel Shamus is reviewing)?

        My main game I’m playing now is Divinity: Original Sin II, which takes place before many of the other games (which I haven’t played). From what I’ve heard, it’s not trying to necessarily “explain” something from an earlier game that is further along in the chronology?

        My favorite movie as a “prequel” actually would be Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Apart from a single reference each to Hogwarts and Dumbledore (both who were legitimately prominent at the time), there’s no eye-winking references to the Potters, Voldemort, etc., and it’s mostly an exploration of a character that was mentioned before (Grindelwald), and a new setting for magic.

        I think every other prequel I’ve seen has tried to drop forced references like the droids from the Star Wars Prequels, “Watch the hair!” from the X-Men, or Legolas calling young Gimli ugly in the Hobbit movies. Haven’t seen Alien:Covenant, but it and Prometheus also tried to explain things that I didn’t think needed explained.

        My $.02

        • Jeff says:

          I’m also heavily playing DOS2 right now, and played DOS1 as well.

          Apparently they retcon and change a few things from the original continuity, so it’s not strictly part of the original sequence of events from the previous games. I’m not sure DOS1 and DOS2 are strictly part of the continuity either, though they don’t really call back to DOS1 enough for it to be really relevant.

          • Joshua says:

            We have D:OS 1 on the X-Box as well, but my wife and I have gotten so barely into it I hesitate to claim any knowledge of it or the storyline. The X-Box controls are terribly clunky compared to a keyboard and mouse, and the main characters are soooo less interesting than the ones from the sequel. In some ways, it reminds me of trying to play Baldur’s Gate 1 after playing Baldur’s Gate 2.

          • BlueHorus says:

            I’m also playing Divinity OS 2, after having playing the first game. As far as I can tell, it’s got the same approach as the Zelda games?
            Some of the names are the same, some of the concepts are similar, the mythology of the world is (broadly) the same, but everything else – the tone, the world, the aesthetic – is different.
            It really doesn’t feel like a ‘same-world-but-later’ kind of sequel.

            So my assumption is that it’s like Zelda – sure, there’s always a Link, a Triforce and a Zelda, but they’re almost always different. Sometimes Gannondorf is the royal advisor, sometimes he’s a giant pig monster, sometimes he’s not even in it.
            (Anyone actually know if the Divinity games are the same?)

            • Joshua says:

              Maybe Corsair below knows?

              I must admit, it took a little while for me to understand what was going on in this recent game without having previously played the others as it assumes a certain knowledge about certain topics.

            • Corsair says:

              It’s more like a single world with a lot of things going on in it, rather than every little thing turning on the actions of a single region or group of individuals.

        • Corsair says:

          Actually, while the original Divinity: Original Sin takes place in the distant past, Original Sin 2 takes place around the same time as Beyond Divinity, the chronological sequel to the original Divine Divinity.

          The timeline is roughly,

          10000 years before DD is Divinity Dragon Commander

          1200 years before is Divinity Original Sin

          Divine Divinity

          20 years after DD is Original Sin 2 and Beyond Divinity

          80 years after DD is Divinity 2: The Dragon Knight Saga

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Am I the only one who finds it weird that the game is named “Original sin 2“?How can there be a second original sin?

            • Asdasd says:

              It’s Original Sin Too, as in, thanks to the transitive properties of ancestry you committed the Original Sin too, and now have to spend a lifetime in penitence (and paying the tithe)!

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          I guess that depends on what kind of callbacks you find annoying. If the prequels had NOTHING in common with the originals, you could scarcely say they were in the same series. In MGS3, you eventually realize you’re playing out the origin story of the villain of the first game. And he’s a completely stand-up, heroic guy. So the question is… why is he a villain eventually? How villainous WAS he? Was there someone else who was worse, pulling strings?

          Black Flag is essentially a disconnected story, but it does establish the world circumstances that your hero is born into in III (you’re playing as the main protagonist’s grandfather). Part of the drama of this one is that a TERRIBLE fate befalls your PC and a tragic one happens to his son. I think the game sort of cops out by having that happen in between games and it doesn’t address it at all, however.

          In the Fire Emblem example, it basically is an adventure very similar to the adventure that happens chronologically next, with some dramatic ironies. For example, a valiant knight in the prequel is a broken down, but wise and experienced old man in the next. In the prequel he’s one of the better characters, in the original (sequel) game, one of the worst. There’s an ally character who is weak that you have to protect in the prequel. In the sequel, he’s a selfish and horrible villain who has taken advantage of his position to gain power and hurt others. Stuff like that.

          • Joshua says:

            “I guess that depends on what kind of callbacks you find annoying. If the prequels had NOTHING in common with the originals, you could scarcely say they were in the same series.”

            That may be somewhat true, but I’m referring to specific events/characters/etc. that existed in the original series where there’s no need to refer to them in events taking place 20-30 years (or more) before them. Star Wars I-III didn’t need Chewbacca or the Droids, and while it was perfectly reasonable for Legolas to be in the Hobbit, it was just an annoying callback to have Gloin show him a picture of Gimli.

            I’ll admit I’m also biased against the ideas of prequels in general, because it’s an uninteresting premise to me. I like the idea of exploring a past mythos of a story for fresh perspectives of a particular universe such as the Fantastic Beasts as I mentioned or a look at the Star Wars “Old Republic” games because they’re looking into a given universe from a different angles.

            Most actual prequels to me are like mystery stories with part of them cut out. Instead of whodunnit, why and how, it’s mostly just why and a little bit of how, with a whole lot of box-checking to replace the who.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              The how can be interesting too,if told well.The problem is,it rarely is.Which is really weird,because there are lots of stories about famous historical figures that ARE told well,so you can enjoy them even if you know how their life was.

              • Joshua says:

                I would agree with this. I would assume that most biographies are all about the how because the who is already known (in most cases, as obscure biographies don’t do as well), and the why is in most cases either obvious and/or not the focus, unless the piece is about “why would anyone do such a thing?”.

                Biographies are usually self-contained stories in their own right, however, whereas prequels are exploring already mined territory. That’s why I think in a lot of cases prequels are trying to explain mysteries that were better left unanswered. After all, the original story didn’t need to explain the mystery to function, so why explore it now?

    • Fade2Gray says:

      I haven’t played it myself, but a lot of people seem to really like Yakuza 0.

      • Syal says:

        I’m currently playing Yakuza 0 and having a jolly good time. There’s some heavyhanded references to characters in the later games, enough so that I know they’re references despite knowing nothing about the series. But it’s also an incredibly silly game, and silly things can get away with a lot more.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Half of the godfather 2 is a prequel to the first one,and its definitely seen as a good movie.

      Do the modern planet of the apes movies count?They are technically prequels,even though they are made to resemble the sequels to the original(which no one ever saw).They are universally considered to be good.

      Also,there is the curious case of ouija origin of evil,a movie actually praised as a good movie,even though it was made as a prequel to Ouija,one of the worst,shittiest “horror” movies.

      • Joshua says:

        Haven’t seen them (only the one with Marky Mark), but I’ll take your word for it. From what I read, I don’t think they were trying to line up with particular plot points other than a general Apes rose up and defeated the humans? That seems a more workable strategy to me.

      • Blackbird71 says:

        the sequels to the original(which no one ever saw).

        Yet another instance in which I qualify as “no one” ;)

        I rather liked the way that the five original movies brought everything around in a full loop.

        • Fade2Gray says:

          He might be talking about the 2001 Tim Burton version that no one remembers or talks about.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            No,Blackbird71 is correct.I was talking about the sequels to the original,which had apes going back in time,facing discrimination and starting a revolution.Some of them were ok….ish,but mostly they were bad.Not as bad as that awful remake though.

      • MichaelGC says:

        If we’re doing films too then Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom went down pretty well.

        (Although I re-watched it recently and you know what? It’s garbage. Garbage, I say! The third one is pretty good, but any notion that Crystal Skull is an extreme Indy outlier qualitywise is in my view incorrect.)

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Comparing Temple to Crystal is an offensive comparison in my eyes. Harrison Ford at the prime of his action hero stardom has more charisma asleep than old Harrison Ford has in his best scene. Likewise, Mola Ram is one hundred times the villain of Cate Blanchett the… Russian… psychic?… fencer?

          • MichaelGC says:

            Yes, fair enough. There’s no direct quality equivalence between 2 & 4; I was more meaning that instead of three home runs and an attempted bunt which concusses the on-deck teammate, it’s more a home run, a double, another homer, and then the attempted bunt which etc.

            • Fade2Gray says:

              I wouldn’t even call Temple a double. Maybe a single… if I’m feeling generous.

              • Groggy says:

                One thing you need to remember about the Indiana Jones series is that is a send up of old-school Pulp movies, while something like “The Phantom” was playing it straight (as straight as a man in a skin-tight purple jumpsuit could be anyways)

                Personally, by this metric Temple might be the best film of the series, and it remains my favourite film because it’s so silly, but I can also see why other people wouldn’t like it. The material it’s sending up is serveral decades old at that point, and a lot of the audience who dislike it have no reference to the old tropes it is playing off of.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Get the infidel!Sacrifice him to kali!Bali chadhogay.Bali mangti kali ma.Mukti degi kali ma.Kali ma!KALI MAA!Shakti de!

    • Christopher P. Beeler says:

      I have one thing to add and that it….Shamus,Thank you for being THE ONLY WELL -ROUNDED human being,to even CARE to write or shown some SERIOUS interest in A different Borderlands game than just 2,blah,blah,blah. I’m very happy that
      U went out on a limb to talk more in depth about it!I unfortunately have Stomach cancer and it causes ALOT of problems with me spending ALL DAY AND NIGHT,on a game,like when I was young and being 46 yrs.old and w/ a legal firm,and doing graphic arts on the side for a SK8BRD Co.,I WISH I had more time to play!SO Thank you Shamus,I do FOLLOW you to keep up with things. And Thank you for NOT Overdoing the Overdone!(Borderlands 2)WATCHING fools just TALK about that game,and THEIR look at ME ,look at ME with my invisible and black and white guns,and how COOL AND BETTER I AM THAN YOU STUFF JUST KILLS THE fun of BORDERLANDS,ALL OF EM!I’m glad U came around with a FRESH AND NEW PERSPECTIVE!Now MAYBE THESE GEARBOX people will START MAKING A NEW GAME,instead of HYPING IT $$$!

    • Michael says:

      Divinity: Original Sin comes to mind.

  4. Fade2Gray says:

    I noticed throughout this whole series I found myself thinking “But what about that awesome moment when… Wait, no. That was from Tales.”

  5. Binary Toast says:

    The Pre-Sequel is the shortest of the main Borderlands titles.

    And here, Shamus has hit on my single biggest problem with Pre-Sequel.

    I’ve logged over 200 hours of BL2 on Steam, probably half again that on my old console copy of the game. If I break a 100 hours on Pre-Sequel, it’ll be directly dependant on my motivation to start a third playthrough. BL2 is a game I come back to every year or two, because there’s so much to do, all this DLC and crap. Pre-Sequel… doesn’t have that. BL2 had those four main DLCs, Pre-Sequel had one. No, Holodome doesn’t count, it’s just the old Circle of Slaughter stuff with the serial numbers filed off.

    Compared to BL2, I don’t feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth. Counting sale prices, Pre-Sequel cost double what BL2 did, and had so much less content.

    But let’s stop being negative for a moment. Most of what Pre-Sequel did for me, is make me feel confident in what BL3 is going to look like. The low-G stuff was interesting (when it wasn’t taking it away from you), but the other mechanical changes are what I’m talking about here. The Grinder is an obvious one, but more importantly they fixed the level curve.

    Some weeks back, when we were discussing the BL2 DLC, I mentioned I’d take the occasional detour from the main game just to upgrade my gear. BL2 had this scaling issue, where if you were the type to do all (or just most) the side quests, you’d start to out-level the enemy/gear curve. The Tiny Tina DLC caps out at level 35, generally my character would be in their low 40s by the time they run out of normal mode content.

    Pre-Sequel never had this issue, in fact it almost had the opposite issue; my second playthrough I skipped a couple side-quests, and was actually underleveled to start Claptastic Voyage. But anyway, you still have this thing where you eventually out-level the curve, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was in BL2. Additionally, one of the big helps was that the vendors scaled to the player’s level, not plot-points. That alone was a big quality of life upgrade to me.

    So in general, if Borderlands 3 combines the mechanical upgrades of Pre-Sequel, with the writing of Borderlands 2, I expect it’ll be a very good game.

  6. Ivellius says:

    I’m not sure how relevant this is to you, Shamus, but if you have a Twitch account, Tales from the Borderlands is free until January 17th.

  7. Thomas says:

    Its interesting watching you deconstruct a story that didn’t fail at the basics but failed at the finer things instead.

    Its a reminder that, despite so much media failing at the basics, there’s a whole other level of skill required to be great on top.

  8. No One says:

    As one of the many people who worked on PreSequel, I’m glad you liked it Shamus. It was a interesting experience making it: a few shuffles of studio responsibility, level redesigns, and a major story rewrite. I worked at the 3rd party studio that made the last few levels in the game (but not the final boss fight, I believe that was GB), so we found out about the changes without much forewarning. Frustrating, but that sort of thing happens. We all rolled with it and got it out on time. (I’m particularly proud of it, as I got to co-design and implement one of the boss fights in addition to providing programming support for level designers.)

    • Joe says:

      Which fight did you work on?

        • Gethsemani says:

          As one of the many people who never liked RK5, would you mind if I asked you about the thought process behind making it a high flying flyer? As someone who mained Athena it was pretty easy for me (just charge the shield and send it flying), but I remember several of my friends being beyond frustrated by the fact that their favorite shotgun or SMG was suddenly useless against an enemy that was too far away, with a similar reaction when we all realized it was almost impossible to hit it with Torgue weapons unless it went into its’ direct attack pattern.

          RK5 always struck me as this cool concept that didn’t really survive contact with the realities of the gameplay. Most bosses in the game allowed for several ways to approach it, but RK5 pretty much started and ended with “snipe it from afar and dodge a lot”.

          • No One says:

            Well, I’m sorry you didn’t like it. Here’s what we were thinking on the fight design.

            The gameplay concept for the RK5 fight was to emphasize player movement. We didn’t want the player to just hunker down behind cover or only stay in one area of the map. RK5 picks its lazer barrage and bomb run attacks based on where the player is in the arena (9 square zone grid over the bottom of the bowl and one zone on the tower) so moving to the opposite quadrant or getting on/off the tower is the proper response. Using the jump pads to quickly traverse the arena and to gain altitude to shoot with lesser ranged weapons was also key.

            It’s true, most shotguns and slow bullet guns are not natural fits for attacking RK5 when it’s at range. Having a properly leveled smg, battle rifle, or sniper should do well with it even without the massive damage boosts one gets from the skill tree, particularly if they are corrosive. We felt this wasn’t much of an imposition as the limits of ammunition capacity greatly encouraged players to have a variety of weapon types on hand and it was late in the game so the player should have something that will be good enough either as a secondary weapon or in storage. Also, we put in “hang out” points in RK5’s barrage attack animations so players would have moments to shoot it before the lazer attacks start and the movement of the barrages was slow enough to allow players with lower range guns to attack it while out of the lazers’ beat path.

            But yes, we did design the fight to have an optimal approach. We wanted a fight that players had to figure out a bit. We found that aspect fun.

            Now, as to your question on why RK5 is a high flyer? The short version is that RK5 is a remnant of an earlier draft of the story. In that draft, Zarpedon was supposed to be the final boss of the game. The plan was to have a 3 fight final sequence with her: first her in a fighter craft, then her in a mech suit, and finally her one on one. When the story was revised, the fight with Zarpedon was moved up much earlier in the game and the fighter craft fight was split off as a standalone boss and greatly expanded.

  9. Kellandros says:

    I haven’t played the Pre-Sequel myself, but half of this overview sounds like they were originally going for an unreliable narrator- where this is how Handsome Jack justifies his past to himself. He couldn’t have done anything wrong, so he just blames everything on the closest and most convenient target (the original game’s heroes) and makes up what he thinks their motivations are (why would he actually pay attention to the contents of what they are saying)?

    But then redevelopment happened, and extra scenes and dialog got added on top of the original plan, and you end up with inconsistencies everywhere.

    • Fade2Gray says:

      That actually makes a lot of sense.

      • Groggy says:

        The problem then becomes how to frame the delivery of that.

        Personally what would what been best would be when Jack has Lilith with that weird eridian choker that allows him to control her.

        The game freezes at key points, and sort of old VHS static plays across why Jack abuses Lilith. Just like a bunch of lines about, “Hey remember when you stabbed me in the back, burned half my face off, and ran away like a bitch? Good times”

        “That’s not how that happened and you know it you asshole.”

        “You shouldn’t lie, the necklace hurts liars”

        *Lilith screams in the background*

        The ending of the game shows the BL2 Vault Hunters busting into the arena where you fight Jack, and then the Warrior.

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