Borderlands Part 21: Absolutely Badass

By Shamus Posted Thursday Dec 21, 2017

Filed under: Borderlands 73 comments

Before I take this sharp stick and begin poking at the story parts of the Pre-Sequel, let’s talk about one of the odd mechanical quirks of the Borderlands series.

Weapon Proficiencies

This is the weapon proficiency screen in Borderlands 1.
This is the weapon proficiency screen in Borderlands 1.

In Borderlands 1, we had Weapon Proficiencies as a system of long-term power building that was completely decoupled from the looting and leveling stuff. It wasn’t very interesting. Basically, every time an enemy dies (regardless of cause) you gain some sort of special XP for the particular weapon you’re currently holding. Occasionally this XP will cause you to rank up in that particular weapon type. This incentivizes focusing on a couple of weapon types rather than just using whatever seems fun at the moment. Or it would, if the game ever bothered explaining it to you.

What happens is that once every few hours you’ll gain a rank and get a tiny text notification will appear on the screen for a few seconds. Every rank will give you a miniscule bonus to weapon accuracy, damage, fire rate, reload speed, etc. for the given weapon. Odds are you might not even notice it amid the chaos. And even if you did notice it, the game didn’t tell you what it meant. It wasn’t interesting, it wasn’t ever explained, and once you do figure out how it works the only thing it accomplishes is to make the game less interesting by pushing you to stick to a couple of weapon types. It was one of the many strange half-formed ideas in Borderlands 1 that hinted at how the design doc was never really nailed down.

Badass Ranks

There are a TON of activities that earn badass XP. Some of them are inevitable, and some of them are quite obscure.
There are a TON of activities that earn badass XP. Some of them are inevitable, and some of them are quite obscure.

In Borderlands 2 they dropped this system in favor of Badass Ranks, which is a much better system that’s far more in keeping with the tone of the series. As you play the game you’ll get “badass points” for doing random stuff. Kill N enemies during the day. Kill N foes with grenades. Melee them to death. Kill N skags. Deal N points of explosive damage. Kill stuff while flying through the air. Run something over in a car. Open N boxes. Activate your special ability N times. Loot N items of a particular quality. Revive teammates N times. And so on.

Occasionally these badass points will fill up the meter and you’ll gain a rank. This gives you a token to spend on some tiny, tiny upgrade. You can boost your health, shield capacity, reload speed, fire rate, critical damage, or a dozen other attributes. The thing is, each token spent gives the ridiculously small benefit of 0.3%. Which means that if I’m currently doing exactly 1,000 points of damage with my gun, investing a token into damage output will boost that to 1,003. It will be incredibly rare for that tiny bonus to ever make a tangible difference in a fight.

But these bonuses stack, and they apply across all of your characters. 0.3% is indeed a tiny bonus, but over time they really add up. Once you’ve spent a lot of badass points you’ll have several percentage points of boost applied across the board. Eventually your character is firing 5% faster and dealing 6% more bullet damage and shooting with 4% more accuracy and dealing 3% more damage on critical hits and dealing elemental damage 5% more often and that elemental damage is boosted by 7%. When you add it all up, you’ve really boosted your combat effectiveness in a tangible way.

Self Improvement

I've built up 14 badass tokens, and I'm about halfway to earning another.
I've built up 14 badass tokens, and I'm about halfway to earning another.

It feels good to master a game. For some people, that feeling of overcoming previously insurmountable obstacles is the primary motivation for playing games.

There are two major ways games can deliver this feeling:

1) Systems mastery.
2) Foreknowledge.

Systems mastery is the obvious one. Get better at the game mechanics and you’ll get better at the game. Get good at aiming, master the timing of dodge moves, learn the timing of reloading weapons so you can do it at the right moment without needing to think about it, get a feel for the damage radius of grenades so you know when to use them, memorize the mana costs of magic spells so you can recognize when it’s time to unleash your big attack and when it’s time to drink a potion, develop a feel for the AI quirks of the stealth system, and so on.

Foreknowledge is learning specific things about the layout of the levels or enemy behavior. Once I’ve played a level a few times I know that a sniper is going to appear on a catwalk overhead and I can already be aiming in his direction when he shows up, rather than scrambling to find him while he’s shooting at me. I know the helicopter is going to appear as soon as I jump in the airboat, and I know there will be a ramp on the right-hand side of the canal that will take me over the flames. I know there’s a guy putting down mines on the right hand side of this area and he’s going to be a huge pain in the ass for Batman unless I can slip over there and take him out first.

You can see I've spent hundreds of badass tokens already. It took over 60 tokens just to get Shield Capacity Bonus up to 19%, not to mention all the other bonuses.
You can see I've spent hundreds of badass tokens already. It took over 60 tokens just to get Shield Capacity Bonus up to 19%, not to mention all the other bonuses.

I realize there can be some overlap here. If we want to draw a hard line between the two I’d say that mastery makes you better at the game in general, while foreknowledge is stuff that’s only useful in one particular area or one particular foe. Grand Theft Auto has a big focus on foreknowledge and Batman is more focused on generalized mastery.

But this system of Badass Ranks is something different, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s a system that will gradually make the game easier over time by making you more powerful. If a brand new player sat down at my computer and created a brand new character, they would begin the game with lots of bonuses and have a much easier time than I did on my first trip through the game. On one hand it feels good to get this steady trickle of rewards, but on the other hand it feels almost like a trick to make the game feel like it has more mechanical depth than is present in the mechanics.

“Wow. I remember this boss fight was really tough the first time I fought him, and now he’s a pushover! I must be getting really good at this game.”

I’m not saying the system was deliberately designed to fool you. It’s just that I’ve never encountered a system like this before. Sure, lots of games give you higher health and damage, but that’s always tied to a particular character and the leveling mechanics. I’ve never seen a game where playing for a long time will gradually make everything easier independent of all other game systems.

A Supervillain is Born

SPOILER: By the end of the game, Jack becomes Handsome Jack.
SPOILER: By the end of the game, Jack becomes Handsome Jack.

The Pre-Sequel is trying to show how stable, mostly normal middle manager “John” was transformed into the megalomaniacal, manipulative, and cruel Handsome Jackass. This is a really difficult kind of story to pull off under normal circumstances, and even harder if you’re doing so in the context of action comedy where you need to keep the energy up and maintain a steady flow of jokes. It’s harder still in the context of a sequel-prequel where both the past and the future are already set in stone and the writer doesn’t have a lot of room to make up new things. I’ll admit that the writer is trying to do something fiendishly difficult here.

But while I acknowledge that the writer has been given a challenging task, it doesn’t change the fact that very little of this really works. Jack’s fall feels less like a personal transformation and more like someone accidentally flipped his villain switch. That would be fine if the whole plot was just one big joke, but this story is actually pretty lean on laughs compared to the previous game.

The setup for the Pre-Sequel is thus: The Lost Legion is a bunch of military jerks under the command of a raving nutter who’s probably being mind-controlled by aliens. They capture Helios Station (the giant H-shaped deathstar) and begin using its enormous doom laser to blast the moon. If they keep this up, eventually they will shatter the moon. This will kill everyone on the moon, everyone on Helios, and possibly everyone on Pandora.

Handsome Jack needs to raise a robot army to retake the station, and a lot of the game is dedicated to pursuing that goal.

No Angel

This is the closest we get to seeing Angel in the game.
This is the closest we get to seeing Angel in the game.

In Borderlands 2, Angel is a key aspect of Jack’s evil scheming. She’s a symbol of just how far he’s willing to go to exploit people. She shows that nobody – not even his own daughter – is safe from his cruelty. He manipulated her through guilt, and then used her to manipulate all of the vault hunters through lies while also using her miraculous abilities to make himself powerful and wealthy.

In the confrontation at Control Core Angel, she was a witness against him, revealing that he’s such an evil bastard that even his own daughter despises him. She’s key to understanding who he really is underneath the jokes and the schemes, and she does not appear in this game.

Okay, she appears in a couple of side-quest audiologs, and we see a picture of her on Jack’s desk. The point is that since she’s such a big part of both his plans and his villainy, leaving her out of this story feels like telling the story of Mr. Freeze and leaving out Nora.

I understand why she’s not in the game. Angel made it clear that Jack had always been a selfish, manipulative asshole. She certainly never hinted that his cruelty and manipulation were a recent development. In fact, when describing her experience as Jack’s daughter, she refers to it as , “A lifetime of servitude.” There are audiologs in Borderlands 2 that showed Jack using her to manipulate people all the way back at the start of the first game. It would be pretty hard to accept “Normal John” as a sympathetic character if the story showed he’d imprisoned his daughter in a tower against her will and was using her to manipulate people.

The plot wouldn’t work if she was here, but that just shows that this wasn’t a good choice for a plot. This is a supposedly a character study, and we’re ignoring the most significant details of his backstory and rewriting the rest.

The Meriff

This guy dies 35 seconds after this introduction, and he has nobody but himself to blame. His double betrayal was pointless and nonsensical.
This guy dies 35 seconds after this introduction, and he has nobody but himself to blame. His double betrayal was pointless and nonsensical.

The first big turning point for Jack happens about a third of the way into the game. He learns that The Meriff of Concordia has betrayed him. The story goes out of it’s way to show us that before this event, Jack was “good”By the standards of Pandora, anyway. This is still a world where EVERYONE is a little crazy and violent.. He balks at the idea of vengeance or torturing the Meriff, and he makes it clear that he just wants to talk things out.

Then after Jack shows him mercy, The Meriff tries to shoot Jack in the back anyway. Jack wins the exchange. Afterwards he says it was “exhilarating” to shoot the Meriff. So apparently this single act flips his latent villain switch and begins his transformation into Handsome Jack, Space Bastard.

Why are we doing a study of his fall from quasi-decency into Dr. Doom level super-villainy if the whole thing apparently turns on one not-very-compelling event?

The Meriff was too weak to create a character-transforming crisis. His backstab was too pathetic to generate a lot of outrage. His death was too mundane to justify Jack’s reaction. It’s not like this is the first person Jack has killed. He shot plenty of Lost Legion soldiers during the introduction. None of those kills gave him a murder-boner.

This is a bit like the fall of Anakin / Vader in Revenge of the Sith. I can see what the writer is trying to say. They’ve given the villain a reason to turn to evil. But the reason ins’t very compelling, the character’s behavior doesn’t match what we already know about them, and in any case it doesn’t make for an interesting story.



[1] By the standards of Pandora, anyway. This is still a world where EVERYONE is a little crazy and violent.

From The Archives:

73 thoughts on “Borderlands Part 21: Absolutely Badass

  1. Joe says:

    The stupidest thing I regularly do for the badass points is shoot 3,000 enemies with assault rifles while crouched. It has me using assault rifles for some time after I should have given them up for pistols and SMGs. And it’s frustrating to discover that I was accidentally standing up, so those last five enemies don’t count towards my tally.

    Angel is sort of mentioned in the quest to destroy the laser. Jack says something about ‘Are you in there, Angel?’ But it isn’t followed-up on.

  2. Exasperation says:

    I've never encountered a system like this before. Sure, lots of games give you higher health and damage, but that's always tied to a particular character and the leveling mechanics. I've never seen a game where playing for a long time will gradually make everything easier independent of all other game systems.

    There is a little bit of precedent for this type of system in the roguelike genre. It’s not too uncommon to see games of that type have unlockable bonuses so that even if your characters die permanently there’s still an overarching sort of progress being made.

    1. Tektotherriggen says:

      Maybe it’s to make repeat play-throughs feel less grindy? If players are likely to play the whole game four+ times, with the different characters, you don’t want them to keep getting stuck on the same tough segment or they’ll get bored, and slag off your game. Making it a bit easier each time, regardless of skill, helps keeps things fast and fresh.

      This makes more sense if there’s no New Game + mode (restart the story with all of your unlocked skills and (maybe) items), or if the main aim of the end-game is to grind until you get a full set of legendary loot. I don’t know enough about Borderlands to know how much they apply.

      1. This is especially true of Borderlands 2, because the second playthrough on higher difficulty is bullet sponge central. Those Badass Ranks help to alleviate the tedium a ‘bit’, but not much.

    2. Noah Gibbs says:

      There are some things like it in, say, Sunless Sea where you unlock stat boosts. As other folks say here, in a grind-heavy game with permadeath it lets you get past the early parts quickly to the bits you want to see (the plot/story/writing, for Sunless Sea.)

      The other strong parallel I know of is Kingdom of Loathing (the free online one) where you Ascend and get to make one skill permanent for your next life. Over many ascensions, this changes your character and the whole game completely, so that’s more “making the whole game easier in order to unlock a different game that sits on top of it.”

    3. Asdasd says:

      I’ve never played a roguelike that has unlockable progression, but I certainly haven’t played every roguelike. I’ve seen it in almost every roguelite (or roguelike-likes) I’ve played though. I’m not trying to score semantic points, here; I think the pioneers of the roguelite craze made a very smart realisation that meta-progression systems were a key addition in making the genre vastly more accessible.

      Like Shamus, I feel iffy about it. My lizard-brain is tickled by this sensation of pseudo-mastery, and it rejoices at the sweet reward of meta-progress that comes whether my last run succeeded or (much more likely) failed. The empowerment structure all but guarantees I’ll be able to beat the game if I just keep at it, as every run is somewhat easier than the last.

      But there’s this little voice inside my head. The voice has been around, and remembers the early generations of games, where a sense of mastery was the only reward system in town*. The voice knows what mastery is, and knows what it isn’t. The voice would be louder, but because I’m getting better at the game through traditional forms of mastery at the same time as I’m being empowered through meta-rewards, it mostly lets the lizard-brain be. But it’s still there, and try as I might to ignore it, I can’t shake the feeling that the satisfaction that comes from ‘mastering’ these games somehow isn’t wholly legitimate.

      * unless you count ‘A winner is you!’ as a reward.

      1. Exasperation says:

        I've never played a roguelike that has unlockable progression, but I certainly haven't played every roguelike. I've seen it in almost every roguelite (or roguelike-likes) I've played though. I'm not trying to score semantic points, here; I think the pioneers of the roguelite craze made a very smart realisation that meta-progression systems were a key addition in making the genre vastly more accessible.

        I considered using one of those terms instead, but decided the distinction wasn’t worth the headache of figuring out which sub-genres people would want to assign these games to.

      2. evilmrhenry says:

        From my point of view, it’s no worse than the progression system from normal RPGs. You kill a bunch of slimes, level up, and suddenly the game gets easier. If you can’t beat the final boss, grind for an hour and see if that helps. Usually, these roguelites still have a significant focus on system mastery anyway.

        1. Asdasd says:

          I do kind of agree! Especially with regard to RPGs – the ultimate counter argument to my initial post being that one of the kings of systems mastery, the Souls series, has these gradual empowerment mechanics in place. I’m certainly not beating myself up over not completing the game at level one with the sword hilt!

          For some reason it irks me with specific regard to roguelikes, though. I think it has something to do with the idea of every run being pure and fresh, with few among the many being destined for glory. That doesn’t quite work for me when you’re incrementally chipping away at the game’s fundamental challenge over time.

          Spelunky, grandfather of the current roguelite wave, had a rather neat solution. You didn’t unlock permanent upgrades, but you did have the ability to unlock permanent shortcuts to the beginning of each new zone. For someone who was determined to see the ending by hook or by crook, these could be a boon – although starting in significantly harder areas without having geared up in the easy zones was not strictly an advantage. But even if you never made much use of the shortcuts, merely unlocking them gave that satisfying sense of progression without cheapening the core challenge of the game. For me at least it was the perfect sweet spot.

    4. Viktor says:

      Dead Rising basically does this as well. You basically can’t beat the game on your first time through*, but you retain your levelups. So when you die you can either reload or restart. A normal person will die and restart a couple times when they hit various early-game walls, then maybe last the 3 days but get a bad ending once, THEN be powerful and experienced enough to take on the whole main quest. It makes an interesting replay setup, given that knowledge of the map/items/game is also such a huge part of your power.

      *I’ve actually tried going back to a clean save a couple times. Even knowing where the good weapons are hidden and being at least decent at the game, I can’t make it past the damn clown without serious grinding. He’s got more health than I do weapons at that point. If he’s not reasonably beatable, the later bosses will be gods.

    5. Lame Duck says:

      Didn’t Mass Effect 1 have a similar system too? It was tied in to the achievement system and I think it applied to all of your characters. No idea if it persisted into the later games in the series, though, as I never played them.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yes,some achievements did bestow certain small bonuses.

      2. Soylent Dave says:

        The Mass Effect achievements basically allowed you to multiclass on your next playthrough (which in effect allowed you to eliminate a key weakness from the more specialised classes)

        1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

          Yup, Lift on an infiltrator specialised in Pistols was awesome.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Thats because infiltrators are awesome no matter what you do with them.

    6. Dungeons and Dragons Online has a system semi-similar to this called Reincarnation–basically, you take your capped toon and start over again from level 1. But you keep your accumulated gear (well, everything you can fit in your inventory and bank before you reincarnate, anyway), and you get a “past life” bonus based on what you were before you reincarnated and what type of reincarnation you did. The first two times you do it, you also pick up +2 build points.

      Individually, the bonuses are small. Stack enough of them together (plus numerous lives worth of accumulated gear and practice running the quests) and the power difference becomes substantial.

      They also have “Completionist” bonuses for the different types of reincarnation, so if you level 1-20 on every. single. class, you can take a feat that gives you +2 to all stats and skills. If you level 1-20 on every. single. race, you get a free bonus +2 to all stats and skills. If you go 20-30 in every epic destiny sphere 3 times, you get an extra twist of fate (not going to explain what that is, it’s complicated, but it’s a BIG benefit).

  3. Locke says:

    I think even at this point in the story the writer could’ve made things work (on its own, though making it square with Angel’s description of Jack was already sunk) if this had been the start of Jack’s fall to villainy rather than basically the whole thing. So far as setting up Jack to believe that mercy is for chumps and he should just skip to straight to murdering anything that gets in his way, the Meriff’s story is okay. That basically just makes him about as evil as the average vault hunter, though. He’s still got a long way to fall, but the only part of that fall we really see is one sidequest where he posthumously humiliates the Meriff after digging up some evidence that he felt bad about his actions – though, notably, apparently not bad enough not to try and shoot Jack in the back. And it’s not even really clear why Jack hates the Meriff enough to go to the trouble.

    1. Francis-Olivier says:

      It remains evident at least later on that Jack always was kinda shaddy. Hell even though they don’t talk much about it I believe his BL2 backstory remains and does set him up as somewhat of a manipulator at least. In that way Pre-Sequel is probably more the end of Jack’s fall to villany than the begining. Also we’ll see a lot more of Jack comiting other morally ambiguous acts until the end of that story until it’s pretty clear he’s lost it (but I’ll admit some but not all of of them are also in sidequests).

      As for the Meriff shooting Jack, I think he was panicking and not quite there at the time. Meanwhile Jack possibly went and humiliated him even more after the event because frankly he seemed petty enough even before he became evil. I’ll admit that last bit is more of a strech but I think it works.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Whole thing on the front page

  5. Bo says:

    Diablo 3’s Prestige levels work just like the Badass Points.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Just what I was thinking – though I don’t know which came first.

    2. Andy says:

      Except you control where your Paragon points go within each category, per character. Borderlands gives you a random selection of stuff you probably weren’t looking for. :/

      1. Kalil says:

        Borderlands gives you a random selection of stuff you probably weren't looking for.

        That’s the part I really didn’t like about the BL2 badass system.
        If I recall correctly, it was also a /weighted/ random chance system, so eventually, you’d always get your four least wanted options + one of the actually useful ones, which took away any element of actual choice.

        1. Jamey Johnston says:

          Well technically they are all useful, just not for all characters/builds. But since they apply to all your characters something you pick might not be good at the time you select it but it could be good (and some of your other choices might be not great) for the next play through.

  6. Joshua says:

    I was going to bring up Anakin, but you eventually mentioned him. While teasing at a few events, it still came across to me as “Oh shit, we’re 2.75 movies into the 3 movie story of Anakin’s fall from Grace and he’s still mostly a good guy. Uh, time to flip the villain switch.”

    1. Sartharina says:

      Part of the problem with Anakin’s fall is that he’d been slipping for a while (And it’s sort of been showing), but when he ‘fell’, it looked like he was going on the up.

      Also – Movies don’t convey internal mental struggles very well at all, and the bad direction didn’t help. Anakin’s problem was he was as not-good guy trying to be ‘the good guy’, with a LOT of hidden/pent-up emotions, and a mentor who was blind to his struggles (And Anakin didn’t trust enough to open up about them).

      Also – they made the fall WAY too far too fast. Instead of “What is thy bidding, my master?”, the prelude to Order 66 and creation of Lord Vader should have been more of an argument and acquiescence to the demand to murder all the Jedi and their children, instead of a “I dub thee Sir Villain!” The “Obedient Servant” Darth Vader shouldn’t have come until after he was encased in the suit, and more “Active, angry kid with too much power trying to do what he thinks he needs to and can” Vader.

    2. Thomas says:

      SF-Debris’ George Lucas history talks about the late decision to start with Anakin as a kid and how catastrophic the change ended up being.

      The whole of the first film you can’t really do anything with the character, unless you’re truly excellent at handling children, which Lucas was not. Then in the 2nd film you have to reset the scene for who ‘grown up Anakin’ is and what he’s doing. And by the time you’ve done that, you’ve blown most of you story and haven’t even gotten to the middle.

      1. Joshua says:

        I had read something that said they somewhat reset the character for the 3rd movie, because they realized that they had created a plot hole with Obi-Wan telling Luke that he and Anakin were good friends, and this was never shown in the second movie (I seem to recall RLM picking upon them for this in the Plinkett review with intercut scenes of Alec Guiness fondly recalling his friend and Ewan McGregor harshly criticizing his apprentice).

        So, the beginning of the 3rd movie shows them being buddies and good guys after Anakin’s toying with the Dark Side by killing the sand people in the previous film. Overall, a poorly structured 3-movie story of Anakin’s fall that really should have been done differently.

        1. Viktor says:

          Yeah, fundamentally the problems with the prequels weren’t writing, acting, or directing, though you can definitely point to issues with all 3 in all 3 movies. The prequels were structurally flawed, and that takes a lot more work to fix. Ideally, Lucas should have established whatever Anakin’s fatal flaw was early on, and let it build throughout the movies until it destroyed him and everything around him. You can compare that to how the Jedi operate, either making Anakin’s flaw the flaw of all Jedi or giving them the inverse of his flaw, to make the failure of the Jedi and the failure of Anakin deserved by both parties. Lucas also could give us a Palpentine arc to mirror Anakin’s, nicely demonstrating how evil works in different people.

          Instead, we got 3 movies where the main conflict doesn’t show up until halfway through movie 2, the Jedi Council are actually perfect saints, Anakin’s arc is flat in movie 1, progresses entirely through movie 2, then resets and progresses exactly the same in movie 3, and despite all that I know basically nothing more about him at the end of the prequels than I did after the original movies.

          1. Joshua says:

            Sad to say, as bad as the structure was, it is still slightly better than the new movies in my opinion, because they knew where they wanted to go even if they didn’t know how to get there.

            The new “trilogy”, however, has no overall plan. Or at least it doesn’t according to an infamous twitter exchange with Rian Johnson earlier this year where he went out and said “there’s no plan”. It’s one of the reasons why the Last Jedi is so controversial- not only does it tinker with some of the arcs of the original trilogy, it goes nowhere with the arcs set up by J.J. Abrams in The Force Awakens, and by the end doesn’t seem to really create much mystery for Episode IX to work with either.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              The first trilogy had no plan either,but it is still considered the best.Having a plan does not make it automatically better.

    3. Viktor says:

      Anakin’s was so bad, though that really ties into the Sith as a whole. Why does Anakin fall ties really well into “why does anyone fall?” And they don’t answer it because the movies don’t know. People are evil for plenty of reasons IRL. Cruelty, greed, pride, people have plenty of motivations for hurting others. What’s Palpentine’s motivation? He wants power, fine, but why? What does power let him do that he couldn’t already? If you want a story about the eternal war between good and evil, go for it, but I ask that you have some kind of basic understanding of both good and evil when you do.

      1. Sartharina says:

        They hinted at it, but the direction and writing weren’t there to pull it off – it actually hits something pretty close to anyone who’s suffered depression or anxiety (Or similar mental disorders). “I’m not the Jedi I want to be”.

        Anakin cannot control his emotions the way he’s supposed to. In fact, I’d say that Shamus Young and Rutskarn actually hint at one of the reasons Anakin fell in their bitching about Little Lamplight in Fallout 3, and Riften in Skyrim: Anakin Skywalker is flat-out the most powerful Jedi/Force User in the universe. He’s up there in power and agency with any RPG Protagonist (Or, actually, like players want their protagonist to be). He’s on a power trip. He’s got ambitions – many of them well-intended, but he also has serious anger issues and an inability to be second fiddle to anyone who doesn’t have actual power over him. Ever been in an RPG where your character is part of or subservient to The Council of Good Guys, and you feel they’re all useless fools, even though you know they’re also the ‘morally correct’ group to be aligned with? That’s pretty much Anakin’s relationship with the Jedi Order.

        In the movies – prior to his fall, we only see a few outbursts of his actual thoughts. He’s the sort of person who’s going through the motions in an RPG selecting the “Morally Good” dialogue/action choice, while internally seething at the frustration of dealing with all these incompetent and petty tools surrounding him. He had pretty much three conflicting goals: Get a Full Paragon runthrough of life, Save his Wife, and, eventually, Stop Putting Up With These Idiots’ Bullshit. His fall really did fall on Windu’s attack on Palpatine – “Full Paragon Runthrough of Life” directly contradicted “Save his Wife”, and he chose the latter in that moment – and there was absolutely no coming back from killing Mace Windu. He crossed a line, and with it, he lost the “Full Paragon Runthrough of Life” goal. And his only ally was Palpatine, so he had to re-align his new goals.

        (Also – this is sort of why Alignment is called Alignment, not Morality, in D&D. Individual morality has nothing to do with it – you’re either aligned with the forces of “Good” and all its trappings, or the forces of “Evil” and all its trappings. Or, in Star Wars, either aligned with the Jedi, or the Sith. Or you could try to be Neutral, but you lose the support of both estabilished powers)

        1. Joshua says:

          I’d have to agree somewhat with the D&D Alignment discussion. D&D’s Alignment system is laughably bad at representing Moral Philosophy, and I think it really just serves the purpose of “Are you on the Blue Team or Red Team?”

          Practically, this serves the purpose of being able to enjoy a game of being valiant heroes without issues of moral complexity dragging everything out into philosophical discussions, especially with people of differing viewpoints. No hand-wringing about genociding that entire tribe of Gnolls, because they really are that irredeemably evil.

          The downside is it gets awkward at times trying to have any complex discussions of societies of raging psychopaths and how they’ve managed to survive together as a group for even a year, much less thousands of them.

      2. Chris says:

        Palpentine’s motivation seems pretty clear, though it was 1) mostly left on the cutting-room floor and 2) hinges on grade-A fantasy BS.

        Palpentine wants to live forever, something that is only possible through the dark side of the Force. His master had the power, but Palpentine killed him before learning how it was done, and hasn’t been able to re-discover it. He also appears to believe that Anakin will be able to help him figure out how to do it. The Jedi would kill him if the figured out he was the Sith lord, so he has to kill all the Jedi before they kill him. Taking over the Republic is a means to this end.

        In terms of real-world relatability, immortality is nonsense but the willingness to sacrifice the happiness and well-being of others to ensure one’s own continued life and power is a common trait in dictators.

    4. Olivier FAURE says:

      Did anyone mention the cartoon The Clone Wars yet? No? Okay, here it goes: The Clone Wars (the 3D one) is a great cartoon series with a rough beginning which does a great work of developing Anakin’s character over time, and basically shows Anakin as “the guy who gets things done no matter what” with moral ambiguity that he should have been in the Prequels.

      I recommend it with all my heart.

      1. Francis-Olivier says:

        From what I’ve seen in Clone Wars Anakin’s character seem to be more “do good or achieve goals no matter the consequences.” So that leads him to believe that charging head on into a meat grinder of an assault is a good idea because “we’ll kill all the evil separatists.”

  7. Christopher says:

    Badass ranks just kinda sound like regular exp? Like how in any RPG with experience points you’ll naturally become more effective at the game even if you hardly get any better at the combat, or you can grind your way out of a tough spot. Applying to all characters being the only difference, and a lot of RPGs allow for new game + where you keep all your stats.

    You can spec out your Pokemon party perfectly within the circumstances, making a balanced roster of critters to take advantage of the enemy’s weakness, maybe breeding pokemon to get the right moves onto them. With the right knowledge about the enemy, it’s easy to take them out in a single move if you know their weakness. Or, you just grind levels for a while so that your charmander is at least 10 levels higher than the current area’s trainers, and at that point nothing short of a miracle can take him down.

    You can beat beat Dark Souls at level 1, because of the way that game’s leveling mechanics work. But you can also grind for hours to get a shit ton of HP, upgrade your healing items to heal you more, upgrade how many flasks you have(from a measly 5 to a massive 25 I think), naturally upgrade your damage, your stamina, your armor, your weapons, whatever.

    In Dragon’s Dogma, because of the way leveling scales, you basically have to be above a level treshold to deal reasonable damage to an enemy. It’s one of the game’s more glaring weaknesses, where you’ll come across an ogre at level 10 and use an hour to cheese it with arrows from a doorway, but at level 12 you could’ve just fought it normally because you passed the required stat check. But you keep all of your stats and equipment between replays, so after the first time through Hard Mode will actually be easier than the first playthrough.

    I just feel like all experience point mechanics makes you better at a game with little tangible effort on your part(just patience). It’s a neat system when implemented right, because it means players can either be smart or knowledgable and think their way through something, skillful and good at playing to just go through something on pure ability, or grind out a few levels, gather resources and upgrade their stuff to get a much better shot at it.

    Though it does mean that when playing action-RPGs, skilled Twitch streamers with a lot of pride will just throw themselves at a challenge again and again even if they’re woefully underleveled, lol. They usually win eventually.

    1. Joe says:

      “Badass ranks just kinda sound like regular exp? Like how in any RPG with experience points you'll naturally become more effective at the game even if you hardly get any better at the combat, or you can grind your way out of a tough spot. Applying to all characters being the only difference, and a lot of RPGs allow for new game + where you keep all your stats.”

      Sort of. You get some badass points through doing regular combat stuff, but some by going out of the way to do something special. Like, get a sniper rifle critical without using the scope, or while jumping. I don’t play many RPGs, but I can’t think of any that reward you for going above and beyond the regular gameplay in the same manner.

      1. Viktor says:

        Fallout:New Vegas and the Saints Row games both give you XP for completing challenges. It’s explicitly tied into the leveling system rather than being it’s own thing, but they’re overall very similar to the Borderlands system.

      2. Kathryn says:

        Maybe not with combat skills, but some RPGs have ranking for specific battles, and the rewards for exploration vary and may include indirect benefits to combat. (I am the sort of person who compulsively fills in every map – in most games, this just means some extra gil, but in FFXII, for example, there is a ton of extra content and good weapons and gear that you won’t get without exploring.)

        I dunno. I’m not that interested in “mastering” a video game (good thing too, bc I couldn’t) – I enjoy games for totally different reasons. So I could be off base.

    2. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      Also, just for extra precision, you need a lot of badass ranks to get even one badass token after a while, so you not only have to go out of your way to do stuff (basically everything you can do in the game) to get said ranks, you have to do it on multiple characters (because every challenge has an upper limit per character).

      I feel it’s a really nice reward for the time you need to put in the game to get those extra stats.

  8. Destrustor says:

    Badass token rewards aren’t a fixed 0.3%; the first one you spend on a different bonus gives a flat 1%, the second one spent on that same thing gives 0.7%, and it gradually lowers like that until 0.3%
    According to the wiki, the formula is:
    Bonus in percent = round ((Badass Tokens spent on stat)^0.75 times 10) \10
    Basically, you only get locked into 0.3% (with very occasional 0.4s) once you’ve spent about 27 tokens on a particular bonus, at which point you’ll have about an 11.8%.

  9. Usually I talk about this in the context of the real world, but it works for stories too, albeit in reverse. When trying to determine someone’s motive in the real world, it is not enough for you to come up with a reason they might do something; it needs to be a reason why they would consider that their best choice. In a story, an action needs to be motivated by something that is not merely a reason, but something that makes it the character’s best alternative.

    I like to use the example of a billionaire at a charity event giving a speech about how this is the most important charity in the world, their vital work on cancer or whatever is the most important thing anyone can be doing, and so on and so on, and then he announces that it’s so important that he’s going to donate himself, so with a music sting and some flashy lighting effects, out comes the oversized novelty check for… $1000.

    Is all that glowing stuff about how important the charity is a reason to give them $1000? Yes, sure. But if he really meant it, would he consider $1000 his best option? Clearly not; $1000 is chump change to a billionaire. That does not explain a motivation for giving $1000. If you want to find the real motivation, you need to find something that explains why donating $1000 was this billionaire’s best choice, within his personal value system.

    Running it in reverse for stories, where often/usually an author knows what actions they want to get to and are back-filling for motivation, a motivation needs to not just be “a reason”, but something that makes it the best thing for a character.

    Anakin sounds like a very apt analogy; in both cases, the fundamental problem is that, if I may be so bold, the authors simply don’t understand people very well, or the attraction of evil very well, and had a child’s view of how it works, to be perfectly blunt. Consequently, they are incapable of writing a “fall from grace” tale. Where we should have seen throughout the entire story small steps, where Anakin/Jack first takes the slightly convenient answer rather than the correct one, then another bit more convenient answer, then so on and so on in small steps until evil is revealed in all its glory, which is how it usually really happens, they just “flip the switch”, because they think that’s how it works.

    This sort of fundamentally incorrect understanding of people is not the sort of thing that creates a good writer, to say the least.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      An alternate possibility than ignorance is fear. A truly insightful fall-from-grace character arc will expose the villainy inherent in all of us, writer included. It takes a lot of courage to look directly into our deepest failings, or worst moments, and see that it wasn’t some freak occurrence that could have been avoided, but a steady march of regrettable decisions that all really were justifiable at the time. We prefer to think that crazed maniacs are the result of normal people making extraordinarily evil decisions. In reality, it is the result of extraordinarily capable people making normal evil decisions, the kind that everyone, even writers, make every day. Not everyone is willing to confront that, which makes a lot of sense. More sense, I would submit, than the writers being ignorant or incompetent.

      1. I acknowledge your point, but would resolve some of the tension in our different posts by saying that personally (YMMV), an author trying to write a “descent into evil” story who can’t do the things you say is incompetent at their chosen job, as I consider that entry stakes for writing that sort of story. And with time I could scrounge up some quotes from other noted authors (I know CS Lewis among them) who would agree.

        I would say that part of the problem is that writers right now in general subscribe to a philosophy that leaves them incapable of facing and understanding evil (hence the “ignorance” part of my post), and it shows in their writing. And the generally weak job of characterizations coming out of these authors, where it’s either a cardboard cutout villain, or a cardboard cutout villain with a few pieces of frippery cargo-culted on.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Well said.
          Though, as I was joking with a friend the other day, holding up Saint Clive as a lower bounds for writing competence might be expecting a bit much. Granted, you’re holding up his portrayal of the lower bounds instead of his own work… but still?

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            Nitpicks aside (though I suppose that’s what we’re all here for) I feel that tying “good writer” to “a philosophy”, while I agree, is a bit too religious to discuss here. For our purposes, there must be a way for a subscriber to (“of”?) any particular philosophy to be a good writer. Shamus even approaches his critique from this angle, addressing the choice of a singular “turning point” rather than the use of a singular turning point in the first place.
            Ultimately, whether the writer was aware of the possibility of a gradual fall and avoided it out of fear as I suggested above, or were unaware of it through inexperience or philosophy-induced blindness as you initially posited, or (even more charitably) intentionally chose to abstract a gradual fall into a single-choice event for narrative purposes (a technique arguably employed in Genesis), the point remains that the end result falls far short of convincing.

    2. modus0 says:

      I think you might be missing (or dismissing) the role that emotion plays in a person’s decision making.

      People are far more emotional than logical in though, and often someone can choose to do something not necessarily because it benefits them, but simply because they feel like doing it, even if it may be a bad idea. This is particularly true if someone/something external is actively working to stir a person’s emotions up in just the right way to make that bad decision more appealing, or make it into a “spur of the moment” decision.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        True,but then its your job to show that emotion.Not to mention that its very easy to show a different emotion than the intended one.For example,you want to portray love and fear of loss,but instead you portray whiny entitlement and childish impotence.

        1. Sartharina says:

          Actually – Entitlement and impotence are pretty much Anakin’s driving force. He’s the goddamn Chosen One, most powerful wielder of the force ever, but he feels like he’s being treated like dirt, and can’t be trusted with anything (Nor can he trust anyone else with his emotions.)

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Entitlement and impotence are pretty much Anakin's driving force

            And thats exactly the problem.Anakin is an entitled whiny asshole.But thats not what people ever expected the uber cool darth vader to be like.Its fine with a character like kylo ren,who was introduced as such a loser from the beginning,but not for someone who was the walking embodiment of cool for three movies already.

            Not to mention that if you listen to the words instead of looking at the acting,there is a disconnect between what the movie is attemting to show and what it actually is showing.

        2. Francis-Olivier says:

          Well I’m going to move away from the Analin subject but I do think that at least in the case of the Meriff they do show the emotions pretty well. The Meriff is an eassily stressed man with an overinflatade sens of him importance so shouting the guy that looks like a threat to him in a momment of panic sound relatively possible(If somewhat contived when you take into consideration the heavily armed mercs staring him right in the face).

          Meanwhile from the begining Jack is a immature man that believes that there are times when imoral acts are ok so having him makes someone despise suffer horribly sounds like something he could do and even find out he enjoys. Though as someone said before that only makes him as bad as most vault hunters (especially in BL2) and it still takes a few more steps for him to become a full blown madman and they happen later in the story.

          1. Francis-Olivier says:

            Dear god the typos in that comment… It still looks readable but fuck me I’m sorry.

    3. Olivier FAURE says:

      (I repeat my earlier recommendation of The Clone Wars for a good “Anakin gradually falls to evil” arc)

      Honestly, I think “slippery slope evil” is overrated. I mean, it works great for stories, but in real life, I think there’s just people who are willing to take bribes, people who don’t have the emotional maturity to be kind to their enemies, etc. People don’t have a “dictator-ness meter” that fills over time and eventually overwhelms their natural good.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Some actually do.There have been plenty of examples of people who wanted to do good,but did it in such a bad and evil way.Not every person doing bad things is just a douchebag.

  10. Paul Spooner says:

    I feel like Rutskarn’s Overhaulout Fan-Fix has raised my expectations. It’s not enough any more to point out that the story is broken. I demand a plausible minimum-alterations correction overview for how to make the Pre-sequel’s story amazing!

  11. Fade2Gray says:

    This is going to sound like a ridiculously petty nitpick, but am I the only one who feels like Angel’s picture on Jack’s desk is really odd? In the other two games, she’s portrayed by a live actor (which was kind of out of place in those games too, but it is what it is) and everyone else was always portrayed with Borderlands’ signature quazi-comic art style (be they “in person” or in pictures/posters). But Angel’s picture here looks like something out of a 2D cartoon. The fact that you can see posters with people looking closer to Borderlands’ art style in the background while looking at Angel’s “photo” makes it feel even more out of places. It’s just weird looking.

    1. Shamus says:

      It’s true. Her picture doesn’t match in in-game art style OR her photorealistic video feed. It’s in this third art style, and it’s a bit round and friendly for this universe.

      I didn’t even notice that until you pointed it out.

    2. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      She did have a proper Borderlands-style model in 2, but yeah, that picture definitely looks out of place.

    3. Francis-Olivier says:

      The whole game is supposed to look like a cartoon so I think having a picture be dwaring makes sense. A still 3d model that isn’t stylised in some way would look wierd like freezed movement in a window.

  12. Aevylmar says:

    (spoilers for later bits)

    So this is interesting, because I actually *did* read the story as being a series of incidents in which Jack steadily gets worse… not morally worse, but worse in terms of what he can get away with. I never bought the idea that he was a good person; he says “we’re not going to torture him” in a “reassuring possibly conflicted allies” voice, not a “why would you think TORTURE would be acceptable?” voice.

    At the start of the story, he’s not a good person. He’s willing to take some risks, himself, sure. But he’s really a villain who is just too powerless to be all that overtly evil. He’s every bit as wicked as he is in the future – he’s horrible to Angel, we know that and he’s manipulating the Vault Hunters – but he’s not a big shot and he knows he’s not a big shot and he’s too scared to be a real Big Bad.

    But as it goes on, he realizes that he has the power to be whoever he wants to be. He is the only source of salvation for this pathetic world. There is absolutely no one who can stand in his way. Before he kills the Merriff, he’s obedient to Tassiter and trying to pretend he’s loyal to him, and he’s coming up with reassuring statements about how he’s really not that evil to keep his allies working for him, and then… then he kills the Merriff for the betrayal, and Nisha cracks a joke and nobody minds because he is the law. Turn a friendly AI into a killer robot-factory? Murder a bunch of people because one of them might be a spy? Sure, whatever!

    He can get away with it. He keeps getting away with it. He has plot immunity. He’s the hero.

    The story of the Pre-Sequel isn’t a story about a good person becoming a bad person, it’s a story about a bad person realizing he can be the Big Bad instead of being a crawling lickspittle minion. And of *course* he does. Why wouldn’t he?

    1. Daath says:

      I was going to write this, though from a bit different angle. Jack was never a good guy or a hero saving Elpis because it was the right thing to do. He was an extremely narcissistic person who wanted to do heroic things so that everyone would know his name and love him. Under the pressures of the events he grew even more arbitrary and ruthless, which led to his supposed friends backstabbing him. That in turn made him outright hateful, and by that time Handsome Jack was almost complete.

      Oh, and I got the impression that while he had been shooting people before, Meriff was the first person he outright executed. The pathetic little man had made his move, and was more or less helpless before Jack, and it was the rush of complete power that felt so good to him.

      Considering the limitations of the format, I think writers did an OK job here, even if Angel would have been a fitting reveal towards the end, showing that Jack was never a good guy. The jamming signal was a major plot point anyway for most of the game, and it would have been plausible to have Jack and Angel out of contact while it was up. But really, this just goes to show that the fundamental criticism of Shamus is valid – this just wasn’t a good format for a character study of some subtlety.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        Now that you mention it, having Angel show up after the jamming signal is gone would have been a really good idea…

  13. Abnaxis says:

    Maybe you’ll get to this later, but my impression was that they couldn’t decide between “Jack was a good guy who became an asshole” and “Jack was always an asshole but you didn’t notice until the end.” After all, later in the story the game was all too happy to focus on the fact that Jack built the “death ray” well before his supposed turn to evil.

    1. Francis-Olivier says:

      I think it’s less they couldn’t decide and more they wanted to leave it vage. There’s a character later on that outright said she always saw a darkness inside him but there’s a good reason to not fully accept what she says at the time. Anyway wether or not this was a good idea you’ll have to decide yourself I guess.

  14. Grampy_bone says:

    I never really noticed much improvement from the badass ranks. You have to play for a loooooong time to get even 10% damage. For a regular player on his first and only time through the game, you’re going to hit maybe 3-6% for all bonuses. That’s pretty much nothing.

    I liked the weapon proficiency system. You could really rack up good bonuses by the end game if you stuck with a few weapons. The only annoying part about it is it’s based off of XP earned, so it doesn’t meaningfully differ from normal level ups.

    A hybrid system would probably work. You gain badass ranks like normal, but when you trade in a token instead of a minuscule bonus to everything you get a sizable bonus to a specific weapon type. That would allow customization and more gameplay variety.

  15. poiumty says:

    Weapon masteries were a system designed to encourage and reward specialization. I always stuck to one gun on each class I tried, because using more guns was bad for mastery. And since talents and equipment existed that also increased the bonus for specific gun types, it made sense.

    Weapon mastery also worked incredibly well for me, and provided engagement in the way badass points never will.

    I know badass points sound like a better system on paper. I know masteries sound like some incredibly archaic/bad game design to the gamer whose idea of fun is “LET ME DO WHATEVER I WANT WHENEVER I WANT IIIIIIT” but weapon masteries was one of the reasons I liked Borderlands 1 more than 2 and TPS.

    Why? Because masteries forced you to set limits for yourself – and within those limits, you could more clearly see the lengths of variety in a weapon type. Did you know there were shotguns that had 2 bullets and crap accuracy, but high damage and reload speed, designed clearly for close-quarters combat? Did you know there were shotguns you could snipe with? Well I did. And if I just took every weapon and just used the one with the biggest numbers every time I wouldn’t have seen that. Intimate knowledge of a game system feels like mastery, and mastery feels good. Hunting for specific weapons because you KNOW that those specific weapons will be best for you feels better than not having any idea whether a weapon is good or not because using all this broad range of weapons has left you knowledgeable in none of them. Going for the biggest numbers instead of having a niche and the challenge of staying in it is not fun. Conversely, finding ways past the various inherent weaknesses the weapons have is fun.

    Designing a system like this also affected game balance, in that every weapon class needed to be both viable and very close in effectiveness to the other. They nailed this in BL1, with the exception of rocket launchers (later on, no crits is too much of a weakness). And I should know – I tested each and every one of the weapon types over repeated playthroughs.

    Badass points are the new thing, and they are the opposite of specialization – the more points you put into a certain stat, the less you gain from them. The game WANTS you to be as broad as possible – and when everything increases… nothing increases. Game just gets easier. You’re not gonna be that guy with the massive shield, or that guy who can crit for a million damage on a headshot. You’re just gonna be the guy with an easier game. Same as absolutely everyone else.

    And why would I want the game to be easier on repeated playthroughs anyway!? Because of foreknowledge, it ALREADY IS, and if I finished the game once, chances are I didn’t dislike the level of challenge and would like to feel at least some of it again when I play again. A system that actively dillutes the challenge on top of the challenge already being diluted makes sense… again, if you’re the kind of person who thinks the epitome of fun is pressing W, left click, and seeing everything burn to ashes before you.

    1. evilmrhenry says:

      I suspect weapon specializations wouldn’t have worked within the structure of BL2 as designed. Good weapons are uncommon enough that you can’t really restrict yourself to a single type. I was switching between basically all weapon types, depending on what the last few good drops were. It’s been a while, but I think that BL1 had a much flatter leveling curve, so using a weapon 10 levels under the area wasn’t that big of a deal.

      1. poiumty says:

        Yeah, there were definitely less good weapons in BL2. I remember I used to buy purple or even orange weapons from the shop in BL1, but in 2 every time I went to the shop I was absolutely disappointed. Contributed to my dejection with the game, actually. TPS tried to compromise between 1 and 2, but TPS had other problems.

    2. Francis-Olivier says:

      I figured out all those thing about the BL1 weapons and more even though on all my playthrough I amass weapon mastery xp on all my weapon type in such a way I was kinda telling the systeam to go fuck itself so…

      Also even in BL2 you are still restricted in what weapon types are effective for you even though by the kind of skill build you go for. But by forcing me down a certain path rather than penalising me in the long term for not following suit I don’t feel like I’m being fucked over as much by experimenting. If I want to play as an assault rifle wielding Zero sniper I can go ahead. It’s probably going to be terrible but hey at least I don’t get screwed if a enemy gets in short range.

      Ultimately you may not like it but for me it’s so much more satifying.

  16. IanTheM1 says:

    I have similar criticisms of the story, but coming from a different angle. I think the things that really hold TPS back are poor pacing and focus problems.

    The intro is easily the best of the series, with a lot of momentum and action. It feels like a “traditional” FPS opening but I don’t consider that a bad thing compared to the low energy starts of of the previous games (though 2 at least has the whole “screw you, Jack” element). But once you crash onto the moon, the game has to immediately pull the brakes HARD in order to explain O2, boosting, and slamming. And dealing with Deadlift. All the while, Jack is offscreen doing his own thing.

    Then the story picks up again with the light intrigue around Concordia and settling the player into their new hub. Then there’s yet another long drag, including the introduction to vehicles and the main open world hub which is one of the weakest maps in the game IMO. IIRC, it’s just after that point that Jack shoots the Meriff and all the rest of that stuff goes down.

    The problem of course is that the player just spent a few hours not really interacting with Jack at all, and the last time they did it was under wildly different circumstances. So the story never gets a chance to properly establish Jack’s personality, or set up some more foreshadowing. (Though playing as his body double certainly implies a few things about him from the get-go.)

    Once the game settles into the real meat of the story, I think it really starts to shine with good characters and fun map design. Jack also levels out so his increasing villainy does feel as abrupt and forced. But then just like the start of the story, once you crash into the endgame (roughly everything post-Big Betrayal) suddenly it starts to unravel again. Possibly because the game can’t decide who the antagonists are supposed to be – the Lost Legion? The aliens? The returning cast?

    And it all comes to a head with the ending, where it feels like they forgot to include an explanation for Jack’s “handsomeness” and so hastily wrote in an arbitrary and nonsensical plot beat right before the game ends to tie up that loose end.

    Short of it is, both the post-intro first act and the final act are way too rushed (and/or crammed with other stuff that needs to be there) and ultimately feel super disjointed from the rest of the game.

    I have to wonder if it would’ve been better to exclude any existing characters or limit them to cameos in order to focus more on the main plot. Either that or go the opposite way and minimize the Lost Legion stuff. BL2 starts to run on fumes towards the end, IMO, but the one thing I can say about it is that you never forget that the ultimate goal is to shoot Jack in his smug face, since it’s been drip fed to you from the very beginning.

    1. Francis-Olivier says:

      Eh I’m gonna say that on everything else but the vehicle itroduction I’m gonna have to disagree with your critic. First, the bit Janey and Deadlift feels like a decent introduction to the mon you just crash landed upon and try to survive on. Then, the game does do a good job of keeping on the various threats in order. Until you take back Helios your main goal is to defeat the Lost Legion and save Elpis. Once that’s done you can go back to hunting for the vault while hopefully beating the sumg orginal vaulthunters to it. All the while the Aliens remain and background mystery that ties up nicely and explains the game events even though I would have loved if it was solved by the end(but I imagine they want to keep something for a sequel even though thatmight not happen now).

      Finally at the end the Vault scar Handsome Jack recive while it could have a recieved a more satifying explanation still remain a good mark of is medling with cosmic force and, when coupled with the mask he wear, show just how batshit insane he’s become.

      Ultimatly I will say that, even though the Pre-Sequel story is convoluted and not very complex, I don’t think it’s bad, broken(unless I missed something) or not somewhat entertaining. But then again that might just be me that likes convoluted simple stories to begin with.

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