After delivering a satisfying loot-filled follow-up with Borderlands 2, few expected developer Gearbox Software would return to the well without some type of radical series reinvention. In fact, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford said as much when asked whether we might see a Borderlands 3 in the near future.
But, while Gearbox is officially on a break from the Borderlands franchise, publisher 2K Games is by no means done with it. Rather, they hope to continue the series’ namesake with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, which is set for release later this year.
As some may know, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel tells a story set between the events of Borderlands 1 and 2, and focuses on a group of vault hunters working with (not against) Handsome Jack. In the Pre-Sequel, Jack has yet to manifest into the evil supervillian of Borderlands 2, but as the above trailer shows he’s still plenty full of himself.
While the trailer itself is light on gameplay footage, it does highlight one of the key locales of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel – the moon. Borderlands 2 players will remember the Hyperion moon base as a peripheral element in 2, but this third game will actually use the base and its nearby moon as its primary setting. And with a moon setting comes low gravity — hence the flying bodies — and an oxygen-collecting mechanic, but that’s only part of the Pre-Sequel puzzle.
Of course, with this being a Borderlands game, players can expect a wide array of weapons to collect, and four unique personalities to control. However, with the unique prequel concept at their disposal, 2K is able to cast the player as familiar villains/bosses from Borderlands 2 — characters who remained by Handsome Jack’s side even as he descended into madness. The four playable characters include Athena (the “Gladiator), Wilhem (the “Enforcer”), Claptrap (the “Fragtrap”), and Nisha (the “Lawbringer”).
Make no mistake, though, these characters will only be vessels through which a Handsome Jack-focused story will be told. The Pre-Sequel writing team, which consists of a few Borderlands 2 writers, wanted the focus of this third game to be on that unique character, and his descent from cocky a-hole to full-blown villain.
This presented a unique challenge for the writers, however, in that the eventual ending to their story isn’t a secret. Instead, it is up to the writers to craft a compelling narrative that explains the how and the why of Jack’s personality change. As writer Anthony Burch explains:
“You have to sort of go out of your way to be surprising in other avenues, because the suspense can’t come from ‘Oh, what happens to Handsome Jack?’ or ‘Oh, what happens to X or Y character?’ You have to come up with other avenues of surprising the player…Hopefully the feeling is that the reasons Jack turns into an asshole will be interesting in some way or that the interactions he has with particular characters, and how those interactions play out will be interesting.”
Although it’s unclear how the heavy emphasis on Handsome Jack will work, the opportunity for more Borderlands gameplay should provide a worthy incentive for fans to return. Granted, it doesn’t appear that too much has changed from Borderlands 2 to the Pre-Sequel, and if this trailer is any indication, the same should be true of the tone and sense of humor. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will be on hand at E3 2014 so we should have more with regards to 2K’s upcoming game early next month.
How would you like to see this game expand on Handsome Jack’s story? What is your interest level for another Borderlands game?
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel releases later this year for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
Follow Anthony on Twitter @ANTaormina for more gaming news.