I greeted last week’s announcement of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (BL:TPS) with a lot of trepidation, and this is coming from a huge Borderlands 2 fan who has put in over 400 hours.
Firstly, the game isn’t created in-house by Gearbox, but by a third-party developer: 2K Australia. This isn’t the first time that Gearbox has outsourced a Borderlands title — the first three DLC expansions for Borderlands 2 were also developed by different companies… and their difference in quality could be seen.
Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty (DLC 1) and Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt (DLC 3) were made by Triptych Games. Doesn’t ring a bell? They were responsible for finishing Duke Nukem Forever after 3D Realms closed down. Yup. These two DLCs were really boring to play, with DLC 3 being widely regarded as the worst of them all. DLC 2, Mr Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, was created by another company, The Workshop, and was far more fun and entertaining. DLC 4, Tiny Tiny’s Assault on Dragon Keep, is the game’s best DLC — because it was made in-house by Gearbox.
So you can understand my worry at giving 2K Australia the full reigns in producing a standalone Borderlands title. BL:TPS, to be very honest, sounds like a quick cash-in to ride on the popularity of Borderlands 2, the same way how Ubisoft keeps pumping out new Assassin’s Creed games every year. Or the endless, yearly glut of Call of Duty games.
If 2K Australia wants to produce a legitimate Borderlands game, there is one thing that they need to fix, and that is to create a viable endgame that scales well for all character classes.
The endgame of Borderlands 2 is similar to World of Warcraft in some aspects. There are raid bosses to tackle, but if you want to fight them effectively, you need to hunt for specific shields and weapons that will give you a fighting chance. The problem is that the skills for some classes become nearly worthless for endgame raiding.
The best example of this is the Siren class. The majority of the skills in Maya’s Cataclysm tree for example (Cloudkill, Blight Phoenix), are useless at max level because they scale very poorly. To be fair, the Cataclysm ultimate is the most powerful out of all her skill trees. But what is the point of creating the prerequisite skills in the first place when they will become USELESS eventually?
This was one of the reasons why a friend of mine gave up playing Borderlands 2 once he hit the first level-increased level-cap at level 61. He was angry at the poor scaling of his skills, and he was even angrier that Phaselock didn’t work on 99% of the raid bosses. Especially when Maya has many skills that can only be triggered during Phaselock. All of the other classes can still rely on their action skills for boss fights, Maya can’t. What is the point of having USELESS skills, and a neutered action skill for bosses? Why punish a player at the endgame for choosing the wrong class? It’s very unfair, and reflects poorly on the designer’s ability to balance the game.
My friend is also a very seasoned WoW player who was around during the vanilla days of 40-man Ragnaros and Onyxia. Another one of his big complaints about BL2’s endgame are the giant bullet sponge bosses. For a while, I didn’t quite get what he meant. They are supposed to be bosses, right? Of course they will have lots of HP. And then I went back to replay WoW recently, and I immediately understood: dungeons and raids are exciting in WoW because of the mechanics. It keeps players on their toes, and makes each return to the instance exciting and fresh.
There is only one raid boss in BL2 that falls under this category, and that is the Ancient Dragons of Destruction in DLC 4. Each of the dragons present their own unique threats, and the order in which you defeat them (or fail to defeat them) will drastically change the rest of the fight. I would like to see more similar raid boss fights like this, and less of stupid bullet sponges like Terramorphous or Hyperius who only have 3-4 repetitive attacks and patterns.
Also, the series is in desperate need of an Adventure Mode similar to Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. Or the custom, randomised dungeons of Torchlight II’s Mapworks system. Every time I need to replay the same story missions over and over again, just to reach max level, it makes me want to cry. The two level cap increases for BL2, released as DLC content, were double-edged swords. Everyone loves to gain more levels and obtain more skill points, but the price we had to pay was the ridiculously extended grind to reach there. The addition of a THIRD (!!) difficulty level meant that players had to play the campaign THRICE on the same character. It’s absolutely maddening.
So please 2K Australia, make every class viable for the endgame, and make the bosses have interesting mechanics. Give us alternative ways to level up our character via randomised dungeons or quests like Diablo III. Thank you.