Gearbox Software and 2K Australia are working on Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. 2K Australia is taking the lead on development.
Members from both teams showed the game to members of the press in the London Hotel in New York this past Friday.
The game takes place between the events of Borderlands and Borderlands 2, though Gearbox president Randy Pitchford stated the game is a stand-alone title. 2K Australia's Tony Lawrence who is leading the development team, was also in attendance.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel focuses on the rise of Borderlands 2 antagonist Handsome Jack. Players will take control of members of Handsome Jack's team and see how he becomes the villain they met in Borderlands 2.
"What if we make the whole story about him?" Anthony Burch, lead-writer at Gearbox who attended via Skype. He described Jack as a person with decent morals who gets into "pretty dark" places.
The game will explore the series' famed moonbase. The game takes place on the moon, presenting new gameplay opportunities and new challenges for the developers.
"The way that Pandora has varied environments and places to explore, the moon is also inhabited," Pitchford said. "It's kind of like and upside down version of Borderlands," which he joked made it perfect for 2K Australia in the land down under.
With new environments come four playable characters to explore it with, and some of them are quite surprising.
The four playable characters are:
- Athena: a gladiator class character and former Crimson Lance assassin. "She's a badass," Pitchford said. Athena's action skill is the “Kinetic Aspis” which absorbs incoming damage, and can then be thrown at enemies to deal the absorbed damage to them.
- Wilhelm: whom you may have seen as a boss under Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2. In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, he is a man. Throughout the game, he is upgraded with cybernetic augmentations such as an automated plasma cannon that will lead him to be the character we meet in the sequel.
- Nisha: a lawbringer. The team remained quiet about her.
- Claptrap, the Fragtrap: This is the Claptrap first encountered at the beginning of the first Borderlands and the last surviving Claptrap unit during Borderlands 2. He appeared briefly in the demo with his upgraded Fragtrap combat abilities.
"Claptrap is fully playable and we'll find out how he becomes part of Jack's team." Pitchford said Fragtrap's field of vision is a bit low to the ground, but that he "he makes up for it in other ways."
The team then jumped into a demo of the game that they will be showing at PAX East in Boston.
One rep played as Athena, while another played from the back of the room as Wilhelm. The rep prepped Athena's loadout, including a shield that absorbs damage and can then be thrown back at enemies Captain America-style. He also added "Prepare for Glory," a taunt that draws enemies towards the character.
Athena and Wilhelm started in building packed with new items. They grabbed oxygen tanks, which they would need to breathe. Oxygen can also be shot backwards to double jump or be used like a jetpack.
There were also weapons using new elements. The "Frosty SMG" froze enemies in their steps. Frozen enemies can be broken into tiny pieces. And, since we're in space, there were also laser beams. "Everything from Star Wars-style pew-pew shots to solid rays," Pitchford pointed out.
There are new HUD elements for your oxygen and a new "badass rank."
Athena and Wilhelm had their orders. Lawrence explained that Jack had been kicked off of some Hyperion station and can't get back – his signal has been jammed by a communication facility on the moon.
The characters used their new double jumping abilities to jump across large craters to move towards the station and shut off the signal. Across that cater were oxygen generator so our heroes could refill the oxygen they lost getting across. Scavengers showed up, and after throwing some grenades at them, they moved on to the communication facility.
We find out that Redbelly is responsible for locking Jack out as he taunted Athena and Wilhelm over their walkie-talkies. They fought jetpack wielding enemies and are then assaulted by a Badass Outlaw, wearing an oversized spacesuit. The battle caused Athena to level up. "Wrath of the Goddess" lets her throw her shield through multiple enemies.
Following more combat with more enemies on jetpacks and little enemies (the little lunatic, little scav, and little outlaw), Claptrap replaced Wilhelm as the co-op character to help take care of another Badass Outlaw.
The two reached the communications console to turn off signal, but Redbelly showed up to fight in a suit of red armor. He threw Athena through glass and into space. She's free-floating Sandra-Bullock-in-Gravity-style. Cut to the title.
During a Q&A session following the demo, Pitchford addressed why the game wouldn't be on current-gen consoles.
"Currently there are more units of Borderlands 2 then installed PlayStation 4s and Xbox Ones," he said. He said that using the Borderlands 2's engine allowed them to focus more on the game's content than creating new technology.
Among that content is a new script with a new story. 2K Australia producer Joel Eschler said that having an Australian development team had a significant impact on the game's trademark humor.
"Some might go over a couple of people's heads in the United States," Eschler said. "We have some cricket references."
Pitchford has high praise for 2K's Australian arm.
"They're taking point on this," he said. I don't know what's gonna happen but just playing the game myself I think this team is going to get a lot more attention than they've gotten before."
Because 2K Australia is leading the charge, Pitchford feels like he's seeing the game through new eyes.
"I had no idea that these guys were gonna come up with the idea for the oxygen kits. And then instead of making it a suckfest… they turned it into a feature. I use it for flying around and double jumping. And when the ground pound appeared it was a surprise for me. I feel like I'm playing for Borderlands for the first time for me as an actual gamer.
"I kinda don't like playing Borderlands 2 anymore."
Gamers and Borderlands fans will get to see the demo for themselves when Gearbox and 2K Australia take the game to PAX East in Boston from April 11 – 13.