Announced somewhat unexpectedly earlier this year was a new Borderlands title, but instead of Borderlands 3, this new title was presented to us as a prequel to Borderlands 2. For some this may already signals some alarm bells as prequels and non-sequential series entries are often used to avoid or reduce any potential harm an individual title can do to a brand. It’s easy to get consumers to forget or place less significance on the success of a stop-gap title, for example this could be argued as something Sony did with Killzone: Shadowfall, or something Bungie once did with Halo: ODST. Avoiding a sequential entry to some proportion enables any negative criticism for to evade reflection on the brand as a whole. Of course there are other reasons these subtitles are employed too, with developers avoiding main series entries if they want to develop something a little more risky (in regards to potential popularity) than their main series. For instance Battlefield Bad Company took a much less serious tone in its approach to the games story, and offered some innovative destruction mechanics yet EA were able to preserve their main series from potential risk associated with trying something new.
Now, it would be entirely unfair to criticize this game on its status as a prequel. However it’s the pre-sequels gameplay that’s perhaps more concerning. Throughout E3 we’ve seen a variety of lengthy gameplay segments from the presequel, and there’s something that’s evident quite promptly; it’s the same thing we’ve had over the past 5 years. When Borderlands 2 was anticipated, I was hoping for some drastic improvements; while Borderlands 2 is objectively a better game it did little to improve many of the prequels failings. For instance one of the biggest gripes with the Borderlands franchise is arguably its failure to offer a truly open world environment, Borderlands 1 didn’t offer this either, excusable at the time due to it being the first entry in the franchise. However, it’s sequel (Borderlands 2) didn’t offer this expected advancement, and Borderlands The Presequel still doesn’t offer a seemlessly open world environment either. It’s the same experience from one title to the next, as you’re funnelled from one map to the next in a linear manner, killing enemies with a similar arsenal that’s present in previous games, it’s feature for feature the same game, with some minor and arguably arbitrary tweaks to the games mechanics.
The only thing that’s truly distinct in Borderlands: The Presequel are its anti-gravity mechanic. Unfortunately, while it will be fun to play around with anti-gravity from time to time, but I’m not quite convinced it offer a drastically different experience. Naturally the game comes with a new set of classes, and it’s sure to provide exposition on the backstories of some of the characters from Borderlands 2, however its not clear why such exposition is needed, or why it couldn’t have been achieved with additional DLC for Borderlands 2.
All of this wouldn’t be a problem, if we were still in the last generation. Ultimately Borderlands The Pre-sequel is offering a definitively last-gen experience . It makes sense then, why this title is not launching on the Playstation 4 or XBOX ONE, launching a next-gen Borderlands that offers none of the expected improvements, could be considered potentially harmful to the franchise as what the title offers is liable to conflict with the typical expectations consumers have from next generation titles. But it’s not unreasonable for consumers to expect a natural evolution of the series, even if it’s only releasing on old hardware. I believe these concerns will affect the titles retail performance, as this is simply not the Borderlands title that many consumers want, neither is it releasing on the hardware that many consumers would want it on.
The bottom-line is that Borderlands is an extremely successful franchise, but it will fall into obscurity quite quickly if it fails to make the successful jump from prior, to next gen platforms, and shying away from doing so doesn’t help it’s case. I can only hope that Borderlands, The presequel only exists to grab some extra cash from Borderlands 2 consumers whilst Gearbox can prepare a better Borderlands 3, but with stiff competition from Destiny it remains to be seen whether Gearbox will be able to captivate similar success to that which they experienced on PS3 and XBOX 360 when they do finally gather the courage to put forward a ‘next gen’ experience.