“Borderlands” tales: The Claptrap chronicles

In my previous post, I rambled on extensively mostly about Legend of Zelda-related video games. That actually hadn’t been my intent. I was supposed to ramble about Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, but I got distracted because I went on some kind of extended monologue about stuff leading up to Borderlands.

Before I leave off on talking about Legend of Zelda-related stuff, however, just a quick note that we will indeed be there at tonight’s Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert at the Blaisdell Concert Hall! Tickets are still available at the link above. It’s the first big video-game-music concert in Hawaii, so attend if you can! We’re expecting it to be awesome. ^_^

Anyway, let me get back on my intended track. This will actually be a great time to take up the subject again since Gearbox and 2K recently announced the March release of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, which comprises Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel, as well as the related downloadable content (DLC) for both games, remade for next-generation systems (Xbox One and Playstation 4). I’ve also heard tell that the original Borderlands might eventually be included if the collection does well.

So. Borderlands. Friends of me and my husband introduced us to this series, actually starting with Borderlands 2. They gave us both 1 and 2 for the Xbox 360 but said forget the first game, the second is much better, so just play the second. So we said, hey, sure, why not.

The Borderlands games are sci-fi/Wild West first-person shooters similar to the Halo series, with role-playing-game elements. The second game takes place on a planet called Pandora, being controlled by the Hyperion Corp. under the leadership of a mask-wearing tyrant known as Handsome Jack. Jack is after an alien relic on Pandora called the Vault, which supposedly holds much riches for whoever finds it. Because of this, mercenaries referred to collectively as Vault Hunters are also seeking it.

You play one of four Vault Hunters, each with their own special skills, divided into three skill trees that generally have their own themes. You gain experience points and levels similar to RPGs. I played a Spanish-inspired man named Salvador, whose class was Gunzerker. Many of his skills deal with beefing up his gun abilities, giving things like better accuracy, higher rates of fire, etc. (He also does have more defensive skills that boost his health and shields.)

The main reason I went for Gunzerker was because I seriously suck at shooting. One might wonder why I play shooting games at all, then. Well, auto-aim and low recoil are godsends. Not to say that these aspects EXIST in all the guns in Borderlands, but where they do, they help me an awful lot. Plus — let’s just get this out there — it really is fun to shoot things with a partner or three. But yes. The Gunzerker, with the proper skills, basically allows you to “spray and pray” — I just activate his base skill, which causes me to dual-wield two guns, and start firing in the general direction of the enemies. Salvador’s ability also automatically regenerates ammunition, so I can go to town with relatively little accuracy.

borderlands pre-sequel coverOkay, all that wasn’t really what I meant to ramble about. Let’s get back to Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. It’s the third game in the series but is set between the first two games. It details the rise (or fall, depending on your point of view) of Handsome Jack and his transformation from relatively decent programmer dude to bloodthirsty revengeful Hyperion CEO. The pre-sequel takes place alternately on Pandora’s moon, Elpis, and on Hyperion’s space base near Elpis, called Helios. Jack is (again) searching for a Vault and has called up a few more Vault Hunters to do so. Meanwhile, soldiers who were once with the Dahl mining corporation — Dahl was mining on Elpis before a disaster called the Crackening forced the company to withdraw — are trying to take over Helios for reasons unknown, so you’ve got them to deal with too.

One common world element in the BL games is a class of small worker robots built by Hyperion: the CL4P-TP line, otherwise known as “Claptrap.” While there are many such Claptraps around that do office work and other menial jobs, there is also THE Claptrap, the one that the players interact with most often and is apparently pretty well known. He of course has all the hallmarks of his product line: chatty, eternally happy-sounding (the programmers made that his default tone of voice no matter what he’s saying), and overall actually rather incompetent. This combination makes Claptrap quite annoying to most people. And in BL2, he certainly is. You’re forced to travel with him for awhile, and save him from some life-or-death situations, and by the end of it you’ve had WAY too much of him. I found myself deliberately cutting off his dialogue or moving far away from him so as to hopefully not hear his voice so much (non-player characters make random comments when you pass by them, to give the town the feel of being alive, in a way).

The running joke of Claptrap in BL2 is that he can’t climb stairs. CL4P-TP units are robotic unicycles, rolling around on one wheel that, when you think about it, probably isn’t a very good design because the robots are shaped like upside-down pyramids with the very tip chopped off. Meaning, they’re probably really top-heavy, and one wonders just how those suckers get around without falling over more than they do. (They actually DON’T fall over in the game unless they get electrocuted or otherwise put out of commission.) So adding to other annoyances, part of BL2 is figuring out how to get Claptrap to upper levels when necessary.

Things are different in “Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.” Claptrap — THE Claptrap — not only can climb stairs, but he’s actually pretty awesome in battle. Yes, he is now one of the four Vault Hunters that you can play, with class of Fragtrap. (I had to laugh at that.) When we had heard that he was going to be a playable character, I immediately told my husband, “I WANNA PLAY HIM!” Not because I loved him awfully in BL2 — as you may have gathered from my previous comments, I didn’t — but I thought it would be a lark.

My husband is really into strategizing and such, and he’s pretty good at it. Better than me, at least. Since we got into BL, he’s been looking up info and watching videos to get tips on how to build your Vault Hunter’s skills, where to get rare weapons, etc. So it wasn’t long before he found a video of someone analyzing Claptrap’s skill trees (not sure where the guy got his info, but considering the hype, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gearbox/2K released stuff like this as teasers). And we discovered that Claptrap is pretty good at beefing up his teammates. He can boost their health regeneration, for one.

In a strange kind of way, Claptrap’s a beloved part of the BL series. Everyone loves dumping on him. When we started Pre-Sequel and I chose Claptrap, I had to unexpectedly go through a few more screens before the game would even let me create the character. I don’t want to say what it was here in case any readers play the game later, but they made us laugh.

Claptrap’s base action skill — most other skills essentially alter how the base skill works — is called VaultHunter.EXE. When you trigger it, Claptrap analyzes the situation and chooses a style of play, or “Action Package,” that fits perfectly with what you need. (Although, as one hint that appears during a load screen says, “‘Perfect’ is subjective.” And indeed, I have encountered that more times than I would have liked. “WHY did you think a boost to my MELEE attack would be best for fighting FLYING ENEMIES?!?”) In other words, you become one of any class that was previously seen in the BL series, channeling certain key skills from that class for a limited time. Including, yes, the Gunzerker. When Gunzerker activates, Claptrap duplicates whatever gun he’s holding and dual-wields them, shooting uncontrollably (you don’t need to hold down the fire button) as he regenerates ammo.

Claptrap and friends

And the best/funniest part? Some of the Action Packages AFFECT ALL YOUR TEAMMATES. If Gunzerker comes out — here called Funzerker — ALL your teammates stop whatever they were doing and start shooting uncontrollably (but only Claptrap dual-wields, unless you’re playing Nisha, class Lawbringer — more on this later). If Gun Wizard comes out, all your mates get increased fire rates and reload speeds. If the duck comes out (I have no clue what this particular ability is called), everyone starts bouncing up and down while astride a big huge rubber duck. (At least, that’s what I’m assuming. You can’t look at your character in the game, so I’m not sure what exactly he’s bouncing around on, and I’m usually too busy trying to aim at enemies to look at my teammates, nor have I yet had the presence of mind to ask my husband to look at Claptrap and see what he’s doing.) If the Pirate Ship comes out….actually, I think only Claptrap is affected by this, but it would be pretty hilarious if everyone turned into mini pirate ships with four cannons blasting explosives to the tune of whatever cheesy maritime music is playing whenever this skill comes out. (Side note: Just found out that the “cheesy music” is the ending part of the 1812 Overture. Haha, wow, I’ve been totally brainwashed by whatever I’ve been associating it with all this time. Apologies to Tchaikovsky.) OK, the duck, Gun Wizard and Pirate Ship actually WEREN’T classes found in previous BL games…these were made only for Claptrap in Pre-Sequel.

Because a lot of the action in Pre-Sequel takes place on the moon, elements such as low gravity and the need for oxygen tanks — called “Oz kits,” like “Wizard of…” — come into play. You can jump higher and further because of the gravity. But because you’re constantly needing to breathe, you’re constantly depleting the oxygen in your Oz kit.

At least, in most instances. When we finally made our way to the surface of Elpis, we were greeted by one of the human inhabitants, who gave us an Oz kit and notified us of its necessity.

“Wait,” I said to my husband. “But I’m a machine. I don’t need to breathe.” (I was, of course, referring to my character in the game.) “Do I even NEED the Oz kit?”

And sure enough, the oxygen in my Oz kit wasn’t being used up! Whereas oxygen usage sometimes limited my husband (who was playing Nisha) and forced him to duck into atmosphered rooms or stand in oxygen-emitting cracks on the moon’s surface, I as Claptrap could roam all over without having to worry about it. Although oxygen does still have a use for a ‘bot: You can do a double jump if you’re in midair, which uses a bit of your oxygen supply. It’s useful for reaching higher or farther places, for getting the heck away from enemies, or getting enough height to do a devastating butt stomp. Sorry, a ground pound, I mean. (Slam into the ground from a height to deal damage to enemies within a certain radius, determined by your Oz kit — some kits have a larger damage radius than others.)

…At this point, I get the feeling I’ve already rambled on longer than my Zelda post, so I’ll end this here and take it up again in a maybe a week or so. You all have a great time till then, and if you’re into humorous shooters, I highly suggest trying Borderlands.

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