Borderlands isn't exactly known for its in-depth characterization, but Gearbox has nevertheless managed to build up a surprisingly intricate universe for its flagship series.
Though you may not have noticed between Claptrap's ceaseless quips and unlocking sweet guns, Borderlands 2 largely revolves around the fight against Handsome Jack and his gang, who rule Pandora with an iron fist. In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, however, the tables are turned. Handsome Jack is the hero (after a fashion), and the majority of the playable characters comprise bosses from Borderlands 2.
With that, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel puts you in the interesting position of taking on the roles of characters whose fates are already sealed. Granted, Wilhelm isn't the most sympathetic of characters, but it's still a little sad to think that somewhere down the line he will one day go down spinning about awkwardly in his power loader armor as some Vault Hunter loads him with bullets (or plasma, as the case may be). Since pretty much all of characters detailed so far make an appearance elsewhere, here's a brief guide to their grisly fates, as well as what to expect from them in 2K's upcoming prequel... sequel.
First Appearance: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx
Ultimate Fate: Unknown
Specialty: A shield that can also be used as a weapon, Captain America-style.
Okay, not all of the Pre-Sequel's characters meet terrible ends. Some of them merely go on to pop up in paid DLC, as in the case of Athena. In The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, Athena serves primarily as mission giver, only showing her prowess in combat during the opening cutscene, where she is seen wearing a mask and wielding two plasma swords. Her ultimate fate is unknown, though a deeper dive into the Knoxx DLC would seem to suggest that her goal in the Pre-Sequel will be to assassinate the Dahl corporation undersecretary.
Despite coming off as a ninja in her initial appearance, Athena is much more of a tank in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Her primary skill, the Kinetic Aspis, is a shield capable of absorbing damage and ultimately unleashing it back on her foes. In being able to throw her shield and take out multiple opponents, she's a bit like the Borderlands equivalent of Captain America. But of course, she can also wield high-powered energy rifles and a sword, so in that regard she's her own special little snowflake.
Though Athena has three skill trees that level up her shield, sword, and elemental damage respectively, it's pretty apparant that the Phalanx tree is the way to go. Once her shield is maxed out, Athena is capable of clearing out an entire room in seconds if she manages to absorb enough damage into her shield, which is always a nice ability to have. Her shield abilities likewise give her a much more defined role on the team. All in all, Athena comes off as a solid middle-of-the-road character capable of succeeding in both solo and group play.
First Appearance: Borderlands 2
Ultimate Fate: Stumbling around awkwardly in power armor as the Vault Hunters shoot him up in "A Train to Catch."
Specialty: Drones. Being a cyborg.
Wilhelm's prowess in combat is hyped considerably in Borderlands 2; but when it ultimately comes time to take him down, he proves to be a relatvely easy mark. Though his power armor, which looks like the power loader suit from Aliens, is pretty impressive on the face of it, it really just makes him one big target. Suffice it to say, Wilhelm goes down in a hurry.
In the Pre-Sequel, Wilhelm has yet to lose his humanity (though he sports a pretty wicked looking cybernetic eye), so he's a little less encumbered. He still has a fair amount of firepower, however. His primary weapons are drones called Wolf and Saint, the former being useful for blasting enemies at range and the latter healing Wilhelm and helping him keep his shield up. With his drones, Wilhelm can be used as a support class and a damage soaker, especially if you opt to build up Dreadnought tree.
But really, it's much more fun to run and gun with Wilhelm, and that's where the Cyber Commando tree comes into play. It's this tree that highlights Wilhelm's slow slide from man to machine, as the various skills steadily replace his flesh with synthetic parts. The tree's capstone ability is the Vengeance Cannon, a shoulder-mounted laser cannon that activates once Wilhelm's shield is depleted and fires in tandem with his weapons.
Wilhelm admittedly comes off as a bit of a dumb oaf, so his decline isn't exactly what you would call "tragic." But it's always fun to see a particular story element like Wilhelm's roboticization woven into a game's mechanics. In that, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is surprisingly bold.
First Appearance: Borderlands 2
Ultimate Fate: Getting gunned down from the rooftops of Lynchwood, which she rules with an iron fist as sheriff (and Handsome Jack's lover).
Specialty: Dual wielding pistols.
Finally we have Nisha the Lawbringer, who meets her untimely (or timely depending on your perspective) end in one of the Borderlands 2's sidequests. Known only as The Sheriff of Lynchwood, she mostly hangs around the rooftops and snipes with her pistol while her posse attacks, making her a pain to take down. She does eventually fall though, bringing to a close her brief reign of terror in Lynchwood.
Of the three characters who have thus far been shown, she is definitely the most enjoyable to use. Her Fan the Hammer tree's capstone ability allows her to dual wield a copy of whatever pistol she happens to be holding for substantial damage. And unlike the Gunzerker's dual wielding ability, it's permanent. The only drawback is that she can't dual wield rifles, which some may find limiting. In the end though, her ability is so much fun that you hardly even notice.
All told, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel has a pretty diverse group of characters, which is largely in keeping with the precedent set by the first two games. Nisha's ravishing cowgirl looks and ability to dual wield, not to mention abilities like Showdown which can automatically target and defeat enemies, make her an early favorite. In the end, she may not be as useful in a group as either Wilhelm or Athena since most of her abilities are offensive in nature, but she embodies the over-the-top fun of Borderland's gunplay. In that light, it's kind of a shame that she ends up dying in Borderlands 2, even if she ultimately isn't a very nice person (really though, who is nice in Borderlands?)
As sequel (or pre-sequels) go, this version of Borderlands admittedly comes off as a bit of a placeholder while Gearbox presumably works on Borderlands 3 for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It has a few neat tweaks, such as low gravity areas, but it really feels like an exercise in building up the lore more than anything. That said, it's nice to see Gearbox having a bit of fun with the roster. It may ultimately be more of the same, but any Borderlands that includes Claptrap as a playable character is fine by me.