Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel - Claptastic Voyage Review

  • First Released Oct 13, 2014
  • PC

Journey to the center of the Claptrap.

In Claptastic Voyage, you learn that there is more inside Claptrap's rusted head than bugs, dubstep remixes, and horrible loneliness. Nestled deep in his chrome dome lies a particular MacGuffin desired by Jack above all: the H-Source, a powerful code, used to unlock Hyperion's greatest assets, such as badass weapons. Without other options, Jack digitizes his chosen vault hunters, sending them into Claptrap's mind. They do battle against vicious bugs and viruses, all the while exorcising some of Claptrap's inner demons. The story occurs after the events of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, and at last explains how the plucky robot goes from accomplished vault hunter to fending off bullymongs in the frozen wastelands of Borderlands 2. But where Claptastic Voyage excels, such as in its new enemies and awesome glitched weapons, it stumbles in mission design, leading you along one dull fetch quest after another, even though a surprising change of scenery helps alleviate the mounting boredom.

Nevertheless, the first few hours of the pack are a bit of a chore, as you travel through Claptrap's consciousness and memories hunting down needed objects. One of your earliest tasks is to scavenge for broken pieces of a bridge so you can continue. The stereotypical obstacles cause the quest to march on at a sluggish pace, and during the moments when a lack of real progress causes Jack to sigh in frustration over the intercom, I began to understand how he felt. After all, what is less exciting than a fetch quest within what is technically one large fetch quest?

Claptrap looks much nicer on the inside.
Claptrap looks much nicer on the inside.

The environments in which you tackle these early bits are a bit of a drag as well. Sure, there is that warm swelling of nostalgia when you first enter Claptrap's memories of Pandora's rustic Fyrestone, complete with cameos of broken holographic characters such as Dr. Zed who offer guidance. However, it is merely a brief distraction, as if to inquire, "Hey, remember this?" before ushering you onward with your dreary item hunt. I understand that this is merely a broken memory and little else. But as the quest inched onward, I longed for those old Borderlands days when Fyrestone was like an "Old Western" town in which to stock up on supplies, chat up the locals, and grab new missions (accompanied by that lovely acoustic soundtrack), instead of being just a brief distraction.

Thankfully, the game does loosen up some as you move along. As you venture deeper into Claptrap's consciousness, the broken memories of former Pandora, the structures made of neon lights and steel, and even the black hexagonal skies are brushed away. They are replaced with bright pink-orange hues, clouds, and floating islands, not unlike anything out of BioShock Infinite. Go deeper still, and you stumble into something akin to M.C. Escher, with waterfalls flowing from floor to ceiling and staircases on the walls leading to nowhere. It's a striking visual contrast with the cold interiors that first greet you. Claptastic Voyage deserves some credit in refusing to stick to one type of aesthetic, adding an appreciated splash of whimsy to the mind of our dubstep-loving robot. The main story itself revolves around running about searching for keys or other precious objects, but at least the landscape becomes fascinating enough to serve as a nice distraction from the tedium.

You can't escape Claptrap, even when you're in his head.
You can't escape Claptrap, even when you're in his head.

The electric combat that I loved so much about the gravity-defying Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel also helps to put a charge into this short digital adventure. New enemies come in the form of glowing bugs and glitches, sharp-angled foes that attack in swarms and phase in and out of existence. Worse, however, are computer viruses, able to adapt to the elemental effects of your weapons. These foreign invaders are tough, but they provide some engrossing confrontations, with flying bolts of energy turning every battle into an industrious light show. It's doubtful you'll soon grow weary of blasting these nasty baddies, and you have plenty of opportunities to fight enemies from high in the air or butt-slam them into sparkly digital bits. You must also tackle Claptrap's own immune system, manifested as insecurity bots, robotic guard dogs, turrets, and more.

You won't always find yourself against one group of enemy types at a time. Scenes become chaotic as bugs and viruses clash with Claptrap's defense troops. If you find yourself being overwhelmed, you can look to the skies for volatile bits, floating lazily while switching colors between pink and green. Shooting one while it's green sends a barrage of corrosive missiles at nearby enemies, while pink gives you a welcome health boost. You find yourself caught in many encounters where these bits make a huge difference in whether you go down for the count or continue the fight.

Welcome back to Fyrestone! Well, parts of it.
Welcome back to Fyrestone! Well, parts of it.

Claptastic Voyage features a new peculiar weapon type, one that is about as mixed up as Claptrap himself. Glitched weapons, typically recognizable by their sheen of flowing ones and zeros, flicker wildly, randomly changing their behavior. For example, by default a glitched weapon glows with a soft blue and doesn't act out of the norm, but with a flash to green, it's suddenly imbued with a scatter shot. When yellow, it fires nonstop until you reload or switch weapons, and when red, it shaves colossal chunks of health off enemies. I must admit: glitched weapons are easily my favorite component of this pack. They add a flare of unpredictability to every battle, allowing you to change tactics at any moment. One of my favorite weapons was a glitched laser gun, which performed admirably against single enemies, but not so well against multiple targets, forcing me to turn heel or leap away before getting overpowered. But in some of those fights, with a sudden shudder the gun turns green--once a rifle, now a rapid-fire shotgun--and allows me to turn back to lay waste to the pursuing army of hapless bugs and viruses. It is just so satisfying.

But not everything about Claptastic Voyage is equally as rewarding--and here I'm referring to the pack's extra content. Finishing the main quest opens up the mutator arena, offering loot if you survive three waves of enemies. Before starting, you can choose a game mode, such as half gravity, a difficulty--the higher you go the better chance for rarer loot--and a game modifier, which includes increasing butt-slam damage or increasing reload speed and likelihood of ammo drops for the rocket launcher while also decreasing its damage. The arena fights are not all that engaging, however, and I quickly decided that the chance of rare loot wasn't worth the effort.

Travel through Claptrap on streams of data.
Travel through Claptrap on streams of data.

It also doesn't help that the arena's two hosts, a racially insensitive hot dog and a bored cat with a perpetual birthday, are incessantly annoying. Now, you would perhaps believe this has the makings of comedy gold, but in reality, no--it does not. The scripts for these two could have used some brushing up, as the unlikely duo often try too hard to be edgy and funny all at once. And hearing the hot dog shout "Treat 'em like Truxicans crossin' the border!" is not only aggravating after the tenth time, but also strays too close to being actually offensive. That, mixed with lousy hot dog puns and the cat's bored phrases interspersed with "meow," meant I found myself looking forward to the end of the third wave just so I didn't have to hear them anymore. I just…I just really miss Mr. Torgue.

Not all of the extras are bad, but they also aren't particularly thrilling, either. Some of the side missions that appear following the story are, again, more fetch quests whose prizes aren’t worthy of the time spent going back and forth to complete them. There are some standouts, though, such as helping Claptrap live out his hidden fantasy as a caped superhero or getting him in touch with his, ahem, more feminine side. Claptastic Voyage also comes equipped with the Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2--this increases the level cap from 60 to 70, which means 10 more skill points for your chosen vault hunter.

New enemies include glitches and computer viruses.
New enemies include glitches and computer viruses.

Claptastic Voyage, much like our dear Claptrap himself, is an imperfect little thing. But it's still decent thanks to Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel's outstanding combat formula and some superb environments revealed as you delve further into the story. The adventure is a lengthy one, coming in at around 10 hours with the main quest and side missions complete--though that time should vary depending on your vault hunter's level. Yes, this is the end of Claptrap the mighty vault hunter, and though Claptastic Voyage could have been a better sendoff for his implausible profession, at least we know that his story will continue onward for some time to come. So long as there aren't any stairs in the way.

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The Good

  • Glitched weapons are fantastic
  • The new enemy types provide a great challenge
  • Later environments are a sight to behold

The Bad

  • Too many fetch quests!
  • Extra content doesn’t satisfy
  • Nothing interesting is done with returning environments

About the Author

Cameron Woolsey has spent dozens and dozens of hours shooting and looting across Pandora and its moon. Borderlands 2 is his favorite of the series, but Claptrap will always be his first choice as vault hunter. For this review, Cameron spent around 10 hours, completing the main mission and all the side quests.