I would like to compliment Gearbox on several gameplay improvements over Borderlands 2 that really help The Pre-Sequel become a game to be played for years to come. I have played Borderlands since the first and have pre-ordered every installment since, so I would consider myself somewhat of an expert on this subject.
Fast Travel Stations: It was an excellent decision to significantly cut down on these. Forcing players to walk through the same few areas again and again each time they want to do a quest, such as traversing through the Veins of Helios, leads to much richer gameplay. An excellent design decision was made here, forcing players to mind numbingly walk through this region countless times ensures that they have the best gameplay experience. Also as an improvement from Borderlands 2, the reduction in fast travel stations results in the travel menu being less clogged, same with the mini-map.
Areas that Force Waiting: These level designs are spectacular. Such as the boss fight with Zarpedon, players who die in a coop game have to then wait for minutes at a time to rejoin the fight and continue playing the game. This concept is extremely useful for discouraging death and making players despise the game. Restricting the user’s ability to play the game after dying in a coop match is a fantastic way to encourage teamwork and staying alive. Similarly, air locks in certain regions of Helios do a fantastic job of making players wait for the doors to open. In some circumstances, these air locks make players wait for multiple cycles because of coop partners who started the cycle before everyone was in. Mechanics, such as these, that lead to coop groups being split up are excellent additions to the Borderlands formula.
Dead Ends: Another fantastic level design element. There is no greater joy then realizing that you have been going to wrong direction, or down a wrong path for the last couple minutes and having to walk back for minutes because there are no ways of connecting back to the correct path. To further complement this, enemies are always around to ensure that opening your map is impractical, really making the game have an element of player choice: One direction is the correct way, the other directions lead to lost time and agony.
Reused, Fetch, and Escort Quests: As a core element of the Borderlands formula, these quests really allow gameplay to be exciting and fresh. Fetch quests, especially at the rate that they are used here, make the player really feel like they’re doing their part for the community on the moon. Nothing brings a more heart-warming feeling than bringing random NPCs random objects for random reasons. With the reduced fast travel stations, it creates fetch quests that are immensely engaging. Reused quests show that following the ideology of “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” pays off in terms of gameplay. The Captain Chef quests are excellent examples of this, why spend more time developing unique quests when you can re-employ the same great ones multiple times. On a similar note, escort quests are fantastic. These superbly designed quests lead to real emotional feelings for the characters that you’re defending. Secondly, there is little better than protecting slow moving NPCs through and against wave after wave of enemies.
TL; DR: Excellent design designs make Borderlands: TPS a truly excellent game. Great work Gearbox.