Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Lady Hammerlock Pack Impressions: The Ice Queen Opens Fire

Aurelia Hammerlock makes her debut as the latest addition to Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Can her deadeye shot, icy touch, and general sense of ennui stand against the low-class creatures of Elpis and Pandora? Our impressions of the Ice Queen.

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Many people on Pandora and its moon Elpis become Vault Hunters out of desperation, or because they want money, power, or all of the above. The Baroness Aurelia Hammerlock, estranged sister to Sir Hammerlock from the game's story, has come to this world for a completely different reason. She already has plenty of money and power. All Aurelia really wants is the thrill of killing things and bossing people around.

Aside from providing players with a view from the intergalactic 1% (not counting Handsome Jack's Doppelganger), Aurelia serves fills in some of the gameplay gaps Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel has had so far, specifically the role of a dedicated sniper class. Aurelia's Huntress skill tree is especially designed for long range support. Warning Shot, for example, provides multiple benefits if you miss a shot with the sniper rifle. Meanwhile Long Range Shot provides a massive damage bonus, which stacks with other bonuses, the further Aurelia is from the target. The final ability in this tree adds a slot machine to the sniper scope, which rotates between different types of elemental damage. Firing when the machine shows the damage type you want adds that element to your shot. In the right hands, the Baroness could be a non-stop killing machine.

The Baroness class, with her Cold Cash tree, also makes extensive use of the ice element that's specific to Elpis. Her action skill is to throw an ice shard, which automatically tracks down targets and freezes them, causing damage until they die. Then it continues to the next target. The problem with the Pre-Sequel's ice element is that there's very little reason to use it. Few to no enemies are vulnerable enough to ice to make it a worthwhile element to use. The Baroness changes that up. The Cold Money tree adds a touch of ice to everything, to devastating effect. This includes area damage ice blasts and novas. The final skill adds ice damage to any gun, including elemental weapons. So, it becomes possible to simultaneously melt and freeze and enemy using the same gun.

Lastly, there the Contractual Aristocracy tree, which lets players indulge their desire to boss others around. Aurelia issues a contract with another player, and if accepted, provides bonuses to both parties via a Master / Servant relationship. The Master gets increased gun damage, while the Servant has increased shields, and the contract continues until one of the players dies. Other skills strengthen this relationship, culminating in A Backhand to Remember. Yes, you can issue a powerful slap to do ice damage against enemies, or motivate your teammates by increasing their speed and reload time.

When playing as Aurelia, I had the feeling like I was almost cheating. She's fantastically powerful, and between the critical damage bonuses, the ranged effect, and the benefits my Servant granted me, I was soon one-shotting enemies left and right. The trick is to be in a position where you can stay at range, which can be difficult in enclosed areas. But as long things work out well if your servant is willing to distract enemies for you. Also, her Ice Shard ability does a great job at keeping most enemies away. It reached a point where the only thing keeping me in check was my ammunition supply.

Aurelia may be privileged sociopath, but she's your privileged sociopath. Although she might not fit neatly into a group comprised of mercenaries, a Handsome Jack Clone, and a Claptrap, her power more than makes up for that. The Lady Hammerlock Pack is available today for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.

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