Preview: Wilhelm lets noobs bring the pain in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Read our full Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel review.

When we last saw Wilhelm, he was more machine than man, and fighting on Handsome Jack’s orders to defend precious cargo as the first major boss of Borderlands 2. We see a much younger Wilhelm in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, a man who has not yet subjected himself to the ravages of functional scarification.

The obsession with biomechanical alteration first started for Wilhelm when he had a lost eye replaced with a cybernetic implant. As he levels up over the course of his Pre-Sequel journey, newly unlocked skills slowly transform him into something closer to the monstrous man-machine hybrid seen in Borderlands 2.

Wilhelm is a warrior at heart. No matter which skill trees you choose to develop, he’s a guy you’ll always want taking point, blasting away at enemies with something large, loud, and damaging. Wilhelm’s action skill, Wolf and Saint, spawns a pair of combat drones. Wolf is programmed for battle, firing away as it flits through the air. Saint, on the other hand, is built for defense, healing and buffing both Wilhelm and his companions.

Wilhelm Borderlands The Pre-Sequel Cyber Commando

For players that want to see Wilhelm’s transformation play out, the central Cyber Commando tree is the one to focus on. Many of the abilities in this tree improve Wilhelm’s skills as a warrior, with boosts to gun damage, fire rare, shield recharge, and other attributes. There’s also a handful of “Cyborg Augmentation Skills” that couple new abilities with Wilhelm’s changing appearance.

The first Cyber Augmentation is a melee override, replacing Wilhelm’s punching arm with a robo-claw that delivers an explosive punch. The next augmentation powers up his legs, enabling Wilhelm to shoot while sprinting (with a 20-percent damage boost). The final augment, Cyber Commando’s top-tier capstone skill, effectively weaponizes Wilhelm with a Vengeance Cannon that fires incendiary laser blasts in tandem with an equipped weapon whenever his shields drop to zero.

Check out a maxed out Cyber Commando Wilhelm in action right here:

The other two trees, Hunter-Killer and Dreadnought, are more built around improving the capabilities of Wolf and Saint, respectively.

The offensively minded Hunter-Killer tree is all about creating a tighter bond between Wilhelm and Wolf. Multiple skills either increase the amount of time Wolf and Saint are active or offer ways to reduce the cooldown between uses. Players that always go for headshots or criticals will want to take note of Escalation, a high-level skill that quickens the cooldown time and boosts damage with each critical hit.

The more expert players will want to take note of the mid-tier Laser Guided skill, which gives players the ability to direct Saint to “paint” a targeted enemy (using LB on an Xbox controller) that Wolf then zeroes in on. Not only do painted targets take additional damage, but each you kill also extends Saint and Wolf’s duration. This pairs well with the top-level capstone skill, Omega Strike, which gives Wolf the ability to launch periodic missile strikes.

Wilhelm Borderlands The Pre-Sequel Hunter Killer

The Saint-focused Dreadnought tree is all about supporting teammates and committing to the notion that the best offense is a good defense. Nowhere is this better realized than in the high-level Kinetic Armor skill, which increases maximum health and has a chance to wallop nearby enemies with a damaging burst of explosive feedback. The Hazmat Containment System skill is similarly two-sided, boosting elemental resistance for you and your team whenever you’re hit by a status effect, while also potentially passing that effect along to nearby enemies.

The boosts to Saint work much the same way. Wilhelm’s capstone skill in Dreadnought causes the defense drone to release an energy wave whenever it is summoned, boosting movement/reload speed and fire rate and activating a limited-time ammo regeneration. The similarly support-focused Zero Hour causes Saint to release a temporary healing zone that regenerates the health of any allies standing inside it.

Wilhelm Borderlands The Pre-Sequel Dreadnought

Wilhelm is a bruiser, plain and simple. Whether you kit him out for support or focus on increasing his damage output, playing in his combat boots requires a very meat-and-potatoes approach. Shoot, kill, rinse, and repeat. With so many of the more recent Borderlands characters – particularly Borderlands 2’s Mechromancer and Psycho – being built for more advanced play, it’s refreshing to see someone like Wilhelm in The Pre-Sequel.

He’s strong; he’s tough; and he’s beginner-friendly.

Get our Top Stories delivered to your inbox: