Borderlands is a title that is close to my heart. Since my friends and I picked up Borderlands 2 some years ago, we hadn’t really found a game that came close to the co-op looter-shooter experience the title delivered. Fast-forward more than five years, and the sequel, Borderlands 3, is finally available to the public. I, along with the same friends that played and finished the previous installment, pre-ordered, and jumped in right at day 1.
First off, the graphics. It has the same iconic cell-shaded treatment it has always had. This is a mixed bag, as it keeps the old games from looking dated, but is a drastically different approach from the increasingly hyper-realistic graphics we are starting to see in current AAA titles. Bright, bold, comic book graphics work with the game’s theme, and is something that I’m glad they decided to keep.
Story-wise, it’s as Borderlands as ever, at a grander scale from what we have seen in the past. The story picks up right after the last Borderlands 2 DLC, with a new threat in the form of video-streaming, cult-leading terror twins Troy and Tyrene. While Handsome Jack is quite a tough act to follow, these two do manage to hold their own in terms of outright hateability. They’ve managed to unite all the different raider clans under their banner, and are using all that manpower to help them find vaults scattered across the system. By finding the keys and opening the vaults, the twins hope to take the power from the vaults for themselves. Claptrap is still there as well, annoying as ever, much like an annoying stranger who talks to you too much, or a workmate that just won’t shut up.
The main cast is rounded out with four playable characters, Moze, Amara, FL4K, and Zane, each with their own abilities, playstyles, and amazing one-liners, all of which enrich the story in their own, special vault-hunter way. Moze can summon and pilot a massive mech, FL4K can control creatures, Amara is a siren with powerful combat abilities, and Zane is a witty irish gun for hire that uses shields, decoys, and a drone to dispatch the bad guys. For this review, I chose Zane, whose running, gunning, seat-of-his-pants playstyle fits my own to a tee.
The game wastes no time throwing you into the action. After a bit of a recap over what has gone on between the last time we saw our heroes, we’re sent on our merry way, gun in hand, to shoot stuff. While it’s hard to deviate from the usual “get a briefing shoot enemies get to a destination to get a thing” formula, Borderlands 3 at least makes the experience fun. Absurd jokes, clever one-liners, and occasional taunting from the main villains all work together to keep the game from getting boring.
Then there’s the item hunt.
Distilled to its essence, this game is a looter shooter. I daresay it is the looter shooter, and the constant hunting for weapons will keep you walking to unexplored areas, and coming back to previously explored ones, opening every chest in between. As a looter shooter, there’s also a very strong RPG element in place. As in the older titles, gaining levels nets you skill points that you can use to activate abilities and increase their effects. There are now also helpful passive perks that become available as you unlock higher skill tiers. You’re going to spend a lot of time tweaking skill point distribution and items to min-max your character’s potential, just as it should be.
At the end of the day though, it doesn’t offer all that much if you’re looking for new, revolutionary gameplay. Sure, the characters are ones we haven’t gotten to play before, and they offer different skills to cater to new playstyles, but that, along with more items, is about it. The reason one would play and enjoy this title is continuing the story, seeing what the old characters are up to, and experiencing more of the same Borderlands goodness we’ve come to know and love. Is this a bad thing? Potentially, if you’re tired of the Borderlands experience. If, however, you loved it enough to play any or all of the old titles again, and then cash out for the DLC, then you’re going to love this title just as much. More of the same isn’t necessarily bad. Except for Claptrap. He’s still the worst.
Words by Ren Alcantara
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE – October 2019