Borderlands 3, published by 2K Games and developed by Gearbox Software, is an action first-person looter-shooter video game available on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It is the sequel to Borderlands 2, which was released in 2012, making it the fourth main video game in the Borderlands franchise.
Following the events of Borderlands 2, particularly the power gap following Handsome Jack’s death and the destruction of Hyperion, Troy and Tyreen Calypso, the game’s main antagonists, learn of the presence of vaults beyond the planet of Pandora. This is a new revelation because previous games have revolved around the existence of vaults on Pandora itself. These vaults are caches of powerful alien technology and have engendered what are known as Vault Hunters—teams that hunt for these vaults. In order to locate and open these new vaults, the Calypso twins create a violent and cut-throat cult under the name of “Children of the Vault.” Lilith, the commander of the Crimson Raiders, recruits the player’s vault hunter to travel to various planets to stop these cult leaders.
In typical Borderlands fashion, the player can choose between one of four Vault Hunters to play: Amara the Siren, Fl4k the Beastmaster, Mose the Gunner, or Zane the Operative. Each character has their own special class abilities. For example, Fl4k can command various beasts to aid them in battle while Zane can summon a digital clone of himself that both distracts and attacks enemies. You can have multiple different characters, each acting as their own save file, so don’t feel you need to limit yourself to just one. Borderlands 3 can be played solo or with up to four players. The game also allows for classic split-screen co-op.
Even though each character is limited to a single class, there are three skill trees you can choose from for very different abilities and perks. So even if you join a game and your friend is playing the exact same character, you can have very different abilities depending on which skill tree you choose. Of course, you can mix and match different skills from each skill tree or choose to completely max out only one skill tree.
Like previous games, Borderlands 3 is a loot-driven shooter. The damage your character does is mostly determined by the guns you loot, and these guns often have different perks. This allows for an even greater way to differentiate your character from others. Most of the guns in Borderlands 3 are procedurally generated, meaning that the weapons you find will vary in manufacturer, damage output, range, handling, ammo capacity, and a handful of other perks. Because of this, the game totes that there are over one billion guns available to find and buy in-game.
Similar to Borderlands 2, the weapon manufacturer determines some of the perks you’ll find on the gun. For example, Tediore guns can be thrown when empty. Once thrown, the gun can have various effects such as exploding on impact with enemies. Hyperion guns have shields that absorb damage and convert it for other purposes such as healing or adding an extra bullet to the gun’s ammo reserve. Jakobs guns are known for their high damage but also high recoil. This helps when looting for guns because once you identify the manufacturer you’ll already be aware of the general perks on the gun.
The looting system itself is the same as previous games; bosses will usually drop higher level guns and you can find special chests all around the map that also drop guns. Overall, the game rewards the player for exploring the maps, with hidden bosses and chests having a higher chance of dropping good loot. However, your ability to use guns is based on your character’s level. So no, you can’t get your level 50 friend to give you level 50 guns when you’re level 10. I mean, they can, but you won’t be able to use them.
Speaking of friends, a new option when playing with multiple people is that you can opt to play with loot-instancing enabled. This means that each person gets their own level-appropriate weapon drops. So if you’re playing with random players, you don’t have to worry about them stealing your loot. But if you find a gun that you don’t want, you can drop it for your teammate to pick up. Borderlands 3 also uses a level syncing system that syncs enemies to your level. So, regardless of respective character levels, your entire team can do equal damage to enemies and bosses.
Borderlands 3 is definitely a fun game to play with others. Playing with a full team of vault hunters makes moving through levels and destroying bosses much easier. Teammates share experience, so leveling up is also easier. Playing with a team also adds commentary for the playable characters themselves. As you move through the story, playable characters will comment on NPCs they meet and events that take place. You learn more about the playable characters through their snarky commentary. The more characters being played, the more commentary you’ll get. There are also ECHO recorders that you can find throughout the maps which play recordings of both playable characters and NPCs. These have been used in all of the Borderlands games to support the plot and give more background on characters. So once again, exploring is your friend.
There are some small differences between this game and the last that make it easier to traverse the large maps. Players can now grapple onto ledges. Because of the first-person perspective, it can be hard to tell where a character’s feet are. So, in previous games, if your jump was too short you had to start all over again. In this one, if you’re close enough to the ledge and tap the jump button, you’ll mantle onto the ledge. This makes climbing and getting to high advantage points much easier and makes missing your jumps less penalizing. The in-menu maps are also 3D now. This makes figuring out how to get from point A to point B much easier, especially if there’s a difference in elevation.
The developers have made it so that Borderlands 3 is approachable for people who haven’t played the previous games. In fact, I’ve been running around with a friend whose first introduction to the Borderlands series is Borderlands 3 and he loves the game. However, for people who have played the previous games, you’ll be excited to know that many characters from previous Borderlands games do return and play large parts in the game. This also includes Tales from the Borderlands, the spin-off game from Telltale Games, and even the DLCs from Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.
The only down-side to the game is that there are some annoying glitches. There have been a few times where I have fast-traveled and my character was stuck in one place. Or, where a mission doesn’t update despite having accomplished the objective. Fast-traveling away from the planet and then back to it usually fixes the problem; however, this can be annoying because there aren’t many fast-travel points on each map and enemies do respawn. You may find yourself having to run from one side of the map to the other, dodging enemies, in order to get back to your mission location if you encounter a glitch.
I personally love this game series, and Borderlands 3 is no exception. The creators have a way of making both loveable and hateable characters. The interactions between these characters are wonderful and feel organic. The plot and characters are interesting and endearing enough to be continually entertaining and definitely allow for multiple playthroughs. The game is full of fun, new bosses that have novel mechanics to master. The gun designs are just as crazy as previous games—there’s even a gun that shoots other guns. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, constantly making jokes and spouting memes. It’s just a really good time.
Overall, Borderlands 3 is just another Borderlands game. That may sound like a negative critique but that’s far from the truth. I came for a Borderlands game and I definitely got one. The game is not novel, at least in regards to mechanics, but it’s a fantastic game nonetheless, especially for its story and characters. It feels the same, plays the same, and all my expectations have been met. It’s a game I would recommend to anyone.
Borderlands 3 is available on PlayStation4, Xbox One, and PC via the Epic Games store.
Overall, Borderlands 3 is just another Borderlands game. That may sound like a negative critique but that’s far from the truth. I came for a Borderlands game and I definitely got one. The game is not novel, at least in regards to mechanics, but it’s a fantastic game nonetheless, especially for its story and characters.