Same but different seems to be trend that Borderlands 3 follows. It’s hard to gauge where Gearbox were really heading with it’s initial setting and plot with the loot shooter after the events of it’s predecessor. The Borderlands franchise has always been known for three things; It’s incredible refinery, and leadership in the loot shooter genre. It’s amazing artwork and detail that goes leaps and bounds proving it’s originality and legacy in the video gaming hemosphere, and it’s comedic presence that resonates an “Adult Swim” animated sitcom with jokes that land 99.9% of the time. While I would love to say that Borderlands 3 follow suit in quality of all these traits seen prior, there are some unfortunate issues that have caught up to the series from it’s audacious, yet ambitious history. There is certainly an expectancy being upheld by it’s starkness, but whether or not Borderlands could compete in our current gaming climate was surely a question that was being asked amongst gamers. While we were presented with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel by the now defunct 2K Australia in 2014, the quality-of-life seen in the series was starting to diminish at that point, and the hype behind the franchise had essentially been wiped away by the some of the amazing titles we were delivered by next-generation hardware.
Gearbox floundered in a creative risk with the release of new IP Battleborn, in an attempt to compete against Overwatch, but fans were disinterested by it’s concept. The mixed feedback towards this had certainly sparked interest once again for the developer to head back to it’s beloved gun-slinging semi-sandbox slaughterhouse. While we had seen many shooters try to replicate the magic of Borderlands, none of them could ultimately deliver the overwhelming sensation that had people labeling the role-playing first person franchise, “the best ever”. Well, we finally have the third official entry into the mainline series in our hands. However, the one lingering question that beckons is, was a six year gap too long of a wait? And has Borderlands aged gracefully? Or elongated itself passed it’s prime? It’s an arguable question, that essentially lies within it’s presentation, more than it’s gameplay or story. I’m definitely in the belief that Borderlands still remains fresh, regardless whether we’re spoiled for choice. What comes across questionable however, is it’s performance and ability to deliver the exact quality we’ve come to expect from this unapologetic series. While many have clamoured that the absence of former lead writer Anthony Burch, may have effectively changed it’s course in creativity, it still doesn’t excuse the title’s virtue and promise.
Borderlands 3 begins years after the events of Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands. The death of Handsome Jack, and the downfall of Hyperion has effectively opened the doors to all of the company’s secrets and prior knowledge of existing Vaults on other planets. A new crew of Vault Hunters arrive to Pandora at the request of the Crimson Raiders, only to find that the team themselves are on the threshold of total eradication. Behind all this mayhem, is a newly formed anti-force known as Children of the Vault, founded by our two new antagonists, and cult leaders Troy and Tyreen, The Calypso Twins. The COV acts as a radicalised amalgamation of the bandit populace, that are manipulated by the twins, into finding every single vault in the entire universe. In the twins’ pilgrimage through Pandora, their end goal is to find the rumoured “Great Vault”. Lilith returns from the series first entry, as acting leader of the Crimson Raiders, and recruits our new team to join the resistance and take down this newly formed alliance between the Twins and Bandits. Vaughn and Patricia Tannis return to help our hero’s and guide them towards Promethea, the location of the very first Vault discovered at the homeland of Atlas HQ.
Before leaving Pandora, the twins ambush the group, in need of powers to ultimately survive. It is then discovered that the two are Sirens, mystical beings with unknown heritage that behold incredible power. Tyreen drains Lilith of her powers, then make their way to Promethea. It’s from this point that the rat race towards The Great Vault is on. Throughout your time traversing across multiple planets in the Borderlands Universe, there are plenty of callbacks to it’s previous entries. You will stumble across a plethora of side-quests that involve new faces, but plenty of familiar faces seen from Borderlands, Borderlands 2, Tales, and the Pre-Sequel. Claptrap returns to guide you throughout your time playing the game, and it’s only natural to have our robotic companion familiarise the player with the oncoming dangers we may encounter. Zer0, Brick, Mordecai and Maya all return to assists us along the way, teaching us new tricks and upgrade abilities. Tales from the Borderlands co-protagonist, Rhys Strongfork returns after reclaiming the Watershed Base. However, It’s not explained what had happened between himself or Fiona (“Tales” co-protagonist), who remains absent from this entry, after the events of their supposed disappearance upon discovering a real vault. There are some subtleties and references towards her disappearance throughout the campaign, but nothing solid.
My experience with Borderlands 3, can only be explained as a slow burn. While the beginning may have had me questioning where it’s depth really lied? It was surely being delivered by the insane amount of mayhem on-screen, that was presented by it’s undeniable quality, and copious amounts of violence. The wild west element of Borderlands pits the player to experience this journey on their own, or once again, ally themselves with their cohorts, to venture off to find their riches. Borderlands has always had an agenda of playing the game with a friend. Co-op is definitely king here, as I personally found it a hell of a good time playing with friends, where as playing on my own, I found moments of desolation, and boredom starting to rear it’s ugly head. While more of the same was bought to us with Borderlands 3, it’s was only fair to start making comparisons to it’s direct predecessor. While we may have had two side-entries in the mainline series absence, It was as if the series had picked up where it had left off. While I would love to say that landing in different parts of the galaxy would bring a unique flavour of experience to the table, ultimately what was laid upon us was purely cosmetic changes. Leaving Pandora is an exciting proposition, but what was delivered in-turn was a journey that felt untraveled. Expecting fresh environments to contain newer elements that could help upgrade your skill tree, was expected but conclusively made no additional changes to strategy or gameplay.
The campaign will take players around 30 hours in total to complete, with around 45 for the completionist. Each map carries a diverse amount of paths that can lead you astray in each area, but will essentially sink you right into the terrain around you. Collecting loot has never been easier, with an ample amount of loot crates dispersed around segregated each area, plus each bandit and psycho carrying various pieces of kit and weaponry that you may use to your advantage. The leveling system is also improved immensely here. While in previous entries, grinding was most certainly deemed an issue with some fans, this seems to have been perfected with Borderlands 3. Character buffs and new abilities are all unlocked quite smoothly within each of your characters unique skill tree. Depending on which character choose at the beginning, your experience may vary. Synergy seems to be the key-word here, with each character trait working quite well with each other, making for simpler, dynamic, and varied strategies within your party. While trading, and selling is something that the series originated, it’s strangely felt somewhat outdated, almost like it did not belong here anymore. There are many titles now out in the wild that have replicated, and may have perfected the mechanic, whereas the style presented here almost feels too simplistic, and under-delivered. Lack of ammunition lead to moments of distress in most areas, where hoards of psycho’s will come at you, but will ultimately lead to guns without ammo. Millions of guns are useless without the required amount of ammo.
Presentation wise, Borderlands 3 is more or less the same as it’s predecessors. It’s incredible artwork that has separated itself from the rest, and laid the foundation if it’s legacy is present once again, with it’s harsh lines, and dark tones that are very much comic book inspired. The act of obliterating bandits into chunks of meat are back, and as gorey and violent as ever. It’s promise of over a million types of guns, and design behind each of these have incredible range, but in effect land a recycled type of mechanic to only pertains to a handful of unique weaponry. While I would love to say it’s engine has been perfected on current gen consoles, it just hasn’t. There are an unfortunate number of issues I ran into performance wise on the PlayStation 4 Pro, that I was not expecting. Framerate and lag were issues that I thought were exclusive to my co-op experience, but unfortunately carried over to my solo time in-game. This lead to me switching from “Resolution” to “Performance” settings for better stability, which I highly recommend for console gamers looking for a quality experience, with their time in Borderlands 3. After making this switch, there were no performance issues at all. While some of the comedy writing within the title comes off a little lackluster, there are moments of total hilarity. it’s excusable as previous entries have proven to outlive their own presented memes that eternally make their way back around to pop-culture in some memorable stance, one way or another. Sound effects and Voice over work are remarkable. They are perfection in this series, like no other. I cannot express the magnificent delivery in each character’s own quirk that only this franchise can so boldy deliver.
Borderlands 3 is fun. It’s mayhem personified. It’s quirky, it’s zany, it’s brash, courageous, fearless, and daring. It’s funny to see something with such an expectancy make it’s way back around to us with a unique presence. While some may label it dated in some regard, I’d argue it’s place within our current offerings as somewhat refreshing. While yes, there may have been some questionable creative decisions that have ultimately lead to some setbacks for the title, I would still regard Borderlands 3, a welcome addition to this year’s amazing line-up of titles. Borderlands will always have it’s place as one of the most impactful franchises that has inspired a generation of loot shooters. Without it, we wouldn’t have amazing franchises like Destiny, Overwatch, and even Fortnite. Three titles that are insanely popular amongst gamers, and the world of esports. It’s the grandaddy of ’em all. Borderlands still has something to prove to us, and that’s not to take this all seriously. Sit back, have a laugh at your characters expense, with a little self deprecation and humility presenting a chuckle, while systematically planning your next attack and how to loot every single enemy in the area, while beholding it’s bloody grace. Welcome back Borderlands, we missed you.
Borderlands 3 – 2K Games