(Editor’s Note: This was written roughly around the end of January/beginning of this month and was fixed up and edited last night. So Here, read)
Borderlands. It’s a thing I like. I’ve written about it before (not so subtle plug, wink wink nudge nudge). Borderlands 3 is basically more Borderlands, but with the added benefit of being an actually good first-person shooter, this go-around. You know, that actually might not be very fair to say. Even though I’ve replayed the first Borderlands and about two-thirds of Borderlands 2, I never really got into the endgame loot aspect of the games that would eventually become its own genre of video game like it was today, but the difference is that the gear treadmill for Borderlands was more Diablo inspired than MMO inspired like in the cases of games like Destiny or The Division or that one BioWare game that got canceled. But I’m not here to dunk on Anthem today, I’m here to talk to y’all about Borderlands 3 and why I like it because I need to get more consistent. So let’s get to it, shall we?
Borderlands 3 as a video game is something that feels like a video game that would feel more at home being released around 10 years ago as opposed to this year. This is because it still feels like it has the structure of the previous Borderlands games when it would have been super easy to take it down the live service route like so many games take these days. But it doesn’t and considering that this is 2K publishing the game, that’s a ridiculous amount of restraint. There are a bunch of cosmetic options that you can just straight up either find from loot drops or purchased from Earl’s Shop using the secondary in-game currency Eridium. Heads, Shaders, and Weapon skins are all part of the loot table and it’s pretty fantastic that I can look like a Robotic Beastmaster that’s both hot pink and also has a giant pigeon mascot for a head. It’s rad.
What’s less rad is that with the departure of series lead writers Mikey Neumann and Anthony Burch, the writing takes a noticeable hit. It’s not a complete deal-breaker for me, but it does feel like there weren’t as many great things like the long game of the Butt Stallion joke or anything in Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep from Borderlands 2. There weren’t a lot of in-story moments that made me laugh out loud like the other games did and that is really disheartening. A huge part of that comes from the Calypso Twins. While they may not be as entertaining as Handsome Jack (to be fair, they weren’t even trying to go for the same angle that Jack was working), they still manage to do the heavy lifting of being “those assholes that you don’t feel bad about shooting in the face” when it’s all said and done. While I would have preferred that the writers use them as a jumping-off point for exploring the nature of the cult of personality in the modern age of the internet and how fandom can be commodified/weaponized in some really fucked up ways, beggars can’t be choosers; even if they can feel like they can be a little dated with how they are written.
There was also this weird focus on the series’s “deep lore” regarding the existence of the Sirens and the Eridians, the alien race that created the vaults to begin with, and that kind of feels like something that most of the players of this game, myself included, don’t really care about. Just give us an opportunity to shoot dudes in the face and get some sick loot. Not all of the new characters suffer in this way, and that’s pretty great because Lorelei on Promethea and all of the characters introduced on Eden-6 are awesome; Wainwright Jakobs in particular.
While I could talk about all of the ways the game is stuck in the past, I feel like we should just focus on some of the new stuff; namely the new Vault Hunters that you can actually play as in this installment. Our merry band of misfits this go around consists of the following:
- Moze, an Ex-Vladof Gunner who serves as both the resident Soldier archetype/Comedic Straight Man that can call down a pilotable mech Titanfall style
- Amara: the Siren of the installment whose basic gameplay thesis is “Okay Let’s Do Siren things AND Punch the shit out of people”
- Zane, a Gadget using Operative and Semi-retired Corporate Hitman that basically treats the entire affair like it’s his retirement cruise
- And My personal favorite of the group, FL4K: an android Beastmaster who uses precision, Stealth, big weapons, and even bigger beasties to take down their prey.
They all have their own unique abilities to go along with the billions of gun permutations that you are bound to find. This is great because all of the vault hunters this go around also have multiple action skills to use as opposed to just the one for each class like the previous games (in Zane’s case he can use two at once at the cost of not being able to use Grenades), the sole exception being Moze, who only gets the Iron Bear, but has extra options regarding the kind of weapons that you can mix and match for some deadly combos. These can be mixed and matched with any of the skill trees that each character can get for possibly the largest amount of build diversity that has possibly ever been in the Borderlands series. And you are definitely going to need some of those weird build ideas because combat is no joke in this installment.
On top of also having some of the (in my opinion) best feelings shooting this side of the Destiny games (that and the movement mechanics of Titanfall minus the wall running are some of the biggest influences), and this is a good thing because weapons and enemy encounters have changed *a lot*. Remember the aforementioned twins from earlier? Yeah, they unified all of the Bandit clans on Pandora into a cult referred to as the Children of the Vault; As a result of this, the bandits are far more versatile in their tactics than in the past. They’ll flank you, use cover, bum rush you in melee, toss out grenades and do more to get the upper hand in combat. And that’s not even getting into the fact that they’ve teamed up with the Corporate Bad Guy De Jour, The Maliwan Corporation; basically, these guys are what Apple would be if they were headed up by a far more ruthless (If that’s even possible) Steve Jobs and they traded in weapons instead of consumer electronics and had rank and file that were way too gleeful about committing war crimes. And then there’s the indigenous wildlife of each world you go to because if you thought Spiderants, Rakks, and Skags on Pandora were bad enough, you haven’t seen anything yet.
But back to the guns for a moment. All of the weapon manufacturers from Borderlands 2 show up with new gimmicks to further differentiate themselves, and the Atlas Corporation makes a return under new management. Some are like Maliwan, Dahl, Torgue, and Vladof, are subtle where you can have multiple elements, selectable firing modes, swap between gyro and sticky rockets, and different weapon attachments respectively. More radically, they can be like Atlas and have all of their weapons basically be the ZF-1 from The Fifth Element (The Gun with the tracking bullets), or Hyperion and have new gimmicks (weapons now have a fold-out energy shield when aiming) alongside a new aesthetic refresh; which considering who their last CEO was, I’m not surprised that they wanted to distance themselves from such an image. And then there’s Jakobs and Tediore, which further refine their own gimmicks by making critical shots ricochet and having different variations on the throw to reload gimmick (and have them be turrets too!) respectively. This arsenal is possibly the best feeling collection of firearms to shoot in the series, bar none as far as I’m concerned because of some of the sheer power and creativity on display with a good chunk of the weapons. And this is before taking Legendaries and anointments (special effects that augment your character’s abilities) into account.
While I certainly think that there are things that can be improved with the game (A more engaging story with less Vaughn would have been nice, less bullshit difficulty scaling in Mayhem mode), Borderlands 3 has the potential to be as long-lasting and complete as Borderlands 2. It almost makes me want to overlook Randy Pitchford’s Fuckery for the most part. Mostly. Seriously, if you want to know all of the nonsense surrounding Randy, you can just Google it; this series is about highlighting the good in games, not the fuckery of a CEO/Part-Time Stage Magician. But Seriously, check out Borderlands 3 when you see it on sale, it’s a good way to spend an afternoon or need a game that can be played in the background.
(If you need to get up to date on some of the bigger stuff Regarding Randy, just watch this)
All images are from https://www.igdb.com/games/borderlands-3/presskit