Borderlands 3 is more Borderlands, and that’s fine – I’m sure you’re familiar with this phrase that has been circulating the internet, but it’s an apt statement to make. Our return to the wastelands of Pandora also takes us on a galactic journey across the cosmos, exploring new planets in pursuit of that sweet loot. The blueprints of the Borderlands formula remains perfectly intact, with its signature, eye-catching art style getting an upgrade, along with the terribly addictive gameplay loop of collecting an absurd amount of weapons to decimate colourful enemies with. Borderlands 3 brings the series full circle, and it’s a blast yet again from the folks over at Gearbox Software.
Borderlands 3 no longer restricts you to the confines of Pandora. Instead, our journey takes us to new and previously mentioned planets in the Borderlands lore, from Maya’s home planet of Athenas to the new cyberpunk-like futuristic metropolis of Promethea. Like any Borderlands game, you take control of one of four characters with unique abilities. Amara is your compulsory telekinesis-jacked Siren, FL4K is a beastmaster capable of controlling animals to do his bidding, Zane is the Operative class who is able to create a projection of himself to aid in battle, and finally, Moze possesses a hulking mech called Iron Bear that provides great defensive and offensive skills. No class of character is more powerful than the next, as they’re each fairly balanced and enjoyable to use. However, I played through the campaign as Amara, and it scratched that itch for some awesome psychic abilities.
With Handsome Jack out of the equation, the villain role is filled by the Calypso Twins, Troy and Tyreen.
Borderlands 3, at times, feels like a greatest hits compilation of everything you love about the series. Along your adventures, you’ll encounter familiar faces such as Lilith, Maya, Sir Hammerlock, and many more, who all play an important role in the overarching story. With Handsome Jack out of the equation, the villain role is filled by the Calypso Twins, Troy and Tyreen. For the most part, they’re fun, upbeat antagonists that have plenty of presence and charisma, but unfortunately, some cringe-inducing writing holds them back from ever being as suave or fleshed out as Handsome Jack. Tyreen’s social media catch phrases (“like, follow, and obey!”) are funny at first, but quickly become tiresome when you realize that’s all she has to her dialogue. The story does serve its purpose for getting players from point A to point B, with some great fan-service thrown in for good measure, but don’t expect anything groundbreaking from its storytelling. Main missions got a considerable bump in appeal, as things were kept unexpectedly interesting and diverse throughout each chapter.
Of course, the main reason we’re here is for the loot. In that regard, Borderlands 3 sores high above its sub-genre counterparts. The gameplay loop of collecting over a billion weapons and demolishing hordes of enemies is the most satisfying it’s ever been in the series. This is largely thanks to the fluidity of combat; from snappy movement speed to weapons that pack a punch and feel great to use, Borderlands 3 truly outshines its predecessors in the gameplay department. I always found myself using more than a couple of weapons per mission, as the game incentivizes you to experiment with a ridiculous (and I do mean absolutely ridiculous) assortment of guns. Best of all, each feel lovingly crafted in both the design aspects and gunplay. It’s easily the best gameplay that has ever come out of Borderlands, which must be commended.
Each planet is massive in scale and boasts some impressive designs, particularly Promethea which has now become my new favourite location in Borderlands history.
In total, you’ll visit four major planets across the campaign: the flagship desert planet, Pandora; the cyberpunk-esque city of Promethea; the majestic serenity of Athenas; and the dense swamp and jungle planet of Eden-6. Each planet is massive in scale and boasts some impressive designs, particularly Promethea which has now become my new favourite location in Borderlands history. Traversing these large environments requires some wheels, and this is where Borderlands 3 slips up. Vehicle control has not improved since the previous games. It’s still frustrating to accelerate with the left analogue stick, while steering with the camera/right analogue. This might not be a big issue with mouse and keyboard, but on consoles, it felt unintuitive and more trouble than it’s actually worth. Thankfully, the driving sections don’t take up a chunk of time in the story, as I still favoured travelling by foot in case I missed out on some secret locations.
Comedy has always been subjective, and this is where Borderlands 3 will divide many. Its trademark brand of humour is hit or miss this time around, and while I personally enjoyed its often dark comedic outbursts before, I felt it was a bit too juvenile here. This is especially evident in the inconsistent dialogue, which ranges from surprisingly hilarious – hearing a psycho bandit pledge his undying allegiance to the Calypsos right before he dies is comedy gold – to a bit on the corny side. As previously mentioned, Tyreen is the worst offender of some cringe-worthy dialogue, which is sad considering that the Calypsos had some great potential to be a unique and wonderful duo of baddies, let down by their unfortunate writing.
There’s a lot to keep Borderlands fan busy for dozens, even hundreds, of hours, and there’s no denying that the price of admission right now is worth it.
Borderlands 3 makes up for its missteps by having an overwhelming amount of content. It took me a good 30-35 hours to complete the story, and even then, I was still greeted with a wealth of endgame content and numerous side quests that I missed along the way. There’s a lot to keep Borderlands fan busy for dozens, even hundreds, of hours, and there’s no denying that the price of admission right now is worth it. Of course, at its core, Borderlands 3 is still a loot shooter with a repetitive loop of taking on waves of varying kinds of enemies, rinse and repeat, while upgrading your character with new skills, excellent cosmetic options, and more guns than you realistically know what to do with. I never once felt short-changed throughout my playthrough when it came to the buckets of quality content – something that is sorely missing in most AAA games these days.
With all that said, there’s one issue that might be a dealbreaker for some, but also holds me back from telling you to rush out and buy the game in its current state. Borderlands 3 is not optimized well across all platforms. There has been countless reports of game crashes, framerate drops, and performance issues. I played the game on a base PS4, and experienced some terrible framerate drops while opening my inventory screen. It only got worse during splitscreen multiplayer, and with no option for a vertical option, it made the text tiny to read on occasions. A friend, who owns the game on Xbox One X, also experienced these issues on his console. This can all be remedied with a few patches, and I do sincerely hope they do this as soon as possible, because I want to recommend Borderlands 3 to you without anything weighing it down.
Whether it involves taking on camps of bandits, racing in the neon-lit slums of a futuristic city, or blasting off to other distant planets in the galaxy, Borderlands 3 is a remarkable adventure and a worthy sequel to add to a great trilogy. If you’re a fan of Borderlands, there’s a lot of love in doses here. It’s fulfilling from both a gameplay and fan-service perspective, with tons to see and do for hours on end. However, the game is only let down by some nagging performance issues – which can be fixed – a mixed bag of villains, and middling writing, especially where comedy is concerned. Nonetheless, hop into the wastelands of Pandora and beyond for a spectacular time, because you’ll get your money’s worth and a bit more.
Borderlands 3 boasts some impressive gameplay and an absolutely ridiculous amount of content that’s perfectly tailored for fans of Borderlands.