Borderlands has been one of the most beloved video game franchises over the past decade. The post-apocalyptic loot-shooter really captured the hearts of many with Borderlands 2, but it hasn’t really been topped since. In 2019, Gearbox released a new entry into their magnum opus franchise: Borderlands 3. While I am no die-hard fan of the series, I still found a pretty enjoyable time with this entry.
Taking place seven years after Borderlands 2, you play as one-of-four new Vault Hunters on the hunt for, well, more vaults. A new set of foes, the Calypso Twins, have united various bandit factions under the banner of the Children of the Vault, and they are on the hunt for what is known as ‘the Great Vault.’ Lilith, a returning Borderlands character, recruits you to stop the twins from getting too much power.
Plot has never been a strong suit in the Borderlands series (unless you count Telltale’s game), and this game is no different. One big piece of this game, though, is its humor, which I have never been a fan of. This game has a mix of contemporary humor past its due date, satirical takes to the point of annoyance, or just characters being outright weird. While it certainly is annoying, what makes it worse is that it’s constantly in your face, making sure you hear and see every last joke (unless you just don’t listen to the game). There is one side mission, for example, titled “ECHOnet Neutrality,” where you help a ‘pro gamer’ destroy a bandwidth limiter by overloading it with memes, and the mission ends with him saying he wanted it done so he can mine a cryptocurrency. It’s humor like this that ages like milk, but what makes it worse is that there is almost always someone talking to you in the game, digging deeper and deeper into the pit they call comedy. I can’t say the humor is any different here than it is in the previous game, but the fact that they brought it back into a game released in 2019 makes it worse than any Borderlands before.
This humor also infects the characters old and new in this game, and they are all on display here. The new main antagonists, the Calypso Twins, are annoying streamers who make even more annoying highlight reels of events in the game that play on monitors everywhere and whose motivations are surface level at-best. Ava, an apprentice to Maya, is a super annoying (and super weird looking) child who is constantly trying to get into the fight because she believes it’s what grown-ups do. Tiny Tina and Claptrap, two characters I loathe, are back, and they are their same annoying selves. The game even includes a few characters from Tales From the Borderlands, a game I think has great characters and story, and they turned one of them into a super annoying gym bro. Granted, his transformation could be seen in previous encounters, but this game only amplified that side of him.
Not all of this game’s story is bad, though. The one thing that has always fascinated me with this game’s world are the various gun manufacturers, and this game leans into that in a fun way. Whether it be helping Wainwright Jakobs (a character I actually did enjoy) protect his family’s legacy from Hammerlock’s sister, or aiding in a war between Atlas and Maliwan, the greater emphasis on these companies is welcoming. Another aspect of the story I enjoyed were the varied locations. These locations range from the desert wastelands of Pandora to the futuristic city of Promethea, and a lot more in between. The locations are fun, and the greater emphasis on the companies is interesting, but it doesn’t really save the game from its nonstop humor and annoying characters.
Much like the humor, the gameplay in Borderlands 3 isn’t trying to drastically change any series staples. This game still has its 1-4 player co-op action, wide variety of weapons, and multiple character classes to choose from. While it isn’t revolutionizing the series, there are still improvements made to the gameplay that I believe makes this the most fun out of all the Borderlands games I have played. That fun, however, comes at a cost.
For the first 5-7 hours of my time with the game, I played with one other friend. I also played co-op for a little bit towards the end of my time with the game. At the beginning and the end, I found the co-op to be rather bland. There was never really much of a challenge when I played with someone else, and I found the loot drops to be broken because of the sheer amount of items dropped. A lot of co-op encounters ended up being the two of us entering the area, wiping out the enemies with ease, then spending five minutes looking at each of the 45 weapons dropped to see if any of them are worthwhile. Even the legendary weapons would drop at a high rate, which I think defeats the point of them being ‘legendary’ weapons. There are some neat co-op features, like the ability to choose how loot is distributed and the ability to have a quick one-on-one fight, but I found the co-op overall to be rather boring.
You would think my friend and I just fought a boss, but it was actually a basic, early level campaign mission.
So, what is this cost that has to be paid for fun? The second I stopped playing co-op, I started have a more enjoyable time with the game. The cost of fun in this co-op game is not playing co-op. When I started playing solo, I found the experience just challenging enough to where I started to play more actively. I started taking cover, utilized my abilities more effectively, and overall just paid more attention to the game, and I found that to be more enjoyable. The change didn’t turn the game into a sudden masterpiece, but it was a big enough change to be noteworthy. I’m glad that I found the experience to be better solo, but what does that say for a game that prides itself on co-op play?
Playing solo wasn’t the only thing I found enjoyable with the combat though. The biggest issue I’ve had with the series is a lack of weighty combat, but this game does a better job at making the combat feel like I’m shooting people and not playing laser tag. What complements this are some new traversal abilities like sliding, vaulting, and more. Mixing these two together meant faster-paced combat scenarios where I would usually slide around from cover-to-cover and fight enemies properly instead of run around like a bullet sponge. Compared to other games, it isn’t revolutionary, but I think it is an improvement for the series.
A shooter is nothing without guns, and Borderlands is a game filled with those. I have always enjoyed the creativity of the weapons in this series, but I think Borderlands 3 takes it to a new level. I can’t tell you every difference between the guns in this game and the last, but I think there are a lot of new elements to the weapons. Some guns have alt-firing capabilities, which has its own wide range of abilities such as bullets that target enemies, tiny rockets, and more. Guns have a wide variety of elemental damage, reload types, attachments, abilities, and more. Borderlands weapons are often pretty wacky, but I found both wacky and realistic weapons in this game. On top of that, there is the ability to view the weapon, popping up a window where you can see the specific parts on the weapon and even take a picture of said weapon. The weapons in this game are an absolute blast, but there is one big issue with them: the gear scores. In this game, the weapons have a gear score tied to them, which is a number that dictates the overall power of an item. I personally like gear scores in loot games, as for I think it is a simple and streamlined way of finding the best gear to use. The gear scores as well as the colored rarity of items in this game, however, do a poor job at portraying the power of each weapon. I often found weapons at lower level, rarity, and gear score to be objectively more powerful than ones at higher gear scores and rarities. It isn’t the biggest issue in the world, but not knowing which weapon is better made looting and shooting a bit more tricky. Still, I overall found the arsenal of weapons in this game to be a lot of fun to use.
This gun has a bike chain.
Characters are another big piece to the combat puzzle in this game. Personally, I’ve never really gotten too deep into character tree specs and using characters heavily in combat (I usually let the guns to the work), but I still think the characters are fun to try out. The character I used throughout my entire time with the game was Zane, whose main abilities are a battle drone, a barrier, and a clone that distracts and attacks enemies. Zane is more of a passive character compared to someone like Moze, who can spawn a mech. I think the characters are varied enough to where you can find someone who fits your play style, but what really helps with finding your play style are the various upgrades and items you can equip and unlock for your character. Abilities, skill trees, action skill augments, class mods, guardian rank, and more are ways to tweak your character to your liking. Borderlands 3 offers a lot of customization to your character if you are into that sort of thing.
The last piece of the Borderlands puzzle is its open world (or worlds, rather), and I think Borderlands 3’s open worlds are the best in the series. Not only are they fun to explore because of their varied locations, but they are also filled with new activities and improvements. For starters, each area has a 100% completion screen, showing off everything you can do in that area. Some people may not like that, but I’ve always enjoyed checkbox open worlds, and I think it’s a good way of showing off everything in the world. The activities to complete include side missions, hunting down special monsters, collectibles, finding new vehicle parts, and more. Speaking of vehicles, the ones in this game are great, as for they are highly customizable and can be hijacked easily. Plus, the new monowheel vehicle is a lot of fun to drive. The biggest addition to the open world, however, is Sanctuary III, a spaceship that acts as a hub. In Sanctuary III, you can do a wide variety of things, which includes buying items from vendors, collecting weapons that were left behind, picking up missions, a target practice range, a strange mini arcade game, and more. It’s a neat hub to explore, and I’m glad there is at least something in the middle of all the planets in this game.
It’s weird to be in a giant futuristic city in a Borderlands game.
The common saying for loot games like Destiny is saying the game really begins when the credits roll. I’ve never believed in that, but Borderlands 3 at least has a fair amount to offer outside of the main campaign. When you do beat the game, you unlock Mayhem Mode, which is a difficulty option that scales enemies to your level. There is, of course, going back to the worlds and 100% completing them. There are seasonal events that offer new enemy types and a level to grind. There are the multiplayer modes, which includes a horde mode and a dungeon called Proving Grounds. Finally, if you have them, you can play the DLC. The biggest issue I had with the post-game content was the feeling of FOMO I got from the seasonal events, but overall this game has a fair amount of content to sink your teeth into after the credits roll.
In conclusion, Borderlands 3 is a fun sequel that improves upon the series without really revolutionizing anything. While I think its combat is the best in the series to-date and the game has a lot to offer, I found the game’s persistent humor and bland co-op action to hold the game back. I think there are better shooters out there, but this one is worth checking out if you are into loot shooters.
P.S. You can find a gallery of screenshots here.