Borderlands 3 (2019)

It’s been way too long for Borderlands 3 to actually come out. Even though I really enjoyed my time with it, the amount of time away from this series really did more harm than good.

Borderlands inspired the loot shooter genre that has become such a staple of the gaming world. In Borderlands’ absence, the groundwork that it laid out has been expanded upon and has become a genuine solid genre that is now expected from AAA developers. Games like Destiny and The Division have run with this game design and fleshed it out into a real genre. As Borderlands tries to hobble back into the game, it suffers in many ways, yet still shows it’s the king in a few areas.

Borderlands 3 starts back on the planet Pandora. Even though the travesty of “The Pre-Sequel” still lingers in our minds, and the red-headed stepchild. I did take us to the moon and gave us something new. 3 tries to hype up planet hopping, promising new and diverse planets. But in all honesty, it really doesn’t feel like that at all. These easily could have been just different biomes on the same Pandora planet, since you just fast travel to.

If the worlds were more of an open world design, I’d probably give it a pass, but sadly, it’s really just semi-large areas that are blocked off by fast travel points. There is even one planet that is basically an entire linear hallway. If we were able to spend more time on the planets, had have more to do, maybe I could see it being a bigger talking point. But the majority of the game, around half, is on Pandora. Again.

This truly is a trilogy game, but definitely didn’t start out like that. You can tell. They shoehorned in DLC for the second game a month before the 3rd game’s release, just so the setting makes sense. All the old “favorites” show back up and everything has been given a much needed “new gen” makeover. The character models all have much better facial animation and everything is just more clear, thanks to true native high definition textures.

Although several things haven’t aged particularly well. The character animations are stiff and come off as rushed. No one moves like a person, they all move like they were animated in the Tiny Toons Cartoon Workshop game on NES. It’s jarring and immediately brings you out of the game. The structure of the game itself too is something of an issue. It feels extremely dated. You feel like you are playing a remastered version of a 2012 game. The mission structure, the way the characters give you nothing but fetch quests, and every single mission ends with the character holding out their hand with an outline of the piece you just fetched waiting for you to hand it to them to complete the mission.

It should have been different. If this game took 7 years to get here, there should have been much more innovation on the part of Gearbox. This game should have been much more than tying up loose ends.

I would have loved to see the gun mechanics be completely reworked, like a good “Next Chapter in our series” game should. Since the whole marketing around the Borderlands games is about the absolute insane amount of guns there are, why not make it more customizable? Loot has no meaning as I rarely found a gun better than what I already had. When I did, it was a good 7 or 8 levels from where my current gun was. That equates to around changing out my gun every 6 or so hours, I only did it several times.

I would have loved to have a rehauled system to where each gun I picked up could be scrapped for parts and those parts could be used to assemble a gun I want. Too many times could I have used a new gun that had radiation or fire damage. But the guns that I stuck with were mostly plain because they dealt much more damage and also shot faster and had better magazine sizes. Maybe it was just my luck, but I should have been able to find many more guns that were good in the 40 hours of gameplay.

The writing is also something that just felt phoned in for the most part. Borderlands sense of humor and writing style is very refferencal, and back in 2012 that humor wasn’t as played out as it is now. Memes aren’t funny and internet humor is mainly pretty low brow. It isn’t as extreme as it was in the second game, but it does run its course fairly quickly.

I would have loved to see more new characters, but it’s mainly the same people you have seen for the last decade. They are absolutely fine and especially in the beginning hours it is nice to know some familiar faces, but, just like most of this game, it's just the same old thing for another game without enough new fresh ideas and characters.

In the end Borderlands 3 is more of the Borderlands formula that made it so popular. It has run its course and is now stale. If a fourth game does come out (I guess Pre-Sequel doesn’t count) it HAS to change up the formula. It can’t get away with it again. It’s in the same pattern as the Zelda franchise. It drastically needs to change, and if they do, it could breathe so much new life into the series that is now stale.

I mostly had a blast with this game, I found the new BeastMaster class, where I have a pet with me the entire time helping me obliterate enemies on a scale that even 4 player Borderlands never got up to, was just insanely fun. But it’s more of that “podcast” type of game. The story is fine, but could have been so much better. I found the false ending annoying especially since it was like a good solid 5+ hours after that. It got boring and repetitive and if they paced it better, I would have nicer things to say.

I really hope the Borderlands series gets overhauled and this was just a stepping stone to get back into the swing of things. This series has something special to it, and with a bit of careful pruning, and a focus on shifting the guns and characters to be a bit more customizable, I think Borderlands can wipe the floor with all other modern loot driven shooters. The series just needs a bit of TLC.