It’s almost been a decade between Borderlands 3 and its predecessor. During that time the genre that Borderlands helped popularize, the modern looter-shooter, has taken off and evolved in a whole different direction than the Borderlands series.
These days, looter-shooters stereotypically have barebones campaigns that are propped up by a robust endgame that keeps players playing for the long term until new content comes out.
Borderlands has never been wired that way though. In fact, it’s maybe the opposite. Both Borderlands games have had robust and lengthy campaigns that on their own were worth the $60 asking price.
Any additional replay value that players wrung out after beating the game was the cherry on top. No one was complaining back then that weren’t any raids, strongholds or anything of that ilk.
If you wanted more Borderlands after that, both games received extensive DLC support, including the final Borderlands 2 DLC released last week.
As far as we know, the blueprint looks like it’s going to be the same.
If you were satisfied with how Borderlands was structured previously, it’s likely you’ll be content with Borderlands 3 barring some kind of unforeseen major deviation that no one I can see is expecting.
On top of that, if Borderlands 3 and Gearbox aren’t above cribbing a few things from Destiny such as a few raid-like encounters in order to ensure hardcore players have something to keep them busy, that would go a long way towards making sure the common complains that have plagued other similar games don’t pop up here too.
Nothing crazy, I’m not advocating for turning Borderlands 3 into Destiny despite my love of the latter, just something challenging for the hardcore grinders, that’s all.
Because regardless of whether we’re talking about past or present, a good loot game needs something hyper-challenging to feel like getting all that gear was worth it, that’s just good design.
The reason I’m talking so much about all this though because that’s the only potential pitfall I see for Borderlands 3 at this juncture. Everything I played at E3 2019 was extremely polished, familiar, and just as fun as I remembered.
During the demo, I was reminded why I fell love in the series to begin with. The gritty graphical style is back but with a whole new coat of late-current-gen paint that looks great.
In Borderlands 3, you can mix and match between two action skills and augment them via skill trees that are more robust than ever.
For example, I was able to use both Zane’s Drone and Barrier skill at will during battle and the few levels that I got while playing I was able to play around with augments that should be familiar to longtime fans.
You know, stuff like kills increasing movement speed and adding cryo damage after weapon swaps. If you enjoyed creating your own builds that suited the way you liked to play, that is back without sacrifices in Borderlands 3.
I was able to get a feel for two of the games four playable characters: Moze the Gunner and Zane the Operative.
I’m more of a constant action kind of person, so I appreciated the more straightforward approach of Moze the Gunner who is all about gearing up a mech to her liking and then blowing things up.
Her skill tree basically is a way to equip her mech with different weapons and features such as going as loud as possible with the Grenade Launcher and Missile launcher tree or keeping sustained fire via a Minigun and a Flamethrower.
Zane, on the other hand, is more about support and enhancing output of himself and teammates. Like we mentioned above, he can lay down a barrier that protects teammates and enhances anything that your team fires through it.
The drone can seek out and disrupt enemies, and divert attention away from other players.
The previous Borderlands games had synergy between their characters, but Borderlands 3 is leaning more heavily into it than before.
It was sufficient before but I can’t think of any reason why offering players even more complex strategy and opportunities for teamwork would be a bad thing.
We got a small taste of the game’s new world hopping structure and social features too. Borderlands 2 had way better variety in its locales, but Borderlands 3 is going to allow you to planet hop and see a whole system worth of locations.
There’s going to still be some brown, but plenty of other shades too such as swamp lands and even a large, elaborate mansion.
Although the demo we played was strictly single-player, the Gearbox rep was able to tell us about some of the social features they have planned such as gifting loot, purchasing guns discovered other players, dynamic quests generated by friends, and of course local/online co-op.
While the latter was a given, the other three are nice perks to enhance Borderlands 3’s multiplayer.
Although it was limited, the zany humor (better or worse) is still there. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are interested in Borderlands 3, you likely enjoy or at least are willing to tolerate it.
All Borderlands 3 really has to do to not fall into the same pit of Destiny, The Division, Fallout 76, Anthem, and others and just simply be itself.
Fortunately, from everything I’ve seen and played in the last month or so, that absolutely is the case. I do not see any evidence that Gearbox has shifted away from what made the series popular to begin with.
In some cases, “more of the same” would be a bad thing. But the thing is, we haven’t had a Borderlands game in a pretty damn long time. So I’m just psyched to see Borderlands back at all.
It’s gravy then that not only is Borderlands back, but Borderlands 3 is shaping up to be the biggest and best iteration.
It appears to have everything the last two games had but now dialed up another notch for a modern audience that will happily gorge what will hopefully be a hefty main course of content.