After Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, an average spin-off released in 2014, Borderlands 3 is a welcome return in the form of the franchise. The game reunites with the core group of memorable protagonists from the first two games and delivers the mayhem-heavy loot-shooter experience for which the series is known. Borderlands 3 conveys many of the things that made the first two games special but also brought with it some of the same stumbling blocks. This is our Borderlands 3 Review.
Borderlands 3 Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, Windows, Macintosh
- Developer: Gearbox Software, Gearbox Studio Québec
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Genres: Action role-playing game, First-person shooter
- Release Date: September 13, 2019
Borderlands 3 Review: Official Trailer Video
Borderlands 3 Review: Gameplay
If one of the four novice Vault Hunters-Zane, the agent, Amara the Siren, Moze the shooter, or FL4K the beastmaster-you are recruited into the Crimson Raiders, the militia that defends the only civilized pocket of society found on the bandit-filled wasteland planet of Pandora. Led by Lilith, a former Vault Hunter, the Crimson Raiders go to war against Tyreen Calypso and her twin brother Troy. They use their influence as popular video streamers to convince their cult to help them acquire the immense power found in secret safes scattered throughout the galaxy.
Borderlands 3 makes a clear distinction when it comes to the manufacturer of each rifle. Before you even plunder a new firearm, looking at which company made it will tell you the most about what you need to know about what it can do. Maliwan guns are pretty weak, but they all shoot elementary bullets, making it easier to electrocute shields, melt armor or burn meat, for example. At the same time, a Hyperion firearm will lift a force field in front of you as you aim the visor down and become more accurate when you pull the trigger.
Even without the loot, defeating enemies in battle is satisfying. If you shoot an unprotected enemy in the head, you’ll be rewarded with their brains bursting into a satisfying blossom of blood and gore. If you haven’t landed that last headbutt, enemies usually go off with a final battle cry that ranges from pathetic cries for redemption to humorous insults, and the game doesn’t repeat the lines often enough to make them stale. As a result, the battle is never boring. The chosen Vault Hunter screams out funny or cold-blooded one-liners in the short moments you reload and find your way to your next victim.
No matter how entertaining the battle of Borderlands 3 is, the fun found in freedom to fight the way you want is occasionally interrupted by the structure of battle with the boss, a traditional problem for the franchise. Many of the bosses look cool and have incredible theme music, but they all come down to the same strategy: shoot down the weak spots, run or jump over attacks, and repeat. You can cheat some of them by hiding in an unreachable corner and slowly chipping away at the boss’s weak spot, but that’s not much fun either, as virtually every boss in the game has a large health pool, and many of the later bosses are bullet holes.
Borderlands 3’s late-game bosses also grab a wallop with every attack, so if you’re not careful you’ll be knocked down in a few blows, and you’ll have to dodge almost entirely for an extended period, which can drag on and feel boring in the longest of these battles. So when you meet a boss in Borderlands 3, the chaos in action is usually brought to an abrupt halt, as you are forced to respond to the boss’s patterns by playing slower and more carefully.
The new climbing and sliding movements do allow you to navigate environments better and thus avoid individual attacks. Still, both mechanics are better suited to weave between the scattered firefights with regular enemies, not the concentrated bombardment of the bosses. Several boss battles are, therefore, frustratingly challenging to tackle on your own, so much so that they all resemble repeated suggestions that you should play Borderlands 3 with at least one other person.
With two or more players, you can take turns relieving each other, making it easier to keep up for longer. But just trying to survive one strong enemy doesn’t give the same pleasant impact of the chaos-filled firefights from the rest of the game. You’ll feel more like a bad guy walking around shooting a wide variety of enemies than hiding behind cover and waiting for the boss to stop attacking you so you can safely fire a few shots.
Newcomer Tyreen is a wrong person, but the story of the campaign never gives you a compelling reason why you would want to kill her to stop her for good. Lilith likes to remind you that Tyreen’s plans would eventually destroy Pandora, but Borderlands 3 introduces several planets that prefer houses. Tyreen, and hence Troy, is never a credible threat to stop, so the Calypso twins instead feel the primary source of much of Borderlands 3’s comic relief, not the villains that need to be stopped.
That does not mean that the other fan-favorite characters have been left out. Virtually everyone from the previous games returns to complete their bows. Borderlands 3 weaves in numerous memorable new characters as good as the coffee-obsessed Lorelei, artificial intelligence BALEX, and villain turned rebel general Clay. However, the story of the game is a very satisfying conclusion that long fans have been looking forward to the pillars of the franchise.
Borderlands 3 review has a few blocks when it comes to bosses, but these battles are overshadowed by the rewarding gunplay and over-the-top humor of the game. The character-driven story of the game acts as a satisfying finale for the outdoor franchise, and the new mechanics and features – particularly the reworked skill trees and the effects of the weapon manufacturer – give you a lot of agency in how you want to play through it.
If you’ve never been a fan of the franchise, it’s unlikely that Borderlands 3 will do enough different things to change your mind, as the game excels best in continuing what the series has always done: delivering a humorous high-profile story about looting and shooting their way to heroism.
Borderlands 3 conveys many of the things that made the first two games special but also brought with it some of the same stumbling blocks.