So you want to hear a story, eh? Sorry, had to. Well, I don’t have a story so how about a review. After 7 years of waiting, Gearbox has finally blessed us with a new adventure on Pandora and beyond. Borderlands 3 is here and it is definitely a Borderlands game. After such a long wait, can the team find that “magic” that fans loved from the previous entries? That was a Randy Pitchford joke. Get it? Magic? Moving on.
So what’s new? Well, several years since the last set of Vault Hunters took down one of my favorite villains, Handsome Jack, a new set of heroes have arrived to help save the universe. During my playthrough, I played as Amara the Siren. There are, of course, three other characters to choose from but I’ve mained a Siren in both of the previous entries (not including the Pre-Sequel). Each offers a different way to tackle the game with different skill trees and powers. They’ve really expanded on these skill trees allowing much more customization in your build. Just like any good looter shooter, mixing in the correct guns to go along with your build is key. Thankfully, it’s Borderlands.
There is no short supply of guns. I focused on a close combat/melee build with Amara. Shotguns, SMGs, and pistols were my friends. The problem I had was that I couldn’t seem to find anything that would really pack a punch. Rocket launchers and sniper rifles seemed to drop from the sky. I realize that my playthrough may not be indicative of the larger experience, but I was getting frustrated around every turn. I’m chalking it up to bad luck, but in a game that advertises a “Gazillion” different guns, I rarely found something that fit my build.
The story plays out like you would expect from a Borderlands game. It definitely has a few twists and turns but a few were pretty choreographed. Some of the new characters were outstanding and hilarious and others, not so much. Tyreen and Troy Calypso are our new villain leaders; twin Sirens who use social media to rally followers to their cause. The problem was, for me, they had giant shoes to fill. They came off as a little boring and not very fleshed out. While we’re on the subject, I thought Sirens were one of the rarest things in the universe. This is reinforced by an NPC in the game saying “Sirens are one of the rarest beings in the universe“. There’s like 37 Sirens in this game. Ok, slight exaggeration, but there’s a bunch. It kind of cheapened my choice of Amara if I’m being honest but that’s simply my opinion. Meanwhile, returning favorites like Tiny Tina, Brick, Lilith and many others were a welcomed sight.
The writing, in general, is fine. Most of the main missions are rather unique. Side missions, on the other hand, are pretty similar save for a few. Kill enemies, grab an item, return to quest giver. With that being said, the differences are in the small tales each one tells. They tend to be pretty humorous despite the structure not changing much. Regarding the humor, I know people are up in arms over all of the dick and fart jokes, but that’s Borderlands. If 2K decided to do a new Bioshock game and imbued it with a ton of poop jokes, I would understand the outrage (even though now I kinda want a poop jokey Bioshock). If this kind of writing is below you, that’s cool. My dad used to take us to the grocery store, disappear for a few minutes and then come running down the aisle screaming at us to wait for him while clenching a sausage between his legs. So now you know where my humor sweet spot is. I’m 43. So was he at the time. This is right up my alley.
How do I follow that golden nugget? I can’t, so let’s talk about some technical stuff. I played on the Xbox One X in performance mode. The game isn’t graphically demanding, using the same cell shaded art that the previous titles did and I had very few issues. There are a couple of bugs here and there, but nothing game breaking. I know some people have had issues on various platforms though, so your mileage may vary. Mechanically, it’s still one of my favorite fps games. The controls, I would argue, are some of the best in the genre. Gun play feels improved as well. In my Rage 2 review, I talked about how the weapons all felt unique. They felt different depending on what you were using. Gearbox upped their ante with this new release. It’s a huge improvement from previous titles and encourages you to experiment with different weapons frequently.
There are several other quality of life improvements in the game as well. To be honest, they didn’t stray from the formula too much, but being able to fast travel from anywhere and automatically picking up money and ammo is a huge bonus. If you want to read a bit more about some of the changes, check out Porshapwr’s article on his experience with the game. He’s a huge fan and has some great insights on the evolution of the series.
The game knows what it is. It embraces it. Gearbox took all of the things that the fans loved about the game, sprinkled in some nice updates, blended them up and served us a unique but very familiar experience. I couldn’t agree more with Porshapwr when he said this game was a love letter to fans of Borderlands. It’s exactly that. Fans of the series won’t be disappointed. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to “Catch a riiiiiiiiiiiiiide!” back to my second playthrough.