‘Borderlands 3’ is a little bit louder, a little bit worse

Image from Epic Games
Image from Epic Games

Borderlands is a series near and dear to my heart. I’ve enjoyed pretty much every Borderlands game that has come out to this day. I knew from the day Borderlands 3 was announced I was going to get it. I preordered the game and waited with bated breath for the fated day. Not even Randy Pitchford and the insanity surrounding him could prevent me from getting this game. September came around, I pre-downloaded the game and watched as the clock ticked by and the thirteenth quickly approached. What do I find on the other side? A beautiful mess of a game. Great, yet full of missed opportunities; an experience lacking in the worst places.

Classic co-op chaos with a couple issues

Image from Epic Games

Borderlands 3 is the 4th mainline game in the Borderlands series, and sends players away from Pandora, the planet (and its’ moon) that we have come to know and love. It had all the makings of a great game: a loyal fan base, a solid series branding as the start of the looter-shooter genre, and characters that have become beloved and recognized even by those who do not play it. Yet, something seems to have staggered over at Gearbox, and issues with the game itself (along with its story) make it one of the more lackluster entries in the series.

I should start by saying Borderlands 3 is not horrible. Far from it, I loved playing it. Each character was fun and brought new things to the series. I enjoyed that many of the action skills in game could be tied together, or help benefit your team. For example, Moze’s “Dakka Bear” skill gave her mech a turret that could be used by any teammate, or Zane’s barrier skill, which could add more damage or more speed to the team. If teamwork isn’t your style, then there are skills that were more beneficial in solo play over co-op. 

Speaking of co-op, one of the first major issues that both myself and many others encountered on the PS4 release of the game were the menus. One of the core features of Borderlands 3 was supposed to be the ability to quickly load in a new skill or change up your skill augments, which was the reason for having three skills to begin with. The problem is the menus lag the moment you open them, making it difficult to change anything, especially if you’re in the middle of a firefight. The problem only got worse when using split-screen. It would take multiple presses just to get the menus to move at all, and would lag the other person just as bad. 

An underwhelming story with mishandled antagonists

Image from Epic Games

Now we go into the story ofBorderlands 3. I had high hopes going in; while Borderlands 1‘s story wasn’t fantastic, both Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel had amazing stories and characters to go with them. Borderlands 3 story is okay. Not great, but okay. There were moments that shocked me, and moments that made me feel happy. The thing is, the story has the issue of “thing happens because the plot demands it.” Characters leave the Crimson Raiders before Borderlands 3because the plot demands it, and ATLAS and Maliwan are in a corporate war because the plot demands it. No part of the story felt like a natural progression. 

Then we have our main antagonists, Troy and Tyreen Calypso. I both hate and love these villains for probably the wrong reasons. I like the concept of Troy and Tyreen, villains based off the worst of vloggers and influencers. I think they play that angle well, and their voice actors, Max Mittelman and Elisa Melendez who voice Troy and Tyreen respectively, do an excellent job at portraying them in such a way that you can’t wait to shoot them down. There is just one major flaw that takes so much away from them: you spend around 30% of the game fighting another villain, the head of Maliwan’s acquisitions, Katagawa. This is such a blow to Troy and Tyreen, as we rarely see them for a good portion of the game because we have to deal with Katagawa. While we may hear their broadcasts or Tyreen sends a few enemies at us, everything shifts to being about Katagawa who is best described as “Handsome Jack Lite”. He’s not interesting or fun. The only positive thing I can say about him is that his boss fight is fun, and that’s it.

Sights and scuffles that are hit or miss

Speaking of boss fights, some of these bosses are terribly designed. I mean, Mouthpiece is a fun fight, and Katagawa, no matter how bad his character is, has a battle that is both challenging and interesting. Even the final boss is eventful and entertaining. My prime example of horrible boss design is Killavolt. Whoever designed Killavolt’s fight needs to play it solo at level to understand where they went wrong. The main issue with this fight is his main gimmick, the panels on the floor that electrify when hit with a shock attack. This means they can activate in many situations: when he shoots his gun and it touches the floor, when he hits the floor and electrifies every tile, or finally he can electrify them in a line. These shock panels last around 5 seconds, and can leave you without a shield near instantly. As a side note, this fight is easy with two people, but on your own? It’s agony. On the opposite end of the scale, the first Warden fight is so boring. You run around in a circle, shooting back at the Warden as his health regenerates every so often. It was hands down the most boring fight I’ve ever had in Borderlands.

Image from Epic Games

The graphics are still the same cel shaded world we know from before, but updated splendidly. It doesn’t feel like they just made an HD port of Borderlands 2, it feels like Borderlands 3. Sadly, I encountered some areas where the graphics took time to load in all textures (something I had hoped would have been left in Borderlands 2). While this may seem like a small issue, when it takes 10 seconds to load textures in a 20 second cutscene, you notice it significantly more. Music design was surprisingly nice, and each planet had its own sort of ambience.

Overall, I enjoyed Borderlands 3, despite some hiccups, and it didn’t ruin my love for the series. Even with every problem and flaw I found, I saw that glimmer of hope, little moments that reminded me why I loved the series. The gunplay is nice and fun, and I’m especially fond of ATLAS guns. The new movement mechanics feel nice, and can add a bit more strategy to a fight. Vault Hunters interacting with characters always led to some interesting story tidbits or just got an unexpected laugh from me.

Images: Epic Games Store

Featured Image: Epic Games Store

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