Borderlands 3 Review
"Pandora, and Beyond!"
September 16, 2019 at 1:56am
By Jason Stettner
It’s been a long time Vault Hunter, ready to get back to work? Borderlands 3 has arrived, and it delivers the most expansive take on the series yet. Everything is bigger, and this really does deliver beyond what one might expect from this franchise. At the same time, this is the most Borderlands type of title to release.
It really is the series you know, but far larger than ever before. At the core of this experience is the narrative, it follows Lilith leading the Crimson Raiders. Things haven’t gone well, and it’s time for some fresh Vault Hunters to arrive. You’re stepping into the shoes of some new characters, and generally dynamic ones. The Hunters interact with the story being told to a greater extent, and you see that with past playable characters as well. The reason for things having gone badly for the good guys, is the appearance of scary twins.
These siblings have created a cult called the Children of the Vault, and they’ve organized the traditionally wild Bandits out there. Things start off small, you’re back on Pandora and aiming to get the band back together once more. There are returning faces, though some notable ones aren’t present here. You won’t really notice it as much however as many characters have smaller roles in the core narrative, you’ll have to engage in side quests to really spend time with them.
That’s the case with some elements of exploration as well, you mostly need quests in order to activate side areas that you’re not going to. An example, I went to a party that didn’t have anything to which was a disappointing walk up. That aside, this is a lengthy story. The core narrative is insanely long, and that’s great. There’s tons of value in what’s presented here, and if you go for extra quests it becomes unbelievable. It takes the foundations of Borderlands 2 and blows it up in ways you wouldn’t expect it to.
The story is just long, and it goes on for awhile while retaining a quality of interest the entire way through. The side missions are charming as usual, and other extras can be found. There are smaller boss fights to take part in with references to the past or pop culture. You can tackle some hunts from Hammerlock, find bounties or just take on other challenges. When you’ve completed the main story Mayhem options are present, as are second playthrough choices. Both offer higher difficulties, and more challenges to work through when it comes to how hardcore you want your experiences to be.
If you want something more strictly setup there are matches to search for within a wave based survival situation called Circle of Slaughter, you can also tackle a dungeon. These pair you with groups, or you can enter within one to take on these challenges. There’s also quick regular matchmaking to join others, more social integrations for playing with friends and it takes the cooperative elements to new heights.
I will also note that prior to starting there are now two choices for how cooperative elements are handled. There’s a traditional Borderlands choice, and a new one for friendlier coop play when it comes to loot or level scaling. It is always nice to have some options.
This is a loot shooter, the goal is to collect fancy weapons and gear to tackle more hardcore situations. This is definitely an RPG as well, with that element being greatly expanded upon. There are a total of four classes available at launch with the naming setup being their characters which are Amara, FL4K, Moze and Zane. They all have their unique skills, but this is harder to explain now as it’s just deeper. Each “class” has sub-class options for their special tool and then you can expand that further with side skill unlocks that happen as you progress.
It’s quite interesting, and makes each character even more diverse. As you progress you’ll get new weapon slots, access to better loot and many skill options. There are shields to find, relics to place in, grenade mods for some fun and of course class based enhancements to choose. The inventory setup is about the same, with options to expand slots with progression and collection through purchases with Marcus on Sanctuary. The main ship you use as a base of operations is called Sanctuary, and it has many unique locations on it for essential needs.
You’ll complete quests, buy things and collect gear that’s been lost. This is the place to redeem shift keys, or gather extra things to do. Back to your inventory, you also have expanded map usage for navigation. Fast travel is also far better in this one, easier to access and quicker to engage with. There’s now a post-game replacement for Badass Rank points called Guardian Rank, which is similar and grants bonuses as well as rewards.
I played through this on Xbox One X, and it was enhanced with two options. I generally played in resolution mode which is 1800p at 30fps with HDR, I found that to be the most stable option. I also spent an extended time with the performance mode which presents 1080p at 60fps which was more fluid, yet had some frequent drops making it less pleasant than it perhaps should have been.
It’s great to have some options for how to play, both could have been smoothed further however. That aside, the game generally ran flawlessly which is a great surprise considering the massive scale this title provides, and the time you can spend playing it. I should also mention that splitscreen for two players is an option locally or online, that’s a nice inclusion.
Everything generally feels great, and the variety of weapons is insane. There are guns that walk, bullets that shoot bullets or even crazy bouncing effects. You might even end up with a gun that shoots guns out of it, if you can dream it, it’s likely included in this game. The general tweaks to play are great, AI can now revive you and the customization feels deeper. Change your character in multiple ways or colors, and do the same with the vehicles.
There’s so much going on in this one, just a ton of depth within the play. I would have liked there to be more checkpoints as you sometimes have to walk a fair bit, but it’s nothing too bad. I also felt a bit ammo starved with lesser player counts, though honestly its best played in larger groups as it’s just more fun. The new enemies are awesome, the bosses are incredibly varied and there’s just a lot to blast away with whatever you happen to have on hand.
The worlds feel alive with creatures, distinct themes and these planets are massive while being distinct. I love Eden-6 in particular, a swamp that was so neat and vast to take in. It’s quite a spectacle for sure. You’ll be very surprised to see how many side sections sprout out from a certain spot, it’s always a shock for sure to see some hidden spot reveal itself.
Borderlands 3 is the exact follow-up that fans have been waiting for, delivering more of what they’ve come to expect with some surprises along the journey. The narrative is long, developed and really aims to dig deeper into the universe. The expansion into space really does change things up, and while that’s not necessarily new for the franchise.
It does really increase the scope of what can be done for exploration, and it’s never been so expansive. This release aims to encompass everything that’s come since the second main game with characters from Tales from the Borderlands in here which is great. The new characters were fun to see in action, and they aimed to tell a different sort of story with this third core entry.
If the main missions are somehow not enough, you can go further with what feels like unlimited side quests. If that’s still somehow not enough, tougher modes are there. If that still hasn’t somehow delivered, you can matchmake with others to play dungeons or wave based modes. The content doesn’t end here, and Vault Hunters will likely welcome the sense of challenge that’s present here.
They do justice to the core mechanics, and it’s definitely Borderlands. It feels like what’s come before, but just bulging with content. There’s perhaps too much to do here, I feel bad for completionists. I don’t know how anyone has the time to conquer it all, but best of luck to you. There’s something truly enticing about this franchise, and it’s great to finally see this release happen. Borderlands 3 is a badass, thrilling space opera.
Read our Wolfenstein: YoungBlood Review
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Borderlands 3 Review on Xbox One X
Review Code Provided by 2k Games
Rating Overall: 9.0