Let's make a bargain, you and I. Let's, for the four minutes it takes you to read this, forget about the varied controversies that plagued the pre-release hype cycle of Borderlands 3.
Not that I'm necessarily opposed to considering the game in its broader context. But for a few minutes, let's just talk about the game. Just the game, and nothing but the game.
I got Borderlands 3 on launch (vanilla, PlayStation 4) and played the shit out of it over the weekend. I've finished the main campaign and started on the endgame mayhem mode. Here’s what I think.
- Gunplay is awesome. I'm coming off a year-long stint of basically playing nothing but Destiny 2, so I'm used to solid console first-person shooter gunplay. While Borderlands 3 can’t compete there, the sheer number of different gun combinations and their feel was great. Shotguns were a favourite. They look good, sound good and shoot good. And that’s all I ask.
- Progression is well-balanced. I didn’t ever feel massively under-powered or over-powered during a standard play through. Level ups and skills come regularly, loot is plentiful, and brings enough diversity for different play styles. I had to respec a few times to take a different approach to some battles.
- Boss battles have been ramped up a notch. I think there was only one boss battle that I found pretty boring. The rest of them had me sitting up and concentrating, with some close calls.
- Meh story and characters. I mean, it’s pretty much the same as Borderlands 2, which is to say that things are pretty one-dimensional, and the characters are obnoxious as fuck. Borderlands 2 had Handsome Jack who was a really strong villain, and a couple of fun characters like Tiny Tina and Scooter. Borderlands 3 lacks any standout characters, and the villains are pretty weak. Story-wise, it was okay. Some great moments, some silly ones. Concluded on a bit of a weird note.
- Familiar gameplay loop. There hasn’t been much evolution of the gameplay loop since BL2. You go to places, enemies show up, you shoot them to shit. There are some new enemies and new strategies involved, but not really anything beyond SHOOTY SHOOTY.
- Bland humour. It is what it is. It wasn’t really all that funny in Borderlands 2, either. This is just more of the same.
- Technicals. While I didn’t come across anything game breaking, I did experience controller lag (on a wired controller) and other gameplay glitches. These will be patched out, I assume, but worth noting, because I see a lot of complaints about this one.
- Inventory management is a chore. As was the case with Borderlands 2, sorting weapons and choosing and equipping things is a bit of a clusterfuck. They’ve tried to use a score system to tell you which guns are better, but you constantly have to equip a weapon and exit the menu to test it out before you can tell which one to equip or which one is better. I ran with a level 20 shotgun for a long time, chucking all the level 30+ shotguns I picked up (higher score) because they were worse weapons.
Overall, Borderlands 3 is a great game and a decent successor to Borderlands 2.
Innovative, it is not, but the small quality-of-life improvements and other updates makes it a solid follow on. There was a lot of hype around features like "guns with legs", but changes to the way you can traverse a level had a far greater (positive) impact. A specific example of this is adding the ability to climb. It opens up the game's vertical space.
Where the Pre-Sequel was literally Borderlands 2--, this is more like Borderlands 2++. And that’s sort-of exactly what I wanted.