Video Game Review: Borderlands 3

After years of waiting for a third title, Borderlands 3 has arrived. Gearbox’s stylized looter shooter has been one of my favorites ever since I played the second game. The latest entry is worth the wait in every aspect that makes up the DNA of this cel-shaded universe.

Like many of the stories, the Crimson Raiders need help from a Vault Hunter, yes that is you who carries that responsibility. It becomes a race between them and a new cult called Children of the Vault, run by two psychopathic twins, Tyreen and Troy, who want to not only conquer vaults around the galax, especially the mysterious Great Vault. It is the most apocalyptic, high stakes story to date along with twists and turns that made my jaw drop too many times to count.

The writing kept me laughing for all 30 to 40 hours. No matter how small or big a character is in the campaign, they will not be forgotten. The Calypso twins are worthy enemies who take a Millennial approach to destroy the universe, but they cannot touch the bar set by Handsome Jack.

The Vault Hunters available continue to show the creativity behind Borderlands. Fl4K (Flak) is the beastmaster who controls various creatures for support, Amara is the siren that has become a necessity to have as an option, Zane as the operative with all of his fancy gadgets, and Moze as the gunner, a character with the Iron Bear, a heavy-duty robot to help her in battle. It is the most diverse group with equally essential abilities.

Skill trees for each character have been heavily overhauled. The overall system looks quite familiar, but each of the three branches to choose from radically change playstyle for each of the monster slayers. I played Fl4k who ranged from having more reserved playstyle, an elemental damage focus, and pure aggressive attacks. It leads to far more playability to each Vault Hunter as individuals or when going for a new playthrough as someone different.

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Besides the art, Borderlands is all about its guns and loot. Gear is as rewarding as ever and more abundant than previous titles. A billion weapons was a bold claim, and it kinda works. More of what I found seemed too similar, but the variety of possible additions to your arsenal towers over past entries.

Main and side quests always have a unique spin to make it enjoyable. Even tasks that have a pesky objective make up for it with the wacky dialogue and sharp turns for the moments of laughing and asking, “What the fuck is going on?” I will surely spend plenty of more hours racking up the rest of the optional missions.

The overall feel of combat has improved with new systems like alternative fires, better gunplay, and ragdoll physics that had me laughing every step of the way. Shooting kicks better with improved sounds and animations. Having a staggering amount of different enemy types help make the never-ending killing not get boring.

The psychos and monsters to kill never get old, but bosses give combat that grand scale. These unique foes with better attack sets bring back classic boss battles; however, the series flaw of bullet spongey behemoths will turn an epic fight into a tedious shooting range.

The movement goes faster and smoother. Sliding does not get old while parkour makes for deeper levels as you climb various buildings and mountains. The physics hit the right balance between light and nimble, and heavy enough to not seem like a piece of paper running around killing bandits.

Vehicles have more weight, creating tighter handling. Not many more types of modes of transportation are added, but finding new parts for weapon, armor, and wheel upgrades make for refreshing experiences while still having the same car.

Customization to character colors, skins for both Vault Hunter and weapons, along with advanced vehicle options go above expectations on personalizing your experience. Plus, you get your own room to deck out in the spaceship Sanctuary, the new hub world for trading, missions, and traveling around the universe. Sadly, the bedroom gets a lack of action with only a few spots to put a decoration on the wall.

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Traveling around the cosmos is a fresh idea that works mostly in favor of the game’s scenery and narrative. One or two planets are quite small while others are massive, so that inconsistency disappointed me a little. However, each world has a unique environment, creatures, and eccentric personalities to remember.

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Coop is the ultimate way to play a Borderlands game. Shooting hordes of bloodthirsty opponents is as fun as ever. Four-way duels can show who is the best of your friend group as you step away from the baddies that lurk around every corner. Plus a new instanced loot system does not cause tension when someone grabs that gun you wanted, but old school fans can have the shared option if you would like.

Other online modes are available with Proving Grounds to fight bosses and Circle of Slaughter lets you and others fight hordes of enemies. Both give great rewards, as expected from the gear obsessed series. The problem comes from the lack of interest from the community because it takes a long time to find a match if you are lucky to get put into one.

The endgame will keep me coming back for many more hours. True Vault Hunter is back to replay missions with harder difficulty and better gear possibilities along with a new mode called Mayhem, a three-tiered modifier that makes for crazy stat enhancements to give the robots, bandits, and aliens that edge above you. On top of that goodness, Badass Ranks get replaced by Guardian Ranks to further that empowering feeling that should be felt after defeating the Calypsos.

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Collectibles add to the already stunning amount of replayability. Collecting goods give backstory or funny dialogue from the character it is associated with. Many miss the mark on finding hidden items, but this is one of the best I have found this year.

Initial trailers had me worried for the graphics as the cel-shaded style that makes Gearbox’s megahit series iconic looked out of date. Once I got my hands on the product, I could see I was wrong. The art mesmerized me like it did back in 2012 with enhanced lighting and neon colors to make the world pop out of my screen.

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Technical issues were worse from reports on social media, but I had my fair share. Falling through objects, connectivity problems, friends crashing (thankfully I was spared with one or two exceptions), and my pet would get stuck and not be able to aide me when fighting an army of Calypso fanatics.

The most annoying blemish on the surface came from the audio. Gunfire going quiet and characters talking sounded like they were at a far distance if my back gets turned to them. Usually, radio communication comes up when getting too much space between you and the NPC, but this seemed too inconsistent, so make sure subtitles are turned on.

The debut had the idea while the Sophomore release cemented its legacy by standing out from the vast array of shooters like it. Borderlands 3 does not radically change the formula, it sticks to it like glue. A lack of innovation proves to not always be detrimental as the new edition does not defy expectations, but headshots every target in sight.

Score: 9/10

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