by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Full of Opportunity
I’ll say it straight from the outset… Borderlands 3 doesn’t bring a whole lot of new features to the series. But, as a shooter (and one that can be played in a co-op scenario), there wasn’t much that needed to be changed from previous titles. Borderlands 3 does, however, build on those strong foundations to make a game that is full of great gunplay, funny one-liners and some massive boss battles all set in beautifully designed locations.
The game begins by asking you to select one of four new Vault Hunters, and it is with this character that you will join the Crimson Raiders and explore Pandora and then venture to neighbouring planets in search of the valuable vault keys allowing access to the vaults. Unfortunately, you are not the only person seeking the precious items. The Calypso Twins, Tyreen - who could be played by Rihanna in a movie version of the game - and Troy are after the power of the vault keys and will do anything in their power to get them.
Selecting a character to play is a tough decision, as each has some wonderfully unique abilities. I must admit that I enjoyed Zane’s decoy ability, with enemies focused on the decoy whilst I went about blasting enemies from a safer distance. Amara’s Siren skills – particularly Phasegrasp which locks an enemy to the ground for a short period of time, Moze’s Mech skills and Fl4k’s beast handling and cloaking skills all have their own fun elements that allow for different play styles. As they level up, you can select new abilities (some are active, whilst others are active and have cooldown times) furthering the uniqueness of the characters. All the branches of the skill tree can be viewed from the beginning of the game, so you can work towards a specific skill as you progress.
To infinity and beyond
The rocky desert of Pandora remains the starting point of your journey, and it feels just like home. The rocky outcrops mixed with the run-down shanty towns and their crazed inhabitants brings about a familiarity that we’ve come to expect from Borderlands. But Borderlands 3 has a much grander scale about it. After taking off from the planet, your base will be the spaceship known as Sanctuary. And it is from here that you will traverse to other planets in search of the priceless vault keys. Each of the planets that you visit have their own charm. The futuristic metropolis of Promethea with its wide-open streets and multi-level buildings does feel somewhat bland compared to the bayou-inspired Eden-6. The Eden-6 swampland is full of voodoo-inspired characters that spawn deathly skulls when killed, and the entire planet gives off a creepy vibe. Athenas is a tad more laid back, being the home of a monastery. The temple style buildings give the area a mystic presence despite it being over-run with crazed Maliwan troops.
Along the way you’ll meet a host of favourite characters from prior instalments as well as some new personalities. The people you meet are as diverse as the locations, and have some wonderfully exaggerated accents, which gives the game the comedic touch that the series is known for. The superb voice acting gives each of the main characters you meet, a style of their own. From the calmness of Lilith, to the seductiveness of Moxxi and the effervescence of Tina. Each are portrayed brilliantly, even if some of the accents are over-the-top.
Visually, the cel-shaded landscapes and characters have been given an upgrade. There are landscapes - on Pandora in particular - that could have been plucked directly from previous iterations, but they seem to have a grittier feel, due to the added detail lines. The characters also seem to have a more stylized design. As is the case with other Borderlands games, there is an abundance of vibrant colour during combat, enabling players to easily determine enemy shields, armour and health as well as the weapon types they are firing at you. And the colours continue through to the weapon range, with each weapon and shield given a colour rating to determine the rarity. Along with the greater detail in the settings, much of the environments are destructible, if hit with enough firepower.
Guns and ammo
But, the lovely settings and humorous (if not sometimes cringe-worthy) dialogue all count for nothing if the game is boring, but Borderlands 3 continues the trend of previous titles in the series to make the gunplay extremely enjoyable. The different weapon types all feel different, and with so many options to choose from, even weapons of the same type act differently. The range of guns continues to be both an advantage and a disadvantage. It does annoy me when my backpack gets full of equipment and I have to sort through them to determine which ones should be thrown out or sold. I swear, I stood in front of a Guns and Ammo vending machine for close to half an hour on one occasion to work out which handful of weapons I should keep, only to sell the ones I kept at the next vending machine. I’m sure I was a hoarder in a previous life, as there was always the inclination that the handgun I picked up would ‘come in useful one day’. But I digress. The gunplay is smooth and finding the guns that suit specific enemy classes is as much fun as scoring that critical-hit headshot to finish off a marauding foe. As I normally play more of a sniper role, I like to sit back and take shots at enemies from a longer distance. And with Zane, I was able to drop in the decoy and shoot with relative safety, but players can choose whatever play style that suits them and their avatar.
And, as with the guns, enemies are plentiful. There are so many different types of enemies, and many of them require different strategies (apart from the booming headshots). Enforcers, for instance carry a large shield and cannot be simply put down with a couple of headshots. Instead, shooting at their exposed feet (an incendiary weapon is ideal) forces them to flinch and it is then that you can get a couple of more damaging shots in. Choosing the right weapon can often be the difference between a quick fight and a drawn-out battle.
Bosses in particular require differing strategies to overcome. They each have their own attack patterns and weaknesses and it can take time to exploit them. I must admit that there were a couple of early bosses that gave me a bit of trouble, whereas some of the later bosses gave me less of a headache. This may have been something to do with the fact that as I progressed, I was completing more side quests and as a result was able to level up my character more often before hitting the next big target. That, or the increased skills from levelling up were becoming more familiar. But either way, the bosses provide a challenge that when complete, gives a sense of accomplishment.
The main story mode with a single character will take in excess of 30 hours, but with side quests and (for me anyway) deciding which guns to keep in your backpack, this increases the play time dramatically. So, even from that point of view, it is money well spent. But throw in the fact that there are four characters each with varying abilities to get the hang of, the online component and the other game modes, then you have a game with some serious replayability. The fun, humorous storyline, some great dialogue and theatrical accents of the diverse characters, beautifully varied locations and the same great gunplay that Borderlands is renowned for, means that Borderlands 3 becomes another must have title in the series.
So many options – guns and choice of skills. Same great gunplay from previous titles.
The Calypso Twins don’t have the same charisma as past Borderlands villains. Somewhat lengthy load times.