…blistering ballistic thrills…
The original Borderlands (2009) was an engaging cel-shaded looter shooter with an original premise and a unique sense of identity, playing out as sort of a Mad Max variant, stuffed with pop culture references. Borderlands 2 (2012), arguably the best in the series, followed and honed the premise, but added characters you actually care about and a fantastic villain in the form of smarmy sociopath Handsome Jack. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (2014) followed and felt like a bit of a step back, although still fun, and then Telltale Games’ Tales from the Borderlands (2014-15) proved there was a place in the wastes of Pandora for a little depth, nuance and, most shocking of all, legitimate pathos.
It’s no surprise, then, that anticipation has been so high for the latest entry, Borderlands 3, and now that it’s finally here we can reveal the result is… pretty damn fun.
Borderlands 3 introduces four brand spanking new playable characters. There’s Moze the Gunner, with a D.Va-style summonable mech, Amara the Siren, who hits and quips hard, FL4K the Beastmaster, a bloodthirsty AI who can use animal friends, and Zane the Operative, an Irish assassin with a range of clever tricks.
All the characters have extensive skill trees and lots of potential for build diversity, and most styles of play can be accommodated. This deadly foursome are thrust into a typically insane adventure, featuring returning Borderlands characters and brand new baddies, The Calypso Twins – basically homicidal streamers.
There was a real opportunity here for Borderlands 3 to continue Tales from the Borderlands’ trend and offer a deeper, more clever narrative. Sadly, this is completely squandered on a very by-the-numbers plot that ranges from forgettable to downright annoying. Every single character SCREAMS, seemingly constantly, and the ubiquitous fourth wall breaking can become a real grind, particularly in the game’s final third which is protracted beyond reason.
Borderlands 3 is like watching Deadpool if every single character was Deadpool and shouting their dialogue for 30 hours. It’s… not ideal.
On the plus side, Borderlands 3 has honed its shooting to a delightful degree. Gone are the floaty physics from games’ past, with a more Destiny-like feel to the boom sticks, with satisfying feedback and a meaty heft to the weapons. Being that most of the game will be running around equipping new guns, this is exactly what Gearbox Software needed to get right and it does so with much alacrity. Graphics, too, have been polished and while the cel-shaded look is never going to reach retina-stroking levels, it’s engaging and visually distinct from other games on the market.
The same, however, cannot be said for all the technical aspects, as frequent pop-in, lag, glitches and bugs galore plague Bordy to a worrying degree. This occurred mainly while playing with friends, but even solo there are a lot of rough edges here. No doubt these niggling issues will be addressed in coming patches, but it’s worth noting the launch of this title hasn’t been the pearler 2K Games was likely hoping for.
Ultimately, Borderlands 3 is fun. It’s fun despite the aggressively noisy voice acting, despite the frequent glitches and terrible UI and despite the overlong, unambitious story. It is, quite simply, an absolute hoot to team up with your mates and shoot mad bastards in the face holes and flog their guns. The technical issues will likely be improved, the story and voice acting will not, and if you’re okay with that, then Borderlands 3’s blistering ballistic thrills are probably a good fit.