Borderlands 3 Review: Vault Hunters to the Stars
In this article I will be talking about the game at release and not its current state after multiple patches and hotfixes. I will also be doing everything I can to keep spoilers to a minimum.
With around 3 weeks until Borderlands 3’s first DLC “Moxxi’s Heist of the Handsome Jackpot” is due for release I figured it was time to finally pen a review. Releasing all the way back on the 13th of September to an audience as hungry for new Borderlands content as the Wattlegobbler is Ravenous; Borderlands 3 was one of the few games on my ever shrinking “need to buy at release” list. The game starts as they all do; Marcus will tell you a story while sepia toned pages add illustrations his words before launching into the opening cutscene that depicts this generation of vault hunters and their respective skills. This games playable options are Moze the Gunner, FL4K (pronounced flak) the Hunter, Zane the Operative, and Amara the Siren with Gearbox announcing that no new vault hunters will be included in DLC’s as there was in Borderlands 2. Once you load in, the game will take you through a short “tutorial” (I put this in quotes because it’s only skippable in TVHM) where Cl4pt (pronounced Claptrap) will teach you about new mechanics such as sliding and togglable weapons, as well as older ones like waypoints and grenade mods. Once you kill Shiv you’re through the tutorial section and the game pics up rather quickly having you do the normal array of go here and do x then return quests that make up the core of the RPG genre while slaughtering enemies and the occasional boss or named enemy (enemies with unique names) along the way. Once you’ve completed all the story quests in the early game areas, you’re introduced for the first time to Borderlands 3’s main villains Tyreen and Troy Calypso. Tyreen and Troy are Echonet casters (akin to a Twitch or YouTube star) who have amassed a massive cult to help them in their quest to open the Great Vault on Pandora. Now for those of you who have played Borderlands 2 the easiest comparison I can draw is that Tyreen is that she is very reminiscent of Handsome Jack and the way he speaks to and acts towards the player; for those who didn’t play BL2 Tyreen is very outspoken and sarcastic and often openly mocks the player(s) throughout the game. Troy on the other hand is rather soft spoken at first and becomes more and more like his sister as his character develops through the game. The gameplay is much the same as it has been throughout the series; which for those of you who may have never played a Borderlands game is essentially shoot/kill/loot/repeat with the game being challenging at times while not being overly difficult.
The one thing that I really enjoyed was that no longer can you over level yourself for the next area as enemies will continue to scale to your level no matter the area you are in (with one exception in Ambermire) making it possible to get to level 50 in your first play through. While making your way through the story you’ll meet characters both new and old (happy to see Tales from the Borderlands characters get some love in the main series), who ask for your help in defeating various bosses (who are all connected to the Calypsos in some way) in exchange for helping you in your quest to stop the Calypsos. This is unfortunately where the game starts to get lost on me, not because it follows the same beats as the previous main series titles, but because it just drags on for far too long between major plot points. There is one major driving plot point that occurs fairly close to the beginning of the game, one about a quarter in, and then the rest are saved for the third act of the game. I understand the need for holding out on major story elements so that they have the proper impact at the proper time, but borderlands is a series that prides itself on its replay ability; when the story feels like it drags for the majority of the game it makes replaying feel like a chore, and with TVHM not necessary to reach level 50 like in past titles that gives just one less reason to replay the game. One thing I will give Gearbox that does add to the game’s replay ability is the advent of Mayhem Mode; once the main story is completed the game gives you access to mayhem mode which comes in 3 different difficulty levels. Once enabled by the player Mayhem mode will add various modifiers to the game that effect both the player (like decreased damage with certain weapon types) and enemies (increased accuracy, fire 2 bullets instead of 1, etc); note that all levels of mayhem mode will effect enemy health and shields by increasing them by set percentages based on which level you have chosen, this also applies the amount of experience you earn. While the story has its fair share of slow points and the gameplay doesn’t deviate greatly in any way from other main game titles Borderlands 3 has still managed to rope me in for ~300 hours of gameplay at the time of publication so for me to say I haven’t enjoyed the game would be a bold faced lie. However I will say it doesn’t make me want to keep reaching for it the same way Borderlands 2 did. For long time fans of the series it is still definitely worth the pickup but for new players who are wanting to give Borderlands as a series a try I would suggest picking up 2 first.