Arts video game review

Shoot, loot, repeat

‘Borderlands 3’ delivers on its promise of over ‘one billion guns’

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Post apocalyptic carnage returns in 'Borderlands 3.'
Courtesy of Gearbox Software, LLC

Borderlands 3
Developed by Gearbox Software
Published by 2K Games
Available on PS4, Xbox One, and Windows

Borderlands 3 is a game with a big personality. From characters like Completely Sane Sid to locations like Big Dock Energy and all the way to items like Sellout or Big Pharma Shield, Borderlands 3 goes all out with its iconic immature sense of humor and its immense variety. Borderlands 3 (the fourth game in the series) is the latest in Gearbox Software’s series under the looter shooter genre. As the genre name suggests, the game has players defeating enemies, completing missions, and collecting vast amounts of loot. Overall, Borderlands 3 reaches new heights in both looting and shooting but may be a little daunting for those unfamiliar with the genre and the series.

The game starts with minimal tutorial; instead, it opts to throw players into epic action sequences with large amounts of enemies sooner rather than later. This focus on action persists throughout the game, with the only true respite found on Sanctuary, the player’s home base. Many new features and design choices support this action-oriented gameplay, such as one-press ammo purchasing and vehicle spawning, 3D maps with greater ease-of-use, and a better fast-travel system, all allowing the player to stay in battle or get there faster when needed.

Borderlands 3 has a new story that builds off of the previous games. You find yourself as a Vault Hunter, someone in search of great treasure hidden away by ancient aliens. While knowledge of past campaigns is not strictly necessary to understand what happens in this game, certain character or event references might be missed, and the magic that can come from old characters making a new appearance might be lost. In my opinion, the story focuses slightly too much on this nostalgia factor, sacrificing a deep level of depth and character development that the previous games achieved. Regardless, the jokes tossed around by the game’s characters can be appreciated by new and old players alike. The game chooses to tell most of its story through audio logs or radio conversations that take place while the action is happening, contributing even more to the feeling of constant engagement. Players can choose to stop and listen to the lore, immersing themselves in the game world, or continue pushing through enemies, in order to get to higher levels and better loot faster. 

Borderlands 3 can be played cooperatively with others, though I opted for a solo experience. One thing the game does really well in this regard is making the player feel like a one-person army. Characters would often express their disbelief of your ability to accomplish a certain task, and then slowly shift their opinion as they witnessed you complete goal after goal. In turn, you are rewarded with new gear to make your character even more powerful. 

This rotation of gear is another core mechanic of the game. As you defeat enemies, you will level up and acquire new skills and items. Sorting through endless weapons, shields, modifications, skills, and more can feel like another game in and of itself, allowing players to find a play-style that suits them best, if they are willing to invest the time. Here, Borderlands 3 introduces a new “item score” system that gives players a general sense of an item’s strength, which may be useful for newer players. More experienced players can still compare the individual statistics of items and find the ones that have exactly what they need.

In terms of graphics, Borderlands 3 continues to make great use of the cel-shaded style that the Borderlands series is known for. This cartoonish style works well with the game’s light-hearted humor and succeeds in setting Borderlands 3 apart from other modern games that focus on photorealism. Improvements to the game engine also mean new levels of detail in items, characters, and scenery. Put simply, it may not be the prettiest game of this generation, but it is definitely one of the most bold and colorful.

It is worth noting that Borderlands 3 does have a fair share of technical issues. I had to try out two different PCs and a vast array of settings in order to get the game to run smoothly and without crashing. Many players on internet forums reported similar incidents for all available platforms. These crashes can be immensely immersion-breaking and severely detract from the overall experience the game offers. Gearbox assures users that they are working on fixes for reported issues.

Borderlands 3 is an excellent installment in the Borderlands series and the looter shooter genre. By focusing on mechanics that enhance the action, the game offers a consistent engaging experience, and is able to throw a little bit of humor and story into the mix as well.