Borderlands 3 walks by dog poop, points at it, and laughs, and then sets it on fire. Borderlands 3 stays up until 11:30 pm drinking soda and googling crass Flash animations, taking detailed notes.You collect gun after gun with the same mindless, dopamine-pumping pleasure of popping chip after chip in your mouth. It is awful and wonderful and also white noise, an experience so commonplace and reptilian that you wouldn’t call it the best gaming experience you’ve ever had, but you’d be down for it if someone put it out in a bowl.Not quite in the bazillions territory, then, but I must have sold, chucked, or ignored thousands more throughout my time with Gearbox’s latest vault hunting romp, and I’ve barely even scratched the surface of its ambitious endgame.
Though few have mechanical differences that distinguish them from the rest, every nook and cranny is generously littered with chests, collectibles, and amusing Easter eggs that make exploration and looting almost as much fun as the combat. I made frequent use of vehicles to get from one place to another on these large maps, but as with the previous games, vehicular combat is still so clumsy and relatively dull that I only fought in one when a mission required it.We preferred to play as FL4K, a robotic hunter who commands one of three savage creatures to help in battle, but all are fun in their own ways. There is also Moze, with her mechanoid exosuit that can be called upon at time, Zane the operative, who uses tech to help in battle, and Amara the siren who has, well, siren powers.The franchise’s loud, nihilistic backdrop has always been a playground in which you can kill everyone and watch the numbers go up.Borderlands 3 doubles down on everything that makes the franchise great, but also maintains some of the series’ less enjoyable idiosyncrasies. I suppose you could say it’s sticking to its seemingly endless number of guns.
It’s stuck in a time when memes lasted months rather than days, when referential humor was still a novelty and not exhausting, when you could point at something the slightest bit abnormal or gross and call it a joke. Simpler times, not necessarily better times.There’s Zane, the Operative who controls the battlefield with drones, clones, and barriers. Moze, the Gunner, can summon a giant mech to pilot and outfit that mech with different cool weapons and upgrades. Amara, the Siren, can deal elemental damage by conjuring magical arms. And FL4K, the robot Beastmaster, has tamed a number of wild creatures who fight alongside them.The point I’m trying to make here is that Borderlands 3 is essentially Borderlands XXL; not just more of the same (though that’s certainly true at a surface level), but a sugar rush induced fever dream of Borderlands’ greatest excesses as a looter shooter. My current Moze skill build is focused on being able to summon my mech for the maximum amount of time on a short cooldown and boosting damage output. That’s helped along by class mods and Anointed item effects that add powerful class-specific bonuses to loot, like an extra charge for FL4K’s Rakk Attack action skill that calls down a fiery pair of flying beasts to dive-bomb enemies.Even more so than its predecessors, Borderlands 3 is an action RPG and, as such, half the fun is in creating the character you most want to be and seeing him or her through to the end.Zane is a hitman with drones and a deployable hologram-like copy that can confuse and attack the enemy, while FL4K is a robot that can summon one of three pets to fight with them. Lastly, Amara is a siren with a variety of telekinetic techniques that let her grab enemies with a psychic fist or send them flying by pounding the ground.Thankfully, in its jump to the current generation, Borderlands 3 offers more exciting locales too. While Pandora has its own charm, it’s exciting to leave the wasteland behind in search of more exciting climates. Each of the new environments stand apart from each other, from Promethea’s huge structures and urban streets to the swampy depths of Eden-6 that widen the franchise’s color palette tenfold.
It’s simultaneously repulsive and compulsive, an FPS RPG that excels when its weapon generation system spits out guns that feels great to shoot, adorned with broken attributes capable of turning hordes of goons, bugs, and soldiers into clouds of red mist, elemental particles, explosions, and big damage numbers. There are whole regions of several maps that you’ll only ever go to if you’re pursuing a sidequest. They’re like optional dungeons, there for those who want to do them, each offering something new to see along with a chance for more loot.But, Promethea features the highways and skyways of futuristic metropolitan city, Meridian. It is packed with foes that are more high-tech, while Eden-6 is a jungle-like planet with much more verticality in the play as you jump up and across gantries.The Borderlands series has always thrived on its vast selection of weaponry and loot crates and both look and feel very similar in style to previous episodes. There are some additions, however. There is a new elemental type – radiation – that joins fire, shock, corrosive, slag and explosive for addition damage effects.
It’s a wonderful marriage of storytelling and gameplay that gives extra depth to the weaponry you collect. Similarly, I love that Borderlands continues to put player characters from the previous games into major roles. Lilith (the original playable Siren) shines in her role as the leader of the Crimson Raiders, but the fact that not everyone is doing as well as she is hits home. For example, visiting the memorial for Roland, who was my very first Vault Hunter back in the day, and finding it littered with heartfelt graffiti certainly struck a sentimental nerve.Instead of reloading, Tediore-made blasters are thrown at an enemy and, while they also appeared in Borderlands 2, there are more spectacular effects on offer this time.Basically, Gearbox has created the best Borderlands yet. It feels very familiar to the others in the series, which is to its benefit as that makes it easy to launch straight into, but there is enough new and improved to sate the appetites of fans and newcomers alike.