We finally have a true current-gen entry in the fantastic Borderlands franchise so let's see if it offers as many thrills as its predecessors.
Before I get to the review, I figured I'd share a little about my personal history with the Borderlands series. Back in college, everyone was talking about how cool Borderlands was and I recall saying something along the lines of "I'm not really into first-person shooters" only for someone to inform me that it's not a first-person shooter in the traditional sense as it feels more like an action RPG. My interest was piqued so I picked up a copy from the bargain bin and after playing it for a bit, I was very impressed. Over the years, I've played the sequels and ports and have grown to love the series as an off-the-wall experience that caters to casual and hardcore gamers alike and that's something that I admire. To this day, I wouldn't say that I'm a Borderlands fanatic but I do enjoy the game a great deal so I was very much looking forward to playing this long-awaited sequel and I'm glad that it's still just as fun as the previous titles.
Almost every aspect of Borderlands 3 should be extremely familiar and deeply engrained into fans of the series. This is even true with its story as it again focuses on the treasure-filled planet of Pandora where Vault Hunters are trying to obtain unspeakable riches while fending off their competition. Before diving in, you can select from 4 characters including Amara (a Siren), Zane (an Operative), Moze (a Gunner), and FL4K (a Beastmaster). They generally play the same although each one has their own special skills. I chose Moze because she can pilot a giant mech and that's awesome. Anyway, the main antagonists are the Calypso brothers who form a cult known as Children of the Vault while Lilith commands the resistance force called the Crimson Raiders of which your character is a member.
Throughout Borderlands 3's story, you'll meet tons of familiar and fresh faces, the coolest of which is Claptrap who has a hilarious moment right at the start of the campaign where he thinks he's being stealthy but won't stop singing about how sneaky he is as he performs herky-jerky dance moves. It's great stuff and this level of humour is present throughout the story. However, there are overly violent moments so if you're squeamish then you may want to close your eyes at certain parts. That being said, the violence is so over-the-top at parts that I personally found it to be hilarious. Overall, the characters and humour are as top-notch as you'd expect.
Playing Borderlands 3 is quite enjoyable which is an odd thing for me to say because I literally can't stand first-person shooters. However, as I've mentioned previously, Borderlands has always catered to genre noobs like me as well as hardcore shooter fans and Borderlands 3 is no exception. I found the character movement, aiming, and shooting to be incredibly intuitive and smooth and it felt much more refined than past games in the franchise. Whether I was climbing a haphazardly dilapidating tower or sniping little ankle-biters from a distance, everything felt spot-on for crazy gun-based combat. Oh, and unleashing your special move is quite a satisfying reward.
What makes the gameplay of Borderlands 3 even more gratifying is its character growth options. For starters, there's a massive variety of weaponry from transforming pistols to bouncing grenades and each type of weapon is fun to experiment with. Heck, even after you find a weapon that really clicks with you, you'll gladly trade it for a more powerful firearm within mere minutes and this dynamic makes the gameplay consistently fresh and exciting. You'll also level up which allows you to allocate skill points, equip various shields and grenades, and even assign class mods to your character. In the end, the amount of possibilities is absurdly vast.
Playing Borderlands 3 solo is rather fun but I found joining others online to make the gameplay really shine. Aside from being able to play through the campaign cooperatively, you can also challenge a survival mode called Circle of Slaughter as well as master a dungeon within the Proving Grounds. Of course, the campaign features tons of side-quests to master and many of them are huge and have their own little side-stories which add a layer of personality to help flesh out the interplanetary world of Borderlands 3. Speaking of which, I found the different planets to be very unique and fun to explore and they offer a huge amount of variety to the game world.
Obviously, Borderlands 3 isn't a perfect game. My biggest complaint with it is that it doesn't feel like enough of a step up for the franchise. Sure, the world is huge and the gameplay is refined but there's nothing that truly marks a huge change in the same formula that fans have been experiencing for almost a decade. My only other major issue with Borderlands 3 is that its bosses can be super-annoying to fight. They may not be particularly difficult but the fact that some of their health meters are so huge makes battling them feel like a chore as opposed to a rewarding challenge. In fact, I found myself taking on most bosses while playing online so that I'd have more firepower to take them down faster. That way, I didn't have to endure the tedium of watching their health slowly drain.
Borderlands 3 definitely feels like a Borderlands game. Although it isn't a huge departure for the franchise, what's here still provides plenty of off-the-wall fun that should be very familiar to anyone who has previously dabbled in the series.
- + Classic Borderlands gameplay is more refined and enjoyable as ever
- + Great cast of characters and humour
- + Solid variety of environments and weapons
- - Nothing really marks a huge step forward for the franchise
- - Bullet sponge bosses are annoying