It’s been seven (SEVEN!) years since the last main entry in Gearbox Studios’ Borderlands series with some… not-so-great games in between. So when the studio finally announced Borderlands 3 the Internet was rightly hyped, yet cautious. After playing a chunk of the game, they were correct to be. Borderlands 3 is an odd game. It feels like one of those games you have fond memories of playing years ago and go back to and still have fun, but find yourself noticing the framework and issues even more than you did before. In an era of online, shared-world shooters like Destiny and The Division, Borderlands 3 didn’t need to be online by any means, but it could have borrowed some base ideas from those games, or even more recent loot-based games like Diablo 3.
The story in Borderlands 3 is actually quite fun and interesting, although many will be aggravated by the antagonists, as they are quite literally akin to modern-day Instagram and YouTube influencers and personalities. Being they are the antagonists, I liked them, and I hated them. I feel like Gearbox succeeded in presenting a duo that I wanted to actively beat in the game.
The story follows your character (you choose one of four characters and class types, as in previous games) as you work with Lilith (of previous games’ fame) to try and beat these influencers (Tyreen and Troy) to a vault. This journey takes you to multiple different planets with different looks, which is a nice change of pace from the intro that takes place back on Pandora. The story and side stories are good enough to propel you forward, but the game could benefit more side content in an era where seemingly every open-world game has fantastic side content (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, The Witcher 3 to name a few).
The gameplay has always been the star of Borderlands, and in Borderlands 3 it doesn’t disappoint. You still have the option to play the content in co-op, with matchmaking available, but I found you were also able to do plenty alone and not feel like the difficulty is too extreme. There is also, as you’d expect, a ton of loot. I do wish you got some better loot more often, as you typically end up finding green or the occasional blue loot in crates around the world mostly, but it was still fun to search for hidden items and chests. The skill trees also make a return but are slightly disappointing. I couldn’t decide which path to choose with my Siren because none of the end powers really looked all that great. I enjoy my character’s base power of a giant fist that shoots out of the ground or a ghostly specter that I can deploy in a direction to damage enemies, but I could use more over the top items in the tree progression.
Borderlands 3 Review Final Thoughts:
Overall, Borderlands 3 feels like a game out of its time. If it had launched in 2014 it might feel perfect, but in a world where open-world RPG games and loot-based games have added multiple quality of life improvements (some learned from Borderlands itself), Borderlands 3 doesn’t quite meet the “what should Borderlands in 2019 look like” standard. I do want to clarify here, though, the game is fun. It’s still a blast to join with friends or run and gun alone, destroy bosses, find loot and meet the over the top (sometimes groan-worthy) characters.
If you really love the Borderlands style and are craving a solo or co-op loot game not set in an online world, you’ll really enjoy Borderlands 3. If you’re on the fence, just go in with the idea that it’s more Borderlands, with more content, a better variety of worlds and colors, and you’ll have a solid time. I can’t lie and say there isn’t a part of me that wonders what a Destiny-style always-online Borderlands would look like with other players running around the world, but I do see the benefit in also still having solid 1 to 4 player, non-service games as well. The future of Borderlands should, at the very least, be interesting to see as we near next-gen consoles and an increasing always-online trend across the industry.
Borderlands 3 on XBO
- A great variety in worlds (and colors!).
- Fun boss fights and mob battles.
- Interesting story and (limited) side content.
- Co-op is as fun as ever.
- Additional worlds could use more side content.
- Loot could be more rewarding in regular exploration.
- Some of the systems feel dated.
- Skill trees need better powers.