Borderlands 3 Review- Manic Mayhem

Posted October 4, 2019 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Gearbox

Publisher: 2K

Release date: September 13, 2019

Available on: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One

The Borderlands franchise first burst on the scene in 2009. Its cel-shaded graphics and gun porn loot set it apart from other first person shooters, as well as its setting on the desert planet of Pandora. The tale of Vault Hunters seeking a mystical treasure spawned a sequel in 2012, followed by Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel in 2014 and a spin-off from Telltale Games titled Tales From the Borderlands (2014-2015). Now after a four year wait by fans, a new sequel finally arrives following the events in Tales From the Borderlands.

It was worth the wait.

Borderlands 3 begins on Pandora with the arrival of four new Vault Hunters- Amara, the Siren, FL4K, the Beastmaster, Moze, the Gunner, and Zane, the Operative. They team up with Lilith on a quest to open up Vaults across the galaxy, but must deal with a new threat in the form of the Calypso twins Tyreen and Troy. Along the way across five worlds they meet old and new characters as they try to keep the galaxy’s ultimate treasure from the dastardly twins who have spawned a manic religious cult in their wake.

The twins make for good villains, stepping in for the previous villain, Handsome Jack. The Children of the Vault (the COV) take over as the main source of bullet fodder for your many guns. There are plenty of other enemies to shoot, including soldiers and various fauna from the different planets. While gameplay is relatively the same (go to an area to find something, shoot lots of bad guys, eventually take on a boss), the variety of enemies and ways to dispatch them keeps things fairly fresh throughout the game’s roughly 30 hour campaign (your time can vary depending on how many side missions you do and how much exploring you do).

The four Vault Hunters all have distinct modes of gameplay, and each one is different enough and fun to play as, making it worth doing four separate runs through the game’s campaign. Amara, the Siren, has powerful brawler attacks, with arms made out of energy erupting from the ground to pummel enemies or launching a copy of herself at foes. FL4K, the Beastmaster, can use creatures as a sidekick, including a gun toting monkey-like critter, to aid him in his fights. Moze employs a mech, complete with powerful guns and rocket launchers. And Zane can employ a drone or a digital copy of himself to wreak havoc on the battlefield.

Each characters special actions are unlocked once you hit level 2, and each has three skill trees that you can either fully complete or mix and match. Unlocking more abilities comes through the use of skill points, which you get one each time you level up (the current max level is 50). You can even add perks to your abilities, such as making them corrosive or able to set enemies on fire. The skill trees offer a nice layer of customization for players, as you can tailor your Vault Hunter to your style of play. Abilities can be respeced if you wish, and along the way you can find items to modify your Hunter’s appearance, making it even more personal to you.

Once you get you ship, you get to leave Pandora for other worlds, and thankfully they’re all not cut and paste versions of each other. Promethea is covered by a large city for the most part. Athenas is home to a group of monks. Eden 6 is a jungle planet complete with dinosaur- like creatures. Each world comes with plenty of side missions to distract you from the main campaign, and many of these side missions add more to the game’s overall story. There are plenty of recurring characters form past games, plus some new people to meet. Fast travel points are unlocked as you go, making it easier to hop around a planet or jump back to your ship.

The ship, named Sanctuary III, serves as a sort of hub for your journey. Aboard there are shops and labs for your compatriots, as well as ship specific side missions to undertake. You can decorate your quarters as well as store some of the excess guns you don’t want to sell. Storage is limited, so keep that in mind. There’s also a unit that holds any free loot you might have missed for you to access, making it a nice back up if you’re out of space in your backpack to carry more. The ship picks up more passengers as you travel to more worlds, increasing the chance of getting extra missions to do.

By and large, Borderlands 3 doesn’t change up much the formula that has made it so successful. While many guns have just minor variations to increase the overall number you can loot, there are plenty of differences to make using them satisfying. Some guns can inflict elemental damage, while others may explode after so much use. Eventually you can carry up to four different weapons, which can be easily switched to with a press of a button. Many guns also have alternate modes of fire. As before, you also have shields and grenade mods, as well as relics to modify your Hunter’s abilities. This again provides that nice layer of customization, letting players tailor things to their favored style of gameplay.

Despite the fun gameplay, degree of customization, and decent story (perhaps the best of the series so far), Borderlands 3 is not without its issues. Thankfully, there is nothing game breaking here, but there are some things to keep the overall experience from being a more perfect game. Driving and vehicular combat are still clumsy, though you can at least modify the controls to best suit you. It’s at least serviceable, but can be frustrating if you get hung up on scenery and then need to trek back to the nearest Catch-A-Ride station to respawn your vehicle. Vehicles are customizable to a point as well, though there isn’t a great need to do so. Driving is easier in co-op as one person can then concentrate on driving while the other works the guns. Playing solo is a more trying experience.

Technical issues in the form of pop in and figures getting stuck in environments also rears its head. The game did crash on me once, and loading times can be a bit long, especially at the start of the game session. There are multiple cheap deaths throughout, more an issue for solo players. I even had enemies converge on my spawn point in some spots, killing me or doing major damage before I got a chance to get a shot off. Again, playing co-op alleviates this, but solo players should have been safe from this occurring. It can make for some frustrating moments in an otherwise enjoyable experience.

Speaking of the co-op, it’s fun to play and easy to get into. You can play with up to three friends, both online and off, and you can choose to use splitscreen for multiple players. Two modes of loot gathering are available. Cooperation means all players share the loot, while Coopetition means the loot is first come, first serve. Again, this can be tailored to you and your friends preferred style of gameplay. Co-op can also provide the advantage of being able to level up more quickly for your own solo affair, making you more of a badass as you shoot down your foes. The end game gives you several options as well. True Vault Hunter Mode increases the difficulty but offers better loot. Mayhem mode grants different effects as you slay enemies. The Circle of Slaughter is a horde mode, and the Proving Ground offers a Destiny like strike. All of the other modes unlock once you complete the final mission after the credits have rolled.

In all, Borderlands 3 continues the successful style and gameplay of the franchise, delivering its best story yet with engaging characters. It has a level of variety in terms of planets and Vault Hunters that exceeds previous titles, and has a nice amount of customization for players to tailor their own experience to their preferred style of gameplay. It’s not without its faults, however, as some technical issues, cheap deaths, and clumsy driving can mar the overall experience. Thankfully these faults don’t impact the experience too much, providing some minor frustrations a long the way while you’re enjoying plenty of manic mayhem. The game, while leaving enough of an opening for future installments (4 DLC packs are currently planned), does have enough of a sense of closure to make it feel complete. This is the best title in the franchise to date, making Borderlands 3 a must play for fans.

9.5/10 stars

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus