Borderlands 3 Review, Part One. Working on Old Mistakes and New Joys

Action-packed gameplay in a colorful world

Borderlands have returned! And they have returned without losing anything from their rich baggage on the way from 2014 to 2019.

Everything is still in place. Endless shooting at aggressive dummies remains the main local attraction. The enemies are the same crowds, rushing towards their demise. Classic psychos are still charging ahead, just like in the good old days. The relentlessly predatory fauna performs its well-known tricks of jumping across half the map. Private corporate armies continue to pretend to adhere to some kind of combat tactics. And so on, and so forth.

There are now billions of guns.

The role-playing system still relies on the concise “one level – one skill point” and three “professional” branches for each character. Plus, now it occasionally gives out additional perks.

The background hasn’t changed at all. It has only grown. Every first, second, third (and so on) primary, secondary, tertiary character who survived the events of Borderlands 2 is still involved. Pandora – the planet that was the epicenter of all the previous action – has shrunk to a few locations. But in exchange, there is a whole spaceship responsible for changing the scenery, so now there is no need to explain why so many people live in hellish deserts when there are forests, swamps, and more nearby.

A thrilling encounter with formidable foes

In short, BL3 is the same game as the original with BL2, Pre-Sequel. It’s exactly the same. Just bigger and better. Much bigger and noticeably better.

In the few days since the release of BL3, I managed to level up to 36, explore four and a half planets, develop a hatred for new main villains, and get used to the local innovations. The end of the story campaign is nowhere in sight, but with some new wonderful mechanics, the new shooter from Gearbox will probably no longer surprise me.

In general, there is no complete picture, it’s too early to announce a final verdict, but there is already something to talk about.

Exploring a vast and immersive landscape

What stands out first and foremost if you’ve already seen and played Borderlands before? It’s simply more enjoyable to play in BL3.

The previous series was a great game, but it was plagued by annoying little things. The most persistent thorn was the constant getting stuck of the heroes in decorative elements. On the new locations, there are also some mishaps, but compared to BL2, everything is simply wonderful here. No stumbling over invisible bumps, no sticky ladders, no prickly textures – you run around Pandora and enjoy the new life.

Moreover, the new Vault Hunters have mastered parkour techniques from all modern FPS games and specifically the slides from Apex Legends. The first one is somewhere around a C-, the second one is somewhere around a C+. Yes, you can only grab onto a platform if it’s at eye level for at least a second, and yes, the slides are done in the direction of the view, not the direction of the run. All of this is annoying, but not nearly as much as the previous adventures of the disabled.

In short, life for the squirrels of Pandora in the wheel has become much, much better.

Meeting diverse and intriguing characters

The game designers have made a small revolution that was expected back in 2014. Ammo, medkits, and money now pick themselves up, the main thing is to get closer to them. Oh, it’s a pity that my index finger dried up five years ago from endless clicking all over the world, but at least my new mouse will live a little longer.

Oh, and I didn’t have time to tell you about the wonderful new option in local stores. Yes, for the tenth time! You guessed it, full ammo replenishment and calling a car also got their hotkeys!

Borderlands fans – without exaggeration – were blown away. Newcomers, of course, won’t notice. So what if they improved the basic things – it’s not really a stunning level achievement by modern standards. But we remember, we know how it used to be. I’m sure every first veteran will appreciate the updated mechanics of Borderlands 3.

Epic battles and intense showdowns

During the process of smoothing out mechanical roughness, fortunately, the work on fixing mistakes at Gearbox did not end.

What do you think was the biggest failure of BL2 overall? Personally, I would point to the unbearably boring first act. I remember in my initial playthrough, I crawled through the expanses of the south (or north? Oh, I don’t remember anymore) of Pandora purely out of fan enthusiasm. The locations were dull, the guns were terrible, the monsters were dumb, and the story hadn’t really started yet. But there was a strong belief that the game would pick up soon, and future adventures would be great. BL2 didn’t disappoint, and indeed, everything after that was awesome, but every replay – where could I go – still started with two hours on a stupid glacier in the company of hated polar gorillas.

That’s exactly what Borderlands 3 is – the cool Borderlands that you want to play more or less endlessly. With quests, loot, action, and a sandbox of decent size with interesting things cleverly hidden in different corners. And most importantly – with the right pace.

Organizing and managing valuable equipment

Worries on Pandora (and beyond) remained the same. Good guys are searching for Keys and Vaults, bad guys are once again busy with the same thing and for some reason, playing as the good guys for the third time in a row, always one step ahead.

Life goes on. Megacorporations are taking over entire planets. Ordinary crazy residents of the space frontier entertain themselves as they can: sometimes they gather in some cult, sometimes they launch themselves into space without a spacesuit. Alien bug mutants devour ammunition and wait for someone brave to relieve them of their gastronomic suffering. We are as usual. We help the first, the second, the third, and sometimes we find adventures for ourselves without outside help.

The creators of BL3 once again found the strength not to turn away from the high gamer fashion and tweaked the local quest system. Half of the usual entertainments like “Kill a secondary boss,” “Find a secret chest,” or “Collect 5 pieces of shiny junk” now have individual markers on the mini-map and achievement counters (see Far Cry or Assassin’s Creed).

The usual quests with anecdotes from the life of the space outskirts haven’t gone anywhere, of course.

In fact, we are engaged in classic Borderlands activities, just reporting on our work half as often.

Confronting a mysterious and sinister antagonist

Like any decent sequel, Borderlands 3 fixed a few things that were already working perfectly fine. With predictable results. For some reason, the inventory, which used to be a neat vertical list of items, mutated into a 3×3 grid, removing the clear separation between equipped gear and items for sale. The only result of this undoubtedly well-intentioned initiative is that getting rid of unwanted guns now takes three times longer because you’re afraid of accidentally selling useful equipment. Yes, you can always buy back mistakenly sold guns. But that’s a whole separate menu with unnecessary hassle. Why?

Also, the dancing numbers on price tags are incredibly annoying. Every extra second of animation when opening a chest prolongs the experience, and every extra second spent figuring out if a shotgun costs 1,700 or 1,500 money is infuriating.

Honestly, after dozens of hours playing BL3, I never managed to dig deep into the settings and find out if these money dances can be turned off. But, firstly, there are bigger problems with food and sleep, let alone settings. And secondly, this nonsense should be completely removed from the game, design document pages describing this wonderful new mechanic should be burned, and the hard disks with the code should be disposed of.

After a week

In the meantime, everything else is going great. Adventures are happening, rare sniper rifles are being found, the crazy inhabitants of Borderlands are going insane, and the closed client of the game opens again after just five minutes because I really want to continue the campaign a little further.

After a week of playing Borderlands 3, it is wonderful. I feel that once the initial euphoria subsides, I will start criticizing the story and some individual elements. But for now, I repeat, everything is great.

Including, by the way, the performance. The internet is complaining about various engine quirks, but personally, I have nothing to complain about here and now. Perhaps it’s worth compiling a list of the main complaints from the public about the local code and trying to reproduce all the issues. Maybe later. Right now, life on Pandora is good, and I don’t want to deliberately spoil it. The second part of the review.

So, all the story missions have been completed, a bunch of additional tasks have been done, and all the new planets have been unlocked.

Since I just finished the local history, let’s talk about it now.

The first part of the review – here (link).

A breathtaking and vibrant game menu

Plot, that’s it.

You won’t believe me now, but the Vault Hunters quartet is riding the exact same carousel for the third time. Yes, in Borderlands 3, there are constant revolutions in the basic gameplay, mechanics, graphical style, and narrative tone, but the story remains resolutely the same.

Not that I expected Borderlands 3 to end with anything other than a battle against a space centipede. I mean, I don’t know, can’t we, for once in our lives, not run the same distance behind the main villain? Or at least with different stops along the way. BL3, even though it has expanded to a whole planetary system, has brought back the entire old guard and added a squad of new characters on top, but even the sharp turns are done in a way that you can’t help but recognize the repainted story of BL2.

There are plenty of vivid examples, but most of them are full of spoilers. I’ll try to give the most harmless one. About the setup, without details.

Engaging in a dynamic in-game screen

There are Vaults in the world. And not just one. There are Vaults. They all hide unimaginable terrifying weapons of mass destruction and other secret alien technologies. There are also weapons corporations. They want to acquire the secret technologies.

The first ones to learn about the Vault were the guys from a company called… no, not Atlas, too early. From the Dahl company. And they broke their teeth even before the events of the first part started. Anyone who paid even a little attention to the decorations of the previous series surely noticed that practically all of Pandora is ruins of outposts, warehouses, and other civilian buildings with the inevitable Dahl logo somewhere on the wall, floor, or roof.

Following Dahl, the Atlas company arrived, and they were successful. However, that was until we got involved. Commander Steele and her comrades confidently moved towards unpacking the left-behind alien souvenirs and always ended up one step ahead of our first group of brave seekers, but at the decisive moment, Steele was impaled by the tentacle of a space crab-destroyer (or whatever sea delicacy it resembled). Since then, Atlas has received many corporate blows during DLC and eventually went bankrupt.

Sorting and managing your inventory

The corporation Hyperion took Pandora seriously as the third party, usurped by Handsome Jack. This guy succeeded at everything. Well, until we got involved. Jack and his comrades confidently moved towards unpacking the abandoned loot and always ended up way ahead of our second group of brave adventurers, but at the crucial moment, both Jack and his newly summoned pet, the Warrior, were riddled with bullets by skilled gamers of approximately level 36. Since then, Hyperion has toned down its ambitions and doubled the sarcasm of its AI products.

Now the corporation Maliwan is trying to get a piece of the pie. These guys made a deal with intergalactic bloggers, the Calypso twins. This duo, firstly, has a lot of power, as both Troy and Tyreen are sirens (sirens in the world of Borderlands are magical beings who throw fireballs and are inexplicably connected to the secret Vault). Secondly, this duo of gifted psychopaths seems to know a lot, for some reason.

The couple is succeeding. The Calypso twins confidently move towards unpacking the abandoned loot and always end up way ahead of our third group of brave adventurers. The decisive moment is coming soon.

Meeting the game's enigmatic villain

The Calypso twins were unlucky to take the stage after the amazing Jack; in his shadow, Tyreen and Troy are lost. Apparently, that’s why they occasionally do really nasty things. After a couple of individual script twists, you not only want to quickly kill these bloggers, but also throw a rotten tomato at every first scriptwriter responsible for Calypso’s antics. They wanted to raise the stakes and surpass the great predecessor, but as a result, they only seriously spoiled the overall BL story twice (or even three times).

It’s a good thing that Borderlands is more about crazy planets themselves. The story goes in circles, characters fight, deceive, grow, die, and kill strictly on schedule, but the world lives a real life.

Let’s take, for example, the most beautiful decorations.

I repeat, BL3 finally broke free from the supposedly barren Pandora. In the previous part, the planet was filled with all sorts of things like glaciers and swamps, and it was great. But. Even with the more or less logical explanation that spring came to the crazy bald ball and it bloomed, Pandora was bursting at the seams and losing its original charm.

In the third part, the designers, on the one hand, returned to the cliché “One planet – one setting,” and on the other hand, they allowed themselves to thoroughly work on, um, the background. One “urban” location turned into a big city, with its tricks, quirks, and lots of hidden places. The swamp – although large, the size of a DLC – became really healthy, and the rare alien ruins are now also a separate planet.

Exploring ruined and desolate landscapes

And most importantly, by increasing the quantity, the locations have not lost in quality even once. I would even say they have gained. The sandboxes are filled to the brim with interesting places, which in turn are filled with loot, enemies, small details that tell us about the world of Borderlands, and easter eggs.

The “corridor” maps have also become more interesting. Returning to them after the initial playthrough, of course, is not as desirable as returning to the large game areas, but overall, running around them is still fun.

Especially considering that from now on, you can return to the main checkpoints in the locations with just two clicks from anywhere.

I can’t even remember the last time I was so enthusiastically exploring the nooks and crannies of a first-person shooter. Or even an action RPG. The closest adequate comparison would be Civilization, where you want to make a couple more moves, but instead, you snap out of your gaming trance only somewhere around dawn. Except here, instead of a couple of moves, there are a couple of dead ends, potentially rich in various surprises.

Oh, there’s nothing here. Well, then I’ll at least go over there, find a chest, and quit the game. What’s this, only green guns? What nonsense, Borderlands won’t leave me alone until I get at least one blue gun. Oh, and here’s a side quest starting. Just right, I’ll do it now, and that’s it.

And Borderlands 3 has enough content for a week of such marathons. At least.

Collecting rare and valuable loot

The second interim assessment of Borderlands 3 is 8 out of 10. Despite the open spaces that appeal to fans of lively grinding, the plot objectively drags the game down.

Spoiler: most likely, in the last part of the BL3 review, this score will be played back. Because the game is practically perfect as a direct sequel. More details – in a few days.

Borderlands 3
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Action, Multiplayer
Gearbox Software
Gearbox Software
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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