It’s been nearly two weeks since “Borderlands 3” has been released, and I have been having a lot of fun with it. With a whole heap of changes and improvements over previous entries, Gearbox Software’s latest outing with the acclaimed first-person looter-shooter is easily the best in the series, if you ask me.
Set a number of years after the defeat of Handsome Jack in “Borderlands 2”, a cult known as the Children of the Vault, led by the sinister Calypso twins, have risen to power and are viciously searching the galaxy for a series of ancient alien troves known as the Vaults. It’s up to the player to assume the now legendary mantle of Vault Hunter and take the fight beyond the sun-bleached wastelands of Pandora to open the Vaults before the Calypsos and save the galaxy from total destruction.
The writing in the “Borderlands” games has never been stellar, and this entry isn’t much different in that department. The narrative hits all of the beats that it needs to without doing anything really special, and it’s all a fairly predictable ride. That being said, the ride the story takes you on is a lot of fun, and the Calypso twins do make for a great pair of villains. The game does a really good job of making you want to mop the floor with them, which is vital for driving the conflict in a game like this.
Speaking of conflict, the action in “Borderlands 3” is excellent. The game has seen drastic improvements in all departments and is overall much more comfortable and enjoyable to play.
The gunplay is a lot faster and tighter than it has been in previous entries thanks to improved crosshair magnetism, meaning that once a target is in your sights the game makes it easier for you to keep them there. The aim-assist is far from hand-holdy, though. This isn’t a lock-on mechanic, you’re still expected to shoot on target. It does, however, make acquiring a target, blowing them away and quickly acquiring a new one while staying on the move much easier than it has been in the past “Borderlands” games.
The guns themselves have seen quite the overhaul as well. All of the different gun manufacturers from “Borderlands 2” have returned, and this time around their staple weapons are more unique than ever. For example, weapons from the Dahl corporation are now able to switch between automatic and burst-fire modes at the press of a button, making them effective at both distance and close quarters. Easily my favorite change is with the Maliwan corporation’s elemental weapons, which are no longer locked to a single elemental type. Instead, they can be toggled between two different damage types, making it easier to exploit elemental weaknesses on the fly.
The new changes to the arsenal are perfectly complemented by the four new Vault Hunters that players get to choose from. Each Vault Hunter has different skills that are tailored to the different weapons manufacturers. For instance, the Siren Amara can get damage bonuses with Maliwan weapons and increase her chance to inflict elemental damage with them. Meanwhile, the Gunner Moze can get bonuses from explosive Torgue weapons and is capable of doling out significantly more damage with them.
All of this interplay between the Vault Hunters and the guns comes on top of an updated skill system that allows players to really tailor their characters to their playstyle. Each Vault Hunter now has three different action skills that they can choose from instead of just one, with each action skill pertaining to a different tree of passive skills. What this means is that two people playing the same character can end up having wildly different builds and playstyles from one another.
Using the Siren as an example again, one of her skill trees turns her into an elemental powerhouse with the ability to shackle enemies in place and deal incredible amounts of damage across the battlefield. Meanwhile, another one of her skill trees allows her to momentarily become ethereal and provide support for her teammates. The new skill system is a very welcome addition to the game, as it adds a lot of replay value to an already replayable game and opens the door for a lot more interesting interplay between characters and their skills.
On top of all of that, a host of smaller changes that improve the quality of life and generally remove past frustrations have been put into place. Players are now capable of initiating fast travel to places they’ve already visited at any time by simply opening the map screen. The map itself is also far more readable this time around thanks to being rendered in 3D, making navigating around the various planets you visit a far more painless experience. Active missions can now be cycled through on the fly, and completed missions are now turned in automatically, meaning, in most cases, you no longer have to trudge all the way back to the mission giver just to collect your reward. This all comes together to make an experience that feels and plays a lot smoother than its predecessors.
In sum, “Borderlands 3” is awesome. It improves upon the first two games in every way that it needed to and introduces a lot of new and fun ideas of its own while it’s at it. If you are a fan of either of the original titles and want more of the looting-shooting action, picking this one up is a no brainer. It’s available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Windows. No matter what platform you pick it up for, it’ll be $60 well spent.