There was an unfortunate amount of controversy leading up to Borderlands 3’s launch. Almost to the extent that Fallout 76 experienced after it released and most of Gearbox’s woes were thanks to dough face, man baby, Randy Pitchford. That’s neither here nor there though. My main concern was how this would affect Borderlands 3 and my enjoyment of it. Especially with the weird pre-release review process that was implemented. All these controversies could easily have affected all aspects of development and not even including morale. Join me in breathing a huge sigh of relief as I can say Borderlands 3 brings back mostly happy times of what made the series great. Fans of the franchise will enjoy what’s on offer except the periodic scatter shot humor. Sometimes it felt like the writers were just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.
The story of Borderlands 3 follows a smaller band of Crimson Raiders, definitively lead by Lillith, five or so years after the second game. The merry band of righteous psychopaths have found different purposes throughout the galaxy and leaves room for some new Vault Hunters. This also signals the meteoric rise of the Calypso twins and their Bandit filled group, Cult of the Vault. Troy and Tyreen might not be another Handsome Jack, but players will find plenty of reasons to want to kick their faces in. They’re brutal, uncaring, and unflinchingly effective. This doesn’t prevent them from trolling the ever-loving crap out of our Vault Hunters though. Imagine the worst video game streamer with socio-economic power, political influence, and an army at their backs. Our heroes must beat these new antagonists to what’s known as the Great Vault. Which is said to hold more danger and more riches than any of the other vault’s you have visited and will visit.
Wacky and crazy humor put the Borderlands series on the map and number three is no different. A lot of it is funny and almost as much of it fails to stick. Some of it feels like the writers were trying too hard and other times it just wasn’t funny due to the lack of actual humor. However, further into the game when beloved characters enter the fray, things pick up quickly. Enemies will spout random nonsense, turn of phrases and one-liners permeate the experience, pop culture references are had, cameos make their appearance, and hilarious character interactions occur. With that said it’s still not hard to make the comparison to the game’s predecessor. For better or worse, the writing and humor were just better in Borderlands 2. The journey is still enjoyable in Borderlands 3, but if you’re expecting even bigger and better regarding the story you will end up disappointed in some respects.
Gameplay is core Borderlands. The mechanics remain the same – you know a bajillion guns, over the top mayhem, gory action, and class-based characters – just with a new coat of pain in the four new Vault Hunters. One could argue this makes the proceedings stale, but it really doesn’t. Not for those who enjoy what the series has always been. There’s been a great deal of effort to emphasize each character in the marketing, but the four new ones are somewhat hard to classify in the traditional sense. There’s a siren with melee-based techniques, a beastmaster who has pets that act as companions, a tech girl with a mech, and my boi Zane, a mercenary with a digital clone, shield, and drone. All of which have skill trees to flesh them out or cater to a certain playstyle. This still does offer some decent replayability and strategies. As you can guess my main is Zane and these rhymes are here all the time. I’m currently running a drone and digi-clone set due to Zane’s unique trait of using two abilities at the expense of grenades. These skill trees allow him to build up the likes of his digi-clone’s damage, reload speed, switch places abilities, etc. and his drone’s duration, element usage, and more.
Guns and their variations are still as fresh as they’ve been since the beginning. I loved looting new weapons and quite frequently changing them out for stronger gear or keeping weaker items because the benefits were just too good. Same goes with the shields, grenades (that I don’t use), class mods, and customization options you can equip. I am still discovering new variations on weapons such as elemental aspects, make and model, and stat boosting variables. A drum barrel shotgun that fires out globs of corrosive acid at frightening speeds anyone? Not to mention that getting legendaries is significantly easier. So exploring and looting yields even higher rewards than at any point in the series. It will be a long time before I’m done meticulously inspecting every purple or orange drop I come across.
Map design and enemy types are rather impressive as well. The maps are varied enough in design to make each place feel distinct and most of them have tiered levels. To the point where I can say Borderlands 3 has the best areas to traverse yet. Level design hasn’t let me down as I remember there were a few begrudging areas in all three, previous titles up until to now. Granted some are larger or more packed than others, but it was always neat discovering the nooks and crannies of each map. Enemies and opponents also have a nice variety to them. Although I didn’t really change my strategies when facing off against non-boss related ones. In typical fashion there’s also elemental or upgraded versions of some bullet receptacles so gun damage isn’t always the most important factor at times. Bosses themselves were unique and fun to go up against, however, too many of them felt a little on the easier side.
Borderlands 3 easily beats the rest of the series in completion time and content. The first playthrough can last close to 30 hours and that’s not including a completionist playthrough. There’s a decent amount of structured side missions and a handful of which encourage you to explore all the maps. So much so that I just went and unfogged any map I stepped into right away. There’s even some that will be easier from a time perspective if you have a full, four player lobby. Post-game options are rather impressive as well. Proving Grounds acts as wave-based challenges with a boss waiting at the end, Circle of Slaughter is essentially a horde mode, and how you perform in each one will dictate what gear you get. Mayhem mode simply lets you change the difficulty of your current playthrough after the campaign is bested, and True Vault Hunter Mode (a.k.a. New Game +) returns too. Also, once you beat the story, you’ll unlock Guardian Ranks which are essentially further ways to strengthen your character’s attributes. There is some confusion around the community if there is a raid boss currently in Borderlands 3 or at least what constitutes another Terramorphous.
For all the flak I’ve heard on the title’s performance I’ve had very little issues with the PS4 Pro and my HDR performance focused settings. The smoothest Borderlands ever in fact. Except for when I equipped two different pistols which then brought the lag and framerate dips. They were tossed with the quickness. The user interface could use some serious work, however. It took me longer than I’d like to admit getting used to the menu screens and you can’t view the map and then change your current mission. You’d have to back out of the menu and switch the mission and then head back to the map menu. Honestly, Borderlands 3’s biggest fault as the explorer in me got pissed trying to dictate how far multiple missions were at any given time.
Borderlands 3 PS4 Review
- Overall - Must Buy - 9/109/10
Borderlands 3 is a faithful entry to the franchise, even when it falls at some hurdles. The story introduces two new villains who you can't wait to hate and follows our band of heroes through another bombastic adventure. Sprinkling a few new entire worlds only improves the journey and new gameplay possibilities with the Borderlands formula still works wonders. Plus, you'll have time to try out all those possible additions thanks to the game having a very fleshed out post-game. Only some dumb U.I. issues and the game simply not being as astounding as Borderlands 2 are the only real downsides. The latter of which can be cast off altogether for some of you. Welcome back Vault Hunters.
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Reviewed on a PS4 Pro.