Borderlands 3 is out and we have been playing non-stop since launch day to bring you this review. We reviewed the PC deluxe version, joining Claptrap and the other Borderlands characters to revisit the world of Pandora.
If you have played any of the previous games then you will feel at home the moment your start the campaign, with you friendly Claptrap unit returning yet again to take your meat suit through the basics like shooting and crouching. In fact the entire game feels like a warm duvet on a cold day. The game hasn’t taken any wild new directions but rather focused on improving the existing formula. We loved the game from the first hour but let’s break down the different elements to give you an idea of what is in store for you in Borderlands 3 in our spoiler free review:
You will find the normal cell-shaded Borderlands design which Borderlands is well known for, however this time we see a lot of technical upgrades with volumetric fog and razor sharp antialiasing. The game ran well on my machine (i7-7700k, 16Gb RAM, 1080Ti) but still experienced some unexplained framerate drops, there is still plenty of work to be done by the Gearbox team on optimising this game. I expect this will be improved through patches in the coming weeks.
The introduction of additional planets to the Borderlands universe brings about a significant amount of visual diversity. From the well known arid regions of Pandora and the peaceful cherry blossom vistas of Athenas through to the misty swamps of Eden-6, every location brings a new aesthetic. Add to this the absolute sensory assault of colour when it comes to weapon effects and explosions and you have a magical looking game. The weapon effects can be overwhelming at times (especially in 4 player co-op), but I loved the visual chaos.
The single biggest change from Borderlands 2 is the improved weapon feel. The guns feel and sound amazing, which in a game focus on shooting things 24/7 is a critical improvement. I loved picking up new weapons and trying them out, the range of weapons variations are really impressive with every gun having a different feel to the one before it.
The new characters and their reworked skill trees are an excellent addition as well. The new skills allow for significant customisation of you character, picking from lots of different effects that stack together in excellent fashion. I regularly found myself repec’ing my character to try out different builds, something that was further encourages with the new class mods. The class mods allocate points directly into certain skills (with no prerequisites), meaning you can get a high level skill from a tree that you have zero points in. These class mods had me scratching my head and adjusting my character build regularly which adds significant depth to the game and fuels that desire to find the perfect build.
Add to this the impressive range of weapon attributes and the ability to get “anointed” weapons that provide further buffs based on your action skills and you have the perfect recipe for a bullet infused grind marathon.
The story follows the normal Borderlands style and features some amazing missions with old and new characters alike. It had its fair share of twists and plenty of the typical borderlands humour. The bosses were all very interesting although felt very unpolished in combat with most being very simple bullet sponges while others having a slew of annoying overpowered abilities that make it quite difficult and frustrating to get past. Although I played through the story solo, at several of these junctures I did call up a few friends to drop in and provide some support to overcome the bad boss balancing.
Overall the story was great and the length was solid, especially if you mix up some side quests on the way, which I found impossible not to due to their excellent design and interesting story arcs. It took me around 30 hours to complete the story along with a bunch of the regular side quest distractions.
Borderlands 3 continues to be a social game with friends who are able to drop in seamlessly. With the new “level-sync” system, the experience seamlessly scales for each individual player. That means you can play with anyone at any time online or in split-screen co-op, regardless of your level or mission progress. The introduction of the two different loot modes is welcome (you can now choose to have instanced vs shared loot) and trading items is easy. A big addition for me is the new social menu that allows you to send items to friends, claim rewards from gun manufacturers for using their weapons and give updates on your friends progressions and activities. I have had some significant issues with friends with slower internet connections now able to play co-op at all due to major lag. With social play a critical part of the Borderlands offering this is something they need to get sorted urgently. If you have a slow adsl connection you might want to check up on reddit to see how you may fair.
Borderlands 3 has introduced a few new tricks here to keep everyone playing longer. We see the return of True Vault Hunter mode which helps scale enemies across the game world to your level (accessible once you complete the story). The introduction of Mayhem modes has helped players to grind for the perfect gear. Mayhem mode allows you to increase the difficulty to receive greater experience and reward drops (3 difficulty settings). The Proving Grounds add another option with an arena style event for you to test your skills. All of this will help you build your Guardian rank adding extra modifiers to your stats beyond the level 50 cap.
Same old but better
Borderlands 3 sticks with the script but improves the experience greatly. If you enjoyed Borderlands 1 and 2 then this will no doubt be an instant hit. There are so many amazing quality of life improvements that they are difficult to list, I’m going to try anyway:
o Swap missions on the fly using the [ or ] keys
o Use the pinging system to mark targets and communicate without a headset
o Fast travel from anywhere on the map once fast travel is unlocked
o Fast travel back to your vehicle at any time
o Ground pound to knock back enemies by pressing “crouch” while airborne
o Use the environment to your advantage by kicking barrels, shooting pipes, etc.
o Gather “lost loot” from the Lost Loot Machine near your quarters on Sanc III
o Equip class specific Relics to further customize and enhance your build
o Auto ammo, cash and eridium pick-up
o Sliding and climbing ala Apex Legends
Should you pick up Borderlands 3? If you have enjoyed any of the previous games then 100% yes. If you have never played a BL game before maybe try watching a few videos to get the feel of the style and humour but if you enjoy looting and shooting then you will enjoy Borderlands 3. It would be great to see some optimisation patches coming through in the next few weeks to fix with the Gearbox team confirming that they are working on it.
Borderlands 3 is developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2k Games. The game was reviewed on PC with a review copy provided by 2K Games.