Writing a review for Borderlands 3 is an interesting proposition because honestly it really doesn't need one. Most everyone knows exactly what to expect from a Borderlands title. Lots of guns, enemies, bullets, bad jokes, and a core shoot and loot game loop that is honestly unmatched in the genre. Borderlands 1 was a fun, if somewhat shallow co-op shooter, but the guns, gunplay, and shooting were immediately engaging. Borderlands 2 added more depth with richer gameplay, deeper mechanics, and a metric butt-load more guns. It also gave us Handsome Jack an antagonist you loved to hate. The central story in Borderlands 2 added some much-appreciated drive to the experience and made the sequel a far more enjoyable experience for anyone choosing to play solo.
So, what has Gearbox done this time around for its second sequel? Well, pretty much the exact same thing it did with Borderlands 2. Borderlands 3 is Borderlands 2 with more of everything. More guns, more locations, more planets, more detail, more enemies, more antagonists, and more ways to play your Vault Hunter. It's iterative rather than innovative, and that's just fine with me.
Borderland 3 finds us back on Pandora 7 years after the events of Borderlands 2. This time a new quartet of Vault Hunters have arrived in search of guns and glory. As before each of the 4 Vault hunters have their own distinct set of unique skills and passive abilities. Regardless of you how you like your FPS experience, you will find a Vault Hunter that suits your preferred playstyle. From up close and personal, to long-distance precision, evasive and techy, or pet-based savagery, there is a Hunter for everyone. What I appreciated most about the new Hunters is how diverse the builds can be for each of them. Each of their three skill trees now has its own distinct Active Skill giving you far greater breadth and specificity when it comes to building your Vault Hunter how you want them to be, rather than being locked into the linear class progression we've seen previously. The added benefit to this is that playing with friends feels even better now, because even if a few of you are playing Amara the Siren, or FL4K the Beast Master chances are you'll be playing different builds with different skills giving your team diversity and allowing different roles to be played by different classes. Truly a masterstroke, and easily the best-improved feature in Borderlands 3.
All of this obviously leads into why we're all here; the shooting and then the looting. Once again, Gearbox has nailed it! Each of the gun manufacturers are unique with their own specific features and quirks. Hyperion guns are best when looking down the sights, both because they generate a shield, but become more accurate as you fire them. Torque are explody, slow-firing, but devastating, and with a sticky alt-fire, they are a delight to shoot and ignite! Vladof are bullet-spewing spray and prey weapons, while newcomer Atlas are high tech with fire and forget tracking in-built. There are five more manufacturers I've not covered, but regardless of what gun you're wielding, they are all an absolute blast to shoot. Gearbox has also nailed the rarities, affixes, and general badassery of finding an Epic or Legendary item. Seeing that orange glow on the battlefield never stopped getting me excited. More than any loot-based game in recent memory Borderlands 3 understands what makes grinding for loot fun and compelling. This alone would be enough to make the game worth buying, but as is the theme of this title, there is more!
The one thing that Borderland 3 didn't really need was an emotional main story, but they gave us one anyway! I liked the story in Borderlands 2 and loved Handsome Jack as that game's antagonist, but Gearbox has outdone themselves with the surprisingly emotional story they built Borderlands 3 around. There are a lot of returning faces, some gut-wrenching plot developments, and palpable stakes as you join Lilith, Claptrap, and the Crimson Raiders on an interplanetary mission to save the universe from a magical space-vampire social media queen and her cybernetically enhanced sociopathic brother. The insane and sometimes groan-inducing humour you'd expect from a Borderlands game is still here, but there is a real narrative core here that I really appreciated.
The issues I have with Borderlands 3 are pretty few and far between. A couple I expect will be addressed with patches, but my main irk is one I've had with previous Borderlands titles; Boss Fights. They're back, and they're still kind of meh. The bosses are almost always fun with some entertaining lines and generally fantastic character design, but the fights themselves are the same confined, shoot the weak-spot at the bullet-sponge rinse and repeat tedium from earlier games. How Gearbox can nail the open-world combat and whiff it on the bosses is beyond me, but there it is. Some of the bosses do provide a challenge, but aside from the window-dressing, they all play out pretty much the same way. And sadly there are bugs, glitches, and some odd performance issues. Nothing game-breaking, but there is a serious issue with the texture streaming solution which seems to degrade performance over time.
Borderlands 3 is a fantastic bullet-laden barrage of insane action, ludicrous guns, and intense gunplay. Sure, it doesn't really add anything new, but did it really need to? And let's be honest you already knew if this game was for you even before reading this review.
+ Fun story with more stakes than before and still funny as hell.
+ Insane number of fun guns.
+ Interesting classes and build variety.
+ Is quintessentially Borderlands just more of it.
- Can feel a little stretched thin in places.
- Bosses are disappointing.
- Is quintessentially Borderlands just more of it.