By Melody Klink
All aboard the mayhem train.
Fans of the Borderlands series, the wait is over: Borderlands 3 is officially in our hands, malleable putty that we can smash out faces into!
(Note: I’m not saying get it in your eyes, just like… breathe it in. Take it easy now, damn.)
It’s been hyped. It’s been hectic. It’s had an unusual amount of controversy. But now that we’ve all had a few days to get acclimated with Sanctuary III and our expanded universe, I wanted to take a dive in and talk it out.
(Another note: I mean, things might get spoilery? When you’re three games in, it almost can’t help but happen.)
We start Borderlands 3 with good ol’ Marcus telling us a story, which felt like coming home all over again. I’m currently playing through as Moze, because I play every Borderlands game as either the gunner or the pet job, and since I was Gaige main in 2, I wanted to switch it back. (I was Roland in 1, and YES MY HEART WAS BROKEN PREVIOUSLY.) Each character of course has their own unique flavor, as follows:
Amara: Siren. Might as well be named Brick, and she is the prettiest. Punchiest Siren of them all, with elemental attacks to boot. Has a Zen-themed room, ya know, for chillin’ while not getting her punch-murder on. Called to Pandora by her Siren-ness communicating with the Vault.
Moze: Gunner stunner. Dirty mouth. Her special calls down an Iron Bear, ala D.Va from Overwatch. Iron Bear’s special abilities are customizable, and you can equip various things to both guns! Flamethrowers! Rockets! Grenades! Also, friends can man an extra gun on your back.
Fl4k: Beastmaster supreme, no sour cream. Upgradable pets in three trees: Spiderant, Skag, and Jabber. Robot, which makes a lot of people think he’s secretly Loader Bot. Has gained self-awareness and thirsts for murder.
Zane: Plucky Irish bastard. Kind of a souped-up Ninja who knew Zer0 from back at Assassin School. Can create a digital copy of himself, have a drone, or drop a big ol’ shield for you and your murder friends! Has lots of people trying to kill him, always kills them first. Wants a pint.
I’m lucky enough to have a full squad, with one of each. The characters really complement each other in a fight, none of them solely dedicated to defense or offense to where it becomes a detriment.
Following the events of Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary, Borderlands 3 not only fleshes out the idea of there being a whole galaxy of Vaults (which we saw in 2’s original ending), but also the fact that rogues from all over are clamoring to open them. The Calypso twins, Troy and Tyreen, have created a cult in their name, playing themselves as Gods who are by birthright deserving of the Vaults. Yeah, they’re both Sirens, with a twist: Troy needs Tyreen to live. “A parasite,” she calls him, as he siphons powers from her. This (to me) explains why his Siren tattoos don’t match the rest of the known Sirens. (We’ll see if the rest of the game proves me wrong!) As always, it’s a race for the Vault Keys, except there’s a whole frickin’ galaxy of them primed for the taking. More familiar faces show up, such as a digital Rhys (as CEO of Atlas?!), a pantsless Vaughn (Bro-est blood feud loving Bandit King turned Crimson Raider), Maya (chill Monk of Athenas who can-- and will-- murder you), and a bunch of others who may or may not be on your side.
But we all know Pandora’s no paradise: not long after meeting up with Lilith, you’re accosted by the Calypso twins, and forced to flee the planet. Luckily, our best babe Ellie has been working on a “little” ship for planetary travel!
I say “little” because IT’S LIKE THE SIZE OF A MALL?! OR TWO?
Unfortunately, Lilith is intercepted while trying to flee, and in one really forked-up scene, loses her Siren powers to Tyreen. Which sucked.
(Please note that I am not Lilith’s biggest fan. She is the reason a LOT OF BAD SHITE has happened in the Borderlands series. I commend her for acknowledging that she ruined it all, and is trying to fix it. Still, it sucked to see her so powerless against a foe that only had to touch her to siphon all her abilities away.)
After saving Lilith’s ass, your entire crew (and the civilians around you) are carted off into space! This ship, the Sanctuary III, becomes your base of operations as your travel the galaxy, hopping from planet to planet picking up allies, smashing bad guys, and collecting Vault Key pieces. (And also A BAZILLION SIDE QUESTS.) So far, the run is fun; Borderlands 3 doesn’t seek to change the formula in a drastic way. Sure, there are lots of quality of life changes that make a difference-- you move MUCH faster when downed, are able to have unclaimed loot returned to you via a machine on the ship, can fast travel quicker and easier around maps and to Orbit, having a mail system to share loot with friends… but overall, the experience feels exactly like Borderlands.
Which, honestly, isn’t that what we all wanted?
I am perplexed by comments that say “it’s exactly the same! It feels like a Borderlands!” Well, I would hope so… that’s what you came for! If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, and Borderlands absolutely knows what it’s doing in its genre. The jokes are here, the self-deprecating humor and ultra awareness, the insanity and shenanigans that you’ve come to expect from the wily inhabitants of Pandora (and now, beyond!). We’ve got over a billion guns, new elemental combos (RIP Slag, hello Radiation!), an absurd amount of new NPCs, and thrice that number in bad guys.
Also, it’s preeeeeeeeeetty. Textures are high def for sure, and the cell shading looks better than ever! With graphics like these, it’s no wonder Randy Pitchford asked them to kill half the screens and replay the trailer in its full HD glory at Pax East. And the sheer amount of pop culture Easter eggs, you guys. So far we’ve found Parks & Rec, Futurama, Rick & Morty, Destiny, and some others that I’m most certainly forgetting as I type this...
That’s not to say it doesn’t have all those pesky damn modern problems, which I find myself having to mention in ALMOST EVERY REVIEW/FIRST IMPRESSION NOW. Yes, it hangs up. Yes, I have had my frame rate drop to abysmal levels. Yep, it crashes! Which can be a nightmare especially if you’re hosting an entire crew. SO many times now, I’ve had it freeze up to the point that I think it’s gonna close out, but it usually recovers… unfortunately, that also means my teammates are stuttering thanks to my connection to the game, which means a full hard reset anyway. I will note though, that teammates who have 4k capabilities with the Xbox One X are able to switch to a mode that doesn’t stutter or lag hardly at all. I DO NOT HAVE THAT SO I WILL SUFFER THROUGH IT AND TAKE YOU ALL WITH ME.
I haven’t gotten far enough to know if Borderlands 3 fulfills my hype. Don’t get me wrong: I’m wildly excited to be back in the realm, seeing new and familiar things, lootsploding enemies into oblivion, helping save the frickin’ world! I just need to get further to tap into my emotional connection to the game, which sounds hilarious because it’s a loot shooter meets RPG that makes dick jokes and has a diamond pony named Butt Stallion, BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. I’m still in the mechanical trenches, learning new areas and picking up tons of quests, being bombarded with new people. I always feel this way at the beginning of such an expansive game.
Will the Calypso twins rival the maniac powerhouse that was Handsome Jack? Will Lilith ever find redemption as a hero in my story? WILL MY FEELINGS EVER RECOVER FROM TINY TINA’S ASSAULT ON DRAGON KEEP?!
Maybe I’m wording it wrong: I’m on the hype train, bought my ticket, found my seat. I’m just waiting for it to hit bullet speed.