This title was reviewed on PlayStation 4, but is also available on PC and Xbox One.
It’s finally here! Seven years since Borderlands 2 and five years after the Pre-Sequel, Borderlands 3 has arrived, and here at TIG we’ve been beyond hyped, having played through the also recently-released Borderlands GOTY to get ready for it. So, how does Pandora fare after a seven year absence? Let’s dive in.
Right away, you can tell you’re playing a Borderlands game, as the cel-shaded style is present and accounted for, and it looks better than ever. The fact that this game was built for current gen hardware off the bat rather than being ported from the previous generation means it looks so much cleaner, with a much better draw distance, which is actually pretty important considering the last Borderlands games would have their cel-shading mess up at far distances. The fact that my mate Luke never got a headache off of the cel-shading throughout our time with Borderlands 3 is a testament to how good it looks too. It also helps that there is some great visual variety, as each of the planets have their own aesthetic.
The story here is also top-notch. It centers around a new threat brought by the Calypso twins; Troy and Tyreen, who are Sirens that can drain the life-force of others. They are after the Great Vault, and it’s up to Lilith, her Crimson Raiders, and a new band of Vault Hunters to stop it. While Troy is a bit annoying, Tyreen is a fantastic villain, I hated her in the beginning, but she started to grow on my later on, and it’s honestly hard to pick between her and Handsome Jack as the best Borderlands villain. The story is also bolstered by appearances by a ton of classic characters, with Lilith, Brick, and Mordecai from Borderlands, Zer0 and Maya from Borderlands 2, Aurelia from the Pre-Sequel and even Vaughn and Rhys from Tales of the Borderlands. The story also manages to be better than the second game because of the fact that it isn’t limited to Pandora, as your crew go to multiple planets throughout the campaign, although Pandora is still a massive focal point. The classic Borderlands humor is also perfectly intact here too, for better or worse. Almost everything is a reference or a joke, and while many got me to laugh, a lot also fell flat, and a ton were also outdated, but that’s honestly something the series takes in stride, so it’s not a real complaint.
For the most part, the gameplay is the same as previous entries in the series. You travel around Pandora, as well as a bunch of other planets, killing an army of crazy bandits, employees of a company in the midst of a hostile takeover, and the indigenous creatures of whatever planet you set foot on; racking up XP, levelling up and, most importantly, collecting a shit-ton of loot. While it hits all of the same notes, Borderlands 3 does plenty new to keep itself fresh: For starters, the actual gunplay and movement is way smoother and tighter, and this is bolstered by new abilities such as mantling, which helps with verticality, a ground-pound move, and an incredibly satisfying slide. There are also a ton of guns and other loot to collect, each with their own perks and other wacky quirks, such as a Tediore guns that turn into turrets, grenades, or sentry drones when thrown, complete with said gun screaming ‘YEET’, and it’s a lot of fun just farming bosses and other things to see whatever crazy weapons you can get your hands on. It also helps that the bosses are all varied and really fun, and all have a unique legendary to get your hands on, unless its the Rick and Morty gun that you can get from two NPCs called Wick and Warty. *Shudder*
When you’re not farming, you’re doing missions, and man are there a ton of missions. The main story itself is pretty damn lengthy, and some of the individual missions can take up to an hour and a half to do, like the Katagawa ball mission, but all of them are unique and enjoyable, with some highlights including fighting the magician duo Penn and Teller (named Pain and Terror) when they’re on top of a giant mech. The side missions are also pretty damn fun too, some of them being better than the previous games’ story missions. Many are actual competent missions while others are just elaborate, but still really enjoyable jokes, such as helping a buff Tommy Wiseau parody get his film on the air. Once you’re done with all of this too, you have a great endgame to go through. While the series’ staples True Vault Hunter and Ultimate Vault Hunter are here, BL2‘s OP levels aren’t yet. Instead, we have the Mayhem modes, which up your difficult as well as your loot chances and XP gain. Mayhem is fantastic when it comes to that slowdown the previous games had between beating the base game and going into TVH, as you’re able to easily grind to the level you need to do TVH effectively.
I should mention though that not everything is perfect at the minute, as Borderlands 3 has a rather interesting trade-off. For a AAA title in 2019, it has one of the fastest start-ups that I can remember, as it only took 20 minutes from me first putting the disc in, to actually playing, as the day-one patch was tiny, and the on-disc copying only took a little while too. However, because the day-one patch was tiny, it has led to a ton of technical issues. Framerate drops, loot clipping through the floor, my mate Luke clipping through the floor, one of my legendary rifles being replaced with a while Atlas rifle upon loading into an area, the works. That said though, none of them really dampened the experience, and I still had a blast, but I figured I should mention it and hopefully these will get fixed in a patch.
Borderlands 3‘s audio is also top-notch. Voice-acting, for the most part, is solid, with each of the main characters having solid voice work, and while I was skeptical of my Zane build being annoying like some portrayals of the Irish accent, he ended up being top notch. The music is also solid, with each planet having its own ambient and combat themes, and I have to give a shout-out to whoever put Djent as one of the selectable music tracks before the Pain and Terror fight. Overall, Borderlands 3 sounds great.
Borderlands 3 is by far the best in the series so far. It looks and sounds great, and has plenty of improvements to the basic gameplay that helps it stand above its predecessor. The story is great with Tyreen being a solid villain, and there are so many fantastic missions to do and plenty of enjoyable loot to snag. The endgame has also seen some improvements too thanks to the new Mayhem mode, making this a complete and brilliant Borderlands package. While it has a ton of technical issues at the minute, it is also one of the quickest-starting AAA games of the year, so that’s something. If you’re a Borderlands fan or even a looter shooter fan in general, you cannot miss this one.