Borderlands 3 Isn’t Trying to Be Anything It’s Not
Borderlands may have been one of the original loot shooters, but it’s a more crowded market now. While series like Destiny and The Division have cropped up and injected the genre with innovative new ideas, Borderlands isn’t jumping on any other bandwagon. Developer Gearbox isn’t trying to ape or even incorporate most of those new ideas into the upcoming game. What I played and learned of Borderlands 3 wouldn’t be mistaken for a service-game. It looks and feels like the Borderlands you already know – but better.
In a new demo at E3 2019, I played as Moze, the gunner character who specializes in all things packing firepower, including her mech suit, Iron Bear. If you play with friends, they can even hop on the back of your mech and use a turret as you take them for a ride.
Moze has three skill trees that aim to offer a variety of gameplay options. One tree is called Shield of Retribution, which features defensive abilities and lightning attacks. Another Moze tree is Bottomless Mags, which gives you a flame thrower and chaingun, and promises you’ll almost never have to reload. As you open up your skill trees, you can mix and match abilities from all of them to adapt to your preferred play style.
During my demo, I battled through psychos of all shapes and sizes. As in previous Borderlands games, some enemies hung back to snipe me from afar, while others stayed behind cover to take pot shots. Others still sprinted forward and lept at me with knives at the ready. Since the game features billions of weapons, and you can find them as you play, I generally had the tools at my disposal to handle the various attacks.
The gunplay feels tight and fluid, making it a pleasure to whittle away at enemies’ health, damage numbers bouncing off their bodies with each hit. Headshots are rewarded with extra damage and a red “critical” indicator. But even basic enemies have a decent amount of health and can pose a threat. Unless you break out the big guns, you can’t just skate through and melt everything with ease.
If you get a gun you know your friend would want, you can mail it to them, and it’ll be waiting for them next time they sign in.
As for the new features, the game has bounty boards that show you feats your friends have completed, so you can go on the same hunts. If you get a gun you know your friend would want, you can mail it to them, and it’ll be waiting for them next time they sign in. You can play with friends online, of course, or plop down on the couch for split-screen co-op. You even have the option to make it so everyone can pick up all the loot that drops, or finders keepers.
Speaking of options, Borderlands 3 offers a wide array of customizations for your character and weapons. You have a lot of leeway in what your character looks like, and you can assign emotes. Weapons have primary, secondary, and tertiary colors you can select. You can even hang adorable trinkets from your weapon as another customization option.
The developers also promise you’ll take a ship to planets other than Pandora, including Eden-6, a swampy environment that’s lurking with dinosaur-like enemies. This is where you’ll find the Jakobs estate, and you’ll get to learn some of the gunmaker’s backstory as you explore the planet. I didn’t get to play this area, but it had a Voodoo-prehistoric vibe that had me intrigued.
From what I saw, Borderlands 3 isn’t trying to re-envision the series or turn it into a service game. What’s new feels like a natural progression of where the series was heading already. It offers quality-of-life improvements, more customization, and new ways to interact with your friends. For the most part, it just feels like previous Borderlands games, but more polished. Honestly, that suits me just fine.