Six Hours In, Borderlands 3 Just Feels Like More Borderlands (And It's Kinda Busted)

Image: 2K Games

Borderlands 3 is almost certainly the game that you think it is. Six hours in, a lot of my feelings remain the same as they were when I first played Borderlands 3 at an extended preview last month. In a lot of ways it’s a time capsule, in some ways embarrassingly retrograde in its sensibilities, and in other ways confident that its central draw of shooting and looting always was and will continue to be enough. Because of how little the franchise has changed, the best way to know if Borderlands 3 is for you is to boot up one of the previous games in the series and see how well it works for you today.

Time is not a friend to the Borderlands games, which have largely remained stagnant as so-called loot shooters have proliferated around it. The novelty of a game that fused the steady dopamine rush of Diablo-style loot and light role-player character building with some decent shooting has now become common. You can get a similar experience with better shooting in Destiny 2, or with a weirder backstory in Warframe.

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A significant point in Borderlands 3’s favour is its size: I’m still very early in this very long game, and while it doesn’t seem interested in a major shift from what came before, there’s plenty of room for little surprises. I’m curious to see what’s lurking in the margins, to dive more deeply into side quests now that I’ve spent some time diving ahead in the main campaign.

The constantly changing scenery in Borderlands 3 is quite nice.

So far, the story is serviceable — you begin the game working for Lilith, the Siren from the very first Borderlands, and are drawn into conflict with the Calypso Twins, a couple of livestreamers with loud personalities and a penchant for snuff. The Calypsos have united all of the bandits of Pandora, and they’ve got designs on finding Vaults—in Borderlands lore, they’re hidden lairs rumoured to be full of unimaginable loot, but in reality often come with a nasty surprise—on planets across the galaxy. So it’s up to you to chase them, because they very clearly won’t use whatever they find in a Vault for any good.

There are some concerning technical issues — on a Friday afternoon stream, I played co-op with video producer Paul Tamayo on an Xbox One X, and the game almost ground to a halt, the frame rate protesting as a second player dropped in for a split-screen local game. After a few minutes, it worked out just fine — until one of us opened our menu to change out loot or look at the map. Then, once again, the game began to chug, and negotiating firefights became far more difficult than it needed to be.

I should note that like many games enhanced for Xbox One X, you can choose to emphasise visual fidelity or frame rate, and I had chosen the former. Regardless, seamless couch co-op is a huge part of Borderlands 3’s appeal, and it should work without issue. I’ll be trying it some more in the coming week to see how consistent a problem this is.

It’s the biggest problem in a game with rough edges. Most are minor, like some mild texture pop-in or the occasional audio drop that makes your gun suddenly silent (which might irritate you more if you, like me, wish the shooting in Borderlands had more heft.) There was also one instance where a quest-giver completely disappeared mid-mission, barring me from continuing because they were supposed to open a door for me. Fortunately, Borderlands 3 is generous with its checkpoints, and re-starting my game fixed the problem, but I’m still a little wary.

Mostly, Borderlands 3 feels like a game that doesn’t have a whole lot to prove. It has piles of guns and a rude attitude and little people to shoot, because hey, isn’t that funny? In its first act, Borderlands 3 luxuriates in low expectations, resting in confidence that its core pleasure of sorting through endless piles of weird and improbable weaponry is enough to skate by. That and, if it works, the all-too-rare pleasure of having a solid shooter that you can play on the couch with someone else.

Borderlands 3 Feels Like A Throwback To 2012 In All The Best (And Worst) Ways

It has been five years since the last two Borderlands games - the one-two punch of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and the Telltale Games spinoff, Tales From the Borderlands. Five years is a healthy amount of time for something to be gone, but for Gearbox Software, developers of the first two games (The Pre-Sequel was developed by 2K Australia, with assistance from Gearbox), it’s been even longer. The 2012 release of Borderlands 2 might as well have been a lifetime ago.

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Comments

    Personally always found the loot system in Borderlands to be horrible. Because of the random nature of it 99% of loot, even epic/legendary drops from bosses, were useless to me. Not just in what stats they were rolled with, but also the weapons functionality. Like whether it came with a scope or not. Or whether it fired in bursts or single shot. Etc.

    In a game like a traditional RPG where the combat is mainly handled by dice rolls that sort of thing doesn't matter. You don't care if your latest gun came with a scope or not because hit chance is what matters. You're not actually looking down the sights and trying to land a shot. But in a full action game like Borderlands those things have a drastic effect on your playstyle, and in turn your enjoyment of the game. I remember past Borderlands games I'd stick with a green quality weapon for large parts of the game over "upgrading" to a higher quality weapon with better stats just because the green weapon had the sights, reload and shooting type I found the most enjoyable.

      Great point. Often I find these types of oversights and wish producers picked up on them in development

    I'm not minding it so far, but I think they could probably just end the series here. It feels 'done'. Time to move on to a new concept, keep the same art style perhaps, go for a medieval setting, fantasy style perhaps?

    Im enjoying it but the performance on PS4 pro is abysmal. I have to believe there is some stupid bug because I have to try to believe they didn't intent for the launch to be this terrible.

    Heres the thing about the loot for me... there is too much and too little bag space. A problem from all the games but this one is next level in terms of loot spam, when you get 7-10 junk weapons for just clearing a single area, around people really cheering because if me it tilts me like watching an episode of Hoarders. Between all the ammo and all the health drops and all the loot drops, I am beginning to wonder if all that visual spam is not helping the performance.

    All that said the gun play is simply outstanding and satisfying, and the characters have been making me laugh, beyond that, its Borderlands, for better or worse. If I wanted depth I certainly wouldn't be looking in its world.

      I've definitely been filling my bag much quicker than I did in previous editions.
      And I thought the gunplay was pretty good too. I'm not sure what the author is saying.

    Aaaand... Borderlands 2 feels like just more Borderlands, so no surprises there. It's one of the reasons I had no interest at all in preordering despite absolutely loving the original.

    Tried the free Boarderlands 2 with PS+ and was bored within 3hrs so I guess this isn’t for me.

    Does a sequel have to be groundbreaking and different though? Sometimes people just want more of what worked for them. There is already an established audience for this series anyway so I don’t see much a big deal. When you try to stray too far from the original or try to be innovative you get Destiny 2 on release or the Mass Effect 3 original ending.

    I can’t fault them for going with what works for their audience.

      Also, they focused on making the actual gunplay better. Which for me, pretty much changes the entire feel of the game. Even if it looks / sounds similar.

    Sequels often get accused of "Changing too much" or "Changing not enough". Borderlands is a game that's much better off sticking to the latter.
    There are other loot shooters now. If I want different I have options.
    It doesn't need to be the evolution of the genre. It just needs to not suck.

    I tried out the Pre-Sequel when it came up as a PlayStation plus freebie and really found it not respecting my time after a solid play session, so I'll be giving this a miss. Sometimes it's okay to have stopped when you're ahead.

      Pre-Sequel is pretty much known as the worst of the bunch with B2 being the highlight. That being said, the Borderlands games aren't for everyone, so kudos for at least giving it a try.

    I'm level 11 and I'm still having fun. With some caveats. First impressions: it's very Borderlands. So, the story so far is great, the voice acting is great, claptrap is annoying as hell but now he's got an umbrella on his head, slightly more amusing. Shooting is great, the guns are interesting (found a lot of shit ones and some spectacular ones) and the cars still drive like absolute garbage.

    As always, the shotguns are massively overpowered which i'm fine with. My current purple one shoots two shots per shot and if you score a critical hit, one of them will ricochet off and hit someone else. So, it's massively overpowered for FL4K as my current action skill means that my first 3 shots are guaranteed critical hits. So, i use my action skill, get a critical hit, which means one shot ricochets off and hits someone else, (or weirdly, multiple other people) for a critical hit. Then rinse and repeat 3 times because the first 3 shots are guaranteed critical. It's awesome. It's a room clearer, that's for sure.

    The art is brilliant, the detail is fab, climbing on stuff is a massive pain in the ass (although I'm sure I'll probably get used to it) and i've had to dial down my sensitivity to the absolute minimum because i couldn't control the crosshairs which is weird. The things that are bugging me the most is the complete lack of distinction between ammo and anything else when they're in a pile of stuff and how EVERY SINGLE enemy is the same colour as the damn background they are on which makes them extremely hard to see. That coupled with the fact that I can't fast travel to anywhere without having a bandit in a vehicle immediately spawn and try to kill me is very irritating.

    The other thing is that when you're progressing through an area, enemies seem to always spawn on high ground (bridges and rooftops) even though in many cases you can't get to that high ground without going further through the area and then backtracking. That's fine, I get it from a realism point of view but they always have amazing cover that makes them impossible to hit. But, i loved B2 and the pre-sequel and I love being able to play through at my pace without having to be online in a multiplayer environment. The worst thing the fallout team ever did was to make 76 multiplayer only (and i didn't buy it because of that), I'm glad B3 didn't do that.

    "More Borderlands" is what I wanted, and that's what I got, plus quality-of-life improvements like being able to move to fast-travel points from anywhere on the map.

      Right? That's a pretty terrific little addition. It's a little messy with the menus, but great no less!

    I've generally found Borderlands to be dull, even if the humour at times is decent. Held off preordering because of that, and glad I didn't I think.

    I think this game is getting a lot of hatred for no reason. If you want to hate on it for the technical hiccups which they should fix, that's fine but those bemoaning that the game isn't good, that's an opinion not a fact.

    Plenty of people enjoy the loot n shoot aspect of the Borderlands games and I know people say Destiny is similar but they feel SO different to me it isn't a comparison. I played maybe 100 hours of Destiny 1 and couldn't even get to 30-40 hours of Destiny 2 before I lost interest while across Borderlands 1, 2 and presequel I've put in over 500 hours. Doesn't mean Borderlands is a better game, just means it's a better game FOR ME.

    Can't we all just enjoy the games we enjoy without others having to say the game THEY prefer is undoubtedly better?

    The technical issues though need to be fixed Gearbox, get on it before I invest much more into B3 and you lose fans

      Everyone has some game that they like that others don't. For example, I quite like SiN & SiN Emergence, but I'm also enough of a grown up to recognise that its also a shit game(s). I feel thats where BL is right now.

        I never would've called SiN a 'shit' game per se maybe more 'run of the mill', but understand your point.

        We all have those games which click with us and others which don't. I've played every GTA game since GTA 2 but haven't finished one since San Andreas and found both 4 and 5 to be boring after 10-15 hours.. I can see that they were both amazing games but not for me..

      Oh man. I've put hundreds of hours into both D2 and Borderlands (much more into BL) and can't work out why you'd compare them in the slightest. They're not really alike at all.

      And I haven't had any technical issues but there is definitely some design choices that I think didn't need to be changed from the earlier games, like when selling your items.

    Am really enjoying the game and storyline. It's neat to see how friends are progressing with challenges. Bag space is definitely an issue, as someone mentioned above. Too much junk loot, not enough bag space. Love that you can reload all ammo with a single click. Love you can fast travel from pretty much anywhere and to your vehicle. Overall a lot of nice enhancements for BL fans.

    But,... PS4 Local Co-op is way laggy on a normal PS4 (not the Pro), especially when you pop open a menu or use a vendoring machine. In big fights, the frame rate really suffers and have had audio drop outs. Hopefully this can be patched.

    8/10

      The frame rate issues are a massive deal breaker for me. I not getting the game on Epic, and I thought about getting it for either the One X or PS4 Pro, but Digital Foundry has shown that neither of those options are really viable. I have played a lot of Borderlands 2 on PC at 60FPS, so I just don't see how I could enjoy Borderlands 3 at either a completely wonky '60FPS' in performance mode (that *constantly* fluctuates all over the place) or a stable 30FPS on the One X in graphics mode which I think might be too unresponsive (the PS4 Pro is even worse again so I hate to think what the performance is like on the base consoles!).

      It looks like I'll be waiting until they iron out all the bugs and performance issues (which also seems to be a thing with the PC version that incorporates a horrible DRM that outrageously bloats the executable and hammers the upload on the network) and just get it when it comes to Steam in six months. Probably not even that ... I think I'll wait for a heavily discounted GOTY instead. If the game was available on Steam from the offset, and it functioned reasonably well out of the gate (without Denuvo), then I would've been happy to spend my money. But I don't think I feel like supporting the decisions made here. Not at all.

    The gun play and hitboxes in the previous games was awful... no thanks to more of this.

    Am I the only one frustrated with the dialogue? There seems to be much more of it, with really drawn out jokes. Is alright now or then but is way too much unfortunately.

      Yep. love the game but they never fckn shut up, im so sick and tired of hearing these disembodied radio voices every 5 seconds

        And loooooong, draaaaaawn out "jokes". Like, they're taking thrice as long to tell them compared to BL2. I first noticed it in the FreeLC.

      The advertisements alone have put me off playing the game.

      I get them constantly. Every time i hear "Whaaaaaaaaaats up....." i die inside.

    The ‘irreverent’ style of humour in these games turns me off too. It’s very annoying and never genuinely funny..

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