Review: Borderlands 3
I played the original Borderlands on the Xbox 360 upon its release at the end of 2009 and did virtually everything you could in the game, scouring the levels for every bit of loot to spend, every weapon to compare and contrast to what I already owned, every enemy to find and kill. Many hours were spent exploring the 3D comic book style colourful environments and completing all the side missions as well as the main story…and all the DLC packs too.
In subsequent years, due to how much I thoroughly enjoyed playing Borderlands, I bought both Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, though a terrible combination of drastically reduced gaming time and the awful habit of being attracted to new games always coming out, meant that both have stayed relatively untouched in my collection.
However, thanks to Borderlands 3 having recently celebrated its 1st anniversary and new DLC packs being released, the good people at 2K (see my previous reviews of their titles: PGA 2K21, NBA 2K21, Mafia Definitive Edition) were kind enough to send me a PS4 review code, so what better excuse to once again reacquaint myself with Claptrap and see what awaited me.
Playing on PS4 Pro I selected to play in performance mode rather than favouring the graphical fidelity, and it all played smoothly with no discernible slowdown, even during the most hectic of battles. It all looked bloody good too, though some of that may also be down to playing on a large 4K TV, as opposed to a much different TV that I played the original one on.
The core game itself remains relatively the same: a role playing first person shooter where you have a selection of characters to choose from (and can of course replay the game again with any of the others too) and then go off on a twisting storyline across multiple worlds and environments shooting people…a lot.
You have the choice to just follow the main story missions, though you’d be missing a lot if you didn’t also jump into the many side missions which become available as you progress through the game. You’d also probably find the game a lot more difficult too, as completing missions is one way to acquire the experience points to level up your character and apply skill points to them which give buffs to various areas of your character, as well as giving you access to higher quality weapons too.
These all come in very handy when meeting any of the many boss battles that you will come across in the game. Yes, one of my main gripes in games…boss battles! Longwinded un-skippable difficulty spikes where the feeling to throw your controller on the floor and turn the game off in a fit of rage becomes almost overwhelming at times (imagine if a book wouldn’t let you progress unless you knew the meaning of that long word you’ve never seen before, or if an album wouldn’t go to the next track if you couldn’t tell what key the previous song was played in! Come on developers, let everyone complete your games, even if it means having to skip little bits).
Having not completed the game yet (I wanted to get this online before we close for the year) I have got frustrated with some of the boss battles and died many times, but always managed to scrape through them…so far!
The story and the characters are not as strong as the original Borderlands, but isn’t that something quite familiar across many forms of entertainment as the sequels begin to appear? Though I have to admit that it has given me quite a few laughs and I am enjoying seeing how the narrative plays out and meeting new people in the game.
Can you have too much of a good thing? Looting the Borderlands environment for cash and weapons has always been a staple of the game and something which keeps you coming back to it…always on the hunt for another weapon upgrade or a bit more cash to buy that awesome grenade you’ve just seen at one of the vendors. But the sheer amount of things to loot in Borderlands 3 is insane! It seems that every corner you take has you faced with many more boxes, lockers, etc enticing you to click on them to see what is inside…sometimes just nothing.
This incessant clicking on everything you find so as not to miss out on a possible rare find becomes a grind and quite tedious, as does the inventory management that goes hand in hand with constantly adding new things into it. Having said that, the joy of coming across an ass-kicking weapon just at the right time you need one is an absolute joy.
The variety in weapons means that you can tailor the gun battles to your own style, with each weapon having a very different feel to it, as well as having a large variety of effects on both the enemies and the ones surrounding them…I still love to give everyone a good shock with a weapon…followed by an incendiary grenade.
Borderlands 3 is not a huge leap from what I remember of my time with the original all those years ago, as the same likes and dislikes are still present:
Likes: The art style, the silly humour, the “feel” of the weapons, the “just one more go” pull of the gameplay.
Dislikes: Too much looting, constant inventory management, those damn boss battles!
Taking it as a whole though I am enjoying my time back in the Borderlands world and will continue until the end. It has also whetted my appetite to go and play Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel which have sat in my collection for far too long. Seeing as I won’t be able to buy a PS5 for a long time yet, it is a good excuse to clear my gaming backlog before I am in a position to be tempted by the shiny new titles on a new console.
If you like shooting things and always having the ability to change up your weapons, then the Borderland games are just the thing. Add in a good dollop of silly humour and you can smile while you shoot. Just be aware of some of the frustrating parts of the gameplay too.
As an addition to this review, Chris has been playing Borderlands 3 for quite a while now and I think he may have even completed it. If memory serves me right he may have also played it in co-op mode too.
He has sent me over his thoughts on the game (which I haven’t read yet before writing this), so stay where you are and have a read of what he thought about the game as well:
After recently completing Borderlands 3 and getting the Platinum trophy, I thought I would add my thoughts on the game. I haven’t read Dave’s review so it will be interesting to see how his experience differed to mine.
First up a bit of background on my time with this franchise. I first played Borderlands on the Xbox 360. At the time it felt like a fresh take on first person shooters, with colourful characters, cell shaded style graphics and guns……lots of guns. Probably one of the biggest draws with Borderlands are the insane number of weapons available for you to find. I completed the game and enjoyed it for the most part. I played Borderlands 2 for about an hour and didn’t go back to it, and I haven’t played the Pre-Sequel so can’t comment on that.
As regular listeners of the ABC of Gaming will know, I regularly play multiplayer games with Wayne (@jetsetdiddy) and Pete (@tat_sun_). We were looking for a multiplayer game to play and Borderlands 3 seemed like an obvious choice, as we all generally like first person shooters. Wayne bounced off the game fairly quickly, whereas Pete and I stuck with it to the bitter end. So here are some of the things we liked and didn’t like, as well as some general observations.
- Performance – We were playing on PlayStation 4 Pro consoles and Borderlands 3 really chugged in places. There are options to favour resolution or performance, and even the performance mode felt like it was struggling at times. The graphics retain the same Borderlands style, but to be honest, I can’t understand why there was so much stuttering. I’m sure if I put the original Borderlands next to Borderlands 3, I could see a difference, but there didn’t seem to be a massive change in terms of graphics and presentation. I don’t think it was down to online play, but who knows. There were a few patches during our playthrough which seemed to have small improvements, but if you are playing on PS4, expect there to be some performance issues. From what I’ve seen if you own an Xbox Series X or PS5 these issues are now resolved, and you can even play at 120hz if your TV allows this.
- Story – There were times where Pete and I asked each other, “What are we doing?” “Where are we going?” “Why are we doing this?” Although the story is relatively simple, there are so many different characters and side quests it often felt a bit confusing, and to be quite honest a bit dull. I think part of the problem is the game isn’t as clever or funny as it thinks it is and the humour may well be wearing thin after so many sequels. I’m not going to say I didn’t laugh, and there are some nice self-aware pop culture references, but it did feel like a slog at times to get through everything.
- Gameplay – There are different classes of characters to choose from, each with their own skills. I chose Zane who is an Operative. His skills include having a drone which you can send off to attack enemies, throw down a shield, or create a holographic clone to distract enemies. Pete on the other hand used Moze who could call upon a giant mech to create chaos. As is the tradition with Borderlands, there are lots and lots of guns to find or buy. Pistols, sniper rifles, machine guns, assault rifles, shotguns and rocket launchers are available for your arsenal. Each are colour graded so you can tell generally how good they are based on a quick look. There are then individual stats for each weapon such as reload time and rate of fire, and they can also cause additional damage such as fire, ice, acid etc. Some enemies are more susceptible to these elemental effects, and some are immune, so using the right weapon is key to your success. This can feel overwhelming at first so be prepared to spend a fair bit of time selling items you aren’t using and generally managing your inventory. However, once you find the weapons you enjoy using, Borderlands 3 will be a lot of fun.
- Proving Grounds – Once we had completed the main game, there are additional levels called Proving Grounds. These are high level horde modes where you have to survive 5 rounds against different enemies. These are particularly challenging and can take up to an hour to complete each one. Whereas the main story was a bit rubbish, my overriding memory of Borderlands 3 will be playing through these modes. Pete and I had a lot of fun and they provided the challenge that seemed to be lacking in the main game.
So, overall Borderlands 3 was a mixed bag for me. If I were playing on my own, I don’t think I’d have carried on until the end. The humour is very hit and miss, mostly miss for me if I’m honest. The gameplay is fine, but not particularly exciting, unless you do the Proving Grounds. Performance wasn’t great, even on a PlayStation 4 Pro. It was a slow burn before Pete, and I started to enjoy the game. If you’re a fan of the Borderlands games, then you’ll more than likely enjoy Borderlands 3. For a casual fan like me, there are better shooters out there, and the whole Borderlands shtick may be wearing a little thin.