It’s no surprise to anyone that Borderlands 3 has been my most anticipated game of 2019. However, after about 10 hours of gameplay, I am still uncertain how I feel about the game as a whole. I mean there are some really, really, cool things that Gearbox has added that makes me say “yea this is a better game than Borderlands 2“, but there’s also some stuff where I’m like “uh, this feels kinda stale like most of The Pre-Sequel“. I will follow up with a final thoughts blog after I complete the game, but let’s run through my initial thoughts on Borderlands 3.
I started the game last Friday already knowing which class would be my first playthrough: The Beastmaster. Being able to control your own little group of beasts from Pandora seemed so fucking cool, until I realized you can only choose ONE pet at a time. I mean for balance issues that makes complete sense, so I kinda disregarded it at first. But now that I’m 10 hours in, I am not a big fan of FL4K. Let me clarify: all 3 pets are cool as hell. You have a Spider-Ant that smashes his head into the ground, you have a Skag that charges into enemies and throws them into the air, and you’ve got this monkey-wolverine hybrid creature called a Jabber that carries a gun. But when you’re playing with those sidekicks, I feel like you can’t really tell any impact of what they’re doing. In prior games, your abilities had a huge impact on how you played the game with that class, but I feel like my abilities have very little impact, if any, on how I’m playing the game. I’ll play through the game as another class I’m sure, but for me, FL4K has fallen flat.
One thing that I absolutely love about the game are the new boss battles, especially the stages for said boss battles. There’s a boss where the floor is covered in electric panels, there’s a DJ boss who shoots a gun that has sounds wave bullets and these subwoofers surround the stage; its visually stunning and makes you feel like a badass in each fight. They upgraded the movement so the game feels as fluid as Apex Legends, they made the menus a little better, you can fast travel without having to walk up to a fast travel beacon; these are all really good improvements over Borderlands 2. The graphics look exactly the same as Borderlands 2, but its cell shaded graphics guys. There’s no room to improve those. As a whole, you can tell that there was a real effort by Gearbox to add some updated mechanics and polish to an already successful formula, but there are some major areas that feel like Gearbox took a step back.
As I’ve said before, the thing that really elevated Borderlands 2‘s story in my mind was the villain: Handsome Jack. He makes you hate him right off the bat, and that sets off a chain of events that makes you wish he was dead for every second of each playthrough. The new villains though? They suck. They suck bad. They’re like these wannabe streamers that just aren’t funny, aren’t really that evil, and you can’t stand listening to monologue over and over again. Again, I haven’t beaten the game yet, so I don’t know if that changes, but there is a real lack of momentum in the early stages of the game. Also, I get that the humor isn’t for everyone; some people have never liked Borderlands humor. But as someone who has liked the series humor up to this point, this area feels like a huge step back. I think I’ve laughed like one time in the entire 7 hours I’ve played this game. The jokes just don’t land as well as they did in earlier games. I’m not going to directly reference any moments for the sake of spoilers, but I just think the writing team just dropped the ball across the board. And I absolutely hate that my character has voice lines for the story. Does it effect how fun the game is? Not really, but that’s not the only thing that Gearbox messed up.
Am I the only one who feels like they took away any and all originality in the enemies and weapons? There used to be so many different enemy types. Psychos, Goliaths, Nomads, Bruisers, Skags, Threshers, Spiderants; this variety of enemies made each area feel so unique. But in Borderlands 3, about 80% of the enemies are just Cultists armed with guns. There’s no variety in how you approach each room anymore, nothing causing the player to keep playing because there’s something new around the corner. Instead, each room is just filled with bland bullet sponges like you see in every other shared world multiplayer game like Destiny and Anthem. But that’s ok right? As long as the guns are cool we’ll still have a reason to keep playing right? Well, they fucked that up too. Where the fuck are all the cool unique guns that make me say “oh my god this gun is badass”? I’ve said that maybe once in my entire 10 hours of gameplay. None of the guns are that unique from each other. At one point I had 3 of the exact same assault rifle in my backpack just with different stats. And the AR isn’t even that interesting! It’s just a standard AR! Even the guns you get from story missions and boss battles are bland as hell. This is the most critical error that Gearbox could have ever made, because the gameplay doesn’t stand out anymore.
I really hope that most of these negatives go away as I continue my playthough, because I’m honestly no where near as engaged as I was with Borderlands 2. About 10 hours into Borderlands 2, you wouldn’t have been able to get me to play any other game until I finished the campaign. But with Borderlands 3, I’ve already checked out. Again, I’ll post another blog talking about my final thought after I beat the game, but right now they’re not very good for a game I thought would be a shoe in for Game of the Year.