Gaming Co-Review: Borderlands 3

Ben: After seven long years, Gearbox has finally released a full-fledged sequel to Borderlands 2, a game Lauren and I both spent many, many hours shooting and looting our way through. The bar for the series had been set pretty high by Borderlands 2, which is full of quirky and endearing characters, hilarious dialogue, and of course, a boatload of crazy weapons and gear. Now that we’ve had ample time with Borderlands 3 – I’m right around seventy-five hours as I write this – it’s time to reveal our thoughts on it. Is Borderlands 3 a disappointment, a worthy follow-up, or does it surpass its predecessors?

Lauren: Though I am highly suspect of the 103 hours the Xbox app says I’ve spent in game considering I’ve only done one playthrough (I mean, I have played A LOT in my attempts to explore every nook and cranny, but I must take long pause breaks or something), it does adequately represent that the enjoyment found pillaging these lands borders on excessive. So yeah, it’s easy for me to say that Borderlands 3 surpasses its predecessors in many ways. Whereas most of my favorite game series tend to peak at game 2 for me (Uncharted, the Arkham series, Mass Effect), Borderlands 3 manages to evolve past what came before by continuing to build on the extremely solid foundation provided by the previous two games. It’s not without flaws, but most decisions made in the development of this game seem to be the right ones, especially in terms of gameplay and player characters.

Ben: I would place Borderlands 3 above all the previous entries too, and for the same reasons. It doesn’t change the already damn-near perfect formula, but improves and refines it to an insane degree. Adding mantling and sliding along with tweaking the gunplay just ever so slightly makes almost every firefight even faster and more fluid. Giving the new Vault Hunters, the player characters, way more dialogue and skills to choose from makes each one feel more distinct in gameplay and personality-wise, and their vastly different play-styles make co-op games even crazier (in a good way). Additionally, both player and supporting characters from previous games have changed in believable and interesting ways.

It’s also worth noting that while they could have implemented the “games as a service” model that so many open world looter shooters use nowadays, Gearbox was confident that their beloved franchise didn’t need a slew of changes to compete with the likes of Destiny. I can’t tell you how happy I am that Gearbox didn’t fix what wasn’t broken, and made sure that Borderlands 3 is still a Borderlands game.

As for the game’s flaws, the only problems I ran across were occasional glitches, lag, and framerate drops while playing in co-op, but there wasn’t anything game breaking or truly frustrating. Borderlands 3 is a huge, HUGE game, and like other games with gargantuan worlds – for example, the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series – a few mildly annoying hiccups here and there are easily forgivable. What were the issues you noticed, Lauren?

Lauren: I mean, the biggest issue was that Tiny Tina wasn’t in more of it, obviously. She’s my girl and at least deserved a spot aboard our ship. Yes, you read that right, put Pandora in Sanctuary #3’s rearview mirror because we’re heading to space! Can you imagine Tina on comms? That would’ve been the bomb dignity, though I will say an Ice-T voiced teddy bear fills in nicely. And hey, at least she is included. I looked all over these damn planets and couldn’t find Fiona anywhere. Where the frakk is she!?

Speaking of Balex, if I take your question of issues seriously then I should note that though I didn’t come across any game breaking issues either, I did come across some problems that were much more irritating than the occasional frame rate drops, ammo icons or weapon stats getting frozen on screen, the inability to move past people blocking the paths up stairs or through doorways, occasional crashes when loading in new locations when using the on map exits instead of fast traveling, and the audio being dropped, whether during mission briefings when someone is supposed to be speaking to me, or all together. Where talking quieter than fighting in space in The Pre-Sequel. We’ll call it mission cracking instead of game breaking, as I kept having to reload the game during the Balex mission because he would constantly get stuck on environmental “obstacles,” or just looking off into the distance, I suppose. Which isn’t great when you need him to open a million doors for you. This actually happened a bunch for me with other NPCs as well, and though this mission was the only one that caused me to have to reload the game, it’s pretty frustrating when characters that are supposed to interact with you get stuck in a wall or ledge somehow and are then monologuing with their back to the room.

The rest of my complaints focus more on the structure of the game. In other words, it feels like a lot of the game is back weighted in terms of when things become available to the player. As someone who likes to fill in a map completely before moving on to wherever the missions want me to go, I kept coming across things that I couldn’t interact with at the moment, but clearly would be able to eventually. Take the eridium growths: they’re all over the worlds, yet I couldn’t break them until 30 hours into the game, which sucks when there’s so much I want to buy from Crazy Earl. Then there’s the Eridian glyphs, which I couldn’t read until 87 hours in. Maybe it’s just me, and these are two small examples of that, but I couldn’t help but feel like the game was holding stuff back from me. Hell, we can’t even use one page of the menu until the campaign is beaten. Now that was something I missed from Borderlands 2. Give me back my Badass Rank! And new skin drop rate! And Bloodwing! …You better believe I still haven’t forgiven Handsome Jack for that gut shot.

Ben: While we’re on the subject of Handsome Jack, I’ll admit that the main antagonists of Borderlands 3, the Calypso twins, are not as impressive as the now-deceased Hyperion Head. However, what I don’t understand is all the criticism that the Calypso’s have received. I think they’re great. I didn’t expect them to match Jack – one of gaming’s greatest villains – but I still found their goals and their backstory to be interesting, they manage a strong balance of humor and menace, and they’re just as effective at riling you up as Jack was.

I definitely understand your annoyance with certain collectibles being initially unattainable though, but I also get why that choice was made: to extend the endgame. Even though I’ve completed the story, I’m still drawn back to playing it a second time with my first character because of all the extra goodies that were unavailable in the majority of my first playthrough. Although, it’s not like Borderlands 3’s New Game Plus mode, True Vault Hunter, needed the padding. Mayhem Mode, which is an option that’s only unlocked after beating the final boss, adds random modifiers to the game that ratchets up the difficulty and makes it worthwhile to have multiple weapon loadouts, thus creating the need to hunt for more and more guns.

And speaking of guns, OH MY GOD! The sheer variety of weapons and gear in Borderlands 3 is absolutely bonkers. A submachine gun that creates kamikaze spider-brain drones whenever you reload, a rocket launcher that fires corrosive cheeseburgers, an Elon Musk-inspired flamethrower, and literally a billion other guns are scattered all over the worlds of Borderlands 3. All of which somehow feel different. I still have yet to find two guns that handle the same way.

I also would’ve liked more not-so-Tiny Tina, Brick, Mordecai, and Claptrap too, but I’m also pretty okay with them stepping aside for the most part to let new supporting characters enter the spotlight. Balex, Lorelei, Clay and others make their own, zany marks on the series in Borderlands 3, and the franchise is bigger, stronger, and funnier for it.

Lastly, when it comes to Rhys, Fiona, and the Tales From the Borderlands crew, I’m guessing they – and us – will some closure in a future add-on. I’ve been waiting for answers regarding their story for the past five years, what’s another one or two?

Lauren: Yeah, what’s two years for you when compared with the Final Fantasy VII remake wait time you’ve endured?

The endgame content has never been that important to me, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that I play these games solo. Sure, you better believe my achievement whoring will lead me to hit that level cap eventually, and you already know how I feel about filling in the maps, but Mayhem Mode and True Vault Hunter mode don’t excite me as much as trying out some of the other classes. Especially now that they all seem to be perfected amalgamations of previous classes that came before. Sure, I’ll miss having my spiderant by my side (though my heart will appreciate not being jump scared by the affectionately named Thumper every single time he burst from the ground right in front of me), but that mech suit sure looks mighty comfy. And what better time to finally try out the Siren class? If not just to see if any dialog changes at all considering the Calypso twins literally eat Sirens for breakfast.

Twins, that I might add, fit perfectly in this world. The only complaint about them that I can think of past “they’re not Handsome Jack” is the often used record-everything-for-the-views youth commentary they’re playing up, but the way in which it’s heightened works for this universe. Of course that’s how these psychos would amass a following of, well, psychos.

And speaking of the internet: what better way to provide answers about what happened to Rhys and Fiona after that cliffhanger ending in Tales from the Borderlands than with another game of Bunkers and Badasses? It just so happens that Fiona’s voice actor, Laura Bailey, knows a bunch of nerdy ass voice actors who play Dungeons and Dragons, one of which voices the B&B …BM… herself. And you all know Tina could probably use another game to work through her newly acquired feelings of grief and loss following the events of B3. Gimme that Borderlands/Critical Role crossover DLC!

Ben: Well, it looks like Lauren and I are both big fans of Borderlands 3 and are excited/hopeful for even more content down the road. I know I’ll be coming back to it until Borderlands 4!


If you liked what you read here, check out some of our other co-reviews, follow us on Twitter (@TheGrigsbyBear and @BewareOfTrees), and bookmark our author pages. Until next time, remember: the best seats are in the Middle of the Row!

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