Everybody with a gaming pulse knows Borderlands is an action role-playing first-person shooter that’s all about loot, “in-your-face” art work and the sassiest of sass. Developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games, Borderlands 3 launched on September 13th and I jumped in not long after the vault gates opened. Now what you might not know is that this author is not traditionally an FPS gamer – so what on earth am I doing in here?! Well, you’ll just have to read on to find out all about it in part one of our two-part Borderlands 3 review!
Right up until 5 minutes after launch I was back and forth over whether to play. I mean, I bought Borderlands 1 and 2 three years ago because this series is one of my partners favorite FPS games however I haven’t played more than two hours. Even though I adored the boldness of it in personality and design, it just wasn’t much fun on my own. So here I was excited as can be on the launch day of Borderlands 3, prepared to watch my partner play instead and then the music started and I was bowled over by the grittiness of it, it was my jam and I needed more of it! The Epic store won a new customer, I wanted to kiss my Google fiber for how fast it installed and within minutes I was in the game ready to conquer Pandora as Amara.
The playable characters of Borderlands 3 draw you in immediately, making it easy for you to decide that you will level them all eventually. I chose Amara as my first main character because everything about her is my kind of aesthetic – exotic, fearless, confident; yet mysterious. I knew nothing of her skills or lore on day one, which turned out to be hours of me squealing in wonder, surprise, and laughter. Everything was fascinating, even Claptrap! From this sentence forward my partner in crime is now known as FL4K.
When I realized Amara was a Siren I was ecstatic, we were made for each other! Everything about her became even more endearing as I leveled but I was also learning fast that Borderlands is all about personality and there are some brilliant minded developers that have done an exceptional job drawing upon the best of every kind of good/evil that has ever existed-then placed them strategically throughout this games world. From underwear-clad accountants to super-villain level wealthy spinsters, there is something memorable in every non-playable character (NPC) you come across. The one-liners, punch lines and brashness peppered throughout dialogue follows quickly with shock, laughter or both. I was eager within minutes to meet every single one of them which took me completely by surprise. It has been some years since I have so naturally become absorbed in a game, maybe even longer since I have laughed so heartily or willingly become as absorbed in a game as I have Borderlands 3.
I have been playing this chunk of my game in Ultra settings. I will now be playing in Bad Ass settings to give me a clearer idea of how much impact this game’s settings have so we will get back to this next week. You can check out my computer specs in my profile below.
As it is now I am having trouble seeing some NPC’s during combat especially the “man-babies” that pop up out of nowhere like mini-ninjas because VFX (visual effects) hides them really well. Otherwise, the contrast between 2D cartoon, 3D realism, and the spooky Lilith and Tannis “real-eyes” additions add layered art design that’s very appealing. The slow-motion intro’s to bosses and main NPC’s along with the vintage montage that highlights everyone/thing important are pure gold which unfortunately points out a major flaw for those who love taking screenshots or captioning game play like I do. Amara has some incredible animations however I never get to see them myself even in Photomode or taking video captions. Speaking of Photomode I am devastated to just realize that all my pictures taken with this mode have the UI still on them so the photos are ruined. I never thought to check as I have never used a game Photomode that didn’t hide any UI. I also use Nvidia gallery so fingers crossed I find some photo’s there for this review.
Now here’s perhaps my favorite part of Borderlands and that’s the “loot and shoot em” feel this RPG FPS dishes out constantly. On top of some incredible VFX coming from combat, you constantly feel like you’re having a pinata party – guns, ammunition, shields, grenades (etc) are dropping constantly by the truckload! Wouldn’t it be wicked if there was an arena you could enter that lets you compete against others to see who can loot all the chests, lockers, boxes, containers and crates (etc) fastest and whoever wins gets to keep the loot? I’m getting faster and faster at looting every neon green button, each day I play. What would benefit me greatly with this is if I could lock items in my bag so when I vendor I don’t vendor the items I want to keep.
Always on the hunt for that legendary orange glow, there doesn’t seem to be any influence on loot as you level during boss fights. Whether you die or not, how fast you kill a boss, what weapons you use. I’m testing but so far not seeing anything that might influence higher graded loot before level 50. Which reminds me, am I the only one curious what the point of the Eridium temples are that Tannis is speaking with you in after some boss fights? They always seem so regal and important with all their unopened chests yet only give greens and gray graded loot, with the odd blue if you’re very lucky. It just feels like these particular chests should reward better than the toilets you find all over the Borderlands world. The good news is if the loot gets you down you can always just head back to the Sanctuary and hit the “Lost Loot” vending machine, use a golden key if you have one, frequent Moxxi’s and the slot machines, go downstairs to Ellie’s garage where the Eridium Vending machine is or look forward to the Eridium Fabricator gun I picked up at 33 that shoots out guns to keep or vendor!
At the time of writing this review, Amara is level 33 and I have a level 7 Moze and Zane. My next respec on Amara will cost me $13,593 which I am happy to do as I think the skills in this game are fascinating to play with. I have tried many variations but enjoy building her as a melee dominating Siren most, stacking melee damage bonuses in weapons, mods, and shields when possible to support this.
I have already pointed out the abundance of guns however my soft spot is grenades, carrying different varieties for different kinds of combat or just having more than a few so I never run out. In Borderlands 3 I’m shocked to say I am also enjoying sniping followed by shotguns and pistols-which often have melee bonuses. Otherwise, it’s all about the damage and VFX! Again I tip my virtual fedora to the developers who are giving us some very wicked guns to play with along with grenades. From rainbows to sticky bombs and detonators every aspect of this game has something comedic, charming or just lethally sexy.
Not having played Borderlands 1 or 2 really I can’t give you a comparison but I can say that the TTK (time to kill) in Borderlands 3 makes this game enjoyable for someone like me who still has trainer wheels on with FPS games and perhaps will for the rest of her short-attention-span life! (Yes that’s me over there looting while you’re killing all the enemy because I must loot everything!) That’s not saying you don’t need skill, that’s saying there is time for you to improve, learn your weapons/skills, line of sight advantages, enemy strengths/weaknesses and all that good stuff that will help you succeed as each fight gets more and more difficult.
We have a great top ten tips list available which I agree with wholeheartedly especially having just spent my last golden key, reached startling costs on the upgrade prices to everything at Marcus’s shop and spent 372 Eridium on a gun that has incredible stats and Siren bonuses. I want to kill everything as fast as possible no matter what level or where.
I would also suggest not being shy to head back to low-level maps and farm Eridium and if you are playing constantly in a team like I am, check your quests log after disbanding some times to make sure you aren’t missing any challenges. There seems to be a glitch in the Borderlands 3 grouping matrix that hides some challenges even if you both need them. Try to also consider that this is not only a looting game, it’s also a vending mean machine game. Loot everything to vendor asap, take note of where your vending machines are so you can loot, run back, vendor and carry on. Where possible fight at the vending machines and speaking of vending machines – loot all the chests around you first BEFORE buying ammunition as often you don’t need to if you take an extra minute. Save your Borderlands 3 cash for Marcus upgrades!
Something that’s done really well in Borderland 3 (especially if you’re playing as a team like I am) is helping you team-up or navigate the game. At the log in point, you can join each other via the social tab but in the game also you can teleport to each other using the map, I especially like entering vehicles this way with a particular fondness at being the one perched on top doing all the shooting. Car driving and car hijacking is a load of fun but I have wished vehicle-battles were more of a challenge with reward more than once or twice to capitalize on that fun factor.
I am also enjoying the customization options though in among the pinata-party I will not be surprised if I have missed cosmetic items. I would find it very helpful if they had their own VFX instead of a green or white which I often will not even look closely at if bag space is scarce.
What really stands out for me over and over again in these 33 levels is how smooth it is to play as a duo in Borderlands 3 which is so important for gaming couples like us. I don’t mind admitting that I am also as much of a fan of FL4K as I am of Amara, his responses are incredibly entertaining and the way he interacts with his pet so adorable.I also get to enjoy seeing all of his animations unlike my own character so I guess I will just have to wait until my partner plays Amara to really see her in action but will he play her as well as me? We will see…