This article contains opinion.
The official third installment of the crude, in-your-face, guns smorgasbord, father of the looter shooter genre, “Borderlands” is here.
While “Borderlands 3” perfects its formula of looting and shooting as well as new mechanics, the writing surrounding the main narrative isn’t as polished.
“Borderlands” had prided itself on pretty stellar writing since the introduction of “Borderlands 2” back in 2012. That is not quite the case here for “Borderlands 3.” The main issue stems from the game’s new main villains, The Calypso Twins, Trey and Tyreen.
The young antagonists are filling the role of the millennial YouTuber cliche with annoying humor, trolling videos and meaningless entitlement all for the sake of glory. While the premise of young, brash psychopaths bent on the destruction of everything for no real reason may seemingly make sense on paper, the result lands short of the mark.
It is evident that co-writers Sam Winkler and Danny Homan attempted to use the over-exaggeration of a targeted generation as a satirical comedy. Yet, the humor is one-note. The portrayal doesn’t evolve the characters past the surface level introduction within the first three hours of the game.
Instead, the Calypsos, while voiced incredibly well, are a mere personification of one type of personality. I wanted to know more about why these characters were as devious as they were.
While the villains aren’t the worse part of the narrative, the glaring plot holes are.
At the start of the adventure, a selection of four different classes of the protagonist are available. One is a Siren, a female being of great psychic power that co-exists with five others throughout the universe within “Borderlands” lore. I selected the Siren for my playthrough. During the few animated cutscenes in the game, my character had almost zero impact on the story, even though it required my character to progress it. There lies the dilemma.
Why is my character just a tool to be used by the main cast of characters? Why does my character, a Siren, have no consequence on the plot? It broke my connection to the narrative and sullied my experience and completely severed any immersion I felt during the lengthy campaign.
While the story might have lacked the punch I sought, the gameplay loop was everything I expected from a “Borderlands” game. Quality of life improvements, such as the additions of mantling and sliding, add even more fluidity when battling the onslaught of enemies in each of the diverse worlds I visited.
With the ability to climb comes verticality to the level designs. Each of the worlds in “Borderlands 3” is nuanced with length, width, and height, something veterans of the series have not seen before.
Every world felt unique, draped in its aesthetic for players to explore in beautifully cell-shaded splendor. This level design allows for new approaches to the formula of the plethora of side missions to do. New areas open up as these missions are completed, showcasing how much love and attention that Gearbox Studios gave to almost all of the worlds they created.
I would be remiss not to mention the main calling card of the series: the incredible amount of weapons. Some guns have multiple firing modes, shoot lasers or rotary saws (yes really) or even grow legs and run around causing even more mayhem. It is here that “Borderlands 3” shines in the most brilliant light it can muster.
Guns are acquired from killing enemies or from the loot boxes littered throughout the densely packed worlds.
Paired with the unique styles of each of the gun manufacturers is succulent sound design. From the whir of an electrified beam to the subtle chamber clang while reloading a revolver, every sound is meticulously layered perfection. What results is a cacophony of sweet and deadly carnage not only for your eyes but for your ears.
Unfortunately, the ambitions of the developers outpace the game’s capabilities at times. Navigating the menus can lag at times. Pop-in textures, which may be the limitations of my PlayStation 4, can break the immersion when traversing in one of three styles of customizable vehicles.
The big bosses in “Borderlands 3,” for the most part, are incredibly well done. Each boss took some amount of skill to conquer, save for some of the more cheap kill bosses that stagnate the flow that I otherwise held throughout each play session. One boss was so frustratingly unfair that it took nearly an hour just to beat. The sheer stupidity of how quick they killed me for something that I could not avoid was maddening.
“Borderlands 3,” while a narrative shortcoming, is some of the most fun that I have had in a videogame in some time. With free additive content on the horizon and hours upon hours of replay potential and endgame objectives to complete, there is so much still left for me to do.
If the story is the focal point for a purchase of a video game, this may not be worth the investment that “Borderlands 2” was. However, if a ludicrous amount of guns, fantastic side missions, gorgeous worlds and a potentially never-ending gameplay loop is something that piques interest, there are far worse to choose from than this first-person shooting game.