After half a decade of silence, Gearbox finally decided to let Borderlands 3 see the light of day. Thanks to a substantial showing at and prior to E3 2019, it’s probably safe to say that Borderlands 3 is one of, if not the most anticipated games of the year.
Of course, this isn't the first time that this phrase has been uttered. From an outside perspective, it's like history is repeating itself. Another looter shooter from an acclaimed developer is supposed to be the next big thing. It does well for a while, then it inevitably implodes. Heck, the last five years of games have proven that literally any game can fail.
On the other hand, it is somewhat remarkable that the game series that is largely responsible for the popularization of looter shooters remains beloved to this day. In spite of all the competition throughout the years, Borderlands 2 is arguably still the standard for looter shooters. For good reason as well.
A lot of the problems that plague modern looter shooters were “solved” in Borderlands 2. A coherent story, character progression, and good dialogue are all integral parts of the game. In spite of the series’ signature goofiness, the game also touches on some surprisingly deep and relevant modern themes. Sexuality, morality, and hyper-super-mega capitalism are at the forefront of these themes. On top of that, it gave birth to one of the best villains in recent memory, Handsome Jack.
On the more practical side of things, Borderlands’ gameplay remains unmatched by other looter shooter. For starters, there’s a skill tree that actually does something. Each character essentially has at least three basic builds available to them. That number increases as you find more loot, as certain loot enables or enhances certain builds. Seeing as how Borderlands 3’s skill trees appear to allow for even more diverse builds, this is definitely a strong point of the series.
Historically, the quests are mercifully a lot more varied than just “go here, shoot that guy, hold position against waves of enemies” too. The vast majority of the quests do involve point to point murder sprees, but that’s more of a means to an end than the actual goal. As far as endgame content goes, there’s Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode and the various Raid Bosses. Sure, there’s no actual Raid per se, but it’s good enough. It might actually be better since everything in Borderlands has traditionally been solo-able. Stupidly difficult perhaps, but theoretically solo-able with the right build and gear.
Naturally, no game is safe from criticism. One of the less impressive parts of the Borderlands series has been its somewhat empty open world areas. It doesn’t help that there’s a noticeable amount of backtracking, escort, and timed racing quests. Overall enemy design is impressively varied, but a couple (threshers in particular) are incredibly annoying to fight. Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode (in Borderlands 2 at least) is evidently where everyone got the idea to make bullet sponge enemies. It is rather amusing, and mildly irritating, how money and underleveled loot quickly loses their value in UVHM though. Needless to say, this exacerbates the fact that there is no effective RNG mitigation whatsoever.
On the bright side, most of the Borderlands series’ problems stem from being old games. Based on what can be seen from Borderlands 3’s gameplay reveal, the series’ strengths will live on. If anything, Gearbox will have more room to do crazy things seeing as how the game will finally be on somewhat modern hardware. If Borderlands 2 can withstand the test of time relatively well despite being a last gen game, then it stands to reason that Borderlands 3 will be just as long lived.
On the other hand, it is more than a little odd that some returning characters have new voice actors. Normally, this is a non-issue, but there were some disconcerting allegations that the developers aren’t paying the voice actors fairly. This in turn can be indicative of other internal issues. Number bloat is also an issue that should be kept in mind as super lategame enemies can have billions or trillions of points of health in Borderlands 2. Granted, your own weapons can do some millions of points of damage per second too, and the Pre-Sequel apparently didn't have this bullet sponge problem, but it's not exactly a positive feature.
Still, it’s not exactly intolerable, and even if Borderlands 3 is just Borderlands 2 but with different voice actors and more particle effect spam, that’s not exactly the worst thing in the world. Frankly, it’d still be better than everything else that’s on the market. In any case, it might be a good idea to exercise caution regardless as literally anything can happen these days.