For a Few Legendaries More
The Borderlands 3 adventures continue in the game's latest DLC, Bounty of Blood. Unlike the previous two DLCs, your objective in Bounty of Blood is simple: show up, wipe out a gang of bandits, and collect your bounty. Sounds like something that can be done in a couple of short side quests right? However, in typical Borderlands fashion, things take a turn for the worse almost immediately in this Western-themed DLC. What should've been an easy job turns into several hours of questing as you discover the secrets of the planet Gehenna.
On the surface, Bounty of Blood offers the usual amount of Borderlands 3 DLC content. A handful of new locations to explore, a level cap increase to 60, and Legendary guns galore. What sets Bounty of Blood apart from its predecessors is a whole slew of new features. For starters, there's a new vehicle. Then there's the addition of an entirely original cast of new characters, including a literal narrator. Lastly, this is the only DLC so far that encourages you to interact with your environment, with new environmental hazards and mechanics (more on this later).
Borderlands 3 | A New Take On the Wild West
In more ways than one, Bounty of Blood is Borderlands 3's most original DLC yet. There aesthetics alone help Bounty of Blood claim that honor. Most people would probably expect the DLC to be completely Western-themed. As it turns out, the DLC features a surprisingly nice mix of Western and Eastern (possibly Japanese) architectural design.
Plus, for the first time, the DLC doesn't revolve around an existing Borderlands character. Instead, you get to meet a new group of characters that are based on typical Western tropes. You've got the backstabbing outlaw who's out for revenge, a former bandit looking for redemption, and a cowardly townsman who has to find the courage to step up when everyone needs him to. Rather standard characters for the genre, albeit with a Borderlands twist.
Unfortunately, one can't help but feel like these new characters were underused. You only get to interact with the new protagonists for a few short moments at best. It's enough to get a rough idea of their backstory and their general mannerisms, though not quite enough to develop them as anything more than a trope. Even the villain, who is arguably the most interesting new character of the DLC, has about a quarter of their lines dedicated to generic villain taunts.
Borderlands 3 | New Characters With a Future?
It seems like Gearbox decided to give all of the dialogue to the Narrator instead, a literal narrator who frequently provides exposition during the DLC. It's thematic, and funny at times, but it kind of gets old hearing the same disembodied voice all the time. If you have no problem with that, then the Narrator is a great addition to the story.
Indeed, the writing for the entire main story seems like an uncharacteristic departure from the norm. It's much more serious, and definitely not a barrel of laughs as one may expect. You can feel the change in tone the most around the middle of the story, which is rather slow and uneventful. The ending picks the pace back up and knocks it way out of the park, yet getting to that point is a slight struggle. Fortunately, the overall writing is somewhere between passable and very good, and there's plenty of humor to be found in the sidequests.
Borderlands 3 | Playing With the Environment
Speaking of underused mechanics, Bounty of Blood introduces a bunch of new environmental features to Borderlands 3. These include jump pads, special exploding rocks, plants that mind control enemies, and teleporters. As one can imagine, the jump pads and teleporters are very fun to use in combat and general exploration when you can find them. The only real downside is that the teleporters and plants are extremely rare finds. The special exploding rocks on the other hand are just lackluster, in spite of their abundance. They simply don't do enough damage or offer enough utility to be useful outside of exploration and plot advancement.
Perhaps it is for the best that there are any new environment objects at all, as underutilized as they may be, as the new enemies don't really have any new behaviors or mechanics. The bandits are, of course, mostly generic guys with guns. Not much of a surprise there. Yet the new wildlife is mostly a collection of enemies from the base game. There are a couple of new enemy types for both the bandits and wildlife, but it's never really enough to make fighting either group particularly noteworthy. The bosses on the other hand are quite diverse and fun to fight, as usual.
Borderlands 3 | A Beautiful, Balanced Bounty
With such a myriad of problems, it would appear as though Bounty of Blood is just a bad DLC. In some ways, that would be a correct assumption since there's clearly plenty of good individual ideas that weren't properly and/or sufficiently implemented. The reality is that while this is might be the case if you look at all these elements individually, it doesn't paint the whole picture.
Indeed, of Borderlands 3's three DLCs so far, Bounty of Blood has the most interesting villain (who hopefully shows up in future content), arguably the best overall boss design, and the most post-main quest content. The overall story is also arguably the most interesting, though perhaps not the most engaging due to the aforementioned lack of new character time. Ultimately, Bounty of Blood is a fine DLC that, while it doesn't have the same extreme high points of the other DLCs, doesn't have the same glaring weaknesses either.
- Entirely New Cast of Characters
- Boss Fights With No Invulnerability Phases Whatsoever
- Jump Pads are Everywhere
- Surprisingly Cool Mix of Eastern and Western Architecture
- New Characters Don't Get Enough Screentime
- Story Slows Down a Bit Around the Middle
- Most Generic Enemies Don't Have New Mechanics