Borderlands 3, like all looter shooters, offers two distinct gameplay experiences. There’s the initial playthrough, which is typically a casual run where loot is less important than learning the mechanics. Then there’s the endgame playthrough. This is where min-maxing stats and farming bosses for specific loot occurs. For most looter shooters, the initial playthrough is quite pleasant. It is the endgame experience that has proven to be problematic. History has proven that nothing kills such a game's lifespan quicker than being described as repetitive and unrewarding.
Like its predecessors, Borderlands 3 has a True Vault Hunter Mode that is only accessible after beating the main quest once. TVHM is basically a New Game Plus playthrough of the entire story, where enemies are tougher but you have a slightly higher chance of getting better loot. For what it’s worth, this version of TVHM is more tolerable than previous ones as health and damage stats aren’t set to astronomical proportions. While not optimal, having slightly underleveled gear isn't going to lead to constant death. For the most part though, you’d play TVHM for level 50 quest rewards as Legendary drops are still incredibly rare by default.
To counter the easier nature of the new TVHM, Borderlands 3 also has Mayhem modifiers. Depending on the Mayhem stage that you set, enemies can have significantly higher health, shield, armor, and damage. In addition, a set of random modifiers will take effect whenever you enter a new area. These can be beneficial, boosting the damage of certain weapon types or abilities. These modifiers can also be malevolent, making it so that enemies can deflect bullets or shoot more often. In exchange, loot drops are boosted to somewhat comical rates. Killing a boss like the Graveward on Mayhem 3 often results in one Legendary reward. On very rare occasions, a boss can drop up to four or five Legendary items, even after the Sept. 27 hot fix.
This kind of generosity is certainly unprecedented, to say the least. Most probably expected to have to kill a specific boss thousands of times for a single Legendary that might not have the best stats. Now, since any of the couple hundred or so Legendary items in the game can drop anywhere, the disappointment of getting nothing at all has been replaced by the disappointment of not getting the right item. In this regard, Borderlands 3 offers the best endgame experience of any modern looter shooter to date. It’s harder to feel like you wasted your time, unless of course you get the same gun (or nothing) multiple times in a row. Still, because guns have multiple randomly generated parts, there’s always a chance for an upgrade.
On the flipside, the vast quantity of loot makes it rather difficult to get a specific item. As far as can be told, if you wanted a general world drop item like the Flakker Legendary shotgun, you just have to farm whichever is the most efficient boss. Either that or hope to find it in a trash can. There’s boss-specific loot, but that only counts for some dozens of the hundreds of Legendary items. Everything else seemingly drops whenever it feels like. While it’s going to be relatively easy to get a full collection, min-maxing is going to be a hassle, to say the least. It doesn’t help that some potentially powerful builds are locked behind having certain items.
As far as repetition goes, Borderlands 3 is no more or less repetitive than any of its competitors once you reach the endgame. Fortunately, the major bosses are slightly more enjoyable than the bosses in other looter shooters on subsequent runs. Naturally, if you’re farming the same boss for hours on end, this might change. Or it might not seeing as how the high Legendary drop rate could keep people hooked for the time being. There aren’t any Raids or Raid bosses (yet), though there are three survival arenas and a handful of dungeon stages that lead up to a miniboss. You can matchmake for these if you want, or try to tackle them on your own.
Barring any crazy, out of touch updates, Borderlands 3's near future seems secure. Unsurprisingly, having hundreds upon hundreds of wacky weapons is a good thing. It also helps that there’s no competitive multiplayer or some such that would require regular weapon balancing. Of course, things can change, but post launch content for the Borderlands series has historically been well received as well. Seeing as how Gearbox is apparently experimenting with timed seasonal content too, there’s really no excuse for Borderlands 3 to suffer the same audience exodus that afflicts many other looter shooters. That being said, it’s still within the realm of possibility that Gearbox can shoot themselves in the foot, so it wouldn’t hurt to be wary nonetheless.
How are you enjoying the endgame? Still on the fence about getting Borderlands 3?