Borderlands 3 Review | Just More Borderlands? Not A Problem

Hello, this is Matthew and welcome to Rock
Paper Shotgun. Or should that be welcome to Rock Paper Shotgun,
and a slightly bigger shotgun, and a shotgun that turns people into icebergs, and a shotgun
that turns into a turret. That’s the short version of this Borderlands
3 review: if you want to see a lot of weird shotguns, this is the game for you. Over the last five days I’ve seen enough
guns to last a lifetime. I’ve seen pistols that call me names… I’ve seen a revolver that attaches tiny
sticky bombs to bullets… I’ve seen guns that overheat and have to
be squirted with a tiny water pistol… I’ve even seen a gun that fires more guns. When a game promises over a billion weapons,
why the hell not? If it wasn’t already evident, it’s hard
to talk about Borderlands 3 without reducing it to a list of tweaks to a tried and tested
formula. There are guns with secondary fire, switching
from hot magma death to melty acid pain, or tagging enemies with a smart bullet that then
homes all following shots. And you can can butt slide. And yes you can butt slide up stairs, which
is going to graze your ass to pieces. You can mantle up on platforms, which means
Gearbox can hide collectibles on top of rickety towers just like in every other game in existence. There is now radiation damage that makes enemies
explode on death. And you can summon a giant radioactive spider
ant to munch your enemies. And you might just grow to love it. “I love you Socrates.” You might grow to love it too much… Come on Socrates. Socrates! Socrates! Ah damn it, I’m doing it again. Boiling down this vast space opera to a checklist
of the tiny things it does differently to Borderlands 2. In so many ways, it is just more Borderlands,
but I think that sometimes, ‘more’ is enough – that’s the focus of this little
video review. Of course, I should point out the game’s
villains are pair of influencers who say terrible things like ‘like, subscribe and obey’,
which makes it awkward to ask the same things of you. You don’t have to obey – I’m not a creep
or anything – but if you enjoy this video, clicking the thumbs up would be lovely. Strip it down and Borderlands 3 is about shooting
things in the hope they’ll drop new shooty things, which you will then use to shoot more
things. Even more simply, the appeal is this… An eruption of weapons, shields and skill
upgrades. Every beam of light signifying a rarity, triggering
that dopamine hit of seeing slightly bigger numbers attached to weapon behaviour. Sometimes you luck out and get a legendary
– and the sound effect makes me so happy. I wish it was attached to everything I like
in life. Y’know: finding a Toblerone in the cupboard,
getting pizza vouchers through the letterbox, opening a can of Pepsi Max Cherry, getting
a toblerone through the letterbox. Of course, whatever rarity it is, getting
a new gun kicks off the nerdy process of pain maths, as you calculate the damage those numbers
add up to. It’s quite weird when you think about it. A game that mostly looks like this – an explosion
of particle effects, hit points and giant ants – but that slams on the brakes for you
to do light arithmetic. The introduction of a new ‘gear score’
helps suggest relative quality for speedier item swapping, but that number rarely tells
the whole story. With all kinds of bizarre weapon behaviours
to account for, the whole story is often confusing, and full of screaming. You can’t generalise about weapon handling
or design, because, well, there are a billion of the things – and I’ve used about 300
in the time I’ve played. What I can say is they they feel more characterful,
with real effort to give distinct personality to each manufacturer, from the built in shields
that pop up when you look down a Hyperion’s iron sights to the new COV brand that have
no ammo clip restriction, but do become unstable as they overheat. It means that even when you don’t have your
desired weapon there is a novelty in trying something out for five minutes until you can
replace it with something more to your liking. For my money, this means the Jakobs line – they’re
the ones that wouldn’t look out of place in the wild west – think: big damage, low
output, with headshots that ricochet lead into any other nearby heads. They also have delicious ornate sniper sights. Classy! I like Jakobs because they fit the frontier
vibe of Pandora itself and because they have the mechanical heft missing in sci-fi weaponry
or the impossible spray of this thing. They have a weight and a seriousness about
them. That ticks my boxes and that’s the secret
to enjoying Borderlands 3 as a shooter – it’s about finding the thing that makes the game
feel good in your hands. Once you’ve found that, it also lends a
lot more shape to the loot grind – I’m not just looking for something better, I’m looking
for my dream Jakobs gun. When I see that logo in the epic or legendary
box, it’s ten times more exciting than finding a clumsy old Vladov. “My oh my, you’ve got more blood lust
than a Saurian in heat.” I think my love for Jakobs also explains why
I dig the setting of Borderlands 3. The story this time takes us around the galaxy,
including a trip to Eden-6, which is the ancestral home of the Jakobs family. It’s all swamp shootouts and faded mansions
– think: Jack Daniels with more shotguns than shot glasses. As a dose of Borderlands lore, it’s a fun
break from the corporate wars that dominate the series. I also think it’s a chance for Gearbox’s
art department to shine. Underneath the game’s obnoxious veneer – y’know,
the dick jokes, the memes and the ‘hello fellow kids’ references to internet culture
– there’s a nerdy core to the fiction. I sense a real sincere love of sci-fi – from
giant crashed spaceships to alien tombs throbbing with dark energy. For my money, it’s as compelling a fantasy
as Destiny or Halo, but it just also happens to have a bazooka that farts out turds. But while making everything bigger gives it
some wow factor, in truth, Borderlands 3’s new galactic scale isn’t a huge departure
– I mean, Borderlands 2 crammed so many biomes onto Pandora it could pass for several planets. Because this game still chops each planet
into smaller regions with load screens in-between, they still don’t convince as grand open
worlds. But if they feel quite penned in in a videogame-y
way, they do use every inch of space. Just about every side mission has a unique
location on the map, meaning there’s very little recycling and these tasks generally
feel as crafted as the main story missions. Not something you could say of the series
up until now. And even harmless looking dead ends can hide
Zero’s unique bounties or monsters to kill for Hammerlock. Okay, so collecting trashed Claptraps or shutting
down radio towers does look a bit like Ubisoft busy work, but it’s a bit more restrained
than those games and very doable as you tackle the main story. Going to space also gives Gearbox a reason
to introduce a spaceship hub area – think of Mass Effect’s Normandy, but with less
lovemaking. Considering you share the ship with Claptrap,
this is a good thing. At first, I hated the Sanctuary 3 – it’s
a mess of corridors that take about 15 useful features and hides them in a labyrinth. But with a long campaign – and I’ll get
to that in a sec – I did familiarise myself with it, and grow more attached. The idea of returning to the ship between
story missions may sound like two extra loading screens that no one needs, but I grew to like
the rhythm of blasting away on the surface and then heading home to sell excess equipment
or use the new lost loot machine that spits out guns you missed. With onboard vending machines selling gear
at your level – planet vendors don’t scale with you during the campaign – and the opportunity
to buy rare delights with eridium, I appreciated the to and fro a bit more than I thought I
would. And Claptrap stays in his room, so you don’t
ever have to see him if you don’t want. Result!. “Hey there, sugar boots!” As the story unfolds the ship begins to fill
with more familiar faces, and it hammers home that whatever you make of the Borderlands
universe, it has built up a recognisable cast. This isn’t an easy feat – I keep thinking
back to Anthem where I couldn’t remember what people were called even when their names
were on the screen. I’m not saying all of Borderlands regulars
are likable, but are they memorable – and the game has fun getting the band back together. It feels like the series finale of a TV show,
where everyone gets their cameo and catchphrase. Like, Cheers, if Norm could summon a giant
mech to nuke Cliff. It’s good the old characters carry the weight,
as the Calypso Twins, the new villains, are the poorest part of Borderlands 3 – a limp
send-up of obnoxious influencers that has no satirical bite considering how vile the
influencer world has shown itself to be. Remember that asshole who laughed at the dead
body in the suicide forest? That’s a villain. These guys? They boast and they bicker, but it’s pretty
tame stuff, and stuff you have to endure regularly for thirty or so hours. I keep thinking back to Tales from the Borderlands,
which told more story, and better jokes, in a third of the overall time. Lessons should be learned. I mentioned a 35 hour time there. Considering that was with 25 hours in co-op,
making pretty swift progress and ignoring side missions – Borderlands 3 is pretty chunky
stuff. I wouldn’t recommend mainlining the story,
incidentally. As I mentioned, the side missions take you
to entire regions ignored by the main events which are worth seeing, and they don’t scale
with you, so cleaning up at the end feels like you’re stomping on weaklings and getting
rewards that are many levels below your level. Collect and enjoy those playthings along the
way. As a campaign it’s a blur of endless fetch
missions, but with enough standout moments to help me reconstruct the tale in my head. If I was to plot an interest curve, it basically
peaks at the beginning of each new planet where you have a rush of new enemy types to
fight – switching from the common bandits of Pandora’s cults to fighting Maliwan troops
on Prometheus creates a shift of tactics. Also means you can shoot these dudes cosplaying
as Juggernaut from the X-Men, which is delightful. Mission interest then wanes again as it serves
up endless detours and scavenger hunts, before bringing you back around with some pretty
great bosses. The big bads are a huge improvement over what
came before – they have clear visual indicators of attack patterns, making them tough, but
satisfying to take down. Oh, and this one makes a most excellent noise… I’d set it as my ringtone if it wouldn’t
blow my ears off. My interest also peaks with a few areas that
change the flow of combat – taking to the towers of Athenas to snipe down on intruders
is a rare chance for new mantling move to serve more of a role, and lets the game show
off some impressive scale. Then at the other end of the scale you have
fights in the library and corridors of a swampy mansion, pinning you into areas where bouncing
grenades become your best friend. There are just enough of these moments to
tempt you to the next, but I do wonder if there’s a great 20 hour campaign waiting
to shake off the flab of fetch quests. But for the fatigue I felt by the end, I’m
still here, enjoying the post-credits features. You’re whisked off to the Circle of Slaughter
where you can enjoy the wave-based combat built for four man co-op, or tackle the Proving
Grounds, which are short time trial dungeons that reward juicer loot the faster you can
chew through each room. Neither is massively substantial, but they
are quick and easy ways to push to the level 50 cap and loot without having to look for
fights or grind against respawned bosses from the main campaign. Although Borderlands 3 does make revisiting
that wider world a bit more interesting with the introduction of Mayhem modifiers – three
levels of difficulty you can apply upon completion. At a base level these increase XP and loot
drop rarity, but it comes at the price of flooding the world with evil new enemy varieties. Basically minibosses become regular troops
and everyone is armed to the teeth with elemental-imbued funeral machines. On top of this, the game rotates random modifiers
that can buff and debuff both you and enemies, meaning old tricks can suddenly falter and
ignored weapons might gain sudden potency. I’m currently having my ass kicked by these
Ribena bastards, but the idea is neat. You can also restart the campaign in True
Vault Hunter Mode with all your existing gear and a substantial hike in difficulty. If I can’t handle Violet Beauregarde here,
I’m not ready for that. The fact that Borderlands 3 has an endgame
– and not just a road map of half-formed promises to be delivered over the next year – is something
to celebrate. In this era of games as services there’s
something to be said for a game that is feature complete on day one. It is going to have paid DLC and free seasonal
events, but fundamentally, what is in the game now is substantial enough. And for me, it’s dabbling with the endgame
that really made me think about the idea of ‘more’ being enough. In any looter shooter there is a natural sense
of escalation – the hit numbers go up, your gear scores go up. But Borderlands also has those skill trees
that see Flak’s humble battle ant morph into a giant radioactive freak, or Moze’s
Iron bear mech turn from the occasional treat that runs out of juice in ten seconds to a
near-constant presence on the battlefield. Oh, and one that is now spitting a nuke from
each arm. To play the game in co-op, where four people
escalate their characters together, is quite spectacular, almost to the point where you
wonder if the game is slipping into an unreadable blur of violence. I know I got pissed off at that freaking ant
stealing kills and blocking my sniper scope. As fun as it is to play with my friends, I’ve
had a great time matchmaking with randoms in the endgame modes and seeing what bizarre
concoctions of weapons and skills they bring to the party. Creations that only grow more impressive as
you climb through Guardian Ranks – which replace Borderlands 2’s Badass ranks and act as
a secondary skill tree, buffing a stat with each rank and working towards new skins and
perks within a wider skill tree. Even when you hit the cap of level 50 you’re
still getting bigger and better, and the fights are growing hairier with it. It may be the trick that Borderlands has always
relied on – or any looter shooter, for that matter – but it’s quite rare to find an
example with so many dials you can turn right up to maximum. Playing with Mayhem modifiers, outlandish
new weapons, ludicrous grenade types, multiple action skills to equip, anointed weapons to
pump up those skills, a robot friend firing nuke after nuke after nuke… it may just
be more Borderlands, but man, if it isn’t something. At this point Borderlands 3 has been out for
a few days, so I’d be keen to hear your thoughts if you’ve played it – and please
share your Moze splash damage builds with me, because I can’t get enough of that. And if you enjoyed this little video, maybe
watch out other reviews – I recently took at look at Gears 5 and Blasphemous and have
thoughts to share on those. Oh, and I’d really appreciate the like and
subscribe. I promise I’m not an evil influencer out
to destroy the world. Honest. Thanks for watching and bye for now.

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