Borderlands 3 Hands-On – Loot ’til you can loot no more

Posted on July 24, 2019

Borderlands 3 has a lot of hype and genuinely excited fans to impress when it launches in September, five years after the last true entry in the franchise with The Pre-Sequel. It’s the kind of series that I have a soft-spot for, where it doesn’t do a bunch of particularly unique things, but what it does do is take solid shooting, solid looting, a cel-shaded colourful art-style and a brilliant sense of humour in its writing to make an experience that is memorable and entertaining for all the right reasons. After spending a few hours with Borderlands 3, I already feel like it lives up to those expectations and am hungry for more.

To make it clear, this is very much Borderlands, through and through. It feels like Borderlands, plays exactly like you remember Borderlands and has all of the trimmings you’d expect. If you weren’t a fan before I can’t see this changing your mind, but I also don’t think you need to reinvent the wheel when it already rolls so effectively. Fast-paced action, killing crazy enemies with one of the games billion guns and reaping the rewards of more loot is always satisfying, no matter how you spin it. I spent some time in the open world following a main quest line while dabbling in some side-quests and also got to experience the E3 demo with three different Vault Hunters in order to check out their abilities.

Those Vault Hunters and abilities? All fun, in different ways. Sometimes with class-based choices I find that some are more effective or interesting than others, but with the three I tried out they all had unique qualities that I enjoyed. Amara, The Siren, summons ethereal fists, slams down on opponents and smashes her foes, helpful for clearing a group in a pinch. Moze, The Gunner, can summon and hop in a D.Va-esque mech to do her dirty work for her which always feels empowering. Zane, The Operative, was my favourite by far, with a targeted drone and a mirage for distraction making for a really effective combo when playing by yourself. Not necessarily original, but damn effective.

The main quest-lines I got to experience were certainly cool enough; while I didn’t have heaps of  context, the boss battle with Mouthpiece in a neon club environment with giant speakers blasting out sonic sound-waves made for an aesthetically pleasing and fitting way to finish a level that included him spouting religious rhetoric as you search the many rooms for enemies to blow up and loot to collect. Inclusions (that seem almost expected in modern shooters) such as sliding and climbing easily make you feel more in control of your surroundings, allowing you to change position on the fly if you need to.

I didn’t get to try out a billion guns, but I definitely experimented with a whole bunch with the majority of them feeling genuinely different from one another. Traditional assault rifles and pistols mixed with snipers, electricity blasts and varying  consistencies made every new pick-up a little bit intriguing, as I compared weapons to find the best ones to suit my style. In true Borderlands fashion, I found that the gun with the “highest damage numbers” sometimes wasn’t the best one to use for me personally. I shudder at the amount of time my loot-hungry squad will spend trying to find the perfect gun, but that’s all part of the experience. I also love that you can have two abilities instead of one ability and grenades, another choice that can be messed with to find that elusive perfect build.

“I lost count of the number of times I smiled and giggled at the ridiculous (yet somewhat relatable) dialogue…”

It’s the attitude though that still shines through more than anything in the Borderlands universe. One side mission in particular stood out as memorable as I tried to get coffee for Lorelai while she kept insisting how delicious it was. After collecting a coffee cup (that makes her the Coffee Commander) and bringing it to the shop, an uninterested and sarcastic barista robot straight out of the Melbourne café of your nightmares serves it up while you defend the turf from enemies. I lost count of the number of times I smiled and giggled at the ridiculous (yet somewhat relatable) dialogue as I acquired the perfect brew, guns blazing.

Borderlands 3 is more of the same enticing and addictive shoot ‘n’ loot style that you know and love, with some minor tweaks to bring it up to the standard of the modern generation. It feels great to play, is bursting with personality and looks the part. It’s safe to say that this hotly anticipated sequel won’t convert naysayers, but fans of the series have a lot to look forward to.

Borderlands 3 launches on September 13th for PS4, Xbox One and PC (and eventually, Stadia).