Published on September 24th, 2019 | by John Werner
Borderlands 3 Xbox One Review
Summary: Borderlands 3 is the latest game in the Cult Classic Borderlands Series.
“Borderlands 3” is the latest installment in the FPS, RPG cult classic Borderlands series developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. Since the series launch in 2009, “Borderlands 3” continues the story, drawing on the characters and developments from all previous games including the 2014 Telltale series and all DLC ever released. The game takes place after the events of Borderlands 2’s most recent DLC, “Commander Lilith And the Fight for Sanctuary”. Players take on the role of one of four new vault hunters as they race to uncover the location of The Great Vault before that of the Calypso twins and their legion of bandit followers
As a longtime fan of the Borderlands series, I’ve spent countless hours killing bandits, collecting epic loot, running over Skaggs, and searching for the ancient alien vaults. An adventure that started ten years ago on my beloved Xbox 360 that since has spanned across three separate consoles, four unique game titles, and over a dozen DLC packs. Everything has been leading to this very moment, “Borderlands 3”, the latest game in a series that’s been a big part of my gaming life for a decade. In short, the bar had been set very high. In my mind, “Borderlands 3” would either be perfect or a failure. There is no middle ground.
Before I continue, I feel it important to mention that I had the privilege to attend a Borderlands 3 event in Sydney, hosted by 2K Games. During this event, I was able to get some quality hands on time playing the game and talk with some of the developers. From my time in Sydney, I felt that Borderlands 3 was definitely on track to being a good game but decided to leave final judgment for the full game. The only impact this had on my play of the full game was being more familiar with some of the mechanics and having prior experience with a few missions. Everything outside of this was brand new to me, including any cut scenes.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Borderlands series, each of the main games follows a group of treasure hunters called Vault Hunters, as they search the planet Pandora for the mysterious, ancient alien vaults. This time round, it’s a little bit different. Not only are you hunting down the location of vaults on Pandora, you’re searching for them all over the galaxy on four different planets, each with their own unique creatures, themes, and background story. No two planets are the same and offer a very diverse play style. While I am quite fond of Pandora from playing the previous Borderlands games, it was quite refreshing to fight bandits in something other than an apocalyptic wasteland. The game still starts off on Pandora, but players will quickly take to the stars in just a matter of time.
As I ventured further into the story, I began to realize just how much planning and effort had truly gone into this game. To be honest, I was disappointed to hear that “Borderlands 3” only offered three new planets to explore, plus Pandora, which had been the main staging ground for previous games. Yet, despite my concerns, the diversity in these new worlds was truly astonishing. Most games will normally stick to a common theme when creating maps for players to explore, thus making it easier for the designers to recycle elements that have already been created. This practice is widely used by most developers from AAA to Indie. However, it is not often that a developer does away with this strategy of level design, let alone master it to such an exceptionally high standard. “Borderlands 3: gives players four vastly unique worlds consisting of planet wide cities with rooftop fighting and alleyways, overgrown jungles with vast swamplands and trees to the narrow row roads of mountain top temples, and the desert wasteland of Pandora. Even though maps of similar themes have been done in previous titles, they’ve never been done on such a large scale. I’ve already spent countless hours exploring and discovering the hidden secrets of these new worlds outside of the main story campaign.
Anyone who has previously played any Borderlands game will quickly notice many of the differences and improvements that appear in Borderlands 3. Continuing on with how much the level design has improved, it is only natural that the means of exploration and navigation would also be improved. Players can now view the navigation map in 3D, meaning that sections of the map that overlap such as tunnels and bridges, can now be identified more easily. During my play of the large city maps, I had to navigate my way into the underground tunnels from the streets above. Thanks to the new 3D map, I was able to rotate the map and locate the entrance points into the vast tunnel network. Had this been a bird’s eye view 2D map, I could have easily spent hours trying to located the entrance points. Additionally, players are now able to fast travel to and from anywhere on the map. No longer will you be required to reach a teleportation station to fast travel. This, in my opinion, is one of the best improvements to the series so far.
Speaking of fast travel, “Borderlands 3” now offer even more options for vehicles. Not only are there now three vehicles to choose from, players can now customize their rides to suit their own individual needs and play styles. Each vehicle can be equipped with different weapons, wheels, armor, paintjobs, and engines. These new parts can be collected throughout the game by either hijacking another vehicle with the part equipped or tracking down the rare vehicles hidden throughout the game. Gamers who enjoy hunting for collectables will be in for a treat as they search for new vehicle parts and various other collectables throughout the game.
As much as I enjoyed the new world of “Borderlands 3”, the real test of merit comes down to the four new vault hunters that join the Borderlands family. This time round we have a more diverse and unique lineup of crazy and loveable characters to play as. Joining the lineup is Fl4k the Robotic beast master and his trio of wild companions: Zane the tech savvy operative and his collection of gadgets, Moze the gunner and her beloved battle mech Iron Bear, and Amara, the all-powerful Siren. During my play of the game, I made sure to try out all 4 characters and see just what they are capable of. After only a few hours of game play, I can easily see where the inspiration came from for these characters. Keeping mind that Borderlands is known for making pop culture refences throughout the game, it’s no surprise in my opinion that these new characters share similarities to other franchises while still displaying their own unique individualities.
During my play, I did come across something that annoyed me and could have potentially ruined my level of enjoyment. When approaching one of the vending machines, the graphics for the front display would be rather pixilated. After a few seconds of rendering, the graphics would look much sharper. I know it’s only a minor issue but it still bugged me. However, to my relief, a patch was released only a week later, fixing the issue once and for all. Most people would overlook this and just keep playing but I wanted to make a point of highlighting this. My reason for doing so is to say that this is the only issue I could find during my play of Borderlands 3. Aside from this one tiny graphics problem, the game was perfect, and even then, this issue was fixed within a few days of launch. As much as I’ve tried to find something negative to say in this review about the game, I can’t. “Borderlands 3” is a true masterpiece and easily the best game I’ve played this year.
Overall, I must admit that “Borderlands 3” is an incredible game and it’s a perfect successor to the Borderlands series. However, as much as I enjoyed the game, I have my concerns for people who are new to the series. During a conversation with one of my friends, I was asked “would I be able to play this game, having never played any other Borderlands games?” I had to think hard about my answer before responding. The Borderlands series is very much story driven and while having background knowledge of prior events is going to give players more enjoyment, I honestly do believe that newcomers to the series will still have a blast playing the game. Like the other games in the series, “Borderlands 3” does a rather decent and comical recap at the start of the game, which really helps set the stage for the rest of the game. With this in mind, I do believe that new players will not only enjoy “Borderlands 3” but will want to go back and play previous titles in the series. “Borderlands 3” has only pushed the bar higher and I can only commend the entire development team on creating yet another fantastic game.