Borderlands 3 video game review


Brian Wu, Staff Writer

The Borderlands series has always had a special place in my heart. Borderlands 2 was the first game that I played on my old Mac, and also the first game that I completed every single task in. Borderlands has been my gold standard for looter shooters for a long time, and I have cherished every single subsequent release. Borderlands 3 released at a horrible time for me, the start of junior year. Of course, I prioritize my education, and only occasionally put hours into completing this game. Though I did not have the time to thoroughly finish every path the game had to offer, I did complete two characters and their respective saves. Borderlands 3 offers some of the best gunplay in the genre, and more loot than ever before, but I cannot say that it lives up to its predecessor.

Borderlands has always had its signature art style and graphical design. Borderlands 3 goes by the saying “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”. The cell shaded models bring a cartoonish look, but the light and water physics hint at its graphical power. The models are all designed to look gorgeous, and even on my old PS4 the characters all look the best they’ve ever looked. The landscapes and maps are all beautifully made, with landmarks and tones all delivered masterfully. In Borderlands 3, you visit different planets with their own distinct themes. Pandora is the wasteland players have come to known, but planets like Promethea feature large booming cities. The differences in tone and design make each planet unique and recognizable, which further adds to the visual enjoyment of playing it. However, the reason people play Borderlands isn’t for the vista, its for the viscera. The combat looks gorgeous, with bloom from barrels and weapon models all tuned to visual perfection. Borderlands 3 is truly the best looking game in the series so far. However, performance wise it encounters trouble. On my PS4, loading times are atrocious. I often encounter large lag spikes when enemies load in, and when I open my inventory. This definitely dampens what otherwise would be a graphically terrific game.  

Like any looter shooter worth its salt, the gameplay is what makes Borderlands shine. The new Vault Hunters follow loosely the standard of characters given to the players in previous games, but puts fun twists on the game. I played the characters Zane and Fl4k and found that they fit my play-style well. In previous titles, I played Zero and Mordecai, both long range damage-heavy characters. Both Zane and Fl4k offered something that I loved. From Fl4k’s invisibility to Zane’s Holo-clone, I never had a dull moment experimenting with abilities. Each character has three different skill trees that can be invested into to customize their play styles. A fun example is Zane-mageddon, where you customize your clone to throw as many explosives as possible, effectively finishing every boss fight before it starts. Another huge draw of the game lies within its boss fights. Each boss is very distinct, and often carries its own mechanics that players need to understand in order to succeed. That is not to say that it is the only thing required to win: every boss fight is difficult to an extent, but the hardest are hair-pulling. But that only makes the sense of accomplishment greater when a player finally triumphs. The most fine-tuned aspect of Borderlands, far and away, is the gunplay. The entirety of the franchise is founded upon the collection of weaponry, and Borderlands 3 delivers in spades. Over one billion statistical guns to find, there will never be a drought of new fire spewers to experience. Each different manufacturer offers different features to spice up the shooting experience. From Torgue’s rocket based ammunition to Malawan’s elemental expertise, taking down baddies has never felt so fun. 

Borderlands’ story has never been the main selling point of the series, but 3’s story is the weakest out of all the games. Perhaps it had something to do with the troubled developmental period the company went through, with the firing of many talented voice actors and writers, but the end result is a story that left much to be desired. There isn’t much to be said positively, other than the fact that the occasional joke lands well, but the ones that don’t vastly outweigh the former. The core story by itself holds up with characters that previously appeared in the games, but any new character feels flat and unchanging throughout the entire game. One character stands out to me as especially annoying to deal with: Ava. What seems to be a plot device instead of a character, Ava constantly throws out flat quip after quip, with the sole purpose of grinding your enjoyment of the already lacking campaign down to nothing. She is the main reason my enjoyment of the game turned out to be less than stellar, and is the only thing keeping the game from being as good as its predecessors. 

I wish I could like this game as much as 1 and 2, I really do. But some details in gameplay and the severely sub-par story forces me to feel otherwise. Borderlands will always have a place in my heart as my first real game, but this one falls short of the mark. Unfortunately, I have to give Borderlands 3 a 7/10.