In the grand scheme of things, Borderlands 3 is definitely a Borderlands game – but some part of it just feels underwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s some fantastic parts of the game that make it so good; gun variety is bigger than ever before, with wacky and fun choices for you to blast your way through different areas whether it’s using pistols, shotguns or rocket launchers and more. Different stats and abilities come with each gun – every gun is a new experience and different to another. Item qualities are back, though it felt like in some occasions that the more common weapons ended up being more useful than the rarer ones.
There’s new worlds to explore that look different and have multiple different types of enemies to shoot up and beat. Although sparse, a few of the missions are filled with exciting and cool ideas that deviate from the usual walk-to-place-then-kill-enemies formula and the main areas are different enough that you want to explore them and find out what’s inside. The main abilities that the player can use and upgrade are especially fun with multiple classes to choose from that have different abilities and ways to play, they add a lot to the already fun gameplay. Use animals to attack enemies, a shield to protect yourself or a clone to distract enemies away from yourself. In fact, it’s very easy to say that the gameplay is the best that Borderlands has ever been as a series.
Sure, almost all of the enemies are damage sponges that you can just shoot at without any real strategy (which is what I did) and that makes for a good game if all you care about is just shooting things over and over, but I kind of wished that there was some strategy to the game aside from going in guns-blazing – but this wish doesn’t take away from how great it feels to just shoot a gang of raiders and other enemies and pick-up even better and more crazy guns from their bodies. Player customisation is in the game too, but it’s not a big feature and more of a side thing that you can do with drops from dead bodies or found in chests around the game map.
The drops aren’t just weapons, either. There’s different types of grenades, shields, specialist class unlocks all in different rarities. And considering how much more possibilities there are with weapons than there was in previous games – millions of unique weapons can be found just by playing through the game, some of which are references to other video-game franchises.
For the most part, I really enjoyed the game and didn’t think there was really a lot of bad things to say about it until the last few missions of the game. The main villains, the Calypso Twins are mildly entertaining, to put it the best. Their motivation is just straight up bland “We’re both evil and want to destroy the universe” with no real explanation aside than a haphazardly added-in few voicelines right at the end of the game which is even worse when it feels like it’s just used to make a side-character have a bigger role all of a sudden.
Typhon DeLeon is mentioned, at most, five times throughout the main campaign by characters, mostly as an aside and comparison to the player. A good chunk of his story and character is through his optional logs that can be found in different places of the game.
Let me re-iterate this: A pivotal character to the plot of the game is mentioned only five times by characters in dialogue and any significance he may bring is summed up in one phrase “The First Vault Hunter”, and any connection he may have to any other characters that you encounter are pushed aside into being explained in optional discoverable logs that players may not even come across. At least in BioShock, there are things that foreshadow a crucial plot-point, shown through dialogue consistently the whole way through the story that players won’t subconsciously pick up on until the very end. But in Borderlands 3, there’s no build-up at all. It just… happens. Especially if you’re not like me and didn’t go out of their way to listen to every log, it just feels forced so that Typhon has a bigger role.
This isn’t my only issue with the story, either. Borderlands 3’s story for most of the game is “Stop the Calypso Twins from entering the Great Vault” – almost every enemy and person mentions this. So, you go through the whole game and kill them at the Great Vault. Great! Turns out, only one of them is dead and you now have go through the next few chapters hunting down the second twin and only then does Typhon appear and become relevant to the main plot. That’s right – the main villains of the game are two separate boss fights that prolong the main campaign for absolutely no reason. I was basically begging for the game to be over the entire time after I had beaten the first Calypso Twin at the Great Vault. Part of me can’t even consider this a spoiler because this is the whole thing the game’s plot boils down to because every supporting character says that you have to kill them or the world will end, so clearly, you’ll kill them in the end. But its execution is so poor and bad that I felt so deflated and just wanted the game to end – I was celebrating the game was finally over.
Honestly? The Calypso Twins should have been one fight at the Great Vault and then everything after, including Typhon DeLeon’s involvement should have been an epilogue. Those last few hours of the game just don’t fit to me in the main story, the goalpost moves just as you beat what you presume to be the final boss fight, which is just bad writing.
One of my friends made a fantastic observation that pretty much sums up how I felt about the last five missions in the game: “You can tell how well designed the end of the game is by the fact that you’re just running through enemies, not even fighting them, just so that the story will f****ing end”
But really, those are my biggest issues with the game.
Everything else is absolutely fantastic and Borderlands 3 is one of the most fun experiences in the series yet from a gameplay stand-point. Lots of places to visit to do missions and find collectables. A ridiculous amount of weapon variety (even bigger than its predecessors) and four different classes that change the gameplay in interesting ways that make every playthrough that much different and worth playing, even if the story is the exact same. Most characters beside Vaughn and The Calypso Twins are well written and add something special to the story and it’s nice to see them all interact, especially the old and new faces.
If you’re looking for a Borderlands with great gameplay, this is the one. If you’re looking for a Borderlands game with witty dialogue and an interesting story, then I’d suggest looking somewhere else. All in all, Borderlands 3 is proof that good enough gameplay can overcome any amounts of dreadful writing.