Anarchy is in again. “Borderlands 3” is back, and it brought with it all the things that made the series’s first two installments so beloved. Loot, jokes and great characters bring enjoyment and heart to the series after seven long years without an installment in the main series. This review won’t spoil any of the games’ main stories, so if you haven’t had a chance to play it much — or at all — there’s no need to worry.
Loot is almost in every corner in the game and there are hidden treats for the player to find littered all over an enormous map. Be prepared though: some of these secrets are quite hard to find. I spent over an hour with a friend trying to figure out where the last hidden checkpoint (called a “Typhon box”) was on one map to unlock a hidden loot crate.
The game is clearly designed to make you explore the map. As a completionist, this is an absolute dream come true. I enjoyed being able to explore freely, feeling like I had made a good chunk of progress only to check on the map and see it read something like “53% complete.”
This time around, the humor is somewhat a hit or miss. There are some very funny moments, but some of the jokes completely miss their mark. The problem with this is that some of the jokes are long and it takes a while to arrive at the punch line. Sometimes they land and the reward is a good bit of laughter, but when they miss, the groan is made more painful by the amount of time you’ve spent waiting for it.
The gameplay, however, is incredible. Shotguns have been significantly revamped since “Borderlands 2”; a well-placed shot will send enemies flying backward. It’s comical at first but becomes pretty useful as a crowd-control strategy later in the game. All of the gunplay feels improved, and there are a variety of new features as well.
Some guns can switch elements; a corrosive gun can become an incendiary gun with just the press of a button, making the weapons at your disposal more versatile than ever before and giving you a variety of ways to approach enemies.
The enemies have been redesigned too. The game’s trademark Psychos are still around, but now they can be both male and female. This — along with an assortment of new enemies — makes the world feel more alive and immersive. On top of this, the boss design has improved as well. The main villains are intriguing, but other bosses stand out more, with designs that are sometimes incredibly bizarre in the best possible way; Gigamind — like the name suggests — is essentially a giant brain with a robotic suit.
I haven’t had a chance to play all the new vault hunters yet, but I latched onto FL4K particularly hard on the game’s release. They get a choice of three different pets, so how can you not want to play as them? FL4K, like all of “Borderlands 3”’s playable characters, has three skill trees. Their skill trees open up three distinctly different play styles for them, and each of their pets gives FL4K a nice attacking bonus to help keep their enemies at bay in one of the Borderlands series’s most creative character designs yet.
There are flaws of course. In split-screen, the game struggles with frame rate drops, especially when one of the players opens the menu to organize loot or use a skill point. This can get frustrating at times, but it didn’t stop me from having tons of fun throughout my playthrough. I only encountered a crash once in the twenty hours or so that I played, and the game autosaves so frequently that it didn’t affect my progress at all. It should be noted, however, that the base versions of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will have a harder time running the game consistently at 60 FPS than their more advanced counterparts.
I still haven’t managed to search every nook and cranny of the game and I still have plenty of missions to complete, so it looks like “Borderlands 3” is going to keep me coming back for quite a while. I can’t wait to see how Gearbox expands upon the story with the content update coming for the Halloween season.