Daily Reaction has a long history with Borderlands. Before I was even writing for PlayStation LifeStyle, I won an overly large Borderlands 2 t-shirt from Dan and Sebastian by committing to the role and sending in a shirtless photo recreating the psycho on the cover of the game. (I’m pretty sure it was also this picture that ranked me as number 27 in the “4o Hottest Men in Games,” just ahead of EA’s Peter Moore, and right behind Shuhei Yoshida.) If Borderlands 2 feels like a long time ago, that’s because it was. The game originally released in 2012, nearly seven years ago now. Since then we got the Pre-Sequel in 2014 and so many Borderlands 2 ports, remakes, and remasters, that it could give Skyrim a run for its money. It’s been a long time that fans have been demanding a return to that world, and if a recent tease from Gearbox is anything to go by, we just might see Borderlands 3 before the end of the month.
Initially, my own excitement prickled. I love the Borderlands games, right? I’m one of the fans that’s been asking for the next game in the series. But then I started to get nervous. Borderlands 3 has clearly been in development for a long time. There’s been some trouble at the studio. We talked about how a potential Borderlands 3 could be influenced by the original Destiny on a Bad Gamers podcast back in 2015. Now we’re two years into Destiny 2 and we still have only seen fleeting glimpses and vagueries about the next game.
What worries me most is that Borderlands is a game from a certain era of games. The original released in 2009. I was 20 for the majority of that year. I was a very different person and the world was a very different place. Games themselves were in a very different place. Borderlands 2 didn’t change a lot about the overall formula, which was great at the time. It was exactly what we wanted at the tail-end of the PS3 era—more Borderlands. By the time the Pre-Sequel hit, I was getting a little bit tired of Borderlands. Sure it was fun, but I wasn’t riveted the way I had been before. Similarly, the variety of ports and remakes have failed to really grab me in the same way.
Borderlands: The Post-Sequel?
Obviously there’s a dedicated Borderlands fan base that will love Borderlands 3 even if it’s just a rehash of the past games in the series with a new skin over it. I’m sure that I’d enjoy that to some extent as well, but I’d rather not have it be Borderlands: The Post-Sequel. Borderlands 3 needs to do something really interesting to win me over, and I’m not entirely sure what that something is. The original game arguably gave birth to the “looter-shooter” genre, taking something like Diablo and translating it into a first-person shooter. Other games have gone further to refine this formula in various ways, from Destiny, to The Division, to Anthem.
Gearbox began talking about Borderlands 3 as far back as 2014, an have spent the last two years teasing the game without ever officially revealing it. We’ve seen a lot of different trends come and go in games during that time. Bungie released and heavily supported two games. Ubisoft and EA joined the fray with The Division and Anthem respectively. Fortnite brought battle royale to the mainstream, and most recently, Apex Legends came in and started to steal its thunder. The big question is, what, if anything, has Gearbox learned from all of these shifts in the market? How will they apply those lessons, both in replicating their successes and in avoiding their mistakes?
The worst thing that could happen would be for Borderlands 3 to come out and feel like a game that should have been released five years ago. I don’t want The Post-Sequel. I want the game to really earn that 3 and all of the hype that has come with the last few years of hype waiting for it.
We’ve seen similar cases of long-awaited games feeling a bit dated. Though lauded, much of the conversation surrounding Kingdom Hearts 3 in the PSLS writers’ chat is about just how much it feels like a gussied up early PS3 game. If it didn’t have the Kingdom Hearts name to go along with it, would it have received the same kind of praise and adoration? Having clearly been in development for a very long time, will Borderlands 3 suffer the same fate of being too little, too late? There will obviously be praise based on the name alone, but it needs to break free of the early 2010s feel that could hold it back. Borderlands 3 needs to feel like a game that’s releasing in 2019.
Borderlands 3 Release Date This Year?
Yes, I said 2019. My guess is that the reveal at the end of the month will show off the game, with a release targeted for October of this year. It will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original game’s release back in October of 2009. The curious thing about releasing this year is that we’re hitting the end of a hardware generation. By the time it releases, we could be well on our way to moving into next-gen and their game will be left behind as a relic of the end of “last-gen” (unless, of course, Gearbox knows something we don’t about backwards compatibility that would make this point null).
So that’s two aging factors that Borderlands 3 has going against it. The inherent long development cycle and end-of-generation release could mean that it ends up as little more than a flash in the pan, with all of our hype burned out long ago as we moved on to newer games. Of course, they could swoop in and manage to do something really interesting and innovative with it, making it feel like a game that not only belongs in 2019, but one that was also worth the long wait. Those troubles over at Gearbox really have my nervous though, and the smattering of poorly received releases in recent years doesn’t speak well to the company’s ability to breathe life back into Borderlands in a meaningful way. I remain hopeful, but cautious that all we’ll get is more of the same and it will feel like a game out of time in 2019. More psychos. More Pandora. More Claptrap. I sincerely hope I’m wrong though, because just the thoughts of what Borderlands 3 could be are enough to get me excited all over again.
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