Back at the Borderlands 3 reveal event, we had the opportunity to get our hands on two of the four new Vault Hunters. Zane and Amara are both very distinct characters, with Amara taking on the Siren role for this game (meaning she’s got some pretty amazing larger-than-life abilities), and Zane harboring a sweet decoy to be able to confuse enemies in combat. Of course it’s hard to boil these characters’ identities down into a single sentence for each, but that gets across the general gist of their abilities. They can be customized far beyond that though, so anyone playing as the same character might still be able to embrace a different play style.
For their showing at E3, Gearbox wanted to add a new character to the mix. While we could have played as Zane or Amara again, we wanted to check out Moze the Gunner, whose action skill is calling down a mech named Iron Bear. She’s got lots of options when it comes to outfitting Iron Bear with various implements of mass destruction, so once again, any two Moze players are unlikely to be identical. That’s really a big theme with Borderlands 3. While it will still just have the four Vault Hunters (and is unlikely to get any more post-launch), Borderlands 3 is really focusing on diversity of builds within each character class, meaning that the possibilities for gameplay style are near endless.
It’s hard to really get a good feel for these kinds of variances in a short gameplay session on the E3 show floor, but I was able to spec Moze exactly how I wanted, which amounted to a barrage of rockets and a gatling gun. Calling in the Iron Bear is Moze’s action skill, which means you can’t always be running around in mechanized destruction, but the cooldowns in Borderlands 3 are fast enough that these skills become fairly staple on the battlefield. I felt like I was running around in the Iron Bear a good half the time I was playing. It’s a great balance between challenge and the power fantasy.
The section I got to play was one that was shown during the gameplay reveal last month, culminating in a boss fight in a crazy arena full of speakers that blast out painful soundwaves. My mettle was tested during this fight, as it wasn’t exactly a guns blazing sort of battle. I mean, there’s still plenty of mayhem and bullets and blood and body parts to go around, but if you go into this fight thinking that just shooting will get you through, you’ll become well acquainted with the New-U Station just outside of the boss arena. I love this kind of gameplay that still manages to have gameplay that requires skill but evokes a ton of fun, mayhem, and power. After a few deaths and getting used to my mech legs, I managed to leave this boss a bloody mess on the floor as a lootsplosion happened from where his body once stood.
Borderlands 3 E3 2019 Preview – More Info, More Mayhem
Gameplay wasn’t all we got though, as Gearbox delivered additional details about the game during a brief presentation beforehand. As added info on Moze’s Iron Bear, co-op players can actually ride on it, adding to the mayhem and destruction that’s possible. We didn’t get to test it out as the gameplay sessions were single player, but the possibilities are exciting nonetheless. We also got a quick peek at a new planet, Eden 6. This is a swamplike planet that is home to the famous Jakobs family manor, and has plenty of new enemies to fight, like Saurions and Jabbers. Unfortunately this planet was not part of our gameplay session, so we say it in video only.
They then showed a deeper look at customization, including heads, skins (which can have custom colors applied to every one), emotes, weapon trinkets and weapon skins that can be applied to every gun in the game. Yup, all bajazillionty of them. These will provide a lot of the flavor for players, so with different gameplay styles and customizations, even people playing the same character will be unique.
Finally, we got an update on the social aspects of the game. Gearbox is trying to create a system that will ease more players into playing socially with friends and other people, so there are a lot of asynchronous functions where you don’t have to be directly online playing with people to experience some of these elements. Their hope is to draw players into the larger community more slowly and progressively.
You can now buy guns from your friend’s game through vendors, so if your buddy got a sweet new rifle with some awesome effect, it could show up for you to purchase. You can also mail loot to your friends, so even if they are offline, if you know your friend loves snipers, you can just pop that drop in the post and they can pick it up next time they are online. Dynamic missions will also pop up for rare spawn enemies if your friend encounters one in their game, again providing that pseudo-network where your friends are helping you in your game even if you aren’t actively running missions together.
Altogether, Borderlands 3 continues to look more and more impressive (despite the drama surrounding the developer right now), and I really feel that it’s the perfect way to evolve this particular style of game to work in the modern era of gaming. While a big fan of Borderlands‘ mad insanity, I worried that the third game would feel dated, but there are enough improvements and tweaks to make that nostalgia hold up.