The Borderlands franchise holds a very dear place in my heart. It is one of those few games that I always play through first in co-op mode (either split screen or online) with my spouse before venturing out on my own. Borderlands 2 got us through a rough couple of months when it launched. After that experience we dove into the original. And this past weekend, we lived and breathed Borderlands 3. With Amara as my main and my husband’s FL4K by my side, we visited old friends, made new ones, and collected a metric shit-tonne of loot along the way.
The Story According to Marcus
Four fresh-faced Vault Hunters step off Marcus’ bus in the dusty Pandoran outback. We learn that a set of twins calling themselves the Children of the Vault have been rallying the bandit clans to their aid, luring them in with the promise of eridium-tier status. And in true Borderlands fashion, CL4P-TP (more colloquially known as Claptrap) fills us in on the situation and is immediately captured. Because why change the formula?
Under Commander Lilith, your Vault Hunter joins up with the Crimson Raiders. Our mission: to find and secure the Vaults before the Calypso Twins. These twins are annoying livestreamers who check off every box on the annoying streamer checklist. Seemingly in it for the fame, glory, and power, Tyreen quickly gets under your skin and her treatment of her brother almost makes you feel for the guy. Almost.
Cameos abound during our planet-hopping adventure, and nods to friends no longer with us can be spotted if you take a moment to look around. If you loved the storytelling and humor of the previous games, you’ll feel right at home in Borderlands 3. Gearbox knows what the core fan base wants and sticks with it.
It’s Raining Loot! Hallelujah!
But we’re here to shoot Badasses and get big loot drops. So let’s talk gameplay. Everything here is just as it always has been. Maps of varying sizes with lots to explore and discover all while mowing down mobs of enemies. There are sidequests all over the place, and thanks to one very important update to DAHL technology, we can now view the map in 3D! Being able to rotate the map and see the varying levels has been so handy when trying to discover where exactly the hidden CL4P-TPs and Typhon Deleon podiums are.
Sometimes you’ll stumble into an area and hear a familiar voice over the ECHO. This means there’s a target in the area. Successfully eliminating them not only offers you a reward but adds a little something to an area inside Sanctuary. I recommend heading back to the Crimson Raider’s base often to look for these little changes.
Some, but not all, of the billions of guns have secondary firing options. More often than not you’ll find weapons that pair up status effects like corrosive and shock or radiation and incendiary. These can easily be toggled between with the press of a button, allowing you to compound status effects and deal extra extra damage. I can’t explain it but there’s this feeling of extreme satisfaction I feel when I’m watching those Goliaths shimmer with green and blue until they flop to the ground.
Playing through as Amara has been extremely fun for me. My first character in any Borderlands game is always the Siren class, and this multi-armed powerhouse hasn’t let me down yet. I’ve been plunking most of my skill points into her PhaseSlam tree and most recently unlocked her Nova ability. While most of my 20+ hours of game time so far has been with Amara, I have dabbled a little bit with Moze the Gunner. Her Iron Bear mech is so much fun to play with! I did mix up my weapon placement so I’ll have to get back into her character as soon as I clean up everything with Amara.
Just a quick note: Borderlands 3’s controls are the same as in previous entries in the series, meaning it is a quick pick up and play for returning players. That said, if you want to use your D-pad to quickly change up your weapons, make sure you head into the Options and change to the Classic button layout.
I swear, if there was a glitch to encounter in Borderlands 3, I found it. Split screen lag during my first session hampered my ability to upgrade Amara’s skill tree in a timely fashion and caused some lag during gameplay. Looking back on it now, as annoying as that lag was, it was the least of my worries.
As soon as my physical copy came on Friday afternoon, we took to online co-op mode, and that’s where the worst of all my issues started. Quests would break. Items we were supposed to interact with to trigger progression wouldn’t let us touch them. Even if we changed quests, ran something else, and came back to it during the same session, everything was borked. The only way to fix it was for everyone to quit the session and create a new one. And it was always happening to me! My teammates are thankfully accommodating people and have so much patience with my poor broken Amara.
Playing in co-op as I have been for the majority of the story, there is a big peeve that I need to point out. When my game loads into a “cutscene” with important dialogue, it tends to be jumbled up and I’ll miss a lot of the discussion if someone else in my session has loaded before me. Now, I know I’ll be playing this again with Moze (and more likely than not in single player) and will get to experience those scenes without needing my party to catch me up, but at this stage of the game this is something Gearbox should have worked out. A better rotation of voice responses based on the characters in your party would be nice, too. Even when I am the one to turn in a quest, I’ve heard Zane and FL4K answer more than my Amara.
Finally, I need to point out that the game crashed on me twice. One of those times was so hard it froze my PS4 and I had to force the system to shut down. That meant rebuilding my external drive and fixing Amara yet again when I was able to sign back into Borderlands 3. I know, I know. I should be fine with games crashing since I love Bethesda games, the buggiest of them all. At least none of those games have made me panic that my PS4 just died the way I did the night that hard shut down happened.
Programming is a tough job, and in this era of Day One patches, I feel badly for the programming team who will be blamed for every single one of my issues. I’m not sure what the QA set up was like or if marketing had already sold us all on a September 13th launch and was hellbent on not missing it. But I have faith that those hardworking coders will do their darnedest to get us all patched up ASAP.
In spite of all of those horrible glitches I am still 100% on board with Borderlands 3. First off, it’s the bestest most funnest co-op shooter of 2019. What other series has guns that scream ouch when you reload them? Or guns that get so hot you need to spray them down with a water gun before you can use them again? There’s a good 25-ish hours to dig into with the story alone. Once you add on all of the sidequests and collectibles, you’ve added on at least another 10 hours. And that’s not even including the Proving Grounds or Circle of Slaughter game modes.
Is Borderlands 3 a perfect game? No, at least not at launch. But it damn sure is so much fun that I wish I were playing right now and not writing this review. I’ve got Vaults to loot and trinkets to buy. Don’t forget to tip Moxxi!
Borderlands 3 review code provided by 2K Games. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.