Goondu Review: Borderlands 3

October 28th, 2019 | by Yap Hui Bin
Goondu Review: Borderlands 3
Gaming
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What’s more satisfying than shooting up loads of enemies, finding powerful new weapons and blasting even more enemies with them? Borderlands 3 lets you do just that.

In spite of the “3” in its title, Borderlands 3 is actually the fourth instalment in the official Borderlands series, not counting the 2014 game, Tales from the Borderlands, which is a point-and-click game.

After the first Borderlands game in 2007, the sequel Borderlands 2 in 2012, and The Pre-Sequel in 2014, it’s about time we make a trip back to the trademark cel-shaded world of Borderlands. 

Borderlands 3 is a first person shooter game where you select one of four character classes to play, and gain abilities by levelling up through various skill trees.

Although not a truly open world game, since a lot of the environment is walled in and cannot be traversed, the ability to travel between map sections and across several different planets makes the game feel pretty large.

In Borderlands 3, you get to revisit the familiar desert landscape of Pandora as well as new locations like the metropolitan and modern cities in Promethea, the town of Athenas with eastern architecture as well as the swampy wetlands of Eden-6.

Borderlands 3 takes you to exotic planets like Athenas with its eastern architecture. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Crack me up
You play a Vault Hunter on the planet Pandora to join the Crimson Raiders upon invitation by their leader, Lilith the Siren.

If she looks familiar, that’s because she was a playable Vault Hunter character in Borderlands 1, and was also a non-player character (NPC) in Borderlands 2.

Lilith seeks your help in recovering a map that shows the locations of Vaults across the galaxy, and overthrowing the narcissistic and cruel Calypso Twins – Tyreen who proclaims herself a God Queen, and her brother Troy who lives under his overbearing sister’s shadow.

The Calypso Twins are worshipped by the Children of the Vault cult, who make up your key enemies on Pandora. 

But bigger events are afoot, as mega corporations that manufacture weapons like Maliwan and Atlas are fighting over control of the Vaults on other planets in the galaxy, as well as the sought-after element, Eridium, which is also a form of currency in the game.

Unlike previous Borderlands games where you stay primarily on Pandora, Borderlands 3 gives you the opportunity to travel to other planets like Promethea, Athena and Eden-6 to help fight off the evil Calypso Twins and to recover the map of the Vaults.

The unique cel-shaded art style of Borderlands never looked better than in Borderlands 3.
SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Apart the main story quest to follow through, there are also plenty of amusing optional side quests that you get from talking to NPCs, some of whom will be familiar if you have played through the earlier games.

The NPCs in Borderlands 3 are anything but bland – most of them are brimming with personality and say the funniest things.

To emphasise their uniqueness, characters you meet for the first time in the game are introduced by way of dramatic and impactful full-frame portraits, which make them feel larger than life.

For instance, one new character you meet on Promethea is Lorelei, the caffeine addict, who sends you on a quest to get her fresh coffee, which sounds easy enough but turns out to be hilarious frag fest with many amusing characters to contend with.

The Borderlands franchise is known for its over-the-top sense of humour in the characters’ dialogue, ranging from the annoying self-important blabbing of Claptrap, to the sarcastic and condescending speeches of the Calypso Twins suffering from a delusion of grandeur.

And don’t forget the heavy Southern-accented euphemisms of the effusive Ellie who manages the Catch-A-Ride vehicle stations in the game.

Although the world of Borderlands is fraught with danger, you get some respite in a safe haven in the form of the Crimson Raiders’ spacecraft named Sanctuary III.

Like a town in role-playing games, Sanctuary III offers quite a bit of exploring, with plenty of people to talk to, side quests to perform, shops that offer upgrades to your inventory and ammo storage (hooray!) and even a personal bunker for you to store precious collectible loot and souvenirs, and even a Lost Loot vending machine.

The Lost Loot machine is an ingenious device that brings back rare loot that might have been dropped due to bugs, bad placements, missed opportunities or other unfortunate accidents like defeating a boss near a cliff, only to have prized legendary loot fall into an inaccessible rift.  

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Pandora anymore.” Borderlands 3 gives you a chance to explore Promethea, the shiny metropolitan base of Atlas Corporation.
SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Suit me up

There are four classes in Borderlands 3, each with their own specialised skill trees, abilities and battle tactics. The newest character class in Borderlands 3 is FL4K The Beastmaster, who has a pet to aid him in battles.

The other three classes have been featured in earlier Borderlands games: Amara the Siren who can use elemental powers in her attacks, Moze the Gunner who can summon and don a mech suit and Zane the Operative who uses gadgets such as drones and clones on the battlefield. 

I enjoy playing the Beastmaster character since the pet is a good companion – you can even pet it and it showers you with hearts – and can be levelled up to become a force to be reckoned with. 

For a change of tactics, FL4K can summon one of three pet types – spiderant, skag and jabber, each with its own skill tree and associated bonuses, making FL4K the Beastmaster a fun and versatile character to play.

Borderlands 3 offers some replayability in this respect as you can play through the game with different character classes. It also gives you some options to try out when playing the multiplayer mode with your friends.

Shoot me up

What I really enjoy about Borderlands 3 are the wide variety of weapons that are such a joy to shoot. They offer many creative ways to dole out plenty of hurt.

It’s almost impossible to find two weapons that are exactly the same, as each is of a different make, attributes and rarity.

Weapons developed by different companies have their own unique characteristics. For instance, Tediore weapons can be thrown when reloading and can continue shooting in flight, or stick to your enemy and explode.

On the other hand, Maliwan weapons need time to charge before firing but add an elemental punch such as radioactive, electrical or incendiary damage.

Borderlands 3’s wide variety of weapons with many different ways of dealing hurt are a joy to shoot. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Weapons also have different levels of rarity, like Common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic and Legendary, which glow in different colours that indicate their rarity (white, green, blue, purple and orange respectively).

An example of the game’s humour is its recommendation of using the mnemonic “Wild Gorillas Be Punching Orangutans” to remember the order of rarity.

Weapons are also hilariously named, such as a pistol named Double-Penetrating Occultist or a Dayumned Shreddo rocket launcher – a tactic that forces hoarders like me to hang on to them just for a chuckle.

And nothing is more thrilling than finding loot that glow in orange since it is Legendary and can probably deal lots of damage.

But what good are powerful weapons without big boss battles? Borderlands 3 offers lots of flamboyant evil boss characters with equally colourful and devastating attacks.

The boss battles can be pretty challenging but the game gives you another chance by way of the “Second Wind” mechanism.

When you have lost all your health but manage to kill something (or your pet does if you are playing FL4K) before the timer runs out, your character will come back to life and can continue the fight.

Otherwise, your character will be respawned at a cost of 7% of your credits at New-U stations which are scattered at strategic spots on the map.

What hurts is that the boss will also be respawned at full health but the ammo caches are not refilled, so even though ammo can be found plenty of locations, you can still run out during intense and repeated firefights with powerful bosses. 

Other than ammo absorbing bosses, Borderlands 3 feature plenty of enemies that deplete your ammo, such as heavily armoured Troopers with shields, small but tough Tanks, cultists who worship the Calypso Twins, Psychos who like to jump on you and Fanatics with powerful weapons hell bent to put you down. 

Apart from just plain old shooting and looting, there are also some jumping and climbing puzzles to solve. There are old radio towers to sabotage, hard to reach items to procure or hidden loot to access.

Since Borderlands isn’t an Assassin’s Creed game, climbing is limited to jumping on and mantling over containers or structures in a very clumsy way. Without being able to shimmying or hang onto ledges, I found the climbing puzzles rather tiresome and frustrating at times. 

Although there are vehicles featured in the game, there is only a small variety and they are of limited usefulness especially when playing solo. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Borderlands 3 also offers some vehicles for traversing the map, such as the Cyclone monocycle, Outrunner buggy or Technical trucks that you can store in Ellie’s Catch-a-Ride garages scattered around the maps. 

Some maps, like Athena, do not offer the opportunity to use vehicles, so don’t get too attached to them.

You can shoot weapons while driving, and, if you have a friend with you, he/she can fire the secondary weapon, which deals double destruction to foes around you.

However, as I was playing on the PC, steering was controlled by the mouse was the default. Changing the key bindings in the game under the “Controls” menu for keyboard and mouse didn’t work.

I managed to find the completely unintuitive solution online, which is to change the bindings for a game controller even if you aren’t using one in order to steer vehicles using the keyboard.

This might be a problem only for the PC version of the game, so console versions that use controllers anyway might not face this issue.

Look me up

I played Borderlands 3 on a Windows PC, and the world of Borderlands never looked better.

Although Borderlands 3 still showcases the trademarked cel-shading style and high contrast graphics, you can see plenty of visually impressive explosions, the detailed damage done by the guns and the beautiful desolate wastelands of Pandora and tragically war-torn cityscape of Promethea.  

To remind myself of how the graphics had looked in Borderlands 2, I played through a little bit of the seven-year-old game and the vast improvement in graphics quality in Borderlands 3 is immediately apparent – lighting, shadows, and character animation look so much better.

In addition, the day and night cycles in Borderlands 3 also paint the landscape in a different mood, although it doesn’t really seem to affect the gameplay.

Play me out

I thoroughly enjoyed the single-player campaign but the co-op gameplay is also a lot of fun.

You can invite your friends to join you for the adventure via cooperative gameplay and work together to complete the missions in story mode.

There are two modes for multiplayer – the first is Cooperative, where the loot is auto-balanced and customised for each player.

For example, I can get a level 11 shotgun while my team mate gets a level 4 assault rifle while we are looking at exactly the same weapon in a weapon cache.

In Cooperative modes, enemies are also balanced, so it’s a better mode to play if there are newbies and pros in your group.

The other option is to play Competitive, which you and other players need to fight over loot, and enemies are not balanced, which can make life tougher for those at a lower level. You can change the mode anytime if you and your fellow gamers want a different type of gameplay.

Cooperative gameplay mode spawns different loot for different players.In this ammo cache, the game offers my character, FL4K, a Level 6 Shotgun from Tediore.
SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin
Another player on my team gets a Level 1 Assault Rifle from Hyperion in Cooperative mode when we are both looking at the same weapon. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Bug me out

As reported by many, I did experience a few bugs and performance issues in Borderlands 3. However, to be fair, I did play Borderlands 3 on my not-so-new Windows 7 system with an Intel Core i7-5820 processor, 16GB DDR4 RAM and a Radeon RX580 graphics card. 

The worse lags I have encountered are when the map first loads up – it’s so bad I cannot even turn to look around much less walk, but after that, the game runs fine.

There were also times that some cutscenes that are also surprisingly laggy with the audio cutting in and out. Otherwise, I managed to play for hours at a stretch with no issues.

More infrequent are the game-stopping crash-to-desktop incidents, which happened when I was in Pandora at the Varkids’ nests.  I was almost done cleaning out the area of annoying flying insectoid creatures and ready to fight the boss when the game crashed and kicked me to the desktop.

This meant I had to go through the entire excruciating ordeal again. Some gamers have said the game was unplayable, but apart from the infrequent crashes, the game ran fine on my rig. I personally didn’t get it so bad that I cannot enjoy Borderlands 3.

I also experienced a bug where a certain mission critical item that was dropped and cannot be recovered.

This happened in Prometheus where I had to kill a character and pick up a token, but the token fell through a hole in the floor and ended up in an inaccessible spot in between containers submerged in a radioactive ocean. 

A persistent and annoying bug was where my character cannot hear the NPC talking if the NPC is situated on my right, almost as if your character is deaf in the right ear. I had to make sure to keep any speaking character on my left in order to hear what he or she was saying.

TL;DR

If you are after a stylish, humorous and fun-filled shooting and looting adventure, you will find Borderlands 3 enjoyable and addictive, with memorable characters to meet, over-the-top bosses to beat and plenty of fun missions to complete.

With replayability offered by four distinct character classes, it’s as much fun playing by yourself as well as with friends.

Just try not to be too annoyed by the occasional bugs and lags caused by maps loading – I didn’t think these were deal breakers for the game,

Borderlands 3 for Windows is available exclusively on Epic Games store at US$59.99 (about S$81.75) for the Standard Edition, and will be released on other gaming online stores like Steam in 2020.

It is also now available on the Xbox One in the Microsoft Store and PlayStation 4 on the PlayStation Store.

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