Borderlands 3 Early Impressions From a Longtime Borderlands Fan

Does Borderlands 3 live up to lofty expectations? I jumped in as soon as it was released. Here are my first impressions.

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Borderlands is the franchise that put the looter-shooter genre on the map. In fact, Gearbox had players committing copious amounts of violence in exchange for badass guns long before the term looter-shooter even existed.

After an excruciatingly long five year break between Borderlands: The Pre Sequel and now, we finally get to enjoy the special breed of insanity that only Borderlands can provide.

With all that time comes even greater expectations. I went back and played through Borderlands 2 a few more times and even gave the original a quick playthrough to hold myself over, but nothing quite scratched the itch like getting to play something new.

Can Borderlands 3 possibly live up to my lofty expectations?

Borderlands 3: Characters

Since Borderlands 3 is one part shooter and another part RPG, you’re greeted with a difficult choice that will affect your entire experience right in the beginning—which character to play.

You can choose between FL4K, Moze, Zane, and Amara. Each character has its own suite of abilities that alter and enhance the gameplay.

I’m not going to lie, I spent way too much time researching which character I wanted to play before the game came out. FL4K seems awesome with his ability to summon an animal buddy. We already know Sirens are awesome, making Amara a great choice. Moze looks fun with her guns blazing approach and giant mech ability. And who doesn’t love a character that can teleport like Zane (and it sounds like he has a higher skill ceiling than some of the other characters)?

Each character brings something cool to the table, but in the end, I decided to go with FL4K. His name sounds awesome, and who doesn’t want to summon beasts to mess up enemies in the Borderlands world! (Also, a friend I play with is using the Siren, which is the other character I was considering).

Plus, I know I’m going to end up playing through the game again, so I’ll get to choose again soon enough…

Borderlands 3: Getting Started

Borderlands 3 gives you the option to choose between an easier mode and normal right out of the gate. Gearbox calls normal mode “the difficulty the game was made for,” so it definitely seems like the developer intends for that to be the difficulty to go with. Since I’ve played through every game in the series multiple times, I choose normal.

Another choice the game will see you make is whether you want cooperation or coopetition. The latter is like previous Borderlands games wherein loot drops for everyone and game doesn’t scale enemies based on player level. Cooperation is new to Borderlands 3 and creates instanced loot and level scaling. I went with the old-school coopetition mode for this one, since it just feels wrong to play any other way.

Borderlands 3: Story

The game kicks off like other Borderlands games with Marcus telling us a story from the land of Pandora (you’ll be leaving Pandora to go to other planets later on in the game).

Now, Lilith is the character speaking to us (since we all know what happened to Handsome Jack’s daughter Angel in BL2). Marcus brings us to Pandora, and then we’re greeted by Claptrap, who’s just as goofy and likable as he ever was. He gives us the ECHO device, and we’re off the races.

You meet the first boss rather quickly, but he’s a simple fight that won’t test your skills very much. Instead, he just serves as a quick way for you to reach level two so you can start enjoying your action skill. He also serves as the bridge that brings you to meeting Lilith in person for the first time.

On the negative side, The Calypso Twins aren’t nearly as hateable as Handsome Jack was the previous games, at least so far. Jack was one of the most despicable (and awesome) villains I can remember in any video game, so he’s a tough act to follow. Hopefully, The Twins find their footing as the game progresses, but in the early stages, I don’t feel the same burning desire to kill them as I did with Jack.

I won’t go into spoilers, but I’ll just say that the game has all the personality and sense of humor of the previous games. Whether or not that’s a positive for you depends on how much you enjoyed the other ones. If didn’t enjoy the juvenile jokes, you probably won’t like the characters and their personalities in Borderlands 3. Personally, I love it so far and can’t wait to see where the story goes.

Borderlands 3: Gameplay

In the early stages of the game, things feel quite a bit like Borderlands 2 and The Pre Sequel. Shooting feels good and using your abilities is quite fun. With FL4K, you get the additional layer of ordering around your pet, which is enjoyable and intuitive.

You don’t really start getting super satisfying loot until later in the game. However, even the early guns are somewhat interesting with the addition of multiple firing modes. Heck, even the starting pistol can shoot rockets!

The default aim sensitivity is a little high for my tastes (even though it’s actually only at level 3 of 10), but I found that turning it down to two was the sweet spot for me.

Basically, it feels like a slightly improved version of Borderlands 2, which is perfectly fine with me. It doesn’t offer the same shooting feel of a game like Destiny 2 or Call of Duty, but it was never about the intense level of precision. Instead, it’s an arcade-style shooter, and as far as those go, it doesn’t get much much better than Borderlands 3.

Borderlands 3: Performace

I’m playing the game on a launch Xbox One and I’m noticing that during large firefights, the game tends to hitch. On a few occasions, it would actually freeze up for a few seconds, which ended up being long enough to cause me to die. I’m not sure if this is due to an issue with the game or if it’s because I’m playing on such an old Xbox One. Either way, it’s an annoying issue, but not one that was bad enough to take away from my overall happiness with Borderlands 3.

Borderlands 3 Overall Impressions

After dipping my toes into the first couple of hours of Borderlands 3, it’s scratching all the right itches.

As some of the early reviews have pointed out, it doesn’t do much to rewrite the Borderlands formula. Instead, it takes what we know and love and makes it bigger (and a little better), which is exatcly what I was looking for from Borderlands 3.

If you didn’t like the original games, this will do nothing to change your mind, but if you’re a longtime fan looking for an exciting new Borderlands experience, you’re going to love what Borderlands 3 has in store for you (at least based on what I’ve seen from the early parts of the game).

Honestly, I can’t wait to spend the next couple weeks playing the game whenever I have a free minute, and that’s really all you can ask from a new release!

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