REVIEW: ‘Borderlands 3’ is a violent departure from its video game roots

Promotional artwork for ‘Borderlands 3’ courtesy of Gearbox Software.

In honor of the tradition of Black Friday, stores across the country have been marking down prices on potential holiday gifts for consumers to purchase. The video game industry is no different, from Gamestop to Microsoft video games slashed to rock bottom prices so that fans can get their hands on recently released games at a cheaper price. One game stands out this year as long-awaited by gamers: the third in the Borderlands series.

It’s been five years since the last installment of the Borderlands series, a popular, stylized, first person shooter — or FPS — and Borderlands 3 was released in September of this year, just in time for some Black Friday deals to make it a hot seller later this month. Beginning much the same as the previous titles, Borderlands 3 takes the established Borderlands formula and expands upon it, with more guns, more environments, and more characters. Players who haven’t enjoyed Borderlands in the past won’t like this one, but longtime fans will be delighted.

As with the other games in the series, the player chooses from one of four possible mercenaries to play as, each with her or his own personality and special ability. The point of previous Borderlands games is to find Vaults, which are treasure troves filled with everything the characters may desire, hidden across the planet of Pandora and guarded by an ancient monster. As the player hunts Vaults, they are pursued by a colorful cast of enemies, everything from bandits to robots and on top of it all, the snarky, boss villain. This cruel, nihilistic world is all wrapped up in the trademarked Borderlands-style humor, combining adult and childish jokes, which sometimes hit and sometimes miss. This series takes itself much less seriously than your average FPS and this is what makes it so unique in the first place.

Promotional artwork for ‘Borderlands 3’ courtesy of Gearbox Software.

Beginning much the same as the previous titles, Borderlands 3 takes the established Borderlands formula and expands upon it, with more guns, more environments, and more characters.

While Borderlands 3 follows most of its predecessors’ tropes, it differs from this in some unique ways. The most prevalent of these changes is leaving behind the planet of Pandora, where the previous games have been set. Now the player gets to explore new environments and all the new types of enemies that come with it. Instead of the same old deserts, the player now travels to jungle planets and futuristic cities, creating a refreshing backdrop for the familiar shooting and looting Borderlands is synonymous with.

As players work their way through these new settings, they slowly gain a cast of characters to help in their fight against the threat of the Calypso twins — pretty unremarkable villains compared to the past games. Many of these characters are returning from other games, from the first game to the spinoff choose-your-own-adventure game. Fans will be glad to see their favorite characters in action once again. Still, there are many new and interesting characters to find within the new worlds as well. Borderlands 3 is quietly more diverse than its predecessors — although Borderlands has always been pretty good about this — now with the subtle inclusion of female psychos and bandits, who are treated exactly the same as their male counterparts, and several LGBT characters at the forefront. This is territory few other FPS games cross into.

The customizability has always been one of Borderlands’ strong suits and the third game leans into this more than ever, marketed with having over one billion guns to find and choose from. This encourages comparing and experimenting with all the unique, colorful guns the game has to offer. There is always a rush that comes with spotting new, rare equipment to try out. The classes, the skill trees, the side quests, and the seemingly endless guns guarantee an incredibly diverse, replayable experience.

Most of the minute changes in gameplay come from increasing ‘quality-of-life’ features and making the game experience more streamlined — such as hotkeys to switch missions and the ability to fast travel from any location. There are some new mobility options, for example, mantling and sliding, as well as the addition of the ping system, which makes the multiplayer function easier. The bulk of the gameplay follows the style of Borderlands 2, with an emphasis on co-op and stylized graphics. While many FPS games have stopped using multiplayer split screen, Borderlands continues to utilize this feature, which is the in-person multiplayer experience many shooter fans have been missing. At the same time, however, there have been some frame rate issues across platforms, especially in co-op. This is minor and doesn’t affect gameplay too heavily. The co-op is still a worthwhile experience.

Borderlands 3 is very similar to the previous installments, with some key changes in environment and gameplay. At this point, Borderlands knows what it is, and returning fans of the series are sure to love this new chapter. However, new players may very well be lost. Even off the planet of Pandora, Borderlands 3 is still the same old looter-and-shooter that manages to have a little heart and color between the jokes and gore that sets it apart from the other games in the genre.

Borderlands 3 is rated M for Mature.

Genevieve Hankins is a pop culture critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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