Updated: Mar 30
It's been a really long wait for the official 3rd iteration of Gearbox's Borderlands series and, well, it's a Borderlands game. Gearbox doesn't break the mold and that's fine. Borderlands didn't need to reinvent the wheel to be an overall solid game. This review is with the Xbox One X and a play through with Moze.
Okay, so lets go ahead and get the "worst" part of the game out of the way here: Story.
It's pretty generic. You've got two bad guys(this time) going after the Great Vault and you gotta stop them, kinda the same story as Borderlands 2 had with trying to stop Handsome Jack from opening a vault. Troy and Tyreen, the bad guys, seem to be Handsome Jack just split into two different people who happen to be brother and sister. Oh, they're also Sirens. You learn to really hate the duo early on which gives you the fuel needed to finish the game. Nothing wrong with that, right? Revenge fueled story is always good. Borderlands 3 has its slue of side missions which are still in the same style of Borderlands side mission we all love. You get to see some characters from the other games thrown into this one which is cool; Seeing Tiny Tina grown up is kinda strange but the way the established characters seem to have grown overall is fine.
Now, here is where I'm going to bother some people with my opinion: The whole story is centered around some "Church of Woke" staples. Bare with me here. I'm not at all saying it ruins the game, because it doesn't. It's just something I noticed while playing and feel the need to at least address.
Almost all of your main, powerful, and important characters/villains are female: Ellie, Lilith, Tannis, Ava, Maya, Amara,Tyreen, GENIVIV,Aurelia, Moxxi(who strangely seems more asian in appearance now?), Moze, Amara and a few others I can't remember right now. Even Claptrap is building his own female companion throughout the game. Yes, it's established that Sirens are mostly female in the first Borderlands so it's expected that strong female characters are in the universe (even the strongest in the universe being Sirens and all) but Borderlands 3 seems to shove them at you all at one time in, what seems to be, an attempt to put a huge emphasis on the strong woman archetype.
While none of this actually detracted from my enjoyment of the game, I just kinda kept wondering "Why now? Why all of a sudden? You've had 3 games to do this." I mean even Tannis turns out to be a super powerful character. Which makes you feel like a total tool for having to protect her in Borderlands 1 and 2. It makes no sense as to why she was such a "useless" character for two entire games and all of a sudden BAM! She's a badass? Really?
Hammerlock and Wainwright Jakobs being together seems kinda shoehorned into the story(though I've been told there was hint at Hammerlock being homosexual in some of the DLC's for Borderlands 2 ). Which is fine, I just wish there was more of a backstory to Hammerlock being homosexual in the main Borderlands 2 game for this to make more sense to anyone who might not have played the DLC so it's organic to the story of Borderlands 3. You've got FL4K who is supposedly of non-binary orientation and then there's Ellie who just goes for it, no matter who you play. She really, really like's Moze's ass. Despite these things seemingly just being shoved into your face it's done as tastefully as possible I suppose.
Also, it's just weird how ALL of the sirens allowed to be in the universe at one time are all in the same place at the same time. Tyreen, Troy, Lilith, Maya, Ava, Amara and I'll leave the last one a secret since it's kinda something that's supposed to stay that way until you reach a certain point in Borderlands 3. For Sirens to be such a rare phenomenon in the universe, there sure isn't a shortage here.
Gearbox really did stay true to their statement of trying to not be as offensive this go around with their humor, which seems to have dulled the game a bit. It's still funny but it does fall short more than a few times. Gearbox using the term "Tinks" in place of "midget" seems to be the biggest hit here. I'm not a little person and I don't know which term is actually less offensive here, but come on, Tink just sounds a lot worse than midget.
All in all though the story is exactly what you would expect out of a Borderlands game. It's familiar enough and flows smoothly enough to where it's enjoyable to experience everything it has to offer.
This is by far one of the best looking Borderlands games I've seen. I played on the Xbox One X and it gave me an option for performance or graphics. I chose performance which was supposed to keep everything at 1080p/60fps I believe. There was some frame rate stuttering while I was using different scopes and sights on weapons but overall it ran smooth as butter.
Game play and Combat
Again, everything here is about the same as you would expect out of a Borderlands game. Gearbox kept the slam ability from the Pre-sequel and added a nifty ability that came in handy more often than not: Slide. It's an awesome way to get behind cover quickly or dodge incoming attacks.
Elemental effects are still a staple of combat. Gearbox seems to have axed slag in favor of radiation damage and that's fine. Corrosive and Electric damage seem to be the inferior of the elemental effects though.
Cover also plays a more important part in combat this go around. The good and bad thing about this is that most cover is destructible. Good for you when enemies are behind cover, bad for you when you've got all enemies firing on the barrier you're behind.
Weapons feel like actual weapons now. The gun play is probably the best in the series so far. Also they seem to have fixed a lot of the hit detection problems. You'll still have experiences where, for instance, if there's an enemy head popping up over a barrier and you shoot their head, it registers as hitting the barrier instead, but they're wayyyy fewer and farther between than in the other games.
A great addition to the weapons are the different firing modes they can have. Fully automatic sniper rifles can melt through enemies while a bi-pod on a Vladof assault weapon ensures that nearly every bullet will hit its mark.
Last but not least with the weapons, the variety is amazing and Gearbox has outdone themselves in this aspect. However, in my play through with Moze, there seemed to be a heavy emphasis towards finding pistols and rocket launchers in the loot chests.
Enemy variety is basically the same as well. Psychos tend to be weirdly extra "tanky" while Badass enemies seem to be a bit more of a pain in the ass than usual, especially with their rate of fire. For example Badass Fanatics can shoot off 4-6 rockets within 3 seconds or Badass Tinks can toss 3-4 grenades at once. A lot of the enemies will end up being bullet sponges until you are the same level as they are or a few levels above. You'll have to dump a full clip, maybe even two, into enemies of a higher level than you to take them down even if it's only a one level difference.
The addition of vehicle customization is a nice touch. Being able to swap out different weapons, tires, boosts, etc makes the vehicles seem more of a viable game play mechanic versus just a means of transportation. The new customization options gives you more of a reason to hijack a vehicle from an enemy to see if it has anything you can scavenge from it, rather than just blow it up and move on with your life. However, the main modification parts you get from finding special vehicles scattered throughout the different areas. Ellie will let you know when you come across one. One criticism I can actually give Gearbox over Borderlands 3 is how long it takes to unlock the Relic/Class mod slots. Seems like these should be unlocked no later than level 5 just to give you more buffs so your character can feel more like a force to be reckoned with.
There were also a lot of complaints about bugs with this game but I only experienced three bugs the entire time. One was that every time I'd start up my game and would pull up the pause menu, it would tell me there was a game update. I fell for it the first two times, but then just ignored it because it happened every time. The second one was that when I'd kill a loot enemy there was a 50/50 chance that they would actually drop the backpack you could open for additional loot which, according to a friend of mine, he got a backpack every time he'd kill one. The last one was only a one time issue and it was that the game completely crashed on me during the final boss fight. Got pissed off, closed the game out, opened it back up, replayed the boss fight and everything was fine. Maybe if I had chose graphics over performance I would've experienced more?
It's a solid game all around. It improves on the base mechanics of the franchise to outshine the other iterations of the series by just enough. This is definitely a must have game for the year and given it's release date I'm sure it will go on sale during the holidays so be sure to pick it up then if you can't get it now!