Let’s get something out of the way very quickly: I’m not a longtime Borderlands fan. I’m just not. While quite familiar with the series, and I have played it at a friend’s house occasionally, I never poured in innumerable hours finding the best loot possible or mowing down countless psychos. The most time I’ve spent with Borderlands before is, quite ironically, Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands story, which is absolutely fantastic.
So, I made it a point to see just what was on offer when Borderlands 3 showed up at E3 2019 in a big way, with a massive booth, countless stations and a bombastic new trailer that released during the Xbox E3 2019 conference.
Guns, Guns and more Guns
Starting the demo off, I had a choice of two different characters: Zane “The Operative” or Amara “The Siren.” There are two others in the full game, but for the purposes of this demo, I chose to play as Zane. Zane has some interesting skills, such as being able to put down an energy shield to give himself cover. Unlike the other three playable characters, he can also get a second ability in exchange for giving up his grenade slot, adding a layer of flexibility to his usage.
Getting into the meat of the mission, something immediately stood out to me: this is one of the most colorful first-person shooters I’ve played in a long time, with greens and purples and neon bouncing around the screen left and right. The art style is vivid and makes everything stand out in a unique way.
Borderlands 3 definitely has the classic gameplay that the series is known for, with ranged and melee enemies cleverly rushing, falling back and taking cover. The animation for the AI is extremely slick and reminded me of the agile foes in Rage. A serious area of improvement however, is the way the weapons feel. The gunplay has been somewhat refined and the feedback from each shot or impact is great. It actually feels quite a bit like the automatic weapons in Destiny 2, with every weapon providing a satisfying pop as enemies are destroyed and heads or limbs go flying.
You can’t just shoot your way through however, using your abilities is necessary in order to keep making your way forward. Different enemies require different strategies and particularly annoying were the little engineering tinkerers or “Tinks” that will dive for cover and set up turrets underneath piles of scrap. Dealing with them meant targeting over the bigger enemies first, else every pile of junk could have an automated turret spring up from within it.
Throughout the demo, there were plentiful chests filled with ammo and gun upgrades, as well as plenty of cash to loot (and vending machines to use said cash in). While I didn’t really bother changing my guns out that much, I did explore the skill tree. You earn experience and new skill points at what appears to be a very reasonable rate and just looking at Zane’s possible upgrades, there are different ways to improve his shields, recharge rate and more.
The sense of humor is definitively tongue-in-cheek, as the leaders of the Children of the Vault, the main villains of the game, frequently made comments over the loudspeakers, such as “Be sure to like and subscribe before our next livescream!” What punching bag is being targeted will remain a mystery, clearly.
Eventually, after gunning down dozens of foes and exploring for a fair bit, I made my way to the local boss. Introduced in the usual Borderlands style, it was a refreshingly unique fight, as this mega-speaker themed foe could only be harmed at certain points in an arena suited to his abilities. Devastating blasts of sound could easily take out most of my health in a single hit and dodging around him and his Tinks required some careful footwork. I nearly died several times but the generous “Last Chance” mechanic, which allows you to revive upon killing an enemy while on the brink of death, saved me several times in a row. I actually wonder if it might not be a bit too exploitable but it certainly feels great.
After my hands-on with Borderlands 3, I think it’s finally time for me to really dive in and check this series out in a serious way. Between Borderlands: Game of the Year edition releasing earlier this year, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection hitting Xbox Game Pass and a free new DLC being announced that bridges Borderlands 2 and Borderlands 3, I’ve got plenty to work with.
Borderlands 3 releases on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on September 13th, 2019.
If you’d like to read my other E3 2019 coverage, you can check out the links below:
- Doom Eternal Hands-On Preview
- Gears 5 Escape Mode Preview
- Project xCloud Is the Power of the Cloud in the Palm of Your Hand