If we look at the history of gaming, we can always trace some of the generation’s most popular games to a few breakthrough titles. In the case of the RPG-shooter genre, we obviously have the Fallout series kicking things off, but years later in 2009, we would get Borderlands. The now-classic series from Gearbox Software and 2K Games mixed the foundations from Fallout, added in the frantic, fast-paced gameplay from Doom, and Duke Nukem(from whom it got its over-the-top humor) threw it in a blender and gifted gamers Borderlands.
Over a decade has passed since the beginning of the series, and in September 2019 we received the series latest entry with Borderlands 3. This poses the question, did ten years of craft, improvement, and hard work create the best Borderlands game to date? Critical reception was generally positive, while fans were divided about what they received, both sides have fair points, so let’s talk about them a little.
Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger?
Borderlands 3 is the most ambitious project we’ve seen from Gearbox Software yet, it is the longest entry on the series, and it has a very large variety of guns and environments. For comparison, its main campaign is longer than the original title by thirteen hours and longer than Borderlands 2 by five hours, which is already more bang-for-your-buck without counting side-quests, extra-content, and DLC.
Technically speaking Borderlands 3 is superior to its former titles, in gameplay, visuals, creativity, and level design. There’s certainly an argument to be made that some effects were better looking on Borderlands 2, but overall Borderlands 3 looks, and more importantly, feels superior. Characters look sharp and more detailed, gunfights are smoothers, guns themselves are outlandish and creative, and finally, the latest entry has multiple planets, which puts level-design on a category of its own, giving players new places to explore keeps the novelty of the game alive for longer.
Feeling entertained is surely one of the game’s strongest suits, with all that was mentioned above, in addition to unique boss fights, multiple characters, diverse action skills, and a fairly balanced AI, Borderlands 3 would be a straight-forward choice for the best game of the series, and yet it is unclear where fandom lies on the debate. One thing is certain shooting and looting is at their best in Borderlands 3, there’s no debate about it. So are we ready to declare it the best of the series? Not quite yet.
Same, But Different, But Still The Same
For all its technical prowess, creativity, unique missions, variety of quests, and generally speaking ability to create enjoyment, Borderlands 3 becomes a victim of its own success and the aging of its own fans. To summarize the arguments for why it isn’t the best derive from the fact that the game is stuck in time, while its fans aged and grew older. Borderlands found success by looking, feeling, and playing in a unique manner, its adventurous, funny, and fast-paced style helped pave the way for titles like Destiny, and The Division.
Borderlands 3 still boasts the same features it always did, it feels like more of the same, which might please some fans but dissuade others from seeing it as the best in the series. Naturally, a game that doesn’t offer much in the ways of new mechanics, and instead focuses on perfecting the good parts, might seem lazy and uninspired, but here we see a good balance between originality and improvements.
Change has been a divisive subject in the gaming community, games have been criticized for straying too far from the original content and mechanics countless times. The opposite is true as well, games like Borderlands 3, are criticized for their complacency and not evolving, there is a very fine line between progress and abandoning what makes your game unique.
Here we face the first dividing question, is an improved version of an older title, a better game, or not? Personally, I agree that games must evolve while delivering new mechanics, quests, fights, and combat to keep returning players, nonetheless perfecting tried and true fan favorite core concepts of your game is also a step towards a better title. Borderlands 3 delivers more of the same, yes, but it’s the best version of itself, and it also provides enough original content and concepts to appease older fans.
When We Were Young
The second argument to be made against Borderlands 3, is that the storyline and campaign, in general, is worse than earlier titles. This comes mainly from the fact that characters still retain their childish teenager charm, quirkiness, over-sexualized jokes, and over-the-top humor. There really isn’t much to be said about this, except for the fact that it is still the same type of story, characters, and humor that we fell in love decades ago. It’s painfully obvious that your late 20’s, self, won’t find sex jokes as amusing as yourself in your late teens, the game didn’t change you did.
Looking at your favorite things and outgrowing them can be painful, but we need to be able to see that maybe that’s not the game’s fault, they still have the same target demographic as they always did. In the spirit of a fair analysis, even taking into consideration that original fans are older and expected the game to grow with them, I can safely say that Borderlands 3, is NOT, the best written out of the series. A very safe bet would be to say that Borderlands 2, was the most enjoyable story-wise, but honestly, the best Borderlands story came from Telltale Games, in the form of Tales from the Borderlands.
Borderlands 3, is the best and worst entry of the series. It perfects everything that built its success, provides endless hours of fun, great performance, amazing character designs, beautiful and extremely big level designs, and superb gunfights. What is arguably the best shooting experience of all the RPG-shooters out there, is a fact that can’t be understated, this game excels on delivering on its core mechanics: shooting and looting. Ultimately, it falls short on story-telling, making it the least creative and safest game of the series.
A game that has over eighty hours of content, the largest map from any of the Borderlands games, an insane number of quests, and countless guns can seem daunting to tackle and experience at its fullest. We all know that the grind can be very tedious and boring sometimes if you need help getting the best unlockable, we’ve got you covered right here.