Borderlands 3 made its first appearance at E3 2019 during the Microsoft press conference on June 9. After months of anticipation, Borderlands 3 is now out on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
To celebrate the series’ 10th anniversary, developer Gearbox Studios has plans for a month-long event called the Borderlands Anniversary Celebration. Each week is a new event starting with Boss Week, Oct. 1-7, when select bosses will have a greater chance of dropping legendary weapons and class mods.
Next week is the Rare Spawn Hunt week, but Gearbox has yet to provide any details.
When Borderlands came out 10 years ago, the industry and gamers took notice. It became one of the most popular and well-reviewed games of 2009, praised for its slick visuals, its silliness and its array of guns and items you could collect throughout its world.
Borderlands also ushered in a new genre by combining a first-person shooter, where you play the game through the eyes of the main character, with role-playing game elements and a heavy focus on obtaining the best weapons. Games that came after it became known as “looter shooters.” They included titles like Ubisoft’s postapocalyptic survival game Tom Clancy’s The Division, the fantasy game Anthem from Electronic Arts, and the space battle epic Destiny from Bungie.
Borderlands itself has had several follow-ups, including the critically acclaimed Borderlands 2 in 2012 and the not so critically acclaimed Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel in 2014.
Like previous games, Borderlands 3 centers on Vaults, legendary tombs filled with treasures and monsters. Players control one of a rag-tag group of hunters chasing down a pair of evil twins with their own cult who want the power from these secret caches.
Borderlands fans didn’t have to wait long after the game was announced in March for a good look at it. Gearbox held a one-hour reveal event on May 1 that explored the first hour of the game. Then in June at E3 2019, the developer showed off more of the game. On Aug. 14, Gearbox revealed FL4K, and more about the planets players will visit.
Who are these jokers?
Part of the success of Borderlands is the group of characters, known as Vault Hunters, gamers can play as. The four hunters have their own distinct play style that has both pros and cons. They’re supported by dozens of other memorable nonplayable characters, such as the loudmouth robot Claptrap and Lilith, the leader of the Crimson Raiders, who are chasing down the evil Calypso twins.
BL3 gives players four new Vault Hunters to play as: FL4K, Amara, Moze and Zane. Like in the previous games, each has their own backstory and reason to go on an intergalactic treasure hunt.
FL4K (pronounced “flak”) is a beastmaster class who can control four different monsters — a Jabber, a Rakk, a Skag and a Spiderant — each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and three skill trees for each beast. The Hunter skill line gives FL4K a Spiderant Centurion as a pet and the special move called Rakk Attack that lets loose a pair of flying monsters that disappear after attacking. This skill tree focuses on making FL4K’s critical attacks occur more often and do more damage.
The Master skill tree focuses on the pet, which in this case will be Guard Skag. There are multiple moves that will buff the Skag and increase FL4K’s melee attacks. Gamma Burst is an action skill that will transport the pet and quickly revive them in a battle.
FL4K’s Stalker skill tree is all about stealth and evasion. Fade Away is another skill to get close to pets while increasing their speed and healing. Other special moves let FL4K’s pet — in this case, a Jabber Sidekick — revive and improves health regeneration.
As a Siren, Amara can summon a giant fist to lock down enemies called Phasegrasp, send an astral projection of herself called Phasecast and unleash her power on nearby enemies with a Phaseslam.
Zane is more of a gadget fighter: He can summon a holograph of himself called a Digi-Clone that can attack enemies; he can launch SNTNL drones; and deploy a Barrier for protection.
Moze is all about firepower. Not only can she equip some big weapons on her own, but she also has her own mech called Iron Bear.
Unlike other Vault Hunters, who unlock new abilities via skill trees, Moze unlocks new weapons on her mech, which are called Hardpoints. Demolition Woman will deal extra damage whenever she uses mounted grenade launchers and rocket launchers on Iron Bear. For defense, players can decide to focus on the Shield of Retribution Hardpoint, which gives you a powerful rail gun and the Iron Bear Fist, a powerful melee attack. Then there’s the Bottomless Mags Hardpoint that’ll allow for regenerating bullets and add a flamethrower to the mech.
Gearbox says it has only four playable characters and no plans for more via downloadable content.
Not only are there new Vault Hunters, but Gearbox also updated the basic functions of the classes. Playable characters in previous games could only have one active ability available, while in this iteration the characters can use three abilities. As players level up, they can decide how to improve a specific active ability, which allows them to power up one over the other to make their character distinctive.
Gearbox also modernized the Vault Hunters by allowing them to mantle and get to higher ground easier, as well as sliding while running to get to cover faster. Shown at E3 2019, the new artifacts will add various effects to players’ movements, such as causing a streak of fire whenever the character slides.
Gearbox added a little old-school fun with multiplayer. Borderlands 3 players can play both online and split-screen multiplayer, meaning you can play alongside your friend sitting next to you on a couch at home.
NPCs that fight alongside you can also be revived as well as revive players. There are also more environmental attacks available, such as oil on the ground that can be set on fire to damage enemies, instead of just exploding barrels all over the maps.
To Pandora and beyond
In the first two Borderlands games, players uncovered the secrets behind the Vaults, legendary caches supposedly filled with riches and powerful alien technology, located on Pandora. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel then had players go to Pandora’s moon, Elpis, to find its Vault.
Now it’s time to explore new worlds for the first time in the series. At E3, the developer showed one of the new planets to explore, Eden-6. The new swampy planet is much different than the rocky, desert wasteland of Pandora. Players will contend with new animal life on the planet such as the Saurians and Jabbers.
Players will make the jump to Eden-6 and other planets via their own spaceship, called Sanctuary III, and it does more than travel across the galaxy. The ship is a home base filled with shops, a personal quarters players can make their own and several characters from previous games such as Lilith, Maya, Hammerlock, Ellie and Mad Moxxi.
Athenas is another planet players can explore. It’s an uninhabited planet except for a sect of monks, the Order of the Impending Storm, who are guarding a secret.
Promethea is the home of the Atlas Corporation and has big, futuristic cities. It’s currently under siege by another weapons manufacturer, Maliwan. Atlas CEO Rhys Strongfork controls the planet and might be in need of some help.
To bridge the gap between Borderlands 2 and 3, downloadable content was made available for free to link the two games. Called Commander Lilith & The Fight for Sanctuary, it’s an expansion available to anyone who owns Borderlands 2 or The Handsome Collection. It was available for free for 30 days from June 9, but now costs $20. You play as any of the characters from the second game in the new original story and you can earn some new rare loot.
Gearbox revealed to The Verge that comedian and Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick will reprise his role as Vaughn from Tales from the Borderlands, an adventure game developed by Telltale Games released in 2014. Hardwick’s character was a friend of Rhys, one of the protagonists of the game. His inclusion means Borderlands 3 could be the first of the mainline games in the franchise to crossover with the Telltale game.
Prominent voice actor Troy Baker revealed on Sept. 30 why he didn’t reprise his role of Rhys, the protagonist of 2014 Tales from the Borderlands developed by Telltale Games, who makes an appearance in the latest entry in Borderlands 3. According to VG247, the actor says Gearbox Studios didn’t hire him to reprise the role because the studio didn’t want to hire SAG-AFTRA voice actors.
“No, it was simply a matter of they wouldn’t go union,” he told VG247. “And I can’t do a non-union gig.”
In 2017, members of the actor union held a strike over the working conditions and compensation for voice acting in video games. The union did come to an agreement with several game companies to end the strike.
Not-so wonder twins
BL3 focuses on a new pair of bad guys called the Calypso Twins, Troy and Tyrene. The two act similar to YouTubers and have their own cult, the Children of the Vault. They want to find the Vaults and suck up the power of the legendary Vault Monsters.
Lilith, the Siren from Borderlands 1, is out to stop the twins with her Crimson Raiders, a group of Vault Hunters from previous games and other characters who fight for causes worth fighting for. This is where the players come into the story.
Aside from the new bad guys, players will also have to deal with big bosses in the new Vaults that will have multiple phases during the encounters.
A kinder looter shooter
A big quality-of-life change in BL3 is how the game handles loot. This being a looter shooter, players have to defeat enemies and complete quests to get the best equipment in the game. In previous games, this means one legendary weapon drops from an enemy and players would have to decide who can pick up the weapon, or in some cases, one person on the team would grab the weapon and log off, better known as being a “loot ninja.”
To address this, Gearbox created loot instancing. This means that when players team up, each will have their own loot drop from enemies that only they can pick up. For fans of the series who want a competitive loot option, they can choose to play on.
Loot instancing also lets characters of different levels fight against enemies of their own levels. A player with a level 10 character can join a level 25 player and the two will experience enemies at a similar difficulty with rewards on par with their levels.
Gearbox will also include a new feature called Dynamic missions. New quests can become available based on the progress of your friends. For example, if a friend finds a rare monster, a mission to track down the beast may become available to you.
Another new feature revealed at E3 2019 was the Guardian Rank. In previous games, players acquired Badass Ranks after completing certain goals, such as defeating a certain number of enemies or finding so many weapons and would be able to improve their stats. With Guardian Rank, players will unlock additional weapons, skins and abilities as they rank up.
At PAX West on Aug. 30, the Gearbox developers explained that Guardian Rank will be available after the main campaign is over.
Gearbox tweeted Sept. 12 that there’ll be a few features available to PC users and not console players. The developer says Photo Mode and the Twitch ECHOcast Extension will be available only in the PC version of the game. The ECHOcast is a new feature for the game that lets stream viewers see the streamer’s equipment and other in-game info. PS4 and Xbox One owners will have to wait for the Day 30 update to access both features.
Players are already coming across a variety of issues. A thread on the Borderlands 3 subreddit about problems with the game had more than 1,000 comments on Friday. The top comment refers to an issue with the game’s inventory screen — some players say images of items sold will still appear.
Another big issue players are having on launch day has to do with the intro sequence. Each playthrough has you sit through a seven-minute video and according to console players, it is unskippable. PC players, however, do have a way to get past the intro but it requires deleting certain game files. A Reddit post gives instructions on how to remove the opening sequence and go right into the game.
Like in previous games, BL3 has a ton of guns for players to find. New this time around is the alternative firing mode. Guns can now go from firing bullets to firing missiles, just with a press of a button. This will dramatically improve the variety of weapons available.
Another big change for weapons is having dual elements. A gun that has fire damage can also have another element like shock or explosive. There’s also a new element called radiation that will cause enemies to explode when they die and irradiate nearby enemies.
The guns will also have other unique properties. A Tediore weapon can be tossed like a grenade or it can be placed on the floor where it will become a turret.