Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC
The alien world of Pandora is under threat again, requiring a new team of Vault Hunters to channel their unique powers into saving the day – and profiting from a new round of chaos along the way.
At a glance, Borderlands 3 doesn’t seem much of an evolution, despite a half-decade passing since the last entry in the series, 2014’s The Pre-Sequel. Players will pick their chosen Vault Hunter from a roster of four, then set out to explore Pandora. Early quests even feel like a re-run of Borderlands 2 – get a base set up, unlock vehicles, start to claw back territory. Look closer though, and you’ll start to see how this third chapter stands apart, marking itself as one of the more compelling entries to date.
The playable characters are the first overhaul – a quartet forming the most intriguing band of Borderlands heroes yet. FL4K is perhaps the most impressive, a robot Beastmaster who summons vicious creatures to assist him in battle, the contrast of inorganic and organic making him one of the more interesting characters in the series. He’s joined by Zane, the teched-out Operative who uses drones and digital clones to distract and confuse enemies; Moze, a Gunner who rides her robot Iron Bear into battle (similar to Borderlands 2‘s DLC Mechromancer class); and Amara, the newest Siren – one of six legendary superpowered women across the universe, but whose abilities veer more towards the physical than her peers, with ethereal arms that can seize or slam foes.
It’s not just unique ideas that make the heroes stand out – their abilities are more versatile and creative than before, with beefier skill trees and customisable load-outs that allow you to tailor each of them in myriad ways. Moze, for instance, customises her mech more than herself, while Zane can use two action skills at once. Playing with a full squad in co-op is a delight too, the four characters bouncing off each other fantastically. A new ‘ping’ system, allowing you to highlight chests, enemies, or other objects of interest also smooths online play, allowing quick communication that doesn’t demand voice chat.
As the campaign progresses, you’ll realise there’s a lot more going on than just another gun-toting rampage across Pandora though. Borderlands 3 takes players elsewhere in the universe, introducing new planets and locations while delving into the unexpectedly deep lore. The planet-hopping tour delivers some much needed and brilliantly created visual diversity, swapping the familiar dustbowl world for the swamp-like Eden-6 or the urban sprawls of Promethea. Wherever you go, just exploring is a pleasure, one elevated by the constantly inventive quests and side missions that draw you deeper into the story.
One aspect that hasn’t been improved though is vehicles. Handling is iffy, and combat remains as awkward and imprecise as ever. Chances are you’ll find yourself only using vehicular modes of transport to barrel your way through to the next fast-travel point, and avoiding in-car combat unless a mission explicitly forces you to engage.
Ultimately, Borderlands 3 doesn’t reinvent the wheel so much as give it a respray and tighten the lugnuts, delivering quality of life improvements – such as cash or ammo drops automatically being hoovered up – to make the series’ familiar loot-and-shoot gameplay loop even more satisfying. With a fun cast of heroes and what feels like an infinite array of weapons to play around with, Borderlands 3 refines the series’ best elements into its finest outing yet.