Borderlands 3 was a long time coming, following up on the wildly successful Borderlands 2 seven years later. The story also resumes seven years later, tying together a number of loose ends and answering a lot of questions to give the trilogy a sense of finality.
Most of the Borderlands 3 formula remains similar to that of its predecessors, but the additions range from interesting to fantastic. Perhaps the most significant change is that many weapons now have two selectable modes. Each brand has its own style of modes, and gun brands are more important and obvious here than ever before. For example, all basic Maliwan weapons are not only elemental, but have two elements you can switch between. This allows you to fit a whole lot more options into your four equipped guns.
A variety of smaller changes exist as well. The elements have been reworked, and slag no longer exists. This allows for a wider variety of potential strategies at higher levels. And for the first time, the game takes you into the vicinity of the level cap on a first playthrough. As a result, True Vault Hunter Mode is somewhat underwhelming, but the new Mayhem modes make up for it. These allow you to scale any area to your level, and add four levels of additional modifiers that yield tougher fights and better loot.
As implied by the high levels attained during the main story, Borderlands 3 is long. It is, in my opinion, far too long. The story beats work just fine, but the number and immense size of the maps in the game is just too much. This is a game that could use movie-style editing. It could be a third as long and lose nothing but dozens of hours of repetitive battles. Make no mistake, battles in Borderlands are fun, but I’d much rather have the option to play the game for fifty hours than be required to in order to finish the story. Its interminable length is really the only major flaw I’ve found in the game, but it’s a doozy.
The plot of the game revolves around the Calypso twins, a Siren who can absorb the life force of other beings and her parasitic brother. They’ve started a bandit cult, and generally act like asshole influencers for the entire game. This isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I found the villains appropriately, well, villainous. The story does a good job establishing their motivations as well as their advantages.
For the first time in the series, the game moves entirely away from Pandora for large segments. You’ll visit a number of other planets with new terrain and enemy types, and you’ll learn a lot about the various brands you’ve been seeing for the entire series. There are various cameos from all of the other games in the series, and you get resolution to a number of character arcs. The variety is nice, though several of the planets really wear out their welcome before you’re done with them.
Borderlands 3 isn’t as tightly tuned as Borderlands 2, and its not without some technical issues. It’s overly long and the plot isn’t for everyone, but nonetheless it enhances the already enjoyable gunplay of the Borderlands series. If you liked the previous games, this one is definitely worth checking out. If you like the looter shooter genre and some nice stylized graphics and a slightly weird sense of humor, this game will scratch that itch too. (Though if this describes you and you’ve never tried Borderlands 2, what have you been doing the last seven years?)