Borderlands 3 PC Review

Borderlands 3's stellar gunplay and awesome arsenal heavily contrast its disappointing humor and characters.

By Woozie, Posted 21 Sep 2019

In the time following the launch of the first Borderlands, loot shooters have stepped into the mainstream, evolving the formula in different ways. Whether it’s recurring activities, dynamic world events or specific ways of customizing builds, the sub-genre is much more populated than it was when the OG loot shooter came out. Although it had to navigate tricky terrain, Borderlands 3 made it clear that it planned to stick to its formula from its very first reveal. Surprisingly enough, it’s far from running out of fuel, although certain parts definitely begin to show wear.

Borderlands 3 starts off with the Crimson Raiders in a relatively dire position, fighting off the Calypso twins who’ve taken over the role of main douchebags after Handsome Jack’s death. With a new team of playable Vault Hunters at the forefront, and after a rather tragic event, they set off across the stars to find vault keys for the vaults discovered at the end of Borderlands 2. If previous entries were stuck on Pandora, now Vault Hunters can use their trusty ship, aptly named Sanctuary, to travel between planets.

This naturally leads to a bigger variety in environments as, on top of dry desert wastelands, you get to visit high-tech cities, swampy grasslands, the interiors of a crashed ship and more. These locations come with two or three fairly large maps that mostly accommodate both vehicle and infantry combat. In fact, the structure of the maps themselves remains quite familiar if you’ve played previous Borderlands games. You’ve your medium-sized pocket of spots where infantry combat takes place linked together by swathes of empty territory that welcomes vehicle battles. If you choose to explore ahead of time, you’ll bump into areas you can’t yet access or which you know you’ll get back to later for a side quest.

Borderlands 3, PC, Review, Screenshot

Although it might not seem so from afar, Borderlands 3’s cel-shaded graphics style has received some fairly significant improvements. Models are now more detailed, textures are crisper and everything has a slightly more stylized, cartoonish vibe to it. The guns unashamedly bear the look of insane sci-fi contraptions, elevating the powerful feeling of blasting foes apart with them. Facial animations and lip syncing, on the other hand, remain rather terrible and are noticeable even if you don’t spend that much time with the camera next to any character’s face.

Borderlands 3’s gunplay can often make you feel like you’re bringing down the power of a thousand tanks upon your enemy, even if you’re only using a small pistol. It continues to push things forward into madness, making it the best the series has seen thusfar. From the ability to switch between regular bullets and RPGs or grenade launchers on the go (and on the same gun), to effects like firing long distance electrical pellets from your SMG and melting shields in the process or summoning tiny guns with legs to shoot at foes, there’s a lot to see and experiment with. There’s even a gun that has unlimited ammo and can fire infinitely without overheating. Concessions are rarely made and madness triumphs when it comes to the available arsenal, making Borderlands 3 stand out from its peers.

Guns have serious kick to them, partly aided by a subtle delay added to their sound effects. Some have a recoil pattern that you have to master and it’s an absolute joy to deal critical hit after critical hit with them. Battles don’t take long to devolve into absolute mayhem with explosions going off everywhere and numbers flooding the screen. Borderlands 3’s combat is loud and messy and I was never bored shooting a gun, especially when I got my hands on those referencing other popular media. Among my favorites was the Doom-inspired double-barrel shotgun that played a low distorted guitar note with every shot.

Borderlands 3, PC, Review, Screenshot

The game throws a decent amount of enemies your way, although, they could have used a bit more spicing up in terms of move sets. Sure, some of them use armor which melts away if you’re dealing corrosive damage, others prefer shields susceptible to electrical damage; some blow themselves up in your face, others rely on sniping from afar or throwing barrels and junk at you. The roster, however, does eventually end up feeling a bit too samey. That being said, the regular enemies manage to provide exhilarating encounters, whereas Borderlands 3’s bosses often hit the mark. Sure, all of them are bullet sponges but, for the most part, unimaginative mechanics, like repeated leap attacks or predictable projectile patterns, alongside a few bosses that can easily one shot you, make the fights unimpressive and, at times, frustrating.

The new Vault Hunters come with some fairly different playstyles which, coupled with the possible build variety, give Borderlands 3 its much needed replayability potential. I picked FL4K, the Beastmaster, for my first playthrough. FL4K excels at a number of things, but I mostly switched between a crit-based build and a pet-centric build. The former revolved around using the Fade Away skill to turn FL4K invisible, regenerating health and guaranteeing critical hits on the first three shots, alongside skills that would reduce its cooldown. The latter, lets me summon a portal that teleports my pet to its locations as it empowers it, while emphasizing synergy between FL4K and pet through shared health regeneration and damage buffs.

Each Vault Hunter has three separate skill trees, each with its own ultimate ability and augmentations. There’s a good amount of potential for experimentation, which is also aided by how different the characters feel. If FL4K can choose between three companions (one of which is a rocket-launcher wielding monkey thing), Moze summons a mech to tear enemies to bits, while Zane is a master of deception that uses decoys to confuse foes as he slaughters them.

Borderlands 3, PC, Review, Screenshot

Obviously, synergizing your builds in co-op takes things to the next level. To that extent, Borderlands 3 introduces two separate modes. Cooperation sees players having their own instanced loot and scaling mobs to their levels, regardless of the discrepancy between them and their teammates. Coopetition plays like the older titles where there’s no scaling and you fight over loot. As a loner, jumping into Cooperation games via Matchmaking provided neat breaks from the solitary hunt I would otherwise embark upon with just my pet and droves of screaming madmen trying to kill me.

Broadly speaking, Borderlands 3 is more Borderlands. But that doesn’t mean everything is fine and dandy. While quality of life improvements like the ability to vault, slide, fast travel to your car and automatically collect ammo and cash are very much welcome, the UI still struggles to provide the best experience. Navigating through multiple weapons and comparing them in your inventory is still a pain. You can only track one quest at a time, which makes multitasking annoying, since you constantly have to go back to the menu, select the quest, go to the map, and check where you are (often several times). The area map tries to go for a 3D layout that shows different elevation levels but ultimately just ends up being confusing, especially when you’re trying to go for all the collectibles strewn across the map. However, the annoying UI isn’t the biggest issue that Borderlands 3 faces.

As much as the previous titles provided a rich arsenal that was very fun to use, the humor carried a good portion of the weight. While its edgy, trashy humor might not be for everybody, it’s arguably the main reason why I never wanted to stop playing through the old titles. That’s no longer the case with Borderlands 3. The new villains fail to land their jokes, coming off as annoying douchebags in a sea of bland douchebags. While the voice acting delivers quality, the jokes in Borderlands 3 feel like they either lack edge or are struggling to be funny, but missing the spot by miles. The pop culture references are up to date – streaming and content creation being part of the new villains’ persona – but don’t quite have the desired effect.

Borderlands 3, PC, Review, Screenshot

I still remember Jack going off about Butt Stallion, repeatedly taunting me, and going into a psychotic rage as I kept thwarting his plans. I remember Shooty McFace asking me to, well, shoot him in the face. On the flipside, I can’t mark any quote from the Calypsos as memorable, and not one of the splash screens that introduce bosses and allies managed to make me chuckle. I would have gladly taken “only” 900 million guns with some better jokes.

On top of that, Borderlands 3 suffers from performance issues. On an i7-8700k, 16GB RAM and a GTX 1070, Borderlands 3 did stick around the 60 FPS mark for the most part if options like volumetric fog and shadows were set to lower values. In more intense fights and when loading new areas, however, I did see the framerate drop as low as 35 FPS. While it might not sound that bad, the combat’s fluidity makes these performance hits fairly noticeable. On top of that, I did run into quest objectives that wouldn’t update, prompting a restart, vehicles getting stuck in geometry, and pets appearing right in front of me out of thin air, resulting in a couple of impromptu jump scares.

At the end of the day, Borderlands 3 unashamedly sticks to its (billion) guns. It brings a suite of improvements in terms of visuals and gunplay that make the sheer chaos of its gunfights the best in the series. At the same time, these improvements only add a relatively small amount of things to the game’s tried and tested recipe. Then there’s the disappointing humor that fails to provide those spicy, insane, and sometimes disgusting moments, its UI that doesn’t make for that smooth of an experience, and unsteady performance.

Borderlands 3, PC, Review, Screenshot

Borderlands 3 may not be the best game in the series, in spite of its improvements, but did nonetheless manage to keep me glued to the screen thanks to its satisfying slaughter and mayhem. As for whether or not you should get it, simply ask yourself if more Borderlands is something you’d like. If the answer is yes and you’re more focused on gunplay over characters, you’ll find lots of things to shoot at in Borderlands 3. If you were expecting more substantial upgrades to the formula, you’ll likely have to wait until the Pre-post-sequel comes around.

Bogdan Robert,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Borderlands 3

75/100

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): 2K Games
Developer(s): Gearbox Software
Genres: FPS
Themes: Looter-Shooter
Release Date: 2019-09-13

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