Borderlands 3 – The Player 2 Co-op Review
When a game so big, so crazy and so… well looty like Borderlands 3 comes along there needs to be more than one person give their thoughts on it. So with that in mind, Paul James and Matt Hewson sat down in a Skaag filled cavern to nut out their thoughts on Gearbox’s latest title and discuss the virtues of annoying sidekick robots, burlesque bar owners and powerless sirens.
Matt: Well, I’ll get the obvious out of the way first. This sure is a Borderlands game. But do you know what? It is a more refined Borderlands, an evolved Borderlands, a deluxe Borderlands. Kicking off things look very similar to what we have seen before but as you dig a little deeper there are a host of changes that become apparent. Changes that universally make the game better than what has come before it.
Paul: Borderlands 3 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a refinement in so many different ways, and the culmination of so many disparate ideas in the ultimate Borderlands bundle. You referenced the game as an evolution, and that’s the best way to describe it, it’s certainly not revolutionising much, it’s the same old game that countless millions adore, but it sticks to its strengths, *mostly* sticks the landing and has become the time sink I longed for it to be prior to release. I must say though, at first blush I was concerned, the first 4-5 hours are based on Pandora, and it seems to be the same old fare at that point, but once you’re on Sanctuary III and take flight, it’s onwards and upwards from there on. There are a few technical blemishes that I’ve not come to expect from past entries though that have frustrated in this third core title, have you encountered any issues in your play time so far?
Matt: So on my time with the PC version, things have been pretty smooth, the occasional AI or graphical glitch notwithstanding. But on the Xbox One X things haven’t been as smooth. My guess there is because my time on the Xbox has almost been exclusively in Co-op mode with my eldest and the game seems to struggle in this mode. Framerate drops and pop-ins are the order of the day, especially when the menus are accessed and being the type of game that this is, menus are accessed all the time. It adds a level of frustration to proceedings that wasn’t present in the older titles. I feel it is at least two patches from a properly running game and frankly, for a game that has been in development this long, this isn’t good enough. I shudder to think how it runs on the base PS4 and Xbox One models with how much it struggles on the X. But it isn’t all doom and gloom. The weapons, those glorious weapons make it all worth it, am I right?
Paul: Oh the arsenal is always one of the great strengths of Borderlands, and that persists with this third entry. The franchise has always prided itself on its squillions of guns, and while that number rarely means much, the range has always been impressive, and now it’s been bolstered by the likes of the Cheeseburger Rocket Launcher, guns with legs, others that when reloaded shoot out little alien heads that run at the enemy and explode on impact. It’s ridiculous and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As far as the act of shooting is concerned though, Borderlands 3 is the best the franchise has been in this space. Obviously the stats of your guns have a great bearing on your precision but they handle superbly and help you to feel like a lethal wrecking ball at times. Another key factor is the element imbued in your weapon (should it have one), taking advantage of this when tackling swarms of diverse enemy types, each with their own weaknesses is as always paramount, making the balancing of how these enemies are dolled out, and the prevalence of the necessary weapons equally so. Short version, Gearbox nailed it in this regard – as they also did with the skill trees and the new layer of choice made available to the player. What do you think?
Matt: Having three different skill trees for each character and three different swappable super moves has created a wonderful scope to create a character that suits an individual’s playstyle. There is a much bigger difference in the skill trees when compared to previous games and they really do lead to different outcomes as the game wears on. Some of the super moves are truly special as well. I am currently playing as Moze on PC and Amara on the Xbox and they both have life-saving moves that bring the boom in fun and spectacular ways. From what I have seen of the other characters, that holds true across the board. Who is your go-to Paul?
Paul: I’m rolling with Fl4k because who doesn’t want to have a million crazy Pandoran beasts on their side? As you said, I do have my extreme, “Get out of jail” maneuver that I can pull out, though in the case of Fl4k I don’t feel like I need it as often because the Rakk in his possession are so excessively powerful and then when paired with the right skill points they regen your health as well. I don’t find myself in too many excessively tight spots unless I got a little too bold. I do love being able to draw upon each skill tree rather than be locked to a singular tree as has been the case with prior games, it just expands how creative we can be in the slaughter. Another important pillar of the Borderlands IP historically has been the humour, and much has been said about this current entry. Where do you land on it? Has the absence of a few profile writers from prior games (namely Anthony Burch) been felt by you?
Matt: Look I am going to sound like I am sitting on the fence here but I can’t really say I am happy or upset with it. I find it to be pretty on par with the previous games as far as jokes go. Some hit, some miss, a few are dumb, a few are clever. The story is fine, though the baddies are nowhere near as cool as Handsome Jack, but that could simply be because I detest that stereotypical YouTube personality in real life, so in a game like this it just makes me grind my teeth. But I guess we are getting to final thoughts time on this one, where do you stand Paul?
Paul: Look, as far as the jokes are concerned it feels like a bunch of folk trying to make edgey, streamer-culture jokes, but those writing those jokes aren’t really a part of that scene and so they fall a bit flat from time to time. When Borderlands 3 is at it’s funniest is when it keeps things simple, killing a psycho, and as he takes his final breaths he exclaims, “remember me, my name is…” and dies before finishing the sentence. Those moments get laughs, but when they lean too hard into the theme of the game, that’s when the punchline often falls flat. Borderlands 3 is overall an excellent experience, one that has some clear weaknesses, many of which can and will be fixed with some patches, but the moment to moment action is tight, the quality of life improvements can be found everywhere and it’s going to provide many awesome hours of gameplay over the weeks and months to come. I’m thrilled it’s back.
Matt: I am happy for more Borderlands and Borderlands 3 is exactly that. The issues that present get in the way a little but I can’t see them not being patched out in the near future so overall I am happy with what is here. Fun alone but more fun with friends, just like every title in the franchise so far. It isn’t going to change the world in the slightest but not every game needs too, sometimes you just need to shoot something in the face and Borderlands 3 gives you that visceral thrill about 30 times every minute. It isn’t going to convert haters, but for everyone else hours and hours of shootin’ and lootin’ await.
Born and bred on the Super Nintendo era, Paul relishes any opportunity to sink his teeth into an RPG, action or platformer. Despite being an owner of all major platforms, Paul does have a particular love of the Playstation family of consoles – take only a few minutes to skim through his Twitter and you’ll see him ranting about the next big thing on PS4. We swear he’s sane.