Borderlands 3 game’s character-driven narrative acts as a satisfying finale
Borderlands 3 has a few stumbling blocks when it comes to bosses, but these fights are overshadowed by the game’s rewarding gunplay and over-the-top humor. The game’s character-driven narrative acts as a satisfying finale for the loot-shooter franchise, and the new mechanics and features–especially the reworked skill trees and weapon manufacturer effects–give you plenty of agency in how you want to play through it. If you’ve never been a fan of the franchise, it’s unlikely Borderlands 3 does enough things differently to change your mind, as the game best excels at continuing what the series has always done: deliver a humorous tall tale of misfits looting and shooting their way to heroism. Borderlands 3 wraps up most of the narratives established in the earlier games, while also teasing additional threads that could be explored in the future. Despite these hints, there’s a definite finality to Borderlands 3’s campaign, which satisfyingly wraps up the arcs of characters that fans have been following for 10 years.
As one of four fledgling Vault Hunters–Zane the operative, Amara the Siren, Moze the gunner, or FL4K the beastmaster–you are recruited into the Crimson Raiders, the militia that defends the only civilized pocket of society found on the bandit-filled wasteland planet of Pandora. Led by Lilith, a former Vault Hunter, the Crimson Raiders have gone to war with Tyreen Calypso and her twin brother Troy, who are using their influence as popular video streamers to convince their cult following to help them acquire the immense power found in secret vaults scattered throughout the universe. The story is a bit of a slow start, but it quickly picks up near the end of the first act and rarely slows down on its way to its grand finale. Looting and shooting are still the focus of Borderlands 3, but its campaign also delivers a fairly well-written story of sacrifice, the importance of family, and the responsibilities of heroes. Borderlands 3 provides more flexibility than ever before to create the type of character you want. For the first time in the series, the Vault Hunters all have an active skill tied to each of their three respective skill trees. Amara, for example, can equip Phaseslam to deal immense close range damage, Phasecast to tear through enemies from afar, or Phasegrasp to crowd control or focus her elemental abilities on one target. Using perks from all three skill trees, you can evolve each of these skills in meaningful ways. For instance, if you want to make Amara’s area-of-effect Phaseslam ability into something more precise, you could change it with perks found in both the Brawl and Fist of the Elements skill trees so that the ability transforms Amara into a levitating spider-like creature that shoots a massive fire-based death ray before she careens to earth in a smaller slam. Phaseslam can evolve in other ways too, as can Phasecast and Phasegrasp–providing numerous options for how you want Amara to fight. The same can be said for Zane, Moze, and FL4K.
The freedom to build your ideal loadout extends beyond your Vault Hunter’s skill trees. Borderlands 3 makes clear-cut distinctions when it comes to the manufacturer of each gun. Before you even loot a new firearm, looking at which company made it will tell you most of what you need to know about what it can do. Maliwan guns are fairly weak but each one shoots elemental bullets, for instance, allowing you to more easily electrocute shields, melt armor, or burn through flesh, while a Hyperion firearm raises a forcefield in front of you while aiming down sights and becomes more accurate as you pull the trigger. They’re minor changes to further differentiate each type of gun, but these new manufacturer effects make it a lot easier to build specialized loadouts that can augment the perks you choose. But, more than anything, the guns are just fun to shoot. It may come as little surprise given that distinctive firearms has been the bread and butter of the franchise since the beginning, but Borderlands 3 has quite a few unique guns that offer a wide variety of enjoyable effects. Some have actual gameplay-changing ramifications, like a sniper rifle that can transform into a shotgun. But Borderlands 3 also has guns that are just playfully quirky and weird–ones that insult and tease you for your performance or just shoot more guns, for example. And you acquire new firepower at a gratifying pace, with new loot regularly dropping from the tougher enemies in the groups you encounter and explosively erupting from bosses you defeat. Borderlands 3 never lets up on giving you new weapons to experiment with, progressively increasing the explosive potential and wacky effects of the weapons you find, which in turn serves as a satisfying visual representation of how much stronger you’re getting beyond the higher damage numbers.
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