Borderlands 3 Feels Much Better To Play Compared To The Previous Editions
I have a friend lives in LA (Los Angeles), and a few days ago, he told me that he was invited to a 'Secret Location', a warehouse, to experience the grand unveiling of Borderlands 3 (BL3). The whole activity started early in the day. On the stage, projected onto an enormous screen, the one of a kind Claptrap was dancing. His shrieks echo throughout the whole building. Having established that this series' mascot is back already. and based on your opinion — as funny or as too-irritating-for-this-time-of-the-morning as usual, the demo still continues. In this game, there is banter, there is wasteland combat, and there is even a miniboss. "SHIV, " introduces the title card. "Brought a knife to a gunfight." Now the Borderlands is officially back.
At the very beginning, I am completely underwhelmed. And the early demo introduces some new movement options, such as sliding and mantling, but nothing that feels like a bold new direction for this series. An iterative sequel is all fine and well, but he has been fighting through wastelands for hundreds of hours. Is more of the same really enough?
And then, about 40 minutes or so into the demo, it really happens. The demo skips ahead and then we are introduced to Sanctuary III. This place is Borderlands 3's new hub, meanwhile, this is a safe zone where players can chat with NPCs (Non-Player Character), shop, pick up quests and even test all different kinds of Borderlands 3 weapons. It's also a spaceship. From the bridge, we can see the place that has defined the series up to this point: the Pandora planet and its moon, Elpis. And then we leave this place, warping out of the system and arriving somewhere new.
Lead lighting artist, Carl Shedd says: "I think that the desire to leave Pandora has been around for a long time...It's funny, it's a neat split. You have purists who are like, 'I know it was desert, but it felt like home'. I played the Game of the Year edition recently, and it felt so familiar to be back home. But the narrative and design teams wanted to experience what it would mean to be planet-hopping. And the first time that I saw the warp, I had that, 'Holy shit, this is kinda cool' moment. And I've gotta be honest, when I saw Pandora out the window, it felt really nostalgic."
The new place that Sanctuary III arrives is called Promethea, which is one of a number of planets that will be available in this full game. About Pandora and Promethea, we should say, if Pandora was a murderous backwater, then the region of Promethea shown is a murderous science fiction city, which is bathed in cool purples at night, and when the sun rises, the purple is gradually fading and finally becomes a rich orange color, and for the asteroid belt orbits this planet, causing frequent eclipses as the space rocks move past this Promethea planet. "That was something that came from Randy [Pitchford, CEO of Gearbox]," explains Shedd. "He said, 'Man, this is infinite space. We don't have to have a sun, we don't have to have a moon. Think of crazy shit. Have some fun'."
Even though the "crazy shit" mandate, Gearbox still wants Borderlands 3 to hold the series' style and aesthetic. According to what Shepp says: The challenge came from finding ways to introduce players to unique environments without alienating the feel of the wasteland...I feel like there was a lot of trepidation from everybody in the art team. We'd have a concept for this planet and that planet, and we'd look at those and go, 'That's really pretty but it just doesn't feel like it belongs in Borderlands'. So I think the challenge was trying to invent environments that felt new and felt fresh, but we all felt that yes, this is a natural place that would exist along with the humor and gameplay. I'm happy with where we've landed."
INTO NEW LANDS:
After the presentation is done, I get a chance to play a section of this game - starting after the Vault Hunter arrives on Promethea planet. The purpose of Borderlands 3's planet-hopping journey is to find new Vaults, ancient places full of advanced weapons (or, sometimes, some big prisons containing giant tentacle monsters). Taking you to their location is the COV (Children Of The Vault), which is a new cult dominated by Tyreen and Troy Calypso. On Promethea, they have already inserted themselves into a war between weapons manufactures Atlas now headed by Tales from the Borderlands' Rhys—and Maliwan, allying with the latter. Working with Atlas, and my job is to protect this city.
On the stage, Pitchford describes the Calypso twins as "just like the douchiest kind of live streamers of the future that you can possibly imagine." I get a sense of that when they call to taunt me during a mission. "Superfan," Tyreen enthuses. "So, what do you think of our first corporate sponsors? I gotta say, so far selling out rules."
The creative director Paul Sage says: "We knew we wanted to have these twins, right from the get-go... and then, a little later on, we said, 'OK, we're going to double down on this cult idea'. But internally, we were like, 'I don't know, man, it's just still not hitting'. It wasn't until we hit on this thing where they became unlikable streamers that we were like, 'Oh, that's actually what's making this magic again'. That's what's really bringing them forward into people's minds. It's kind of that punch-in-the- face factor. They're not just evil for evil's sake. They're just people I really don't like that are horrible."
In helping Rhys, I get plenty of chances to tangle with Maliwan's army, as well as the bandits following the COV (Children Of The Vault). And I must say that slide maneuver that felt so underwhelming at the very first beginning? It's a game-changer. I have always enjoyed the Borderlands series because of its tone, style, and ridiculous loot, but as you know that pure combat has always felt simply functional. My time with Borderlands 3 , suggests that it will be a legitimately great shooter. Movement in this game is more fluid and dynamic, and for the guns, which are more varied and absurd, so all in all, this game feels much better than ever.
Kevin Powell, systems designer says: "We have been trying to push the envelope as far as that's concerned in every sort of facet ... and so yeah, better Borderlands 3 guns, systems feel much better, and we have a lot of quality life changes with the sliding and mantling."
And of course, apart from the pure feel of the gunplay, more work has been put into creating exciting combat arenas. Powell says: "We absolutely want players to interact with the environment a little more ... and so you must notice that if you shot a pipe, there was some oil that came out, and if you shot an explosive barrel or if you had a fire elemental weapon, then you can light that puddle on fire. Various elemental things can interact with things in different methods in the world, and so we really wanted to push that concept ... Throughout the whole game, there's a lot of destructibility. And of course, we have some ridiculous weapons that explode everywhere so it's pretty cool to kind of see things fly everywhere and stuff like that."
Still, in this game, the main attraction is still the guns, and the procedural generation system that ensures no two players will be wielding the same arsenal. In the Borderlands universe, guns are an important part, to the point that each different manufacturer, as well as being an entity within the story, also has its own design philosophy and weapon parts. "Our gun team has already done an amazing job of pushing that concept of these are the guns and they do ridiculous crazy shit," says Powell. "I believe in the previous Borderlands there were about three hundred or so weapon parts, and then in this one, the latest Borderlands 3 we have over a 1000 weapon parts. If you can image, there is a lot more variation that can happen when you generate those weapons."
Shapp explains: "This time we have a fully formed weapons team, which includes concept guys, content art guys, and game designers ... and they have been incredibly efficient, they have always been ahead of everyone on schedule. Therefore, they will show up to our review meetings and they will always have the best stuff. It's kind of a nice shot in the arm, to be reminded what this is all about. Those guys have already poured plenty of time and effort and heart into trying to really expand those manufacturer differences. They really put effort into making sure they were not intermixing parts between manufacturers. They were just like 'This is Tediore, and this is Tediore's parts. This is Malawan, and this is Malawan parts'. I think for us, we are now getting closer and closer with every evolution to where our imaginations thought we were 10 years ago."
In the demo, although earning a unique boss weapon that inflicted ridiculous acid damage, my go-to gun ends up being one of these random, procedural drops. It's a Tediore shotgun that has high range and low low bullet spread, making it a beast at turning heads into a gruesome splatter of gibs. Tediore's deal is manufacturing weapons so cheap that, rather than reloading, you just need to throw it away and then have a new one digistruct into your hands. In this case scenario, my shotgun just exploded on impact, but there are also have some other much stranger options. For instance, some Tediore gun will bounce around the room. Others will sprout legs, and walk away, searching for enemies to shoot. Further augmenting the arsenal, in this game, some weapons will have secondary fire mode. In the presentation, we notice one gun that shoots a tracking dart and when it hits an enemy, causes bullets to home in on their target.
The 'loot shooter' now has become a more competitive genre since the release of Borderlands 2, with Destiny 2, The Division 2 and Anthem all vying for players' attention currently. However, Gearbox, is not tempted by the games-as-a-service trend. Nevertheless, co-operation still remains an important focus for the sequel. Sage says: "I come from an MMO(Massively Multiplayer Online) background ... and so one of the things that I have learned over time is, when you want to play the game with people, then you'd better take actions quickly. I think that is one of the most beautiful things about Borderlands 2 and Borderlands 3, the ability to just match and say, 'Hey, I want to go fight bosses, or I just want to go have this game plan activity' ... You’re just in there and having a good time."
For this reason, Borderlands 3 will introduce some infrastructural tweaks to make getting together with friends that much easier. And now, when players gather around, the enemies they fight and the gear they collect will be suitable for each teammate. Gearbox has already shown the system during the presentation, as a second, higher-level player joined the fight. A low-level enemy for the first player appeared as a much higher-level one for their partner. And when the fight ends, Gearbox even can protect players from teammates with poor impulse control with a new feature that will instance loot to each other, which means there is no longer a need to squabble over who needs that legendary drop.
As a matter of fact, many of the new or tweaked conveniences seem specifically designed in order to keep groups moving at pace. For example, a new station on Sanctuary III will collect up any guns you forget or do not pick up during play—presumably, meaning the groups will not need to spend a long period of downtime painstakingly sorting through a boss's drops. Even character skills have been adjusted to fit this mentality. Each Vault Hunter still has three skill trees for you to pick, but now each skill tree features its own active ability that you can swap in and out. For example, Amara, has a ground pound named Phaseslam, a projectile attack named Phaseblast, and Phasegrap, which holds an enemy in place (pretty much like Maya’s Phaselock in Borderlands 2). Zane, at the same time, has an automated drone, a clone that he can swap places with, and a barrier that stops incoming attacks.
According to what above stated means that each character has the potential to fill multiple roles and playstyles, ensuring that even two players who are using the same character can team up and then fill a meaningfully different niche.
BIGGER AND BETTER:
The one main question my friend had during the event was that: to what extent do these different planets change the way a Borderlands game plays? Based on my friend's time on Promethea, the answer is not very much at all. Just like Powell answered: "Same Borderlands formula, but not on Pandora only." But according to my friend said to me: "Playing Borderlands 3 only served to reaffirm what I already enjoyed about the series, and had me impressed by the clever tweaks and additions implemented along the way—from better combat and a co-op friendly infrastructure, too, yes, sliding and mantling."
As we all know that Gearbox does not need to ape the live service loot shooters that have emerged in the seven years since Borderlands 2's release. Rather, they even can cherry-pick some of their main quality of life innovations, and then feed them back into a series that already has its own personality and following. And there's no doubt that Borderlands 3 will be bigger. Cause it has the potential to be much better. And it is in space. Apart from that, I think more of the same really will be enough.