Borderlands 3 is a triumphant return of a franchise that many have long missed during this console generation. It makes many meritable improvements whilst keeping the very essence of what we've come to expect from a Borderlands game very much intact. It may have not strived for reinvention but it brought with it an unthinkable amount of obtainable weapons and had the biggest scope of any entry to date with three different worlds to explore.
The story was pretty by the numbers for Borderlands as we selected from a new generation of vault hunters and searched for fragments of a key to unlock the mysteries behind a hidden vault. It was the characters though that made the narrative so memorable and we got to see many familiar faces as well as exploring several other neighbouring planets of Pandora. Rhys from Tales of the Borderlands, with his new moustachioed look, absolutely stole the show despite not being voiced again by Troy Baker, and the new antagonists Troy and Tyreen made for plenty of humorous moments despite lacking the charisma of Handsome Jack.
We've had some pretty absurd side missions in Borderlands before (we remember having to shoot Face McShooty in the face in Borderlands 2) but Borderlands 3 pushed these crazy distractions to all new heights. In one side-mission we remember having to transfer the brain of a missing janitor into a creature called a Ratch to give him new life in some kind of freakish lab experiment. In another we had to seek revenge for a man whose soul was trapped in a portaloo - whoever dreamt of this as a punishment we're sure is void of a conscience. There is also an abundance of pop culture references made throughout these quests and in the open world with Rick and Morty, Game of Thrones, and DOOM being a few that we spotted.
Borderlands 3 came packing heat with a ludicrous 1 billion obtainable weapons making it pretty much the No Man's Sky of firepower. Looting every corpse felt essential as we never knew what we would uncover and the new item rating system made sifting the unfathomable number of drops simplistic as stats could be compared at a glance. We also liked that many of these weapons could shift forms doubling their effectiveness. A particular favourite of ours for crowd control, for example, was a shotgun that could transition to a grenade launcher.
Four new playable characters made a debut in Borderlands 3 (Amara, FL4K, Zane, and Moze) and it was FL4K that was our personal favourite due to its bulky nature and its ability to command three different pet creatures. We loved charging in, shotgun in hand, as our pet Spiderant mauled enemies to death alongside us, and they were also vital allies when down and out as they were somehow medically trained enough to revive us. We also saw Moze as a viable choice as she has a mech suit she can step into if she needs to cause some serious damage.
Split-screen coop saw several improvements and introduced two new modes that impacted loot distribution and level scaling. Cooperative mode gave players individualised loot and made things much more balanced for players joining up with characters at different levels. Coopetition mode was how coop was traditionally handled in Borderlands, where loot usually went to they who acted quickest. Little appreciated nuances were added too such as ping system where objects can be highlighted (this was particularly a blessing when playing online without access to a microphone).
Releasing several years after the last series entry, Borderlands 3 was also able to fully utilise the more advanced hardware it landed on, delivering improved lighting effects and textures. It also showcased the broadcast scope of any entry to date with various explorable worlds, from the dreary neon dystopia that was Promethea to the Eastern-inspired world of Athenas. Things were still split up into zones rather than one flowing open world but the change in locales made it feel like we were going on a journey much grander than before.
Crammed with personality and with plenty of exciting new gear to find, Borderlands 3 is a game that we thoroughly enjoyed spending many hours in. It represented an all-time high for coop in the series with two playable modes, and we found ourselves committing to every side quest to due to the hilarious writing. We loved our time with Borderlands 3 and with the first slice of campaign DLC set to arrive imminently, it looks like we've got plenty more of the same cel-shaded madness ahead of us.