Borderlands 3 E3 Impression
The Borderlands franchise has proven itself to be a pretty familiar quantity within gaming’s madness; several iterations into the series’ lifetime, and the formula hasn’t changed a great deal, though it certainly has been polished and tweaked for the better over time. I’m happy to report that Borderlands 3 follows this trend, not fixing things that ain’t broke, while still finding entertaining changes that generate excitement for the next installment in the looter shooter franchise.
There were a few tidbits of news shared with the crowd of eager conventiongoers. Chief among these is Borderlands 3‘s focus on integrating social features while not altering the gameplay. There are a few ways that players can get their circle of friends involved in their experience, beyond the obvious online or split-screen multiplayer. For one, all weapons found by players are transferable to anybody on their friend list via an in-game vendor who will first purchase the weapon himself, as before, and then make it available for purchase in friends’ games. The game also generates unique Wanted missions for players that are based on the experiences of friends in their own games.
During my hands-on time with the game, I decided to go for something I hadn’t experienced in previous Borderlands titles, something made available specifically for E3: I hopped in the pilot seat of Moze, the mech-riding Gunner. Immediately dropping into the menu to gear up Moze’s mech, one thing became clear: the Iron Bear is a beast. It has two “hard points” that can be equipped with different armaments, one on each arm. The weapons available to mount on it are strewn throughout its skill tree, and vary greatly from battling guns to flamethrowers. Of course, there are also other things to spend your points on; one unique ability I found particularly interesting is something that will come in handy for multiplayer-minded players: purchasing a special top-mounted turret for Iron Bear will let FL4K, the Beastmaster, scramble onto the mech during combat for some additional firepower. An ability that links together two character classes like this seems like an inspired idea, and I hope further additions will follow suit.
Unexpectedly, there was a bit of a fly in the ointment after I started my run. It turns out that Iron Bear is only available to ride in for a limited time, determined by its fuel reserves. If it’s available, it’s a nice touch that it can simply be summoned to appear at the press of a button, but its lumbering bulk makes it quite cumbersome to maneuver, and once the fuel reserves are depleted, Moze is on her own for a while. So after wiping up as many crazed raiders as possible — well, Children of the Vault to be more precise, since the demo saw me storming the cult’s Holy Broadcast Center — Iron Bear was gone, and it was business as usual from that point forward.
That’s obviously not a bad thing; Borderlands‘ “usual business” has always been plenty entertaining. The rest of time was spent gunning down enemies left and right with an automatic rifle, occasionally switching to a shotgun for up-close-and-personal facial rearrangements. It was as fun as ever to take out all the cannon fodder the game could throw out. Combat was smooth and fast-paced, and a steady stream of enemy placements kept the action from halting. Environments were colorful and interestingly detailed, with explosive sonic speaker deathtraps at several points, and closed-circuit communication channels piping in sermons from Mouthpiece, the Broadcast Center’s boss, and even messages from the cult’s leaders, the Calypso Twins.
Fans of the franchise have nothing to worry about with Borderlands 3. Even for someone who can either take or leave a new Borderlands entry, it’s hard to deny the satisfaction to be had from its finely honed action formula. Yes, you know exactly what you’re getting with this newest entry, but that is certainly not a bad thing.