After the March reveal and subsequent trailers, the Gearbox Software team held an event in California to finally show off actual Borderlands 3 gameplay. The hourlong demo had plenty of classic moments from the franchise, surprising additions, and guns. Lots and lots of guns.
While there’s a ton of moments to talk about, I wanted to highlight some of the smaller and more subtle additions that are really going to be game changers. I’ve been playing the older games (Borderlands: GotY Edition and Borderlands 2) lately and while they’re still fun, I’ve been feeling like they’re missing some key elements to modern shooters.
From what I saw, Borderlands 3 finally incorporates those things I’ve been wanting.
Traversal looks to be very much improved thanks to the addition of a slide mechanic and mantling up ledges. That in and of itself is massive. Movement in the previous games definitely feels a bit stiff and stilted so I’m thrilled that they’ve added these subtle yet important things into the game. Also, shout out to the degrading cover, which is really cool but will likely annoy me when I’m trying to regenerate health during a tense boss fight.
The bigger thing to me is the instancing and balancing the game does. For the first time, Borderlands 3 finds a way to kill off the Loot Ninja. When playing online with others, each player has their own pool of loot that others can’t see or get access to. Better yet? The game is completely configured to you, meaning that if you’re level 25 and you team up with someone at level 10, you each have items and enemies tweaked to your level.
To me, this is very impressive and makes playing with friends who may have fallen behind so much easier. If you’re someone who pines for the ways things used to work, you can always disable the loot and level balancing. But let’s be honest, why would you want to?
Let’s see, what else. The other aspect I really like that isn’t related to more obvious things like the better visuals on Unreal 4, controls, and gameplay, is that the hub city isn’t actually a city at all. Sanctuary III is a spaceship that not only lets you travel to planets other than Pandora, but serves as the home for NPCs you’re familiar with (Tannis, Moxxi, Ellie, Hammerlock, etc). Not only that, I’ve also read that it’s customizable.
For those who watched the 1-hour demo, did anyone else get Mass Effect vibes, like I did? I mean, I got strong Normandy vibes from this whole thing and it really hit home once the player entered the bridge to speak to Lilith. From there, players can access a star map and set a destination. Better yet, this doesn’t trigger a black loading screen, but Gearbox has managed to hide the loading screen behind the scenes. Instead, it looks as though the ship is moving in space and then uses warp speed to launch to the new destination.
I try to temper my expectations with pre-release material, but from what I’ve seen with Borderlands 3, I can’t help but to be excited. Instead of reinventing the wheel, it looks like Gearbox kept what worked and what fans want from a Borderlands game, while mixing in very smart modern updates.
Other franchises should really take note and also avoid September 2019 like the plague. Borderlands 3 is a freight train that likely can’t be stopped.