Borderlands 3 Preview: Ain’t no rest for the wicked

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Borderlands is back.

Loot shooters like Destiny, The Division and Anthem have been filling a void while we’ve all waited patiently for news about a new Borderlands game. After years of rumours Gearbox Software finally revealed it was were returning to the genre which it kickstarted into overdrive more than a decade ago. Borderlands 3 was shown off in fabulous style last month at PAX East, but with a release date of September that event was really just a tease.

That tease is no more; 2K Games invited Stevivor along to a preview event in Los Angeles where we were able to play ninety glorious minutes of Borderlands 3. As a fan of the series I can happily say that it did not disappoint. Borderlands is back!

Set after the events of Borderlands 2 and Tales from the Borderlands, Lilith is looking for new recruits to join the Crimson Raiders in order to help find other hidden Vaults and investigate a strange cult that has appeared on Pandora. Players have the opportunity to select from four new characters to start their adventure. Like the past games in the series, each of the Vault Hunters will have unique abilities and multiple skill trees that will allow you to specialise towards your own playstyle.

During the play session I picked Zane (below), who is a combat operative that specialises in gadgets. His action skill allowed him to throw out a drone that would fly around and attack enemies within the vicinity. In the skill tree I ended up picking a passive that let me do more damage while I was moving, and also selected an upgrade for the sentry drone that gave it elemental cryo-damage. Zane was also able to select a second action skill to use, which if you choose to do so will replace your grenade slot. There seems to be a lot of variety across the different skill trees, and quite a bit of freedom to customise the way you want to approach combat.

You’ll quickly learn that the villains of Borderlands 3 are the mysterious Calypso Twins; Troy and Tyreen — who have started a cult called Children of the Vault in their attempt to harness more power. Along the way you’ll have help from other members of the Crimson Raiders so you’ll get to see some familiar faces. As well as other returning recognisable characters like Moxxi, Ellie, Tannis and Sir Hammerlock. One of the changes that has been made in Borderlands 3 is that your character is fully voiced and will interact back with other NPCs in the world… or rather, worlds.

While you start off returning to the recognisable Pandora, Borderlands 3 will have you visit multiple planets along your adventure. You’ll do this by travelling on Sanctuary 3, an enormous spaceship that serves as your home base. Along with the many different sections of the ship that you can explore, it comes with a room which players can customise to showcase their achievements so far. It’s a place of pride where you can display some of your favourite acquired loot.

Borderlands is known for loot alongside how crazy some of the gear is that you can find. There are a number of manufactured brands and they each have unique properties. The sub-machine gun that I was using was made by Tedior; their weapons can be thrown away when reloading and a new one ‘digistructs’ into your hands. In this case, whenever I reloaded the tossed gun would then turn into a turret and shoot at nearby enemies for a few seconds. One of the other weapons i had was a shotgun that set things on fire; it came equipped with a shield that would block incoming damage. Lastly, the assault rifle I was running around with had an alternate fire mode that would launch grenades and cause area damage.

This sequel’s interface is very slick, making it easy to obtain information quickly. You’ll find that it’s simple to compare weapons on the ground to what you’re already holding, and you’re quickly able to decide if it’s worth swapping out. Each item also now has a gear score attached to it, and while we don’t have much information about what this might be used for, we can speculate that it’s possible this will come into play for the endgame content (and maybe even raids).

Co-op has had a few changes that a lot of players will find welcoming. In particular there is now instanced loot for each person so you no longer have to worry about people stealing everything from out under you. Alternatively, there’s a classic mode that you can enable if you’ve got the type of group that is into that sort of thing. Enemies and loot will also scale in multiplayer, so you can have people at different levels within the game still contribute to the missions that you’re on regardless of how far your levels.

While I only had a brief amount of time with Borderlands 3, it’s brought back a lot of memories to how much fun I had with the other games in the series. I was amazed at how quickly I was dragged back into this universe ready to see more. It looks like there is still a lot to learn about Borderlands 3 as we still don’t know what the endgame content will entail and what exactly we can expect in terms of DLC. We know Gearbox Software can deliver a fantastic loot shooter as they’ve shown in the past, and from what I’ve played so far I’m extremely excited to get my hands on the full Borderlands 3 experience when it releases later this year. This is by far my most anticipated game of 2019, and September can’t come quick enough.

Luke Lawrie traveled to Los Angeles, U.S.A. to preview Borderlands 3 as a guest of 2K Games. Travel and accommodation were supplied by the publisher.