I Have Concerns Regarding Borderlands 3

With Borderlands 3 right around the corner, Gearbox released a final DLC pack, titled Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary, for Borderlands 2 which aims to bridge the gap between where the current game ends and the next begins. The now defunct 2K Australia handled Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, so the Fight for Sanctuary is the first look into what we can expect out of the upcoming sequel. Oh boy.

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Where do I even begin with this?

Borderlands 3 has been heralded as some kind of video game Messiah as it won’t feature any of the live service nonsense that is increasingly prevalent in games. It is also releasing into a market which now houses several close competitors. In 2009 an ARPG with a first-person shooting gimmick (later coined looter-shooter) was a breath of fresh air. Three games later that is no longer the case. So what is Gearbox’s big play with Borderlands 3? If the Fight for Sanctuary is anything to go by then it’s to stagnate and change as little as possible. For better, or worse.

Level Design

First off, lets look at the level design, or lack thereof. Across the entirety of Borderlands, especially in the latter two games, areas can be broken down into two types: big open nothings, and corridors of chest high walls. The former adds unneeded downtime by extending the time it takes to get anywhere. Even the sections with vehicles feel sluggish as you meander from your current location to the next point of interest. A smaller map could dramatically reduce downtime lending to a more exciting experience rather than one plagued with boring lulls.

Chest high walls will always be something I despise. And it would happen that most of Borderlands level design utilizes them. Yay. You spend a lot of combat huddled behind cover poking out periodically to shoot at enemies as they move slowly towards you. Games like Doom (2016) and Vermintide showcase the viability of combat built around strafing and movement. I was hopeful that Borderlands, with its similarly unrealistic tone, would take some cues from this. It seems that wasn’t the case. And unlike other games Borderlands can’t use realism to explain its monotonous combat cycle.

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Writing

If you took all the memes from Reddit and boiled them into a soup you’d have the bulk of Borderlands‘ writing. The script is so jam-packed with jokes that almost none of them have time to breath before another is thrown in your face. While I got the occasional chuckle out of something it was never given time to stick the landing before another joke was flung at me. This made most of the writing incredibly exhausting to listen to.

The Fight for Sanctuary also still does that thing where you have to listen to every piece of dialogue and can’t skip it. There is a lot of waiting around for NPCs to stop spouting useless dribble before you can continue forward in a quest. With the developers stating in interviews that, “we’ve always been heavily focused on story and characters”, I have no doubt this annoyance will persist in the upcoming sequel. I wouldn’t be as bothered by this if the dialogue didn’t routinely hold me hostage with exposition dumps.

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Other Things That Aren’t Fair to Complain About in DLC

I’m keeping the remaining points of worry I have short because unlike the level design and writing, these would have been impossible to address in DLC.

I still firmly believe Borderlands has some of the weakest skill trees in any RPG. Many of the skills are marginal passive bonuses, which eventually add up to making your character feel stronger but they seldom offer the same level of customization you’d see in other games.

For a game so focused on loot you have surprisingly small trousers. Playing through the DLC I constantly ran out of inventory space, which required a trek to the nearest vending machine to sell off all of the trash. Luckily vending machines are all over the map, but it always struck me as strange that your inventory wasn’t unlimited in a game about collecting “billions of guns”. No billions for you. You can only hold thirty nine of the things.

Why does currency exist? Or more importantly, why is it so underutilized? In the original game money could be used to buy expensive, but powerful special items from vendors. In Borderlands 2 those same items are relatively weak, and also substantially cheaper. This means you’ll usually have hordes of money in your pockets for…nothing in particular.

Also I’d like to see the return of the loot grinder from The Pre-Sequel. In my three hours with the DLC I received more legendary equipment drops than I did in my other almost two hundred hours of play time. The loot grinder is the only reason I was able to get a handful of half decent equipment in The Pre-Sequel in substantially less time. Alternatively, making the drop rate as wild as it was in the Fight for Sanctuary would also work. I actually like that idea a lot better. Do that.

 

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Closing Thoughts

I’ve spent a lot of time with Borderlands in the past, but I’m worried that the latest game from Gearbox will release and feel dated. A reliance on doing exactly what worked in the past without refining those rough edges could see Borderlands 3 releasing into a market where it is woefully behind its competition. And the absence of live service elements isn’t going to change that. If you want more of the same you’ll still enjoy it, but the Fight for Sanctuary didn’t do anything to raise my expectations for Borderlands 3.


This was originally supposed to be a post about Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary and I guess it still kind of is. Perhaps I’m reading into the DLC too heavily? Did you play it? Did you enjoy it? Are you excited for Borderlands 3? Let’s chat in the comments below.

13 thoughts on “I Have Concerns Regarding Borderlands 3

  1. Hey! Give credit where credit is due!

    They massively changed things up when they went from just dry desert in the first game to icy deserts AND dry deserts in the second game!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah hahahaha!

      This whole thing is fairly negatively slanted, but there was a list of improvements the second games makes over the first. The list is far smaller between 2 and TPS.

      Hopefully I’m proven wrong, but from what I’ve read in interviews (like the one I linked) and seen in videos I’m really afraid it’ll be more of the same. And I’m not in the market for more of the same. At least not with this. 😐

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      1. I haven’t played the Pre-Sequel yet, but yes, the second game improved a lot over part 1, which basically only was saved by the new concept, although it was (and still is) quite fun to play with friends.

        To be really fair this time, I think that BL2 was a good game, even as a single player experience. Sure, the traversal was a bit tedious, and the gameplay not too special, but they improved the quality of animations and had an interesting plot and characters (for a shooter at least)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Exactly.

          And unlike in 2009 or 2012, Borderlands actually has competition now. Despite how maligned Destiny and The Division are, both games offer newer experiences and have used their own blunders to craft sequels that were regarded much more positively. Plus Warframe also picked up a lot of steam recently because of several QoL updates it received and its free to play (an advantage Borderlands 3 doesn’t have).

          As far as singleplayer shooters go there has also been evolution. With games like Doom (2016), or Vermintide cutting the fat out and focusing entirely on very fast paced gameplay, or games like Wolfenstein, and Titanfall 2 (haven’t yet played this one) offering experiences with a combination of both compelling mechanics and story telling. Neither are Shakespeare, but they stand head and shoulders above a game where 90% of the writing is pop-culture references and memes.

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      2. I can’t reply to your other comment, you probably have too few answers enabled^^

        I don’t think that the memes and other jokes are a bad thing. But I do think that games like these would profit immensely from faster-paced gameplay (see Doom, like you mentioned)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I always enjoy your critical view on beloved franchises. I don’t have any attachment to the Borderlands series, so I’m not anxiously awaiting the new game. But I’m curious to see if it disappoints you the way you expect it to 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My impressions of watching a few gameplay videos from Borderlands 3 now would suggest to me, ‘More of the same but modernised’ is a fair assessment of what we’re in for.

    Not that the ‘modernised’ part should be taken too lightly, as it certainly shows up in more than just the graphics. The skill system does appear to have more interesting and meaningful choices top to bottom, something we’ve definitely come to expect in the intervening years between releases.

    But to your core complaints… Yeah. We’ll have to see on that one. The little snippits of gameplay seen did appear to be a little more restrained in the writing dept. than the DLC, but it’s hard to judge from that what the overall experience might look like.

    In terms of BL2 though being able to skip dialog — sure you can. Although… It isn’t exactly the best. xD If you have a party member accidentally (or otherwise) trigger a zone before the dialog finishes you never get to hear the end of what was playing. Similarly, if you pickup another audio dialog trigger before the prior one is finished. That frustrated me a bit playing through the Lillith DLC actually.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah well we’ll see then. I guess now I have to sign up for an EGS account and review the game, eh?

      I’ve played so much of the game alone I had no idea that was even possible. Well the conflicting dialogue prompts yes, but I always thought that was more of a technical hiccup than anything. Note to self, play with people to skip over dialogue no one cares about. Thanks for the tip. :p

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Have you tried out Borderlands 3 yet? Most people I heard from are waiting for it to come to Steam. Truth be told, though I liked the cel-shaded character designs (though I heard fans don’t like it when you call it that) I didn’t like the writing in BL2 as well as BL Pre-sequel. I don’t know, it’s kinda bad and I didn’t like the randomized loot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have not. I was debating it, but my schedule kind of exploded with other stuff. If I eventually do get around to playing Borderlands 3 it very well may be when it comes out on Steam.

      That seems to be the general consensus on the game. Some people are saying the writing in 3 is awful, while others defend it saying it was always littered with references and potty humour. So I guess if you, or I, do play Borderlands 3 we’re in for a lot more of the same as we got from the previous games. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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