If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Of course “broke” can be subjective, but there's no denying that there is strength in consistency. Just ask New Coke. This can be a risky bet for game studios. Players often say they want new games, but then show a lot of favoritism for classic franchises, too. But there are plenty of series that nailed it the first time and just kept going. Like what, you ask? Borderlands.
The vaunted series from Gearbox has been largely unchanged since its debut in 2009. Its most recent entry, Borderlands 3, is a rooting, tooting, looting, and shooting good time. And it's free on the Epic Store until Thursday, so you better grab it ASAP. Because unlike services like Xbox Game Pass, the Epic Games Store freebies last a lifetime.
Borderlands 3 is an FPS at heart, but the sheer volume of guns and mods and play styles gives it serious RPG vibes.
You grind for experience points and navigate skill trees. There’s also a seemingly endless number of fetch quests. Seriously. Don’t expect to be blown away by the quest structures. The majority amount to: “Go here, destroy everything that moves, find this thing, and bring it back.” It’s a big open world (actually worlds, plural, since this one’s in space) and Gearbox fills it with predictable points of interest.
The gunplay is what you’re really here for, and it 100 percent delivers. Like other top-tier FPS games, Borderlands 3 manages to feel as good as it looks. It offers some frenetic, chaotic battles in just about every quest no matter how big or how small. And there’s plenty of trouble to find on your own too. You will have ample opportunity to scratch that itchy trigger finger blasting monsters, freaks, robots, and outlaws.
You’ll have a nearly endless amount of triggers to pull, too. The Borderlands franchise is known for its mountains of guns and the third installment does not disappoint. It introduces some procedural generation to create, allegedly, more than one billion guns. It’s rare to find two guns that are exactly alike, even on different playthroughs (except for certain legendary weapons that are handcrafted, not randomly generated).
These guns just feel different, too. It’s part of what makes Borderlands 3 gunplay so satisfying. Not just switching between shotguns and snipers, but in finding shotguns that are ALSO sniper rifles. Most guns have an alternate firing mode that can radically change what they do. You keep finding new guns and still keep wanting to find new guns because of how creative and potentially game-changing even a pistol can be.
Your mileage may vary when it comes to the world and setting, however. Borderlands 3 strives to be as edgy and wild as its predecessors, but there’s a fine line between comedy and cringe. For the most part, the over-the-top characters (including many series regulars) are charming. Some may grind your gears a little more than others, and the pun-heavy writing will get tedious if that’s not your sort of thing.
There is less ambivalence concerning the lore which is, in a word, astounding. There’s depth to just about every character and location, and if you want to go down the lore rabbit hole there’s a robust fan community happy to oblige. The campaign is a little less dynamic as your character is, once again, a vault hunter. (Vaults are fabled treasure troves with some of the most powerful guns you can imagine.) Your job is to go from planet to planet to find vaults before the villains do. You’ll learn their motives along the way, encounter some plot twists, and generally understand what’s going on even if you halfway pay attention.
Picture every trope you can from the post-apocalypse genre and combine it with Mad Magazine and the Second Amendment on steroids and you’ve got a good idea of what to expect. Doesn’t sound broken yet, does it?
Borderlands 3 is available free on the Epic Store until May 26 at 11 a.m. Eastern. It’s also for sale on PlayStation and Xbox.