By Brian Wells
My main co-op buddy is one of my best friends from college. We live several states away, and we never officially lost touch, but life happened, and eventually we grew apart. A few years ago, he messaged me asking how I felt about my PS4. Before I knew it, he’d traded his Xbox One for a PS4, and we were meeting up to wreak havoc on Borderlands 2.
As we looted-and-shooted our way across Pandora, we shared many laughs. We shared heartache (usually when I would do something dumb, like jump off the map and die). We had hearty debates over who should pick up the loot (usually involving a lot of profanity).
But most importantly, our friendship was being restored.
When Borderlands 3 was released in September 2019, we both knew what we had to do. So, like the mature, responsible adults we are, we said screw it to our daily commitments, took time off work and stayed up all night playing video games.
There are so many upgrades and additions to the series that I can’t touch on all of them. To name a few of these features, the game sees the addition of new planets, the reappearance of characters from previous titles, as well as changes that set the different weapon manufacturers apart even more and some pretty awesome new vehicles.
Also, once you finish the game, you unlock Mayhem Mode, which is a tier-based system that increases enemy health and strength, and in return you’re rewarded with better loot. In a recent patch, Gearbox increased it to 10 different Mayhem levels, and added modifiers to somewhat customize the experience.
The game takes most of the good parts of the Borderlands series and expands on them. The cell-shaded graphics are fantastic, and the gameplay runs smooth and fast. On the PS4 Pro, you have the option to switch the game between modes that optimize it for smoother gameplay or more detailed graphics — personally, I opt for the gameplay.
Plus, as is expected, the writing and voice acting are fantastic. Each character’s personality comes through in their quips and one-liners when interacting with NPC’s, although it’s pretty far from being PG-rated.
Each class operates in a different way, and can be spec’d out to fit almost any play style. I started as an Operative, but I had a hard time getting into it. Eventually, I switched to the Gunner, which fit my aggressive style more, but at some point I made the switch back to my operative, respec’d at the New-U station, and haven’t looked back. Both classes matched my buddy’s Beastmaster well enough to the point where we make regular jokes about our combination being overpowered.
There were also some improvements to movement that help make the game feel more modern than Borderlands 2. Now, you can easily slide into cover (or into enemies). They also added the ability to climb, which operates smoothly and easily.
The game is still relatively new, but so far Gearbox has done a good job of keeping it updated with fresh content. Since it’s release seven months ago, we’ve seen the addition of two DLC’s with a third releasing in June, a gauntlet, also with a second being added in June, and multiple seasonal events that brought new enemies, new planets and new loot. Hotfixes seem to be added every week, and they’ve increased the level cap several times (currently it’s at 57).
To help keep things fair, the game has added a “cooperative” mode, which makes the game’s level scale to the host player, and all loot is shared. So, there are significantly less friendships being destroyed by trying to decide who gets that legendary drop.
There was also an added social system, which lets you mail loot to your friends. This comes in handy for those times when you find the perfect class mod for your friend, but they aren’t online. You can easily navigate through a few menus, and the item will be mailed to their game. You can also earn loyalty rewards from weapon manufacturers in a similar way.
Beyond all of these perks, what I really enjoy about the game is how fun and laid back it seems to be. Even while we’re running around completing missions and getting legendary loot, and when we’re completely surrounded and overwhelmed by enemies, there have been very few times that it’s actually felt stressful. We can still use our time in the game as an outlet to catch up and unwind from our stressful day jobs, while still powering through and advancing in the game.
This feels like it’s something that’s lost in a lot of online games these days.
One of my biggest gripes about the game is how long it feels like it takes for the equipment slots to be granted. Like every other title, you start off with two weapon slots, which slowly grows to four. Likewise, it takes hours of gameplay to be able to equip class mods and relics. The game offers so much customization for each character, and it feels to me like having to wait so long to get these special perks detracts from that.
I would — and have — recommend this game. It’s fun, casual, and a step forward in all of the best ways from 2012’s Borderlands 2. Fans of the series will find it’s a smoother, more modern take on the previous titles, and a good looter-shooter to use as an excuse to escape and hang out with your pals.