Borderlands 3 Is Absolutely My Game of E3
It’s been seven years since the release of Borderlands 2. E3 after E3, we had predicted to see Borderlands 3 only to be disappointed. It’s now 2019, and we can finally say that we have a sequel to look forward to! This week at E3, I took the time to play through the Borderlands 3 demo three separate times so that I could get a taste of three of the four new vault hunters. Moze, Zane, and Amara all have very different feels to them are all immediately feel immensely powerful. Here’s what made each of them unique and how I felt about my overall experience with the BL3 demo at E3 2019.
To start, let’s talk about the game overall. Borderlands 3 is not just a step forward for Gearbox, it is a jet pack boost and half ahead of its predecessors. During a media briefing on the E3 show floor (that’s right, ya boy is now officially “media”) the developers at gearbox said that they paid particular attention to detail in a few specific categories: gunplay feel and tightness akin to other FPS games, and an “emphasis on reaction and movement”. Both of these focuses were immediately obvious when playing the new demo. My time with the game only consisted of three runs through a short mission which had me infiltrate the propaganda broadcast center featured in the reveal stream and then fight the “Mouthpiece” boss we saw there as well. Each round took about 15-20 minutes depending on how many boxes I decided to loot (all of them).
I can safely say that guns feel 1000x better than they did before. Everything is smooth, tight, responsive, and how enemies react to getting shot is extremely satisfying. A couple of things in particular stood out to me while I was playing. Shotguns and grenades have a very tangible knockback to them. If an enemy jumps at you you can blast them out of the air with a good shotgun blast and they will ragdoll to the ground in a heap of dead corpse. If they don’t die from the first blast, they’ll sit on the ground for a moment and think about the bad decisions they’ve made and then get up and recommence their attack. Seeing the weapons knock enemies out of the air or throw them back to the wall from a blast was very satisfying and I’ll look forward to doing that many more times in game.
Another piece that I loved was the new additions to weapons via attachments and alternate fire modes. I had a Tediore shotgun that, when reloaded, you would throw it in front of you and it would spawn a fleet of heat-seeking missiles. I loved it, especially when using Zane, but more on that later. There was also the grenade launcher attached to my AR and the other AR that could swap to semi-automatic mode with a greater zoomed scope to act like a pseudo sniper rifle. YES PLEASE! This should allow you to carry guns to fit more situations than ever before. Without gushing too much, let me just say that every gun I used felt good, some felt downright amazing. Without saying it during an E3 Coliseum interview, Gearbox devs hinted that they play other games in the genre and knew that they had a lot to live up to. In my opinion, they nailed it.
My first vault hunter was (accidentally) Zane the Operative. He’s quick, he’s sneaky, and he has all the tech to help him out. Zane is the only class capable of using multiple action skills instead of using one skill and a grenade. I chose to use the machine gun drone and the projected clone. This way, the enemies were almost never focused on me and I could do my dirty work while taking very little damage. I felt almost like I was cheating using two abilities and each were on a relatively short cooldown (about 25 seconds) so there were very few times I felt helpless. Remember the Tediore weapon? When using two skills on Zane, you lose your grenade. This didn’t bother me for a moment considering I could just “reload” my Tediore into a hail of missiles every few seconds. I didn’t go through all of his potential passives, but it’s safe to say that he will benefit from speed, stealth, and quickly shifting enemy aggro.
My next run was with Amara, the six-packed female Siren brawler we all loved from the moment we saw her in the reveal. She has three different abilities to choose from, a ground slam, a DBZ-style energy beam, and a phase lock. I chose the energy beam for my playthrough and LET. ME. TELL. YOU. This thing is crazy. It is a very strong energy surge that can greatly damage enemies through cover and explode all barrels in its path. I should have tried the other skills but I was so wrapped up in the awesomeness of the beam that I just couldn’t stop. Comparing Amara to Zane on the first run, I felt significantly stronger with Amara. With my skill on a short cooldown, the enemies never stood a chance.
Finally, Gearbox unveiled the third in their Vault Hunter lineup today on the E3 show floor: Moze the Gunner. Moze’s main skill is to activate and control the Bear Mech suit. A highly customizable mech (think D.Va from Overwatch but badass-er) that has multiple “hard-points” which are basically customizable weapons that you can equip. All in all, Moze can put any dual combination from six options in the skill tree. This allows use for anything from rocket launchers, to bear punches, to rail guns, to flame throwers. Play the mech exactly how you want to play it. I tried using the mini-gun and the grenade launcher and I absolutely melted the final boss. I didn’t feel quite as invincible as I would have hoped against the many smaller enemies all at once, but for a single target, she was awesome. I am certain that as you level up the mech and the other passives, she will have no issue even in the tightest situations. I’m really looking forward to seeing how people decide to use her in-game. As long as I get to hop on her head and use the co-op mounted machine gun, I’m good.
Gearbox devs also mentioned a host of new social features as well. Borderlands 3, more than ever, is focused on helping friends play together even if you’re not online at the same time. A new loot-emailing system lets you send your friends loot that you find as gifts. I worry that this could potentially be abused by black market people selling things they find, but let’s cross that bridge later shall we? At the same time, if you sell a gun to a vending machine, there is a chance it pops up in a friend’s vending machine to buy later. You are also notified which of your friends are in an area you decide to warp to so you can team up and wreak mayhem together. The coolest thing that I saw was that if you are able to spawn a rare unique enemy in your game, there is a chance that the same enemy will show up as a bounty on one of your friend’s bounty boards for them to chase as well. These enemies drop unique loot so I’m looking forward to this sort of experience sharing quite a bit.
The last little tidbit we saw was a look at character customization. As with Borderlands 2, we can customize our character with skins, heads, colors, and more. Each skin is customizable with a color board so you can make each skin your own. Some skins are animated as well so you can see the patterns move on your character which is very fun. Finally, it looks like we will now have unlockable weapon skins too. Once unlocked, skins can be applied to any weapon. According to Gearbox, the more rare the weapon, the better these skins will look. Again, I love this.
If I could play the demo a fourth, fifth, and sixth time, I would. I really enjoyed how guns felt, and every time I played I got a new experience. I have no doubt that Borderlands 3 is my Game of the Show. This is not to say that I didn’t play a bunch of other really cool games, but BL3 was simply a cut above. The game releases September 13th and I have no doubt I’ll be there day one.