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Review

Borderlands 3 Review - Six Sirens, One God-Queen

  • First Released Sep 13, 2019
    released
  • Reviewed Sep 9, 2019
  • PC

"What is up, brothers and sisters? God-Queen Tyreen coming to ya live. We got something real special for ya today."

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

After Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, a disappointing spin-off released in 2014, Borderlands 3 is a welcome return to form for the franchise. The game reunites fans with the core group of memorable main characters from the first two games and delivers the mayhem-heavy loot-shooter experience that the series is known for. Borderlands 3 carries forward many of the things that made the first two games special, but in doing so it also brings with it a few of the same stumbling blocks. There are noticeable improvements to the series formula, though, as Borderlands 3 provides additional freedom in how you want to play.

Set seven years after the events of Borderlands 2, Borderlands 3 wraps up most of the narratives established in the earlier games, while also teasing additional threads that could be explored in the future. Despite these hints, there's a definite finality to Borderlands 3's campaign, which satisfyingly wraps up the arcs of characters that fans have been following for 10 years.

As one of four fledgling Vault Hunters--Zane the operative, Amara the Siren, Moze the gunner, or FL4K the beastmaster--you are recruited into the Crimson Raiders, the militia that defends the only civilized pocket of society found on the bandit-filled wasteland planet of Pandora. Led by Lilith, a former Vault Hunter, the Crimson Raiders have gone to war with Tyreen Calypso and her twin brother Troy, who are using their influence as popular video streamers to convince their cult following to help them acquire the immense power found in secret vaults scattered throughout the universe. The story is a bit of a slow start, but it quickly picks up near the end of the first act and rarely slows down on its way to its grand finale. Looting and shooting are still the focus of Borderlands 3, but its campaign also delivers a fairly well-written story of sacrifice, the importance of family, and the responsibilities of heroes.

Borderlands 3 provides more flexibility than ever before to create the type of character you want. For the first time in the series, the Vault Hunters all have an active skill tied to each of their three respective skill trees. Amara, for example, can equip Phaseslam to deal immense close range damage, Phasecast to tear through enemies from afar, or Phasegrasp to crowd control or focus her elemental abilities on one target. Using perks from all three skill trees, you can evolve each of these skills in meaningful ways. For instance, if you want to make Amara's area-of-effect Phaseslam ability into something more precise, you could change it with perks found in both the Brawl and Fist of the Elements skill trees so that the ability transforms Amara into a levitating spider-like creature that shoots a massive fire-based death ray before she careens to earth in a smaller slam. Phaseslam can evolve in other ways too, as can Phasecast and Phasegrasp--providing numerous options for how you want Amara to fight. The same can be said for Zane, Moze, and FL4K.

As a result, it's pretty easy for both you and a friend to be playing as the same character but have completely different builds and roles on the battlefield. This added freedom also makes it far more feasible, and thus enjoyable, to play Borderlands 3's campaign entirely solo in comparison to previous games in the franchise, as you're not limited to established class restrictions based on your Vault Hunter choice. You obviously don't have to go it alone--and Borderlands 3 actually makes co-op more rewarding thanks to an option that removes the need to compete for loot--but it's nice knowing that if you want to, your experience will not be completely defined by the Vault Hunter you choose.

The freedom to build your ideal loadout extends beyond your Vault Hunter's skill trees. Borderlands 3 makes clear-cut distinctions when it comes to the manufacturer of each gun. Before you even loot a new firearm, looking at which company made it will tell you most of what you need to know about what it can do. Maliwan guns are fairly weak but each one shoots elemental bullets, for instance, allowing you to more easily electrocute shields, melt armor, or burn through flesh, while a Hyperion firearm raises a forcefield in front of you while aiming down sights and becomes more accurate as you pull the trigger. They're minor changes to further differentiate each type of gun, but these new manufacturer effects make it a lot easier to build specialized loadouts that can augment the perks you choose.

But, more than anything, the guns are just fun to shoot. It may come as little surprise given that distinctive firearms has been the bread and butter of the franchise since the beginning, but Borderlands 3 has quite a few unique guns that offer a wide variety of enjoyable effects. Some have actual gameplay-changing ramifications, like a sniper rifle that can transform into a shotgun. But Borderlands 3 also has guns that are just playfully quirky and weird--ones that insult and tease you for your performance or just shoot more guns, for example. And you acquire new firepower at a gratifying pace, with new loot regularly dropping from the tougher enemies in the groups you encounter and explosively erupting from bosses you defeat. Borderlands 3 never lets up on giving you new weapons to experiment with, progressively increasing the explosive potential and wacky effects of the weapons you find, which in turn serves as a satisfying visual representation of how much stronger you're getting beyond the higher damage numbers.

Even without the loot, defeating enemies in combat is fulfilling. Shooting an unshielded enemy in the head rewards you with their cranium erupting in a satisfying blossom of blood and gore. When you don't land that final headshot, enemies mostly go out with a final battle cry--ranging from pitiful cries for salvation to humorous insults--and the game doesn't repeat lines often enough for them to grow stale. Combat is never dull as a result, with your chosen Vault Hunter shouting out funny or cool-sounding one-liners in the brief moments you're reloading and making your way to your next victim.

As entertaining as Borderlands 3's combat is, the fun that is found in the freedom to fight however you want is occasionally interrupted by the structure of boss battles, a traditional problem for the franchise. Many of the bosses look cool and have incredible theme music, but they all amount to the same strategy: shoot the weak spots, run from or jump over attacks, and repeat. You can cheat some by hiding in an unreachable corner and slowly chipping away at the boss' weak spot, but that's not much fun either as pretty much every boss in the game has a large healthpool and many of the later ones are bullet-sponges.

Borderlands 3's late-game bosses pack a wallop with every attack too, downing you in a few hits if you're not careful and thus demanding that you near-perfectly dodge for an extended period of time--which can drag on and feel boringly repetitive in the longest of these fights. So when you do encounter a boss in Borderlands 3, it typically grinds the mayhem-filled action to an abrupt halt as you're forced to respond to the boss' patterns by playing more slowly and carefully.

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The new climbing and sliding moves do allow you to better navigate environments and thus get out of the way of certain attacks, but both mechanics are better suited for weaving among the scattered firefights with normal enemies, not the concentrated bombardment of the bosses. Several boss battles are frustratingly difficult to tackle on your own as a result, to the point that they all seem like repeated suggestions that you should be playing Borderlands 3 with at least one other person. Two or more players allows you to take turns reviving each other, making it easier to last longer. But simply trying to outlast one strong enemy doesn't impart the same enjoyable impact of the mayhem-filled firefights from the rest of the game. You feel more like a badass running around and gunning down a vast assortment of different enemies than you do hiding behind cover and waiting for the boss to stop attacking you just so you can safely get a few shots off.

Thankfully, boss battles only make up a small part of Borderlands 3's overall campaign. Most of the story sees you go up against the Calypsos' seemingly never-ending cult of bandits or the armies of the twins' corporate sponsors as you race to find the pieces of the keys to open up vaults across the universe. Your journey takes you far beyond the planet of Pandora, and it provides opportunities for new types of combat encounters in a series that has largely revolved around wide-open deserts full of bandits or factories full of robots. For example, the jungles of Eden-6 contain an assortment of dangerous wildlife that have different hunting grounds and patterns, and the low gravity of a Maliwan space station orbiting the planet of Promethea allows the elemental gunslinging corporate soldiers you're going up against to jump higher and more easily attack you from above. Certain weapons have greater utility in certain environments as well, such as an explosive mushroom-like grenade that becomes more powerful when thrown into water. That's easier to do more often in Eden-6's swamps than Pandora's sand dunes. Borderlands 3's campaign sees you bouncing back and forth between planets every few hours, which keeps each setting from growing stale while also encouraging you to keep adopting new playstyles, strategies, and weapons.

Borderlands' heroes are nothing if not personable, and that trend continues in this latest installment--transforming the motley crew of outlaws into a family you feel a kinship with.

Even if Borderlands 3 takes you far beyond the scope of Pandora and sees you meet brand-new allies and encounter never-before-seen threats, the original cast of characters that have defined the adventures from the beginning are still at the forefront, and the story is better for it. Whether you're a long-time fan or not, it's the connection to the Crimson Raiders that acts as your motivation for fighting through the campaign. Borderlands' heroes are nothing if not personable, and that trend continues in this latest installment--transforming the motley crew of outlaws into a family you feel a kinship with. Your connection to the Crimson Raiders continues to grow with every mission as well, as--thanks to the spaceship Sanctuary III--the entire group is with you throughout the course of your journey.

Newcomer Tyreen is clearly a bad person, but the campaign's story never gives you a compelling reason as to why you would want to kill her so as to stop her for good. Lilith is fond of reminding you that Tyreen's plans would ultimately destroy Pandora, but Borderlands 3 introduces a bunch of planets that would make for more preferable homes. Tyreen, and thus Troy, never amounts to a credible threat that you feel like you need to stop as a result, so the Calypso twins instead feel like the primary source of much of Borderlands 3's comic relief, not villains that must be stopped.

With most of the franchise's juvenile humor and ludicrous jokes coming from your planetside interactions with the Calypsos, it's on Sanctuary III with your crew that Borderlands 3's well-written story delves into its more heartfelt and emotional moments. The game wastes little time reintroducing you to mainstays Lilith and Patricia Tannis, a brilliant yet socially anxious scientist, and building the drama of its narrative around them as the two women grow into their new roles within the Crimson Raiders. Tannis' evolution is especially compelling as you see her make courageous strides to move beyond the self-imposed limitations she's set for herself on account of her autism and social anxiety. For two characters that were popular but little more than caricatures in the first game, it's rewarding to see the growth the two underwent in Borderlands 2 now culminate into two leaders that you're willing to follow to the end.

That isn't to say the other fan-favorite characters have been left out. Pretty much everyone from the previous games returns to complete their respective arcs. Borderlands 3 weaves in plenty of memorable new characters as well--such as the coffee-obsessed Lorelei, artificial intelligence BALEX, and scoundrel turned rebel general Clay--but the game's story is very much the fulfilling conclusion that long-time fans have been looking forward to for the franchise's mainstays.

And what a conclusion it is. Borderlands 3 has a few stumbling blocks when it comes to bosses, but these fights are overshadowed by the game's rewarding gunplay and over-the-top humor. The game's character-driven narrative acts as a satisfying finale for the loot-shooter franchise, and the new mechanics and features--especially the reworked skill trees and weapon manufacturer effects--give you plenty of agency in how you want to play through it. If you've never been a fan of the franchise, it's unlikely Borderlands 3 does enough things differently to change your mind, as the game best excels at continuing what the series has always done: deliver a humorous tall tale of misfits looting and shooting their way to heroism.

Back To Top
The Good
The story acts as a satisfying conclusion to Borderlands' 10-year journey
Distinct settings encourage different playstyles with unique enemies and environments
Zane, Amara, Moze, and FL4K offer a welcome variety in playstyle with their skill trees
Emphasis on weapon brand differences allows for strategic loadout builds
The Bad
Bullet-sponge bosses can create a drag in the otherwise fun combat
Though Tyreen is fairly well-written, the Calypsos just aren't compelling villains overall
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Jordan completed Borderlands 3's campaign in about 33 hours before going back to finish off any leftover side missions. After wrecking bandits as Amara, he's looking forward to playing as Zane or Moze next. He played Borderlands 3 on PC; a prerelease build was provided by the publisher.
255 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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stealthy1

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Loving the game here. Hasnt crashed for me but occassionally on xbox i get the error " game is taking to long to start up". Fun game otherwise. I have 3 charscters to level 50 and my Moze is in true Vault Hunter Mode Mayhem 3. Cant wait till expansions release.

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Skarwolf

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I noticed while playing that almost all the story characters are female. Didn’t realky care but became curious & looked up the official forums.

Then I saw it. Borderlands 3 is full blown SJW now. What happened? The forums are telling you to not use gender specific pronouns. That Fl4k is a non binary non gender character.

That aside;

In split screen if partner opens menu game locks up.

Joining multiplayer works infrequently. You might join only to get a load screen saying connection lost. Or it loads indefinitely & gets stuck if you cancel.

Numerous clipping issues, falling through the world, in game videos are messed up.

The total # of quests is barely half of what Bl2 had.

Perhaps they wasted too many resources on virtue signalling?

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ecs33

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For me it crashes when I exit the game. so, whatever.

I actually like this more than Borderlands 2 so far. The combat is intense, engaging and fun. I don't think the jokes are as bad as the review let out - I suppose such a thing comes down to opinion anyway.

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wsneconsulting

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Sometimes it get crashed, otherwise it's beginning is good. I will try if my new experience will be good and i am also going to launch a game soon through my personal business for game lover. https://www.wsneconsulting.com

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

I heard that people saying that this is a mission-pack sequel when it comes to playthrough pacing?

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Phooey442

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I'm loving the game but it has crashed at least a dozen times in my first 5 hours or so.

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IrishInstigator

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@Phooey442: Then why are you loving it? That sounds like something that would get in the way of enjoying it.

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Phooey442

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Edited By Phooey442

@irishinstigator: Because it is something that can be fixed. A boring or bad game usually can't. I don't mind waiting for a patch. I'm busy anyway haha.

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DETfaninATL

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Just have to say, barring some of the jittery / buggy play at times that many others have commented on here, this is hands down the best Borderlands game to date. 10 /10 & GOTY IMHO........

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HBM

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@DETfaninATL: GOTY, yet buggy/jittery?

Not sure you're getting it

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itchyflop

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Feels like Borderlands 1+2 only bigger better and somehow running worse at times.

Still a blast can be found, im really enjoying this.

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JSprunk

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@itchyflop: I agree. It seems like they did a complete overhaul on the way the graphics are processed and now some weird jittery stuff going on when a lot of action hits the screen. Even on low settings the game seems to struggle sometimes. However, it seems totally random sometimes as well, as I can reproduce moments of dense action on the screen, but sometimes I'll get the jittery response, and sometimes I won't.

Great game so far though. Not many male NPC characters I'm noticing though.

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itchyflop

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@jsprunk: Yeah totally agree im having some stuttering, mild at times but noticeable almost like its playing catch up !

Hopefully they'll patch it so it runs better, other wise im really pleased with it.

Ha maybe its a crude stab at the Weinstein case, borderlands humour!

:)

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Skarwolf

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Edited By Skarwolf

Split screen on xbox one the game experiences slow down to the point of locking up while accessing menus. During a fight with multiple enemies the game locked up totally. The amount of slow down everytime I play split screen is discouraging

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JSprunk

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Edited By JSprunk

And as predicted, in Borderlands 3, the midgets of Pandora are now...tinks. What exactly does the word "tinks" mean? Oh yeah, it means midgets. Problem solved.

And FL4K is referred to using they/them. Borderlands 3 isn't going to age well once Andrew Yang passes robot rights.

Nice work pounding some of the worst elements of 2019 into the Borderlands universe Gearbox. Well done.

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IrishInstigator

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@jsprunk: Who gives a ****? Quit crying.

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JSprunk

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@irishinstigator: Lots of people give a ****. Quit crying.

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IrishInstigator

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Edited By IrishInstigator

@jsprunk: Anyone who actually gives a **** is a snowflake. And you seem to give a ****, so you're clearly a snowflake. So maybe you should quit crying? Just a thought.

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JSprunk

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@irishinstigator: You know that post really just looks like you’re crying again right?

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IrishInstigator

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@jsprunk: You're comment crying about the name the developers chose for an enemy in their game, was what started this. Glass houses are bad for throwing stones, my friend.

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Harbringar

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Edited By Harbringar

@jsprunk: Borderlands 3 Gameplay is as always, a blast. However, i agree with your statements, the first thing my friend said when he saw a "tink" was to laugh and go "They cant say midget anymore, can they?" and also, the story is getting horribly lame. The sort of over the top humor from the first games is now blasted in your face so much it feels like an 8 year old made the dialog. Plus Sirens have become WAY to much of a crutch, cant explain how to get through a door? Have a siren phase through it! Cant explain how to get troops on the ground? Have a Siren teleport them! Sirens are OP as hell up until the story makes them weak for no apparent reason other than to help the story along?

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Aegis_Kleais

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-Satisfying gunplay. Check.

-Story/Character Development.
-Wit & Humor.
-A need NOT to claw my ears out dealing with the ADHD-infused Generation "Me"-esque-apades of incessantly nattering, depth-lacking, regurgitated ad nauseum cultural tropes?

...not so much.

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Harbringar

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@aegis_kleais: 100% agreed. Did anyone else notice that every female is a hero trying to save the world, and every male character is, well either a sociopath or a complete moron?

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Lord_Sesshy

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I get that bosses in these games are supposed to be bullet sponges but after playing through most of the game I can understand where the review is coming from. In particular one boss fight, it's gotta be a new record for a boss having so many phases of regening it's health. If I remember correctly you have to basically take the health bar down like 6 or 7 times. It was getting really annoying and boring about halfway through the fight because your tactics don't change, it just drags it out forever.

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Willowvale75

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Still the best games I played this year, and unique and mature games as well are: RE2 remake, Metro Exodus, DMC 5, Bloodstained, Plague Tale, Days Gone, Control.

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DEVILTAZ35

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@willowvale75: I agree with you on most there except RE2 i was really looking forward to that but just find it really boring to actually play. It looks great but controls are too clunky. Plague Tale was really good though with a fantastic story and setting. Day's Gone truly is underappreciated by too many and is still receiving constant updates.

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dynamotnt

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@deviltaz35: clunky? lol it's 60 fps, your speed was reduced as to what you'd expect but thats because RE's were always slow.

still re2 got utterly destroyed, nuked to death by the worst free dlc capcom have ever done.

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Willowvale75

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IS this game for casuals and Fortnite, Far Cry players? Looks like that's the target audience. I have no interest in loot shooting with goofy humor and gunning around like an idiot. Sorry to offend anyone lol

I chose Blasphemous and Greedfall lol. And later, Surge 2 and Code Vein.

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spartanx169x

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@willowvale75: I bet you are a lot of fun at parties Mr. Serious. But hey if you don't like to laugh , thats your right.

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DEVILTAZ35

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@spartanx169x: I imagine it is good on PC but currently on Consoles it's a complete joke where 4k mode looks better on Pro than X but runs worse on Pro than the X version (Seems to be back the front seeing X is 40% more powerful considering both run at 1800p) . The 60 fps mode on both is a joke running close to 45-50 than 60 too much of the time.

Base consoles are worse with a cap of 30 . How on earth could you play Borderlands 3 at just 30 fps in 2019?

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Crazy_sahara

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Gears 5 where is it, it got a 9 right?. Ahhh what the stories amazing in bl 3.5

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JSprunk

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@Crazy_sahara: I'd rather compare BL3 to BL2. BL2 got an 8.5 and I thought that game should've gotten a 9.75. I spent over 300 hours in BL2 and I can see myself going much further in BL3 already.

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Crazy_sahara

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@jsprunk: Personal investment should not be based on rating alone, given you haven't spent much time in Borderlands 3.

It's called bism and we cannot chat anymore.

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phili878

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Edited By phili878

I am 3 hours in, and it is starting to become boring.

It is mainly fetch quests and the side-missions are basically a grind. The repetitiveness is insane, and I can't feel any motivation to continue on. Damn, what a waste of money for me.

I understand if there's people out there that love it. The setting (graphics etc) is really interesting and innovative (well, after BL1 and BL2), and since I haven't played neither, I wanted to start here, to see what the fuzz is all about.

Basically, if you are new to the genre with skepticism, skip it or wait for a significant price drop. For me, it was a waste of money, same with Gears 5 but that was included in game pass for me. I'll keep BL3 installed to see if I can find myself get into again.

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murekkep

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@phili878: "It is mainly fetch quests and the side-missions are basically a grind. The repetitiveness is insane"
So just like the first 2 games?

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spartanx169x

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@phili878: The sheer genius of the BL serie is it's humor. In all honesty, you picked the wrong game to start the series. You should have started with BL2 followed by the Pre-sequel, then this game. Without the humor its just another shooter. BL2 has loads of it IF If you are an American and you pay attention. I say American because it pokes fun at American culture thoughout the whole game, so if you are from another country , you may not get some of the jokes. The humor also varies depending on the character you pick. Some are funnier than others. But what the enemies say when you kill them is hilarious and never gets old such as " I HAD ALMOST PAID OFF THE HOUSE!" as he is dying. Humor everywhere. i'm only a few hrs into the BL3, and I must admit its not as much humor, but I have no doubt it gets better.

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Tekarukite

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@spartanx169x:
I'd argue that the humor should not be THE reason for playing Borderlands. Fortunately, the game play in 3 is actually really good, with lots of powers and options to get into a good groove of power wish-fulfillment.
But, if you are turned OFF by the humor, good luck enjoying the game in spite of it.

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phili878

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@spartanx169x: Before buying it I asked friends that played BL1 and 2 and they said I don't need to play them prior, that I can jump right in, which I did. I enjoy only playing it co-op at this time. I get a lot of the very dark humor, what gets on my nerves a bit is the game's constant "hyping you to do things" but at the end it is mostly repetitive things, at least to me. I will try play as much of it so I feel a bit better having spent that money heh. But yeah, if you're into shooters and like this kind of game and as you said, the US references, then it is def. a no-brainer, get it.

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siarhei

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@spartanx169x: thx, I'll make it a rental then

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Aegis_Kleais

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@phili878: I only got it cause there's been next to no Co-op games for the LONGEST time. As I expected, the game locks story, character, tact, humor and many other vital aspects of AAA-level expectations.

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JSprunk

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@phili878: BL2 and BL3 are way more fun playing in cooperative mode with several other friends. (Notice I said friends and not pugs) I only play alone once I've gone through the main story a few times and I just want to speed run to the bosses...which I then switch over to coop for to get better loot.

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Tomcat2007

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@phili878: The fact you haven't played either BL1 or BL2 means you probably just realized you don't like this type of game. BL games are all about grinding so if you consider missions a grind, then you missed the point and as expected won't have fun with it. I can say though, that for those who did like BL1 and BL2, BL3 will probably not disappoint. It's more of the same, but that's not really a bad thing.

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phili878

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@Tomcat2007: The problem is the length. The first side mission I did needed 30 mins of grinding before actually getting the part needed ! This includes doing a main mission ! I am ok with up to 10 mins, but I thought it would get better and I just had bad luck with the Algo, but no, as I go, they take just as long and require you to travel far at times, leading me not to even consider side-quests, which is a shame because the voice-acting can be fun during getting and submitting the mission.

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Crazy_sahara

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@phili878: really, ah explain how that is.

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dmblum1799

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Just started a few hours ago. It's very fun. Borderlands is always going to look like Borderlands, but the art style is more detailed and the way smooth fighting and sliding is entertaining. I love the death shouts of the enemies, a little baby monster bandit screaming as he tumples to the ground "I should have trained more!"

Borderlands 3 More Info

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  • First Released Sep 13, 2019
    released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    The Borderlands franchise reloads with new loot and new baddies for the current generation of consoles.
    7
    Average Rating28 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Gearbox Software
    Published by:
    2K Games
    Genre(s):
    First-Person, Shooter, 3D, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language