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Borderlands 3 Hands-On Preview: Upping the Ante in the Best Possible way

Gearbox brings the Guns, and the Fun

Borderlands 3 Hands-On Preview: Upping the Ante in the Best Possible way
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Last week a series of journalists, including myself, met at the Take 2 offices in New York. We were there for one thing: to get a solid four-hour session with Borderlands 3, and to finally get a feel for how the game will play while testing out all the new characters.

While it still has a bit more time to be polished and cleaned up, what I played felt like what everyone who enjoyed the first two games wanted. This sequel is more of that with a healthy dose of updates and quality of life improvements.

There have been a few changes made for Borderlands 3. From the reveal event to E3, if you are a streamer or in the media, more than likely you would have had some time with this new installment. But this is the first time all the characters are open to play, and the first time anyone got any real-time with FL4K, the final new character available for players when they start up the game for the first time.

First things first, FL4K is a great new addition to the roster. The ability to call upon an animal companion to aid in battle worked very well in the slice on show for the event. Tackling the first few hours of the game, FL4K fit well into the Borderlands style of play. The pets quickly provide a new resource for you to utilize in combat, and once upgraded, the synergy between you and your pet stacks up, making for a formidable pair.

Borderlands 3 Hands-On Preview: Upping the Ante in the Best Possible way 1
Borderlands 3 – Photo Credit Gearbox Software

When you boil it down, FL4K is akin to a rogue class in many other games of this ilk, focusing on tactical assault and hunting down his enemies with precision and stealth abilities and utilizing the companion as a diversion. FL4K hits the sweet spot between the player that likes to hang back and the run-and-gun aficionado. As you work through the levels and pick up better, more exciting weapons, FL4K quickly becomes a force to be reckoned with.

This being a Borderlands game, FL4K fits right into the ridiculous lore Gearbox has set up. As with all the previous characters I had the chance to play at previous events (and this one) FL4K’s personality slots right into the over-the-top world of Borderlands. His dry, sarcastic robot dialogue adds a level of enjoyment to the carnage he inflicts on the wasteland.

Combat has been perfected without being changed too much. Gunplay feels as tight and fun as one would hope from a game of this nature. The sheer variety of guns makes the game an always-evolving experience. I for one love a good loot game, and Gearbox seem to want to up to ante this time around—and I am all for it.

Playing as FL4K I opted for guns that pushed the skills I felt worked best for this class, like quick-fire pistols and sniper rifles, and thankfully I was not disappointed. Both were littered around the wasteland as I tore through the Children of the Vault followers, each gun more fun than the last. From extra damage to explosive rounds, I found something that fit my style perfectly, even in my brief four hours of play.

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Borderlands 3 – Photo Credit Gearbox Software

The “looter shooter” has changed in recent years. With IPs such as Destiny and The Division on the scene, people have grown to expect grander games with larger scopes to their loot drops and missions. Even with this fact, Gearbox has opted to stick to the formula while perfecting what works—and Borderlands 3 is better for it.

While they have added new areas, expanded the locations you can explore, and honed up the gunplay and machines, the core Borderlands experience remains intact. The billions of guns, bombastic humour and over-the-top characters are still all presents and all work to expand the already present lore and systems while adding a bit new to keep things fresh and fun.

Graphically Borderlands 3 feels like a noticeable upgrade over previous installments. While the series has not lost its cartoony, cell-shaded aesthetic, everything feels cleaner and more polished this go around. The power of modern systems is on full display, with animations and character movement displaying a notable improvement over previous entries in the series. 

This time around in the Borderlands, things go well beyond the wasteland. Players will get to venture into other worlds, each with their own unique environment, enemies, and problems. While I did not get to experience all the new places the full game has to offer, I was able to enjoy a slice of Eden 6.

Eden 6 is a planet covered by a lush swamp-like marsh. This is a land where civilization never fully took hold, so while there will be crashed ships and minor areas with technology, the vast majority of the landscape is overtaken by nature and all manner of creature.

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Borderlands 3 – Photo Credit Gearbox Software

In the segment I got to experience, I got to help out a lovable teddy bear played by Ice-T (yes that Ice-T) as he tried to help me find an artifact I needed for the overall mission of the game. Fights with dinosaurs, monkey-like creatures, robots, and even a mech were all on offer, and the level 20 stats we were given for this segment offered up a better look at how the game will play further along.

While it is hard to see how this later segment on Eden 6 will fit into the rest of the game, it was quickly made apparent that jumping between worlds on the spaceship will play a major part in the game. Only getting a taste of this segment, the ship acts as a hub world for the player, offering all the needed resources you need for your journey.

From gambling with Mad Moxxi to a black market, it is all here and ready for a vault hunter looking to spend some capital. The early segments of the game quickly give an idea about how the ship will work, along with where everything is. But as with any game of this scope, the true utility of the ship will need to be experienced in the full game to really appreciate and enjoy what there is to offer.

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Borderlands 3 – Photo Credit Gearbox Software

From the time I spent with it, Borderlands 3 evokes that special feeling that the series has captured since it first released back almost a decade ago. While the writing has changed, and it has a new coat of paint, the core that makes the series so fun and engaging is still present and better than ever.

There is a lot on offer in Borderlands 3 and it is hard to touch on everything in a preview. From vehicle combat to countless side missions and collectables, this outing is looking to be an exciting adventure. Gearbox Software has made some smart moves this go around, and if it all holds up in the final release it will be an exciting game to sink your teeth into. It is a light-hearted experience in a genre that often misses the fact games should be fun. I for one am excited to jump back into the wasteland this fall, to see just what a billion guns really feels like to experience.