Early Impressions: Borderlands 3

The king of Looter Shooters has triumphantly returned. I first played Borderlands back in 2010 upon purchasing my Playstation 3 (it was actually the first game I purchased during that generation) and instantly fell in love. The 3-D but cell-shaded art direction, the sense of humor, and most importantly, the RPG progression and loot system all hooked me right in. Truth be told, I played that game more than any other in the series, maxing out my character level and completing all of the DLC, also collecting the platinum trophy. I would play through it again a second time with my roommate, and from there he was hooked too. We purchased the sequel on day one. We played through it a couple of times but I only scraped the surface of the DLC, only coming back to the game most recently to play through the added DLC that bridged the story gap between sequels. Despite Borderlands: The PreSequel being a similar type of game and one that bridged the story between 1 & 2, it didn’t hold my attention long enough to finish it, and once we had the proper release of 3, I knew I probably wouldn’t go back. Having played the newest game, I can confirm that going back to the older games would be difficult. So many quality of life improvements have me spoiled and I’m not sure I could do without them again.

Fans of the series will be familiar with the above splash screens — each time we’re introduced to a new/returning character or a boss, we’ll get these art pieces displayed across the screen for a few moments, and then either the fight or dialogue proceeds. So far, nearly every character that has existed in the series has made an appearance, outside of those that are now deceased (Handsome Jack, Scooter, etc). I picked up the game a few days after release when I got paid, and my best friend got his copy as well. Once we decided which classes we were going to play, we got down to business. The new classes are sort of a mixture of new and old ideas, where my friend is playing the Operative that is most similar to the soldier class from past games in that it gets a flying drone that functions like a mobile turret. Whereas I’m playing the Gunner who gets to summon a bad ass mech suit and blows shit up real good.

As I was speaking of quality of life improvements, one thing I really like is the fact that you no longer have to collect cash, ammo or health vials, you just have to walk close enough to them and if you have the space/need, you’ll collect these pieces automatically. That alone sells this game, as there is a lot of looting to be done and I can’t be bothered to click on each dollar bill I see. Gunplay is also improved in my eyes. This is a new engine, and despite the fact that the game looks the same as it always has (with improved visuals of course) it runs smoother and I feel that the controls are more precise. Gun fighting always felt a bit floaty in the earlier titles and it feels like that’s been tightened up. I heard complaints that the game didn’t embrace a more open world model, but I don’t think that’s an issue. It’s always been sort of an instanced shooter, with dungeons and a world that feels like some MMOs I’ve played. Fast travel is still there, but the ability to actually leave Pandora presents itself and soon enough you’ll realize you can explore places you hadn’t heard of to that point. Vehicles are back, and there are multiple varieties, but now you can customize and upgrade them which is a nice touch. Vehicles will appear in certain areas that you can steal in order to get more parts for yourself as well. Changes to the skill trees means that you get multiple ways to customize your character, and you’ll be able to further augment your ultimate ability in ways that hadn’t be available in the past.

The new antagonists aren’t as interesting as Handsome Jack was. Nor are they as funny, but they serve their purpose. A pair of Sirens that have formed a cult and feed on their followers, they seem pretty twisted but also non-threatening. We’re working for Lilith and fighting for Sanctuary, which is now our flying space ship after the city itself was destroyed. A corporate war is raging, and some of the planets you’ll go to house complexes where these corporations have weapons and armies stashed, and it’s our job to fuck shit up. We end up working for Rhys as well, but in the process are putting together vault keys on other planets. It’s not quite as engrossing, but the mechanics and gameplay are still amazing, so I’m not as keen on the story anyway. I’ve put in close to 20 hours so far, but am exclusively playing with my best friend for the time being. I think after we complete the main story I might start up some new characters, but we also know DLC will be out soon enough, so there should be more to do soon enough. I’m having a blast so far, and I haven’t been this hooked by a game in a while. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re bored with the Destinies and Divisions out there.

Developer Appreciation Week: Gearbox Software

Developer Appreciation Week (or DAV) is technically coming to a close, but I thought I’d squeeze a post about the topic in nonetheless. I haven’t really been following any of the scheduled stuff this Blaugust, but as it is I haven’t really needed any help getting topics down. Having to rush and blow through several posts in a day has left me looking for inspiration though. I’m leaving to Vegas on Thursday morning, and won’t return until Sunday night. As such I’ve been writing ahead for those days to have scheduled posts, and well, here we are. From what I can recall I have written a DAV post in the past, and I believe I included a couple of developers in it. This time around I wanted to pick someone different, and with Borderlands 3 releasing just around the corner (and my own personal time spent with the series recently) I realized that I have rather enjoyed much of the content put out by Gearbox Software.

When doing some research to make sure I had my facts straight, it turns out that my relationship with the company goes much further back than Borderlands, thought that’s the IP that I’m most connected to at this point. Nevertheless, way back in 1999 Gearbox developed Half-Life: Opposing Force, the expansion to the original Half-Life. I loved that expansion and played it while still in high school. It appears that I may have touched on some other games that the company developed as well, but my relationship wouldn’t get as serious until early 2010 when I purchased my Playstation 3 and a copy of the original Borderlands. I would go on to buy all of the expansions, level up a couple of characters to maximum level along with beating the end game raids and things. I basically 100% that game before playing it over again with my best friend once he got a copy as well. By the time Borderlands 2 had released, I had it pre-ordered and also picked up the season pass. I bought most if not all of the DLC too, and in some cases it felt less than worth the money, but I didn’t care due to being obsessed with the gameplay and wanting every new experience I could get.

Games like Destiny or The Division couldn’t exist without Borderlands before it. By that note, I don’t think Borderlands would exist without RPGs like Diablo either. Nonetheless, Borderlands solidified the FPS-RPG hybrid as a viable model, something that can be monetized and of which a whole universe can expand. Unfortunately developers typically need publishers, and 2K being the evil corporation here might have something to do with some of the negative press around said monetization, though at this time it has become the norm of the games industry.

The company isn’t without blemish though. Besides the games that I’ve mentioned, they had a fiasco over Aliens: Colonial Marines, but that has been better documented elsewhere. It could also be said that they lost the battle of the hero shooter, as their game Battleborn released near games like Blizzard’s Overwatch or Hi-Rez Studios’ Paladins, both of which seem to have seen the most success (Quake Champions is the last game of this nature that I can recall coming out, and even it seems to be more successful than Gearbox’s entry).

It’s likely that we’ll see a return to greatness with Borderlands 3 though, and I fully hope for that outcome. Borderlands does the looter shooter thing right, is easy to jump in and out of with friends, has a humourous and well put together storyline and I just hope for the best for the company’s return to the series. We’ll know soon enough, Borderlands 3 releases on September 13th, which is just a couple of weeks away. You know I’ll be there from the start to dive in head first.

Reconnecting with Borderlands

When Borderlands 3 was revealed at this year’s E3, I knew it was a game I’d have to play. The best looter shooter out there, in my humble opinion at least, it’s been a lot of fun over the years and I look forward to co-oping my way through it with my best friend come September. At the same time though, a brand new DLC for Borderlands 2 was announced, called Commander Lilith & The Fight For Sanctuary. Coincidentally, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection was one of the Playstation Plus free games for that month, so it turned out anyone with a PS4 would be able to grab this DLC and play right away. It was free for a time as well, so that was an added bonus. Also, for those not familiar, The Handsome Collection collates both Borderlands 2 along with it’s plethora of DLC and Borderlands The PreSequel as well. I’ve talked about the latter, as it was a game I played a little bit but never completed — nonetheless my best friend has expressed interest in playing that one as well. I suppose that could be done before the release of the proper sequel, but we’ll see.

Another nice touch, for those of us who played the original game on Playstation 3 and can’t seem to find our save files on the cloud, you are able to create level 30 characters right off the bat in order to jump right into the new DLC. This is where me and my best friend started out. During my first playthrough of Borderlands 2 (back in 2012 I think it was?), I played Zero, while during our co-op jaunts I would play Lilith. This time around I decided to play Axton, the Commando. My friend went with the Gunzerker, and away we went. As the notice above states, this DLC bridges the story between Borderlands 2 and the new game, so you probably should have already played the other games before this. I guess that means if you are worried about spoilers, you should probably avoid reading the rest of this post as well.

The game is still running on the same engine that it always has, but it does seem to run a bit smoother on PS4 as opposed to the PS3. It probably looks a little sharper too, but my memory of the details is hazy, and that’s fairly unimportant. The storyline picks up a while after the end of Borderlands 2, where the vault hunters had found a vault key that functioned as something of a map, and you now know that they are vaults all over the universe. This could potentially make the series infinite as long as the company continues to want to make new areas and new stories. Most of the story is revealed in the game, with characters speaking to you and events happening as you play. There are cutscenes sprinkled throughout, and they tend to be a similar flavor that you’ll know and love (if you’re a fan). So far we have been introduced to a new bad guy who has created a sort of gas that transforms humans and creatures alike into these mutant plant beasts. He attacks Sanctuary and takes it over, and we have had to go and clear out another location called “The Backburner” in order to have a functional base again. Familiar characters pop up along the way, and some can be recruited to your base of operations. After a few missions, it’s clear that there is a lot to do in this DLC.

Otherwise it really is more of the same, but that’s not really a bad thing. I always enjoyed playing the Borderlands series, though I haven’t really reached the end game since the first iteration and I definitely haven’t put the time into the other games outside of completing main campaigns. I think this little foray will whet my whistle for a bit, but once Borderlands 3 arrives I can’t wait to dive in full force. My recommendation is to play this first if you’ve already completed the other games, but if you’re not a fan of the series, then carry on and have fun with your thing!

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Borderlands: The Pre-sequel! is by no means a new title. It released back in 2014 for last-gen consoles and PC, but was later remastered for Xbox One and PS4 as part of “The Handsome Collection” which compiled both Borderlands 2 and The Pre-sequel.  My history with the series has been very positive.

The original game in the series released back in 2009. I finally got my hands on a PS3 at the beginning of 2010, and this was one of the first games I purchased for my new console (along with Fallout 3). I loved it. Not only is it one of the zaniest first person shooters I’ve ever played, but it combined its sense of humor with tight combat and loot of Diablo proportions. I played this one mostly solo, though I did jump in with a couple of friends for some of the more difficult content. I earned the Platinum trophy, played through all of the DLC and eventually moved on.

When the sequel was announced for release back in 2012, I knew I was going to pick it up so I went ahead and preordered it. Doing so got me some sort of bonus via GameStop, and I was able to pick up on release day and jump into the action. I played this one mostly solo again, but eventually my best friend got a copy and we ran through it again co-op. I also picked up the season pass but I don’t believe I ever completed all of it. It was still a great game and a bunch of fun.

When The Pre-Sequel was first announced I wasn’t as thrilled. I was more looking forward to a proper third game in the series rather than a game that was shoe-horned in between the two existing games. I knew I wanted to try it, but I didn’t want to pay top dollar. Thankfully I had become a more frugal gamer by this time, so I ended up picking up the base game and all DLCs for it for something like $10. Back when I was doing the podcast with Eri of Healing the Masses, we were continuously looking for games to play together to help feed the content creation side of things. It turned out that she too had a copy that sat unplayed so we decided to try this one out together. This was back in 2015. We put in about ten hours before we moved on to other things, and as such the whole of my experience with the game was in co-op and I honestly don’t remember much. Here are some screens of our time with the game back then:

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We clearly played for a bit, and I remember having a good time running around blowing shit up and chatting via comms. This title is very similar to the others. Graphically it looks a bit better than the first two but probably only because I played those on a PS3 and played this one on a PC. The gameplay is exactly the same though some slight modifications were made to the mechanics in that you can jump around a little differently due to the low gravity of this moon and also have to pay attention to your oxygen tank while space walking. Otherwise it’s more of the same but it’s a good same. There are some Aussie jokes that I didn’t really get but that she understood being from the same country as the devs.

For now I’m using this post as a jump off point, as I’ve been eyeing the game for a while now and want to get back into it and finish it off. It’s likely I’ll play solo but I’ve always enjoyed that anyway. I’m just wondering if I should try to pick up where I left off or just roll up a new character and start over. I played as Jack’s Doppleganger the last time and remember him fondly enough, but I know there is the other DLC character and a couple of the originals that I wouldn’t mind trying as well. So for now, this is a preview post for things to come, but I do plan to grind this one out soon and strike another title from my backlog list.