Borderlands 3 Hands-On Impressions: New Guns, New Powers, Same Borderlands

Zane is one of four new characters joining the Borderlands crew, and is the character I played as during my hands-on time Gearbox

After years of development and what felt like a lifetime of waiting, Borderlands 3 is finally drawing close to completion. For those eager to know more about the gameplay of Borderlands 3, know that what you are expecting is basically what you’re going to get.

My biggest takeaway from my demo time with a portion of Borderlands 3 is that it’s really just more Borderlands . If that’s what you were hoping for, you’re going to find a lot to love here. Developer Gearbox hasn’t decided to reinvent the wheel in terms of mechanics, instead doubling down on creating innovative weapons and the biggest expansion to the Borderlands universe we’ve seen yet.

There are so many crazy and unique weapons in Borderlands 3 Photo: Gearbox

Borderlands 3 is all about the guns, so much so that there are just about twice as many as you are even thinking of. Almost every gun comes packed with an alternate firing mode, with one example given of a pistol that shot bullets in standard fire, and rockets as an alt-fire shot.

And of course, there are tons and tons of other crazy weapons. One gun fired waves of music at enemies, one shot bouncing bullets around the battlefield. Instead of reloading one gun I had, I instead threw it on the ground and pulled out another. The first gun then sprouted legs and acted as a mobile turret. And the best part, given recent games of similar genres: these guns are all over the place. You’re never at too much of a loss for finding a new weapon that may not have better stats than your current one, but might have an added feature that makes it valuable in combat all the same.

The one thing I did notice while playing was I found myself quickly running out of ammo. It felt like many of my weapons chewed through ammo quickly, and at one point I didn’t have any bullets for three different weapons in my inventory. It’s easy to switch to a different weapon type that you might have ammo saved up for, but that requires you to potentially alter your play style.

Plenty of new and familiar faces can be found in Borderlands 3 Photo: Gearbox

During my demo, I only had the opportunity to play as Zane. He’s a soldier/tech/support hybrid character, depending on what skills you put points into. Zane has access to multiple abilities, but I focused my time building up two of them: one that sends out a drone to do some attacking and one that projects a clone of you to distract and attack enemies. These abilities both came in handy, especially when my shields were depleted and I needed a break from getting shot at.

Borderlands 3 also opens up the Borderlands universe to exploration. Players eventually unlock the Sanctuary 3, a space ship capable of interstellar travel. This ship allows players to jump to several different planets to explore a wide variety of environments. There are high-tech cities, backcountry swamps, old villages, dusty desert planets, and who knows how many others. Gearbox hasn’t confirmed a total planet count just yet, but it looks like it’ll probably be in the double digits.

Borderlands 3 also offers a variety of multiplayer options to ensure everybody is having fun. If your gaming group has someone who can play more than others and is a higher level, there’s a new mode where Borderlands 3 scales to match each player individually. This mode also creates level-appropriate loot for everyone, and makes it so nobody can steal all the good loot at the end. If you want to invite your overpowered friend to wreck shop, there’s also the classic mode where nothing is scaled and players need to duke it out for the weapon drops.

There were a few technical issues when I played, but the build I played on is still considered pre-beta. That said, there were some rough texture pop-in issues, along with some framerate dips. Of course, there still is plenty of time for Gearbox to iron out any problems.

Borderlands 3 has more miniboss and boss fights than ever before Photo: Gearbox

Ultimately, Borderlands 3 is exactly what die-hard Borderlands fans are asking for: more Borderlands. Gearbox has decided to stick with what worked in the past and doubled down on it, meaning tons of guns, wacky and irreverent characters and decent shooting mechanics.

While I only had around 90 minutes with Borderlands 3, things are looking promising so far. The only major question remaining is if the story can carry players through a near-endless onslaught of enemies and bullets. For that, we’ll have to wait until a full release to see how it all plays out.

So what do you think? Are you excited to play Borderlands 3? What of the four new Vault Hunters will you want to play as? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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