Skag eat skag world.
Borderlands 3 comes out in less than a month from now. Recently, I got to play a few hours of the game’s preview demo to get a feel of the new Vault Hunters, skills, guns, and more.
Long story short: it’s looking promising despite the fact I had to play the demo on a PS4 Pro with a Dualshock 4 controller. I have no issues with the console, but being a keyboard and mouse player, readjusting to the default control scheme took some time getting used to.
The demo I played was split into two phases. The first is simply the game’s first mission up to the first boss fight against a psycho named Shiv. There isn’t much to cover there and you can find footage of this section from other journalists on YouTube.
The second part is the one I’ll be talking about. I get to choose a Vault Hunter and play through one of the story missions that apparently happens somewhere in the middle of the main campaign. I say “apparently” because I was told to avoid reading the mission logs lest I want to be spoiled. Also, I had ample time to play two runs so I can get the full skinny of what this new planet had to offer.
For my first run, I decided to play FL4K, the Beastmaster. I was given about 20 skill points and I dumped them all into the Fade Away skill tree. The Fade Away skill allows me to go invisible for a short time but I could also lose invisibility after firing three shots.
All three shots are guaranteed crits, by the way. So my best short-term strategy is Fade Away, go up close and personal, and unleash some shotgun blasts. More on shotguns later.
Without revealing any possible spoilers, I’ll just let you guys know that this quest involved me following the orders of an NPC voiced by Ice-T and he says the B-word a lot. And no, it’s not “badass”.
The quest took place on one of the new planets called Eden-6 and it’s a swamp themed locale. Foliage was everywhere and instead of groups of bandits or soldiers loitering around the map, I came across packs of beasts and even had to go up against something that resembled a mutated T-Rex. It breathed fire too.
Unfortunately, my quest didn’t allow me to explore the environment and I was urged to enter the wreckage of a gigantic crashed spacecraft. The place was full of critters, giant insects, and killer robots. It seems that the crash wasn’t recent.
Ice-T, who voices an AI called BALEX, was constantly on my ears as he kept giving me instructions on how to get deeper into the wreckage to reach an enemy that he wanted dead. He didn’t really play much of a character since he’s just being himself, but it’s entertaining all the same.
One nice feature that I noticed was that our character would actually reply to the NPCs sometimes. I found out later that the NPCs will reply to us using a predetermined line that doesn’t change even if we’re using different Vault Hunters.
Halfway through the quest, I realised that the Jakobs shotgun I was carrying was easily the best weapon I had. It did great damage, reloaded quickly, and it had that new Jakobs perk of bullets ricocheting to other enemies whenever you shot a critical hit.
Like I alluded to earlier, I used my Fade Away skill as often as I could and took advantage of the three guaranteed criticals by using my shotgun up close against enemies who were focused on my pet. I chose a Jabber, by the way, and invested in an augment that gave him a shotgun too. As you can guess, I really like shotguns.
I was also given a Maliwan pistol that could switch between dishing out either shock or corrosive bullets. It didn’t do a lot of damage but it was really helpful against shielded robots. Once my shock bullets ripped through their shields, I quickly switched to corrosive and easily put the robots out of commission.
My other weapons were a Dahl rifle that had auto/semi-auto modes and a rocket launched that would shoot a rocket that splits into multiple mini-rockets. Said mini-rockets would dish out radiation damage, making sure whatever that was hit stayed dead. Both were nifty, but I only used them when I ran out of shotgun shells.
The mission ended with a really tough boss fight against a sleek-looking robot that could summon laser-shooting drones. Her (yes, it’s a she; I won’t say more) strongest attack was this move where she would shoot out human-sized balls that would bounce around the area and take out all my shields the moment I touch them.
Thanks to my Fade Away skill and my pet Jabber’s good survival skills I managed to pull through without dying even once. She did force me to depend on my pet to revive me a lot of times.
Playing as FL4K means you can unlock a skill which allows your pet to revive you when you’re down. Super helpful in solo campaigns, I bet.
I had to be mindful since it can also be downed and you will have to revive it to bring it back to the fight. Teamwork is fun!
Mech My Day
I then started my second run of the demo, doing the same quest but this time I decided to play as Moze, the Gunner who can call down her mech Iron Bear and pilot it temporarily.
Remember how I said that the Jakobs shotgun I used earlier was my favourite? Forget that: the legendary Shredifier returns in this game and it was given to me as my main weapon while playing as Moze. After just about a minute of using it, I fell in love.
The Shredifier is a Vladof gun from Borderlands 2. In Borderlands 3, Vladof guns now come with under-barrel attachments. The Shredifier is a rifle that has a minigun barrel so take a guess as to what is attached under its barrel.
It’s two more minigun barrels. Joy.
By pressing down on the d-pad, I switched from the Shredifier’s default already-fast single barrel to its attached double-barrel which ripped my enemy to shreds in seconds. The gun’s description said “fast-killing”. It wasn’t joking.
Moze has this one passive skill where if you unlock it, it will allow you to replenish your magazine whenever you score a critical hit. I invested in that and I almost never ran out of ammo while using the Shredifier.
Regarding Moze’s mech, I found that it wasn’t as useful as I thought it would be. The mech ran on fuel which would constantly deplete and it didn’t help that shooting also consumes fuel.
I always saved the mech for sticky situations but due to its limited fuel, it never lasted for more than a few seconds.
I’m assuming I didn’t spec the right skills into making the mech more resilient and useful. It could also be that I’m not using the mech correctly since I tend to spray my bullets all over the place whenever I get in the mech.
That’s also probably why I’m a bad D.Va player.
The Promised Loot-And-Shoot Land?
All in all, the core gameplay of Borderlands 3 remains faithful to the series. As someone who loved playing Borderlands 2, I can confidently say that Borderlands 3 will simply give fans more of what they love.
The game will also come with a bunch of welcome improvements and new features. The ability to slide and grab onto ledges were extremely helpful and the latter introduced a new layer of fun in the game’s verticality.
Playing on the PS4 Pro, I definitely noticed that some textures and lighting effects were improved upon even when compared to the maxed-out PC versions of past Borderlands games. The game’s creative director Paul Sage told us that he considered Borderlands 3 to be one of the games monitor and TV manufacturers should use if they wanted to show off how good HDR can look. He wasn’t bragging; he’s just very proud of the game he worked on.
Just like any big-budget sequel to a highly-anticipated game, Borderlands 3 promises more guns, more skills, and more mayhem. There’s more to love too with new movement capabilities and new graphical features such as how vending machines display their inventory and much more.
At the very least, it’s meant for newbies to the series despite the “3” in its title. Sage told us that Gearbox worked very hard to make sure that newcomers know who’s who and what’s going on.
If the two hours we’ve played here is indicative of the whole game, we may have a returning heavyweight reclaiming the loot-and-shoot crown from the crop of pretenders and online-only imitators.
Borderlands 3 comes out in less than a month on 13 September 2019 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. For PC, the game will be an Epic Games Store exclusive for the first six months after its release.