|Engine||Unreal Engine 4|
|Release||13 September 2019|
|Genre(s)||Action role-playing, first-person shooter|
Borderlands 3 is an action role-playing first-person shooter video game developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. It is the sequel to 2012's Borderlands 2, and the fourth main entry in the Borderlands series. Borderlands 3 was released on 13 September 2019 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and on 30 October 2019 for Apple macOS. A Google Stadia port has been confirmed for a later release date.
Players complete quests and side missions, in single-player or multiplayer, as one of four classes. When killed, enemies may drop weapons and gear which can be equipped. New abilities are unlocked as the player gains experience. Unlike previous games, the levels of Borderlands 3 take place on multiple planets. The plot is centered around stopping the cult-leading twins, Troy and Tyreen Calypso, from harnessing the power of the alien Vaults spread across the galaxy.
Crtical reception was mainly favourable, while several reviews deplored the lack of innovation. Early sales where highest among the Borderlands series, although the decision to publish the PC version exclusively on the Epic platform was often questioned.
Borderlands 3 is a loot-driven first-person shooter. Players, either playing alone or in parties of up to four people, make a character from one of the four classes available, and take on various missions given out by non-playable characters (NPCs) and at bounty boards to gain experience, in-game monetary rewards, and reward items. Players can also gain these items by defeating enemies throughout the game. As the player gains level, they gain skills points to allocate across a skill tree. The game introduces four new playable characters: Amara, a "Siren" who summons ethereal fists; Moze, a young "Gunner" who rides the mecha Iron Bear; Zane, an "Operative" with a variety of gadgets; and FL4K, a robot "Beastmaster" who summons creatures to aid in fights. Unlike previous Borderlands games where each character had only one unique skill that operates on a cooldown, each character in the new game can unlock three unique skills, though only one (or in Zane's case, two) can be equipped at a time, greatly expanding the number of potential character builds a player can make.
Borderlands 3 shares the same core loop with previous games around taking on missions, defeating enemies, and obtaining loot from fallen foes or special chests, most often in the form of procedurally generated weapons to vary in damage, range, ammo capacity, and other special perks, giving the game "over one billion guns". Perks can include elemental effects, such as damaging the foes with fire, ice, or electricity, or may possess alternative firing behavior, among other visual differences. In Borderlands 2, some weapons had "slag" elemental, which coated the enemy for a short period and made them extremely vulnerable to a subsequent elemental attack from a different element. Slag weapons have been replaced with radiation; the coating and subsequent vulnerability remains the same as slag, but radiation damage will also hurt enemies over time on its own and can potentially spread to other enemies. The in-game manufacture of the guns also plays a larger role in the type of perks a weapon can have. Tediore guns can be thrown when empty and create additional effects, Atlas have tracking bullets to hunt down enemies in cover, and Hyperion can have shields that absorb damage and use that for other purposes such as healing. Other randomly-generated items include class modifiers, grenade modifiers, and shield kits. When playing with others, Borderlands 3's loot can be generated on a per-server basis, meaning that players must split the loot, but new to the series, players can also have loot generated on a per-player basis so that each player gains the same loot, scaled for their character level. This option also exists for the enemies seen in game; by default enemies only scale with the player-character's level that is operating the server, but when enabled, each player sees enemies that match their individual levels.
Besides character skills and weapons, player-characters have new combat maneuvers and abilities, such as crouch-sliding influenced by the mechanic in Titanfall and Apex Legends, and wall-mounting to climb up over short heights. Players and their enemies can take cover behind short barriers which can be destroyed after continued weapon onslaught.
While the game starts on the planet Pandora, the player early on gains access to a spacecraft, Sanctuary III, which serves as a central hub between missions, and is used to set destinations for new planets where possible Vaults have been identified. While aboard Sanctuary III, players can manage their inventory, recover guns they had left on the field, purchase new guns and upgrades, and take on optional missions. Borderlands 3 has integration with Twitch streams; viewers can explore the streamer's inventory and skill tree, and special chests in game will offer the opportunity for viewers to receive the same gun/item that the stream finds via way of a Shift Code they can enter into their own game, scaled appropriately for their character's level.
Gearbox creative director Paul Sage estimated that players will spend about 35 hours through the main quest line along with some side missions. True Vault Hunter Mode, a type of New Game Plus, allows players to replay the campaign after finishing it with their leveled-up character, fighting more difficult enemies for a chance of better loot. The Badass Rank system from Borderlands 2 will be replaced with a Guardian Rank system, which, by finishing smaller challenges throughout the game, allows players to gain buffs that persist across all their characters. Borderlands 3 will include new post-game challenges. "Circles of Slaughter" found on various planets have players attempt to fight through difficult waves of enemies for higher quality of loot. While downed players can be revived by teammates, if all player-characters die, the match is over and any potential rewards are lost. "Proving Grounds" are a type of raid that must be first discovered by finding hidden markings across the game's worlds. Once discovered, players attempt to defeat all enemies across three areas within 30 minutes to complete the challenge and earn their rewards. A further "Mayhem Mode" randomizes several of the game's campaign elements to further increase the challenge to the player.
As part of the Borderlands series, Borderlands 3 is centered on the planet Pandora, which has been long-rumored to contain Vaults holding vast amounts of treasure and technology. In decades prior, several corporations and bandit clans have laid siege to Pandora to try to find the Vaults, but the constant conflict and bloodshed has left the planet and its population ravaged and crazed. However, there are still those independently searching for the Vaults, known as Vault Hunters (the player characters).
Borderlands 3 takes place seven years after Handsome Jack's death in Borderlands 2 and the downfall of the Hyperion Corporation in Tales from the Borderlands. In Borderlands 2, it was discovered that numerous other Vaults exist on other planets in the galaxy. In the power vacuum left by the defeat of Jack and Hyperion, twin siblings Troy and Tyreen Calypso form the Children of the Vault (COV), a violent cult of personality formed from the remnants of the planet's many bandit factions, to gain possession of the other Vaults, specifically one called 'the Great Vault'. Lilith, one of the playable Vault Hunters from the first game and current leader of the Crimson Raiders, a resistance force created to protect Pandora, recruits new Vault Hunters to help stop the Calypsos.
Several characters from past Borderlands games make a return. Previously playable Vault Hunters Claptrap, Zer0, Maya, Brick, and Mordecai appear as NPCs assisting the player. Aurelia, Sir Hammerlock's sister and one of the playable Vault Hunters in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, also appears as a boss. Returning NPCs include gun salesman Marcus Kincaid, explosives expert Tiny Tina (now going by just Tina), Miss Mad Moxxi and her mechanic daughter Ellie, cyborg hunter Sir Alistair Hammerlock, archaeologist Patricia Tannis, weapons manufacturer Mr. Torgue, and Crazy Earl. Rhys Strongfork, one of the two playable protagonists in Tales from the Borderlands, and his best friend Vaughn also appear.
Answering a recruiting call from the Crimson Raiders, a new team of Vault Hunters (Amara, Moze, Zane, and FL4K) arrive on Pandora only to find that the Crimson Raiders have been put on the brink of annihilation at the hands of the Children of the Vault (COV). They meet Lilith, who orders them to recover a Vault map that was lost years ago but ended up in the hands of the COV. With help from bandit chief Vaughn and Patricia Tannis, the Vault Hunters are able to recover the map, which directs them to the city-planet of Promethea, the location of the first discovered Vault and the Atlas Corporation's headquarters. However, before they can depart, they are ambushed by Tyreen and Troy who reveal they are both Sirens from being conjoined at birth and that Troy needs Tyreen's powers to survive. Tyreen demonstrates her unique ability to drain the life force from other living beings by stealing Lilith's powers. The Calypso Twins take the map and leave for Promethea.
The Vault Hunters and Crimson Raiders take their own ship, the Sanctuary III, to Promethea to reach the Vault first. On arrival, they find the planet under attack by Maliwan forces, as Maliwan's Head of Mergers and Acquisitions, Katagawa Jr., has joined forces with the Calypso Twins to attack the planet, intent on a hostile takeover of Atlas, the company now owned by Rhys. The Vault Hunters help Rhys and his subordinates, Zer0 and Lorelei, to temporarily stall the attack, after which Rhys directs them to the planet Athenas where the Promethean Vault Key is safely kept. On Athenas, the Vault Hunters help Maya and her apprentice Ava fend off more COV and Maliwan forces to recover the Key, learning it is only one-third of the complete artifact. Maya and Ava join the Crimson Raiders as they return to Promethea, disable Maliwan's orbital laser cannon which is powered by the second part of the Key, and help kill Katawaga Jr. during a final assault on Atlas HQ. Rhys provides them with the last part of the Key and directs them to the buried Vault. Maya and the Vault Hunters race the COV to the Promethea Vault, where they encounter and defeat the Rampager, a massive alien beast. The Calypso Twins then arrive, and Tyreen absorbs the dead Rampager's power. Ava, who had disobeyed Maya's order to stay on Sanctuary, attempts to fight the twins but is easily overpowered. Maya intervenes to save her, but is killed by Troy who drains her of her life force and powers, enraging Ava.
The Vault Hunters and Crimson Raiders head to the location of the next Vault on the preserved swamp planet of Eden-6, owned by the Jakobs family and corporation, where they find that the planet has already been invaded by the COV. After assisting Wainwright Jakobs, heir to the Jakobs corporation, he agrees to help the Vault Hunters obtain the Eden Vault Key if they rescue his lover Sir Hammerlock. The Vault Hunters team up with Brick, Mordecai, and Tina to rescue Hammerlock, who reveals he was betrayed by his sister Aurelia, who has sided with the Calypso Twins and seized the Jakobs Manor and company in exchange for handing them the Vault Key. The Vault Hunters gather the three pieces of the Eden-6 Vault Key and head to the Jakobs Manor to open the Vault where they encounter and kill Aurelia. The Vault Hunters open the Eden-6 Vault and kill the monster it contains, the Graveward. Tannis then uses a special device to drain the Graveward's energy before Tyreen can absorb it. Furious, the Calypsos kidnap Tannis and take her to Pandora where they plan to publicly execute her.
The Vault Hunters and Crimson Raiders return to Pandora, where they try to rescue Tannis from the Carnivora festival and COV live-streamers, Pain and Terror. During the rescue mission, Tannis reveals that she also has Siren powers, specifically to manipulate machines, which help turn the tide of the battle and she later explains that she inherited these powers from Angel after her death, a fact that both she and Lilith kept secret for her safety. Tannis warns the Vault Hunters that the Calypso Twins are preparing to open the Great Vault hidden on Pandora so they can drain the energy of the monster contained within it. The Vault Hunters and Crimson Raiders assault the COV's main headquarters to stop the opening of the Great Vault, but are too late to prevent Troy from activating the Great Vault Key, which is the entire moon of Elpis. The Vault Hunters fight Troy and kill him, resulting in Ava taking back and inheriting Maya's Siren powers that he had stolen. Unfortunately, the Great Vault starts opening and Tyreen absorbs Troy's energy before escaping. The Vault Hunters are then contacted by Typhon DeLeon, the first Vault Hunter, who warns them that the Great Vault contains an interdimensional monster called the Destroyer, which has the power to devour stars and destroy the entire universe. He summons the Vault Hunters to the long lost Eridian homeworld, Nekrotafeyo.
At Nekrotafeyo, Typhon further explains that the Great Vault isn't simply located on Pandora, but is actually the entire planet of Pandora itself. The Eridians created the planet to act as a prison and sacrificed their entire civilization to lure and contain the Destroyer, but left behind the machine they used, in case the Destroyer escaped or was released. As they gather the four Vault Keys needed to power the device, Tyreen reveals that Typhon is in fact her and Troy's father. Typhon admits that he had tried to keep the twins with him on Nekrotafeyo to protect them, but it only made them bitter and power-hungry instead. Tyreen intervenes and disables the machine before it can be used and mortally wounds Typhon before fleeing back to Pandora. The Vault Hunters follow Tyreen just as she merges herself with the Destroyer and battles them. The Vault Hunters kill Tyreen and the Destroyer, and Lilith regains her Siren powers. However, Elpis still threatens to destroy Pandora as it continues to open the Great Vault. Lilith sacrifices herself to shut down Elpis, permanently leaving a flaming Firehawk sign branded on the moon.
During the credits, scenes depict the Vault Hunters, the Crimson Raiders, and their allies honoring and memorializing Lilith, Tannis speculating her possible whereabouts, Rhys and Vaughn reuniting properly after years, Hammerlock and Wainwright marrying, Tina, Brick, and Mordecai playing Bunkers and Badasses, and ending with a shot of everyone looking at the Firehawk sigil as a reminder of Lilith lighting the way for Vault Hunters and protecting Pandora forever.
Borderlands 3 was developed jointly by Gearbox's Texas and Quebec studios. Gearbox had finished Borderlands and its sequel consecutively, leaving the studio somewhat burned out on the franchise. To try to do something different, Gearbox shifted work into Battleborn with the blessing of 2K Games, as a means of refreshing themselves. Battleborn was not a major success, in part by being overshadowed by the release of Overwatch within the same month, but Gearbox was not disheartened on this. According to art director Scott Kester, while developing Battleborn, they gained several ideas for how to take the next Borderlands game, and many of the team, as soon as Battleborn was complete, started building out these ideas for Borderlands 3.
Gearbox Quebec undertook developing Borderlands 3 as their first assignment, and said that they were doing so without compulsory overtime ("crunch"). The game was announced with a trailer at PAX East on 28 March 2019. The trailer received mixed reviews by video game websites, some of which characterized it as too similar in appearance and content to previous entries in the series such as Borderlands 2.
To help bridge the gap between Borderlands 2 and Tales from the Borderlands to Borderlands 3, Gearbox released new DLC for Borderlands 2, "Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary", in June 2019, making it free for a limited time to current owners of Borderlands 2.
Several voice actors reprised their roles, including Ashly Burch as Tiny Tina, and Chris Hardwick as Vaughn from Tales from the Borderlands. The recasting of other voice actors caused some controversy. Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford quarreled on Twitter with the voice actors Troy Baker (Rhys) and David Eddings (Claptrap) about the reasons for which both were not retained to voice their former character again. Eddings said that he had been bullied and physically assaulted by his former boss Pitchford. According to Baker, Gearbox had refused to want to deal with members from the voice actor's union, SAG-AFTRA. Baker and Eddings were replaced by Ray Chase as Rhys and Jim Foronda as Claptrap. Ice-T voices a character called Balex, an artificial intelligence trapped in the body of a teddy bear. Penn & Teller provide their likeness for the characters Pain & Terror, with Penn Jillette also providing his voice work for the Pain character. The Heavy recorded an original song for the game titled "Put It On The Line".
In June 2019, Gearbox invited Trevor Eastman, a series fan with terminal cancer, to play a preview build of the game. They let him name a weapon, the "Trevonator", that appears in the game. In August 2019, 2K Games and its parent company Take-Two Interactive sent private investigators to the home of a YouTuber, SupMatto. Take-Two said that he had let users access, for a fee, non-public gameplay videos of Borderlands 3, which he denied. 2K called its actions necessary to protect its trade secrets. In response, calls for a boycott of the game began trending on Twitter.
Marketing and release
Powered by Unreal Engine 4, the game was released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows on 13 September 2019. While the game will not feature cross-platform play at launch, Gearbox is looking to add this feature in after launch. Four different versions of the game were released, with various add-ons, at different price points, including physical bonuses.
The game's release was preceded by a limited-time crossover event in the tenth season of Epic Games' Fortnite Battle Royale and Fortnite Creative. Players can explore a part of the planet Pandora on a small part of the Battle Royale mode's main map, as well as purchase the character Psycho with Claptrap as a backwear.
The Windows release of Borderlands 3 is exclusive to the Epic Games Store for six months. Fan dissatisfaction with this exclusivity arrangement led to a review bombing of the Borderlands games on Steam. Valve, the operators of Steam, used their new processes to combat review bombing for the first time to suppress the negative reviews on the Borderlands games as a result.
Gearbox plans to release additional content through paid downloadable content for Borderlands 3, though does not plan to add any additional playable characters.
Additionally, Gearbox has the ability to hot-fix in patches and other updates to the game, allowing them to offer limited-time events. One of the first such events was a ten-year anniversary event for the Borderlands series, which had launched in October 2009. Within Borderlands 3, several week-long events offering better loot drops and unique challenges were made available during October 2019.
GameSpot gave Borderlands 3 a positive review, noting its preservation of the franchise's hallmarks (including weapon variety, a "personable" cast, and "juvenile humor and ludicrous jokes"), refinements to the skill system and player movement, and that its storyline "satisfyingly wraps up the arcs of characters that fans have been following for 10 years". However, it was felt that the flow of Borderlands 3 was still disrupted by the franchise's reliance on boss fights with little strategy and "bullet sponge" enemies. In conclusion, it was argued that "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".
PC Gamer felt that Borderlands 3 was "the best and worst of the series all at once", acknowledging refinements to gameplay and its signature visual style, but that enemies were still "too dumb and erratic and spongy to force tactical play", and that while the different planets provided variety over the "muted deserts" of Pandora, they were often "an excuse to roll out an old character only for them to disappear or fade into the background as soon as they say hello, shoot some folks, and crack a few one-liners in sidequests that do little to reveal anything about them or test them in any way." It was also felt that the game's endgame options were "shallow" at-launch, and that its overall writing was not as good as the "pitch perfect" Tales from the Borderlands, and "[read] like teenage lunch table improv circa The Spy Who Shagged Me."
During launch, a number of Windows players experienced technical performance issues with the game, while console players found lower-than-expected frame rates, both of which Gearbox is investigating.
According to publisher 2K, Borderlands 3 shipped more than five million copies in five days from release. In addition, the sales for the MS Windows version in this time were the highest for any 2K title to date, and more than 70% of all purchases were made through digital distribution. With these sales, the total Borderlands franchise has made more than US$1 billion in revenue.
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