The Borderlands 3 boss fights could be the best fans have ever seen in a series that has managed to create some memorable final encounters in past iterations. While the premise of the game remains very much about looting, shooting, and wreaking havoc across several different planets, the newest game in the franchise remains true to form in delivering some pulse-pounding climatic moments across different questlines.
Naturally, this estimation is based entirely on the hands-on gameplay time we've experienced across three different events. It doesn't encompass the whole game, and it could very well end up being a case of a small sample size over-performing while the final product struggles to match the bar it set for itself during previews. Still, based on all the data critics have available to them - the Borderlands 3 boss fights are really something else.
The hook for these encounters are similar to past games in the sense that they're very MMO-esque. Bosses will go through different rotations of skills or attacks, and the environment will begin to become dangerous, forcing players to stay on the move and think on the fly to survive. That's evident in the game's prologue, where players are instructed to fight a propaganda-spreading member of the Children of the Vault who uses sound systems as a weapon. In his final encounter, he'll activate dangerous speakers that bathe players in harmful audio blasts if they don't evacuate a specific area - indicated by the speakers beginning to glow as they power up.
If that sounds simple, that's because it is. That boss fight takes place very early on, with perhaps one mini-boss before it that simply introduces the concept of using barrels of harmful material to help take down stronger enemies. As a crash course, that fight tells would-be Vault Hunters that Borderlands 3 bosses won't simply stand there like bullet sponges and spam powerful but predictable attacks - there's going to be environmental and context clues that help demonstrate what's going on.
In the most recent hands-on preview Screen Rant was invited to attend, late-game boss design was on full display during a main mission quest that investigated the decaying relationship between two formerly-smitten AIs. That experience culminates in a mech-on-mech boss battle the the Vault Hunter assists in, and things get wildly hectic quickly. As a co-op group, we only wiped once, but it was the fact we did at all - equipped, as we were, with several powerful weapons the devs gave these builds to mess around with - that really stood out. This wasn't just run-and-gun or get the best loot and power through. Staying aware and analyzing boss patterns would be crucial.
In the grand scheme of things, the idea of having bosses that are challenging and require some thought to defeat isn't exactly ground-breaking - for video games as a whole and for Borderlands as a series. That doesn't change the fact that the Borderlands 3 boss fights are among the series' best for their design and their entertainment values. Simply put, they're exciting endeavors that feel flashier and more distinct this time around. Having an early level boss end up resonating with players and remaining easy to recall weeks after playing through it is the mark of a strong overall experience.
Will the rest of the Borderlands 3 boss fights follow suit? That's hard to say. There's probably a reason these ones are on display during hands-on previews, and part of that will inevitably be because the development team thinks they showcase well. That being said, though, a lot of the content critics have had access to up until this point has been gated and curated based on the possibility of story spoilers, which could mean there are more involved and captivating boss fights on the horizon that need to be protected because of their relevance to the story.
Fans will certainly hope for the latter. As it stands now, though, Borderlands 3 boss fights feel like the series' very best, a sentiment that, if it remains true post-launch, will put the third main entry in the franchise in rarefied air.