Borderlands 3 is still Borderlands. That's the first thing fans will notice when they get a chance to play the game—whatever has changed, and there's a lot that's subtly shifted around, the core gameplay is still absolutely what made Gearbox Software's wild take on loot shooting so beloved. Irreverence is there in copious amounts, coupled with the kind of genuine insight into the human condition that only a small, narcissistic and ultimately useless robot could provide.
With that said, though, Borderlands 3 isn't just changing the way fans will engage with the game using Twitch extensions. There are a lot of changes coming to the franchise with its newest iteration and, seven years on from the last main entry into the series, that's a good thing. With so much information coming out of the game's scintillating gameplay reveal, however, it can feel like a lot to process. Who are the Calypso twins? Why does Tales From The Borderlands' Rhys have a moustache now? Is there anything Claptrap is good for?
The latter might never be answered, but the former two are just a few of the insights we gleaned from our hands-on session during a 2K and Gearbox-hosted event earlier this week. Pandora, Promethea, or the many other worlds we'll visit in Borderlands 3 be damned—a good Vault Hunter is prepared for anything, and that's what fans will be with the help of this handy collection of information.
Borderlands 3's Story Explained
- Lilith Is A Leader: Borderlands' Siren extraordinaire Lilith is back, and she's leading the Crimson Raiders as they attempt to undo whatever strange cult-related behavior has suddenly made Pandora even more dangerous to live in than it was previously. She'll be a central figure in the game's early story, recruiting the new Vault Hunters as they join up and even bringing back the famous live-action glimpses of her face as she invades the player character's thoughts to instill wisdom.
- The Children of the Vault Are Unlike Anything Pandora Has Ever Seen: The Children of the Vault cult is a unification of the bandits and psychos that once littered the landscape of Pandora. The major change? They've (mostly) stopped killing each other, and now kill for the purpose of making the cult stronger.
- The Calypso Twins Are The Most Interesting Villains Yet: The Calypso Twins, Tyreen and Troy, are an interesting riff on the villain role in Borderlands 3. They have a sibling rivalry, they think they're entertainers, and they're dangerous—they managed to unite the scattered bandit tribes across Pandora, something that's never been done before. Tyreen, the sister, is probably the more interesting of the two from what we've seen thus far. She has the ability to absorb the life essence from living beings, crystallizing them in the process. She's likely a Siren, or at least has powers similar to one, and she wants to absorb the essence of the Vault's monsters to become more powerful. By contrast, Troy is a dude with a really cool mechanical arm and a penchant for riffing off his sister's more egomaniacal speeches with a nice summary of them. He's a bigger mystery for now, which only makes their dynamic even more compelling.
- Borderlands 3 Will Take Players Across The Galaxy: Borderlands 3 will see players leave Pandora to explore new worlds. Promethea is one of them, the location that spawned Atlas Corporation's weapons and infamy, and is now the site of a struggle between a Rhys-lead Atlas and Maliwan. Other worlds appear to be one inspired by samurai-era Japan and a forest or jungle level of some sort, and there will likely be more to explore on top of that.
- Borderlands 3's Sanctuary Is A Spaceship: How else would the new crew get around from planet to planet? Borderlands 3 will feature a spaceship as its home base, allowing players to fast travel between planets they've discovered. During the presentation before the hands-on session, Gearbox founder Randy Pitchford suggested that players would revisit planets often, and that many side quests would be tied into delving deeper into their environments. The new Sanctuary will also have many characters from the past on board, including Moxxi, as well as a brand new room for the player to mount their favorite weapons in and decorate to add some custom flair.
- Players Will Be Able To Show Off Their Favorite Kills: Another element on the new Sanctuary? Hammerlock's impressive and refined hunting room, complete with place to mount the heads of the player's favorite slain enemies. There are a lot of different spots to be filled, too, so it sounds like players will be busy during their interplanetary adventure.
- Nostalgia Will Be Running High: There are a lot of returning characters in Borderlands 3. So far, Hammerlock, Brick, Lilith, Maya, Tiny Tina, Mordecai, Zero, Moxxi, Ellie, Tannis, and many others have been confirmed. There have also been hints that other characters from Tales From The Borderlands would return as well.
Borderlands 3's Gameplay Changes
- Weapons Will Have Alternative Firing Modes: Some weapons will be able to fire different kinds of charges. For instance, one gun can fire pistol bullets and micro missiles. The change to Borderlands 3 weapon functionality comes as a concerted effort from Gearbox to let players have more options when dealing with difficult situations, effectively doubling the kinds of choices they have during fights.
- The New Vault Hunters Are Different And Fun: At least, Amara the Siren and Zane the Operative are. Those two were playable during the hands-on session, and both of them were a blast. Amara is a welcome change to the Siren that sees her play out more like a muscle-bound psychic Hulk than the caster class one might expect (although there's some of that, too). Zane, on the other hand, is the jack-of-all-trades class, although it feels like he's the master of all rather than none. His ability to produce a clone—and swap places with it strategically when needed—is exactly the kind of dynamic ability that will entice all kinds of wild skill builds when the game releases. The jury is still out on the final two Vault Hunters, but the first two are a resounding success that manages to differentiate greatly from the previous classes we've experienced in Borderlands and Borderlands 2.
- The UI Is Smooth As Butter: Borderlands 3 has the nicest UI of the franchise, including enemy health bars that actually look great while they're being melted down by an exotic weapon. Most importantly, it is a clean look that is both familiar and refined, and should go a long way in welcoming back long-time fans without alienating those picking up the game for the first time.
- Environment Is Crucial: During the gameplay presentation, it became immediately obvious that Borderlands 3 is designed with environments that are meant to be analyzed and exploited by the player to produce explosive results. Multiple times, the demo character pushed an explosive barrel toward enemies and then set it ablaze, or destroyed cover to get to a new destination quicker. Situational awareness will be crucial in getting the most out of Borderlands 3 combat.
- Borderlands 3 Has A Revive Ally Function: It's nothing groundbreaking, but being able to revive a friend during co-op is pretty nice. Oh, but then there's...
- Borderlands 3 Will Let NPCs Revive You As Well: Now that's a welcome change. During combat when the player has NPC support, NPCs will be able to revive them if they happen to go down. No more talking about how we're all in this together and then leaving the player character to die!
- Skills Will Have Augments: Skills are already pretty deep in Borderlands 3, but they'll get even deeper as the game progresses, with augments that allow players to assign elemental damage and other effects to them. It's yet another way the game will attempt to deepen the variety of its combat and builds, which should be a min-maxer's dream.
- Irradiation Is Now Deadly Instead Of Expected: Pandora has never been the nicest place to live, but its radiation problem is suddenly much worse—it's a brand new type of elemental damage that was shown off in the gameplay. It's another element to further create flexible weapons loadouts that are ready for various kinds of enemies.
- Instanced Loot Makes Co-Op Easy: One of the most eye-catching features in Borderlands 3 is the introduction of an instanced loot system. Players will load in to the game with different enemies and loot settings based on their level. Essentially, a level 5 character will see enemies and loot applicable to their level, while a level 25 player who is playing co-op with them will see the same; furthermore, loot will not be shared, so if an enemy drops a rare, both players will get a level-appropriate version of it.
- Classic Mode Is Still An Option: That said, if players think convenience is actually awful, they'll still have the option of Classic Mode, which will see co-op revert back to traditional Borderlands experiences, including loot ninja-ing. It's still a nice feature for players looking to boost their low-level friends through areas they've already cleared, though.
- Guns Function In Much More Interesting Ways: If you're going to advertise a game as having over a billion guns, they'd better be interesting. Luckily, from what we saw during the presentation and hands-on, that's absolutely the case. Guns can do wild things in Borderlands 3, including spawning mini walking guns whenever a player reloads that chase down an enemy and fire on them. There is also a bouncy ball style gun that will careen off surfaces in search of an unwitting enemy to blow up. Another example? An Atlas gun that fires a tracking dart at an enemy. Once that sticks, all bullets from the gun will follow the enemy even if the player would have missed them.
- There Will Be More Boss Fights In Borderlands 3: During our hands-on demonstration, Pitchford stated that Borderlands 3 will feature more bosses because it was something that players kept talking about. According to Pitchford, it was essentially a no-brainer, as the Gearbox boss stated that players found bosses more fun, they tested player skill better, and they gave the developers more opportunities to include that sweet, sweet loot high.
- Lost Loot Will Be Lost No More: Another nice feature coming in Borderlands 3? Lost loot that ends up flying into crevices the player can't reach won't be gone forever. When players return to Sanctuary, they'll find a machine that functions as a lost and found. Borderlands 3 will track the loot that players leave behind and return it to them via this machine. No more lost legendaries!
Other Important Borderlands 3 Details (what about Microtransactions?)
- Rhys' Moustache Is For War: Listen, this is probably everyone's biggest question, and now fans will now for sure—Rhys' moustache is a siege moustache. In an interview with Borderlands 3 co-writer Danny Homan, we went in-depth on facial hair, and Rhys' moustache will play a pivotal role in the story. Depending on how you define pivotal, anyways.
- Sirens Will Play A Big Role...We Just Don't Know What Yet: During that same interview, nearly every Siren-related question was met with a "wait and see" answer. If they weren't major players in the story, that wouldn't make a lot of sense, so expect Sirens to once again be a major part of the Borderlands fabric, even if we don't know exactly how they fit into the puzzle just yet.
- No Microtransactions: During the gameplay presentation, Pitchford singled out microtransactions, stating that there would be none in Borderlands 3. Well, that's a relief, but there's still concerns over DLC and the like, so it's not a lock that something resembling microtransactions won't crop up at some point. In the mean time, we'll get SHiFT codes, which are much more palatable, and Twitch extensions that allow viewers to reap some of the loot that their favorite content creators manage to accrue during their streams.
- The Tone Remains The Same: Borderlands 3 absolutely nails the same tone that made its predecessors famous. Better still—in our limited interactions with Claptrap in the presentation and Rhys in the hands-on session, the characters are still compelling, too. Ditto for the game's writing, which continues to critique capitalism and war-mongering while somehow making them fun and exciting elements of a story about unbridled chaos and insanity. We don't need to know how it works—the important thing is it still does.
- The Same But Not Stagnant: As a general rule, Borderlands 3 feels like we almost never left Borderlands 2. While that might seem worrying, it isn't. The changes that were necessary were made to improve the game, while the core gameplay was preserved because it's what makes the games so appealing in the first place. The result is, so far, something that feels intensely familiar without re-treading too much ground. If Borderlands 3 can strike that balance for the entirety of the game, Gearbox will have created a surefire best-in-franchise entry for a beloved property.