Borderlands 3 reviews are beginning to come in despite a clunky system from publisher 2K that saw only a few select outlets given codes in advance of embargo. That means that the few outlets who have a review to publish will influence the game's standing significantly more than usual, and it also means fans won't have quite as clear a picture of what to expect while waiting for the game's official launch on Friday, September 13.
Borderlands 3 is the biggest and most ambitious take on the franchise yet, with much of the marketing focusing on something old and something new: millions (no, billions, actually) of guns to loot across the game's campaign signals a return to what has made the series palatable thus far, while the ability to visit multiple worlds marks a series first attempt to broaden the horizons of the Borderlands experience. While publicity for the game itself has remained strong and previews indicated a serious fall contender, the often negative backlash surrounding developer Gearbox Software and boss Randy Pitchford after several high-profile scandals in just this calendar year has dulled the hype.
A strong review average from critics could help, but right now, there's only so much to go off of. Even then, Borderlands 3 could be in for a turbulent time - there are some huge disparities between scores even in the small sample size, indicating a game that is at once a return to form for what people love but could be wearing its welcome thin when it comes down to how much innovation - or lack thereof - is present. Critics also appear to be strongly divided on the game's attempts at humor, with some believing them to be juvenile while others find it a selling point. Here's a quick breakdown on the Borderlands 3 review scores currently available:
Polygon - "Third Time's A Chore" - Ben Kuchera
Borderlands 3, if it works well at launch, is a competent game that feels like a passable continuation of the franchise instead of an evolution. It’s the same general idea with new vault hunters, but with little of the joy and danger that I fell in love with in earlier entries.
The franchise used to feel adventurous. Now, without any fresh ideas or concepts, it’s little more than a holdover from a different time. Borderlands 3 feels safe, oddly careful (especially for a game about anarchy), and, worst of all, corporate.
Forbes - 9/10 - Paul Tassi
Borderlands 3 does not feel like a total transformation for the series, just an evolution. And that may leave some part of it stuck in the past, but overwhelmingly, it’s a game that’s still a blast to play, particularly for those into the loot shooter genre. It’s easy to see that with Anthem on life support and The Division 2 in limbo, that the next few years may be a Destiny V. Borderlands horse race. ...
But that’s what we call a “good problem.”Borderlands 3 was worth the wait and will be a fixture in this genre for years to come. And I think few fans of the last two will be disappointed when they get their hands on it at last.
PCGamer - 63/100 - James Davenport
Between the bugs, the extended non-jokes, the self-aggrandizing jabs at game design trends, and a few cameos I won't spoil but that made me audibly groan, Borderlands 3 has a lot in common with Gearbox fan events as of late. There's a lot of loud, extended posturing while holding what everyone really came for hostage. It's a shame, because Tales from the Borderlands found a delicate balance of absurdity, self-awareness, and genuine heart. A better Borderlands is possible, it's just not Borderlands 3.
Destructoid - 9/10 - Chris Carter
Borderlands 3 takes most of the good bits of Borderlands 2 and either rolls with them or improves upon them. It didn't need to reinvent the wheel either, as Gearbox pretty much had the formula figured out the second time around.
Game Informer - 8/10 - Matt Miller
Borderlands 3 is a love letter to its fans and a celebration of the style of play it first popularized. Filled with characters from previous installments, and unapologetic in its silly humor and bombastic action, it’s an amusing ride that seems hesitant to innovate. If more of what you loved before is your chief desire, Gearbox has granted that wish through a game of impressive scope that charts some very safe territory.
Overall, it appears Borderlands 3 has ended up playing it fairly safe with the proposed changes outlined in many of its previews and hands-on appointments ahead of launch. What gamers get out of that appears to vary greatly - some reviewers, mostly those who were already quite fond of the formula in Borderlands 2, find the changes nice complements to an already well-established romp that will continue to engage fans. Those who were less sold on the repeated looter shooter formula of the last few games have found Borderlands 3 to be lacking in terms of change. Another sticking point seems to be a player's tolerance for juvenile or over-the-top humor - those less receptive to it are much louder about it, whereas those who presumably found little issue with it don't mention it as often.
Still, the biggest takeaway from this Borderlands 3 review roundup is that the game has largely remained the same as its predecessors. While it's up to consumers to determine how they feel about it, that ultimately means fans will know what they're getting in the newest release into the franchise, which should make determining if purchasing Borderlands 3 is worth their money quite easy after all.