When Borderlands 3 launches in September, it’ll have a suite of features aimed at improving its multiplayer and streaming experience, including asynchronous matchmaking and Twitch integration. Twitch was still young when Borderlands 2 launched in 2012, but developer Gearbox Software seems to be taking full advantage of the platform now.
Borderlands 3 has gotten a lot of attention since it was announced, some of which its developer probably isn’t too happy about. Not only did Gearbox fire two popular voice actors, it hired Chris Hardwick, who’s been accused of sexually and emotionally abusing his ex-girlfriend, to replace one. In the middle of that process, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford was accused of assaulting one of the fired actors. Pitchford has been doing the game no favors in his repeated spats with the media, including one that started over his false claim that the game wouldn’t include microtransactions.
Putting aside the poor decisions made by Gearbox’s management, the game itself looks like an improvement over its predecessors in every way, particularly multiplayer and streaming. Borderlands 3 will have an impressive amount of Twitch integration using the ECHOcast extension, which lets viewers inspect a streamer’s loadout and skills, and gives them the chance to win the same loot that the streamer finds in certain rare chests, according to the game's website. Viewers can also use Twitch Bits to buy in-game cocktails for streamers, then vote on what buffs or debuffs they’ll impart. During “Badass Viewer Events,” viewers can spawn a high-level enemy named after someone in chat and vote on its behavior.
Borderlands 3 is also enhancing the experience for people who play with friends or strangers online. Asynchronous matchmaking lets players drop in and out of a multiplayer game any time. Matchmaking also has new filters to search for teammates based on their progress in the game’s story. Players will be able to see the items and skills of anyone in their friends list. When a player finds a rare enemy, their entire friends list will get a bounty quest to fight the same foe.
Taking a page from the Apex Legends playbook, Borderlands 3 will also feature a pinging system, letting players share short pre-recorded messages by selecting certain objects in the environment. It’s especially helpful for those who aren’t able to use voice chat, and only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to accessibility. Borderlands 3 will feature several important accessibility features, such as re-mappable controls, better audio and visual cues for color blind players, and re-sizable subtitles and closed captions.
Borderlands has always had a decent following, and Gearbox is clearly aiming to grow it with the upcoming sequel. The new online features should help Borderlands 3 stay relevant for streamers and casual players alike, and accessibility options are a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the studio’s management finds a way to correct its serious missteps so the work of the developers actually making the game gets the attention it deserves.