Borderlands 3 Gameplay Hands-On: Welcome Back to Pandora, and Beyond - Prima Games

Borderlands 3 Gameplay Hands-On: Welcome Back to Pandora, and Beyond

by Liana Ruppert

When Borderlands 3 was first announced, fans of the popular looter shooter from Gearbox were excited to meet new faces and see returning characters. With a brand new narrative with more freedom than ever before, the next entry into the franchise aims to be the biggest and the baddest experience yet. We recently got our hands on Borderlands 3 during a recent event in LA with the developers and beyond being incredibly impressed with the classic Borderlands style, we were also really digging the new abilities and Vault Hunters as well. 

First things first: Unreal Engine 4. The latest Borderlands title is in Unreal Engine 4 and the change is definitely for the better. The familiar cell-shading style is made even better by its fluidity, but even Unreal Engine 4 wasn’t enough to stop the annoying Claptrap from making his triumphant return. The robot we love to hate is back and exactly as we remember: Naggy, helpless, and hopelessly egotistical. Still, we love him and seeing him once immediately made it hit home that we were back in Pandora. 

Borderlands 3 isn’t looking to abandon what made this franchise so great, but that doesn’t mean the team over at Gearbox weren’t looking to do something new either. No longer is there one big bad, one location – Borderlands 3 is bigger than ever before with explorable worlds, more boss fights than ever before, and – of course – GUNS WITH LEGS. 

During my time with the playable demo, immediately it was apparent that this was going to be a smooth experience, and one I could tailor to my particular playstyle. Though I didn’t encounter the infamous Calypso Twins, I did come across some interesting characters such as a hipster barista robot and a boss that is little a brain on tiny legs. It was so out-there, so random, and so beautifully Borderlands that as a fan of the series – it felt like coming home. 

Instead of dropping into Pandora, we were instead spawned on the planet Promethea, which is one of several that players will be able to explore thanks to their handy ship: Sanctuary. Sanctuary acts as a hub for players and can be customized to a player’s individual style in an effort to make it feel more like “home.” If you’re a Mass Effect fan like me, you might also enjoy the very distinctly Omega vibe that the ship offers. 

I took to Prometha as Zane because his play style suited my more chaotic style, whereas the siren – Amara – required a bit more finesse. Immediately I fell in love with his various skills available, which we broke down with our previous coverage here. His death-dealing drone was an instant hit for me, making it easier to take a tactical advantage in a fight. 

These fights were plentiful and much more than what we’ve seen in the past. When I say fight, I mean FIGHT, because Borderlands 3 definitely honors its slogan of mayhem, because that’s exactly what the onslaught of enemies was. It was great for people that are looking for a challenge but definitely makes playing with a friend much more enticing. 

When Gearbox first revealed Borderlands 3, they mentioned that there were more guns than ever before with a much bigger variety as well. My favorite was a throwaway weapon where instead of a normal reload, Zane actually tossed the gun at an enemy where it would proceed to fire its laser at random by itself. It was hilarious to watch and incredibly helpful, almost like I was playing with a second person. 

But that gun is only one of many, and they only got weirder as time went on. From guns with legs and weird tiny brains, to ones that spawn a giant sphere of doom, the weaponry in Borderlands 3 felt incredibly satisfying. Pair that overhaul with a few key changes to the game and its overall movement? Borderlands 3 was a very comfortable experience for both longtime fans and newcomers to the franchise.

One of the best mechanics they added in is the ability to slide as well as duck behind cover. This small addition opened up the battlefield immensely, making strategy and skill much more vital, while also making it feel like a giant playground. Borderlands 3 is by far the most versatile game, allowing players to access for more places than previous titles. 

Because it’s Borderlands, there are also vehicles that are available. While the default vehicle felt pretty familiar, I have to say I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Cyclone. The spherical vehicle promises to be fast and the best of the best, but I found it very hard to control and not worth the trouble. That being said, I’m terrible (and I mean terrible) when it comes to any sort of driving mechanic, so that definitely could have been user error on my part. I’ll have gameplay here soon, you’ll see what I mean (don’t judge). 

Despite a few technical difficulties and Cyclone nightmare, Borderlands 3 was everything I wanted to be. Though the Calypso Twins, the game’s main villain, might not be to everyone’s taste due to their off-brand streamer personalities, the overall experience felt incredibly familiar while offering up a new experience at the same time. 

Borderlands 3 is poised for a September 13 launch on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. 

Liana Ruppert

With an arguably unhealthy obsession with Dragon Age and Mass Effect, Liana is wildly passionate about all things in the gaming community. From shooters, to RPGs, if it's out - she's playing it. A medically retired US Sailor and now full-time hoarder of gaming collectibles, Liana's passion for everything in the gaming industry is palpable. Also, if you lose her in a crowd, just casually mention any BioWare game and the crazy pterodactyl screech will without a doubt follow. You can follow her on Twitter @DirtyEffinHippy or email her for editorial inquiries at [email protected]!