Borderlands 3 Gameplay Reveal: Details and thoughts

Borderlands 3 had it’s big gameplay reveal on may 1st and with it came a bunch of new info and gameplay. Not only that but streamers all over came to the event to be the first outside of Gearbox to get hands on time with the game. I’m here to break down all the info in one place, so you don’t need to go scourging the web for those juicy details.

So You Want to Hear a Story huh…

Borderlands 3 picks up years after the events of Borderlands 2, where at the end of the game we learned there are numerous vaults out in the universe waiting to be plundered.

As the gameplay demo starts we’re told that the Children of the vault, COV for short, is a new cult that has emerged on Pandora. Not much is known about COV or their Leaders at the start of the game, but they have been striking at Crimson Raider bases across Pandora. The Crimson Raiders Lead by the Siren Lilith have been recruiting in the mean time to try and find the scattered vaults.

Lilith isn’t the only returning character to the franchise. Brick and Mordecai, the other two surviving playable characters from borderlands also make a return. While It seems like the majority of characters from borderlands 2 are returning for this outing. We also know that Rhys from Tales of the Borderlands is also making a appearance and so is Aurelia a DLC vault hunter for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Considering how big Borderlands 3 is set to be, it wouldn’t be surprising for there to be more old faces returning along with a whole new set of faces. Among those new faces are the heroes of Borderlands 3 the Vault Hunters.

Gearbox only showed two of the new Vault Hunters in action at the event, Amara the Siren then Zane the Operative. A gameplay trailer released at the end of the presentation showcased more of Fl4k the Beastmaster and Moze the Gunners abilities. The vault hunters are set against COV and we later learn while taking over a broadcast station that the leaders behind the COV are the calypso twins. Troy and Tyreen Calypso are referred by Randy Pitchford as the “Douchiest kind of streamers of the impossible future”. We see this through the Calypso twins use of live streams/lets plays to instruct their follows to undertake all sorts of cruelties at their whim. This use of manipulation by the Twins has resulted in the bandits referring to them as the “Twin Gods” which just further builds upon their cult leader personalities. Why wouldn’t they refer to them as Gods though when Tyreen demonstrates her ability to leech power from living things.

Screenshot of the Calypso Twins, Troy and Tyreen
Calypso Twins. Troy (Left) Tyreen (right) (Screenchot)

This sets up our adventure as it becomes a race across the galaxy to each planets hidden vault and the prizes within, before the Twins can get there and Tyreen absorbs the power of the Vault monsters. Of course to get to these vaults we’re gonna need to CATCH A RIDE!

Home is Where My Stuff is

This is where our brand new Spaceship the Sanctuary III gets to shine. This is our new Hub location and houses many of the facilities that we became accustomed to from previous games.

Screenshot of Sancturary 3 the new hub location and spaceship for the vault hunters
Catch a Ride!!! (Screenshot)

The first new addition and a much needed improvement to the game itself, is the introduction of the brand new Mail box which houses lost loot. This fixes a major issue where players would have loot shoot off to unattainable locations or just fall through the floor. Of course in Borderlands fashion the mail box doesn’t let you inspect your loot and pick what you want, as much as it spews the loot onto the ground for you to sort though. This isn’t the only modern comfort the Sanctuary III offers, as players now get their own quarters. Each room is styled after their character but allows players to customise the walls with their loot, adding a little touch of payer personalization. It wouldn’t be Sanctuary without some old face and the first to greet us on the tour of the ship is Marcus.

The old weapons merchant now sells upgrades to players ammo and loot storage capacity. These upgrades can be bought with cash, this switch also means that Crazy Earl who has stowed away on the Sanctuary III is selling something else for that precious eridium. Now that we know where Marcus is and hopefully another room filled with chests to rob at some point, it’s time for a drink.

Moxxxi’s is the perfect place to get one, along with a new bar comes a new look for the provocative bar owner. Ship bars don’t just build themselves though so Moxxi still keeps her tip jar close by and has a range of slot machines for suckers who like throwing away their money. With the knowledge of where we can throw our money away, it important to know where to go the morning after for a pick me up. The Infirmary houses Patricia Tannis, who reveals herself in a perfectly Tannis way, coming out through the mouth of some alien creature like a re-enactment of the Hoth scene from Empire Strikes Back. At least she didn’t puke on us, with that messy introduction out of the way it’s time to hit the Bridge.

Screenchot of Mad Moxxi at her new bar
Loving the new look Moxxi (Screenshot)

As we enter the bridge you can see Lilith manning the controls and just off to the right is Pandora in all its horrible glory. Seeing the planet from orbit is a spectacular sight, but that’s not why we’re here. The console only shows two planets, Pandora and Promethea. We’re told that there will be plenty more planets to explore but for now we’re off to Promethea. Accepting our destination the ship moves into position and we enter fast travel straight to our destination. This is all done without any loading screens or the control being taken out of our hands, while also not taking forever to reach our destination. It’s a quality of life change that while not drastic does add to the speculate of travelling between planets. Before we go planet-side and cause all types of mayhem, we have a couple more stops on the way to the drop pod.

Screenshot of Sir Hammerlock's Trophy room
Sir Hammerlock’s Trophy room (Screenshot)

The first is our charming hunter Sir Hammerlock, he has also taken up residence on the ship. The Gentlemanly hunter doesn’t just use the room as a place to rest his mechanical leg. The room serves as a place to hang the trophies of the dangerous hunts Sir Hammerlock is no doubt going to send us on while exploring the different planets. To hunt such creatures we are going to need to be able to get around, luckily our final stop takes us to the cargo bay. The cargo bay houses ship mechanic Ellie, who not only maintain the ship but keeps a vehicle bay where we can check out all the vehicles we’ve collected on our journeys. I suspect we will be able to also customise the vehicles here, which will help avoid wasting time on picking out that perfect skin for your ride during a quest. Like any ship the Sanctuary III has stowaways. One is merchant Crazy Earl, who seems to have beefed up security since last time we saw him and a brand new vending machine. While the other is sadly Claptrap, who’s been given a door he can lock, this can only end badly.

Now that we have the lay of the land abroad the Sanctuary III and its cast of characters. It’s time to get into the nitty gritty of the gameplay that was shown off at the event.

Mayhem Incarnate

The first taste of gameplay starts on Pandora with the opening section of the game, it’s here that we get to see how Gearbox has improved upon the games movement system.

As borderlands has no cover system, the players ability to get around and dodge enemy fire while attacking has always been a balancing act. Borderlands 3 is giving this the modern treatment and the first instance of this we see is the new sliding system. The slide itself isn’t as gimmicky as it might first sound, as it lasts long enough for it to be useful but not so long that you’ll wish your character came with a handbrake. Mantling is the other new movement system and this truly changes the game, as climbing objects in the world hasn’t been the smoothest task in borderlands games. Borderlands 3’s combat has also gotten a overhaul to bring the franchise into 2019 with a bang.

Gif of mantling in Borderlands 3
Mantle over any problem

That bang starts with alternate fire modes for guns, not all weapons will have a alternative fire mode and what form that fire mode takes will depend on the manufacture.

Tediore: has upgraded their guns so now when thrown to reload they will have a different mechanism. These range from spawning legs and chasing down enemies, to projecting a ball around the gun so it can bounce right into an enemies face and explode.
Atlas: Smart bullets are the name of the game with Atlas. After tagging enemies with the tracking tag, bullets will track their target and even curve around cover with proper aiming.
Dahl: Weapons from Dahl will allow you to switch fire modes, from three round burst to full auto. This change gives players a lot more control and more options during fights.
Jakobs: This brand still offers massive damage from critical hits but now include your bullets being able to ricochet and hit other targets. (Haven’t seen any footage of Jakobs weapons in action from the event, but this is what we know so far from Gearbox)
Vladof: These weapons now include under-barrel attachments to go with it’s high fire rate. These range from tasers to other gun barrels like a shotgun for those up close and personal situations.
Torgue: You can still expect the same explosive nature of Torgue weapons in borderlands 3. They now come with the option to switch to sticky projectiles, the benefit to the stickies is that when a bunch of them detonate together on the same target they will do devastating damage.
Maliwan: The elemental damage of these guns isn’t changing but now you’ll be able to switch between two elements. This gives the best of both worlds, want to take down an enemy shield then set them on fire and watch them burn. Find the right maliwan gun and you can make it happen.
COV: Children of the Vault now have their own brand to replace the old bandit one. With the new name change comes a upgrade in the form on “infinite’ ammo magazines. This means so long as you manage the overheating of the gun you can keep firing without reloading. Of course if you do overheat the gun, expect some infield maintenance to be needed to get it back up and running
Hyperion: If you ever found yourself without cover in the middle of a fire-fight, Hyperion has you back or front in this case. They’ve added a weapon mounted shield that is triggered when aiming down sights, to keep you safe during those tough fights.

Gif of a Vladof pistol's alt fire mode
This Pistol comes with added rockets

These new alt fire modes add a new layer to combat and player builds, as maximising both your weapon and it’s alt fire mode can give you twice the amount of guns on the battlefield. Talking about battlefields, the environment has also had a bit of a makeover in how you interact with it in fights.

Our first instance of action in the reveal showcases Gearbox’s new environmental interactivity. We see cover falling apart when hit by gun fire, exposing the soft fleshy body of its occupant. This changes how you approach a fight as the cover your using might not be the safest. Players will need to keep moving so they can stay on top of foes, but luckily there is more then one way to kill a bandit. With a new encounter underway we get to see Amara mantle up a ledge to reach a barrel and smack it right towards a bandit shooting at her. it’s explosion not only leaves a mess of dangerous particle effects in its wake but also destroys some cover in the process. While Amara is taking out the last of the bandits we get to see one of the coolest uses of the environment. while the last bandit is chasing her, she slides and takes aim at a pipe valve, shooting it. Oil starts pouring out and using the fire barrel close at hand she ignites the now large puddle, setting the bandit on fire. Showcasing how borderlands 3 has upgraded its environments to be more tactile and strategic in players approach to encounters. Gearbox has changed how we interact with the environment, they’ve also spent a lot of time crafting our avatars, The Vault Hunters who we will be spending a lot of time with.

Like previous games Borderlands 3 has four Vault hunters. As of right now we don’t know if there will be DLC Vault Hunters added to the game. With Randy Pitchford stating “TBD. We’re focused on finishing the main game for now.”on twitter when asked by a Fan. Our four Vault Hunters this time around have got a bit of an edge over previous Vault Hunters as they now come with three different action skills. Like in previous games each character has three skill trees, each with their own skills and play-style in mind. Borderlands 3 mixes it up with giving players a action skill (your special ability triggered with a button press) in each tree which can have skills slotted into it which change how the action skill works to adding elemental effects. Amara for instance has a action skill similar to Maya’s from borderlands 2, but she also comes with more physical like skills for those that like to do damage or get right into the fight. This change means that more then one player can play the same Vault hunter but have a completely different build. Getting rid of arguments or the let down of not being able to play a certain character because the team would be unbalanced. Gearbox has spent a lot of time thinking about their characters and the lifetime of the game as with so many different combinations among four different character there is a lot to explore in multiple playthroughs. So we know that our Vault Hunters are bad ass but what about the loot that we’re hunting for? Well you’ll be glad to know that Gearbox hasn’t cheapened out on the loot and has gone big.

Loot Glorious Loot

Loot is the reason your here and Borderlands 3 is delivering with a bazillion guns. while the reveal didn’t show off that many what they did show off definitely wet the apatite.

One of the biggest things people argue about is who gets what loot and if your unlucky there is a loot ninja ready to pounce on that gun you called dibs for. Borderlands 3 looks to aid in giving players options in how they get their loot and so Gearbox has added loot instancing mode. What this does is give each party member their own version of a loot drop. An example would be if there was a chest and inside is four guns, instead of dividing it between the party, each member will have a version of the gun that is only for them. This avoids loot being stolen and means that each party member can get their hands on those rare legendary drops. This isn’t the only advantage to this new mode, it also balances out party members levels. So now a level twenty-five character can play with a level five character and not be overpowered. This fixes the issue of trying to level up friends or not being able to play with certain friends cause they are too high level. Of course for those that prefer how Borderlands has always played, Borderlands 3 will come with a Classic mode that will play just like the previous games. Best of all you can switch between these two modes to suit your needs. So now you know you can stop those ninja’s, it’s time to talk about the prizes themselves.

There was a large viarity of loot scene at the reveal and later when streamers got the chance to stream about ninety mins of the game. One of the early unique weapons we got to see early on was a pistol that a boss was using in a fight. After the boss was taken out he dropped the weapon and we were treated to a colourful display of gunfire, as the bullets moved like soundwaves. We also know some returning guns are coming back, this includes the Bitch, Infinity, Sawbar and the Devastator. This is just a small sample of how crazy the loot can get in Borderlands 3. Youtuber/Streamer Ki11er Six has already done a couple videos on some of the loot he found during his time streaming. He also has videos from the event where Developers there used command keys to spawn loot, lets just say they went a little crazy with the command. Ki11er Six wasn’t the only one there and the Borderlands community is one of the best out there so I suggest having a peruse and seeing some of the amazing content they are making.

Gif of a Boss weapon drop in action
This Gun can drop a beat

Twitch ECHOcast extension also needs to be brought up cause it adds a whole new ball game for streamers and viewers on twitch. ECHOcast works similar to other extension like Destiny 2’s, which allows you to inspect a streamers gear. Not only does ECHOcast have this feature but you can also check out a streamers build, allowing you to judge the hell out of it or hopefully give them advice on skills that seem interesting. The major new component is the extensions ability to reward players with loot that the streamer finds in certain chests. When opened views have to enter to get a choice of which gun from the chest, they want sent to their mailbox on the Sanctuary III. This adds new value to viewers who want to be part of the action or just want free loot and is a fun way for streamers to pull in an audience, cause we all love free stuff. With free stuff there must come a price tag on others, so lets talk about micro-transactions and their place in Borderlands 3.

The Big M word…

In this day and age of games as a service you can’t have a game release without there being something attached to it. It used to be preorder bonuses, with six different shops having one that was different then the others to make you preorder there. Now micro-transactions and loot boxes are the prevalent grenade connected to your brand new purchase.

You’ll be happy to know that Borderlands 3 won’t have loot boxes but will have purchasable cosmetics. These cosmetics will work just like they did in Borderlands 2, so it would be presumed that they will have a real world dollar price tag attached to them. Randy Pitchford made a point of it at the end of the presentation that they wouldn’t have any micro-transactions and it would just be cosmetics like in previous game. This did lead to some discussion on the definition of micro-transactions but all you need to know is Gearbox is doing it just like they have previously. They also announced that they will be working on campaign DLC like Borderlands 2, so there is definitely a lot to look forward too after launch.

Borderlands 3 had a lot to live up too coming into this reveal, I feel personally that they delivered. When I heard Borderlands 3 was coming all I wanted was more Borderlands but with a modern face lift. That’s what Gearbox delivered at this event and all I hear from content creators and fans is that they have nailed it. I’m personally really excited to get my hands on and just immerse myself in it’s world and characters, while finding some loot that will let me carve through the bandit hordes.

Borderlands 3 will release September 13th on PS4, Xbox One and on the Epic store for PC with a Steam release six months later.

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