Insomnia Gaming Festival – Preview
It’s been an entire console generation since the last main entry into the Borderlands series and playing Borderlands 3 was like stepping into a comfortable set of old slippers. Immediately boasting its crisp combat, it’s clear the quality of life improvements that have been made to bolster a more refined experience. From the guns that were available within the demo, it appears as though the loose nature of recoil from weapons is a thing of the past, as combat feels more nuanced and tighter. Each weapon had a genuine feel to them and the use of hit markers really added a punch that the combat needed. Animations on each gun have also been vastly improved, an example of which was a light machine gun that had my character pouring water over the barrel during a reload animation to cool the gun down.
The demo took place within a level called “Ascension’s Bluff”, lorded by a boss known as Mouthpiece, who specialized in using large bass speakers to cause massive damage to the player. This map incorporated many instances where various speakers were used as weapons against the player, resulting in the necessity for quick thinking to navigate a way through quickly or retreat. Arriving at the end, the boss used the mechanics that the level design introduced into the battle as constant movement was needed to evade the consistent stream of attacks through the environment, as well as from the enemies themselves. This adds an engaging layer to combat by giving you multiple hazards to contend with opposed to a standard run-and-gun approach.
Playing through the demo multiple times allowed us to use the new character classes within the same situations and realize how each playthrough managed to deliver a different experience every time. A standout was “The Gunner” which allowed you to call in a Titanfall-esque mech after a cool down period and create utter carnage across the battlefield as enemies are decimated by its extremely overpowered abilities. We also got to spend time with “The Beastmaster” class, which utilized the character’s relationship with wildlife to use them as a tactical advantage. Having the ability to call a variety of beasts to distract or harm enemies gives the player more freedom on how to approach each fight, opposed to the typical all guns blazing. Finally, we were able to play as “The Siren” who played with a more ferocious style, having phase abilities that could cause massive damage up close such as the ability to slam on ground to harm everything around yourself. More so than ever before, each class has their own playstyle that really affects the nature of combat and it’s something that will be exciting to explore in a full cooperative setting.
Graphically, Borderlands 3 is sharper, brighter and able to withstand more explosive blasts of particles than any of the previous entries, which is understandable given the current hardware. The level design also appears to be more detailed, although it still appears to boast the same aesthetic with its cel-shaded graphic style, so it will be interesting to see if the full game ventures to push itself out of its comfort zone when it comes to environmental design. It’s disappointing that the level on display didn’t demonstrate a more unique setting compared to previous entries, but judging by preview material, this seems to be an issue that is rectified by a diverse range of locations and color palettes in the full game.
Each playthrough peeled back the many layers that Gearbox have laid upon their already strong foundation and they’ve clearly listened to feedback over the years and confidently built upon their framework. Although it would have been interesting to have played a more unique location for the purposes of the demo, Borderlands 3 was still able to showcase the solid gameplay they’ve improved on and it’s clear that this entry will be a hit.
Maybe even the best installment yet.