If all you wanted from the next Borderlands was more Borderlands then the debut trailer revealed at PAX East is probably all you need to get stoked for more looting, grinding and shooting. And that’s great! Don’t let anyone tell you not to get hype, even self-important games pundits like me.
But personally, I couldn’t help but stifle a yawn as a I watched the trailer. By the halfway mark I was pretty much checked out. Sure, it had everything that people love about Borderlands: the off-kilter cel-shaded art style, familiar faces now older or sporting facial hair and loads of guns and explosions. But this wasn’t a new Borderlands so much as it was more Borderlands. It was MORE-derlands.
I’ve put in a lot of hours into Borderlands 2. Three hundred seventy-eight to be exact. So technically speaking, there probably isn’t much Gearbox needs to do to suck twenty to sixty hours out of the lives of Borderlands 3 players. But “more” is not enough of a reason to make a sequel; sequels should strive to be more than what players wanted but what players didn’t know they needed.
Now to be perfectly fair, this is a single trailer, so I’m firing off about a piece of marketing that may not represent the whole product. But when you announce a highly anticipated sequel to a game so old that some of its players have gone from high school to fully employed adults (or in my case from early thirties to late thirties) it behooves you to sell people on something more than just “more.”
So while there might be some meaningful improvements to gunplay, bold new synergies between classes and ambitious new mechanics, the trailer makes no attempt to communicate that not even visually. If Gearbox does intend to reveal that in future trailers or press releases, then great, but otherwise this “first look” is kind of a disappointment.
“There’s also the problem of the fact that Gearbox Software never stopped giving us more Borderlands long enough for the hunger to grow.”
Simply put, very little appears to have been done by Gearbox to shake things up for Borderlands fans. The quality of the visuals remain the same, despite the obvious improvements in texture resolution; and continuous reliance on the randomly generated loot guns as the franchise’s core hook feels bland in a post-Destiny, post-Division, post-Anthem gaming landscape.
There’s also the problem of the fact that Gearbox Software never stopped giving us more Borderlands long enough for the hunger to grow. 2012’s Borderlands 2 was followed by an abundance of downloadable add-ons, a “pre-sequel” in 2014, a Telltale adventure that wrapped up in 2015, a “Handsome Collection” that remastered content for current consoles and a VR port.
Today Gearbox announced a remaster of the original Borderlands and free 4K texture packs for the other games. Now continuing support for the older games to ensure they’re always accessible isn’t a bad thing, but at this point it feels like Gearbox is milking the cow dry while trying to figure out its next product and revenue stream.
This should have been an opportunity for Gearbox to show us what they can really do when they’re doing more than maintenance duty. I want Borderlands 3 to be great of course, and I look forward to experiencing as many laughs and scoring as much loot as oh so many years ago. Instead it appears to be more of what’s already been sold to us in so many different ways.