Borderlands: Then and Now

Andrew Lane

After four years of development and a five year wait, Borderlands welcomes the latest installment to its franchise. Borderlands 3 is slated for release on September 13th, playable on Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. In anticipation, we’re taking a look at the series to see how Borderlands 3 will continue to evolve the series.

Recognized for pioneering the ‘looter shooter’ genre, the critically acclaimed Borderlands series captivated players by combining the gunslinging action of a typical first-person shooter with the leveling and grinding of RPGs. Extensive skill trees and customization offered seemingly infinite possibilities suited to any play style. Stylized visuals that dynamically blended hand-drawn and computer-generated textures matched this unique melding of genres. All this, aided by the games’ distinct brand of twisted humor and space-western aesthetic, helped give rise to Borderlands’ immense popularity

As the franchise’s fourth major installment, Borderlands 3–as you’d expect–will take place after the events of Borderlands 2 (2012). In line with the games in the main series, Borderlands 3 features a brand new set of playable Vault Hunters with their own unique abilities. While getting to interact with memorable characters from previous games, the Vault Hunters seek fabled vaults, lured by their promise of treasure.

At first glance, the overarching story and gameplay appear to deliver many of the same beloved elements as previous iterations. However, Borderlands 3 promises far more content than any of its predecessors. Where Borderlands 1’s loot system offered the possibility of 17 million different guns, 3’s will boast boast over 1 billion possible weapons from the available combination/customization tools. Unlike the previous titles which restrict players to the planet Pandora and its moon, 3 allows players to explore multiple planets for potential vaults. Whether it be the backwater swamps of Eden-6 or the cyberpunk metropolis of Promethea, each planet offers a new aesthetic world that contrasts the Mad Max-inspired terrain of Pandora, while still adhering to the franchise’s edgy stylization. Borderlands 3 also promises unparalleled depth in both its skill trees and its customization of characters, abilities and vehicles. In virtually every aspect, Borderlands 3 looks to deliver more Borderlands than ever.







Developer Gearbox Software is keenly aware that “more” is not synonymous with “better.” Gearbox has updated and modified other aspects of the game with improvements as well. A new engine serves to upgrade the game’s weapon feedback mechanics, as well as significantly improve animations and increase the level of visual detail. New climbing and sliding physics make it easier to traverse the worlds, which are now more interactive and reactive.

Overall, Borderlands 3 isn’t completely reinventing everything about the series, but is focused on taking what already works and adding meaningful, player-centric improvements to the mix.  Although this may disappoint some fans with high expectations of major changes to the core mechanics, Borderlands focuses less on building a brand new experience, but to iterate on a tried-and-true formula that fans already love. At a time when new developments toward service-based looter shooters are flooding the market and hunting for an audience, the long-anticipated Borderlands 3 shows a return to form and reminds players of what made the genre so compelling in the first place.