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Calling All Vault Hunters! Borderlands 3 Gameplay Preview

Calling All Vault Hunters! Borderlands 3 Gameplay Preview

Jolene Dobbin
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Borderlands and its hit sequel wowed and charmed gamers with its fresh take on the shooter genre. With a quirky blend of cel-shaded and stylized, cartoon-meets-heavy-metal dystopian designs and whimsical imagination, it established a distinct feel of its own in a crowded field. And it struck a chord with the gaming community.
Developer Gearbox Software is looking to follow up the loot and shoot mayhem of its idiosyncratic hit games in the upcoming release, the highly anticipated role-playing game (RPG) and first-person shooter (FPS) Borderlands 3. It’s a strange tightrope for a studio to walk.
An innovative game that manages to strike a chord with the gaming community can get a lot of buzz. It’s all new and shiny, and let out into the world with a “?” on the part of the teams that created it. Oftentimes, a “first” game in a thing that grows to be series is the result of what the folks creating it find fun and interesting themselves. At the time of its release, it’s not “a first game,” it’s just a game.

The sequel delivers

Becoming a hit game and garnering enough of a fanbase to release a sequel based on the goodwill and enthusiasm is an exciting time. Direct sequels are able to expand on things left undone and open up possibilities that creators had been thinking of in development with the first, but that still feel “new.” Bigger and improved over what was initially loved in the first place is all we really expect from a “2,” and Borderlands 2 delivered “bigger and improved” in a big way.
The genuinely fun, funny, and compelling voice acting and writing have made the world of Pandora, the villainous Handsome Jack, the faithful and neurotic robot helper Claptrap, and a host of memorable non-player characters (NPCs) things that are now established gaming lore.
The over-the-top weapon loadouts, the loot, and the sci-fi-meets old-west, cyberpunk-meets-steampunk-meets-Mad Max world the franchise has created are now mainstays with dedicated fandoms.

The pressure of third installments

But there’s an odd kind of danger that a third installment brings. A great first game that manages to find an audience is met with a general reaction (both from players and reviewers) of “Hey! This is really good!” A second game, on the heels of that good feeling is met with, “Hey! I bet this is gonna be really, really good!” And when it becomes a real institution of gaming, as was the case with Borderlands 2, the third installment, before it is even introduced, is met with the idea of, “Hey. This had BETTER be great.”
Here’s what we can tell you about how well Gearbox might have met this challenge.
So far, between the PC Gaming Show preview event where gameplay was revealed with short demonstrations, and the jam-packed announcement trailer released at PAX East along various interviews with developers, we can tell you this much about the game before you get it.

When is Borderlands 3 release date?

Borderlands 3 is slated to be released on September 13, 2019 for Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation 4, and Microsoft Xbox One. There’s a port announced as being in the works for the upcoming Google network-based platform Stadia, as well.

Who are the Vault Hunters in Borderlands 3?

Amara the Siren

The Sirens of Borderlands are mystical and mysterious tattooed badass women who command magic powers. We know little about their background. In the previous installment, Handsome Jack revealed that only six may exist at one time.

Unlike the three known so far (Lilith, Maya, and Angel) Amara uses her mystic powers to enhance her brawling skills. She summons forth four extra ectoplasmic, glowing ghost arms that sprout from her back, Hindu-goddess-style, to beat enemies into submission.

FL4K the Beastmaster

From what can be gleaned by the trailers and footage, this hunter-style class will be able to command deadly beasties and pets to assist and attack. He seems to be decked out with mid-range weapons and grenades, suggesting moderate, strategic firepower that acts as counterpoint to the unleashed beasts.

Moze the Gunner

Moze will bring more mobility to the gunner class this time around. Her mech, “Iron Bear,” constructs around herself (think Tony Stark using nano-bots to throw his suit on at a moment’s notice, only with a big, Borderlands-style mech instead). The “Iron Bear” also features a turret that team members can hop on and man, opening up more possibilities for orchestrated teamwork.

Zane the Operative

Zane seems to take his gameplay style cues from Borderlands 2’s Zero. A decoy device he employs draws enemies in and away, allowing for strategic moves and team play. He also seems to have a deployable attack drone to assist in battle, along with a whole bunch of other gadgets.
Depending on what skill tree you choose to climb when playing him, Zane players will have access to distinct styles and approaches. They are “Double Agent,” “Hit Man,” and “Undercover.” Double Agent builds the decoy skills, Hit Man the attack drone, and Undercover the ability to erect barriers and regenerate.

What should we know about Borderlands 3?

This time around, Sanctuary III isn’t just your hub and operations base. It’s also your spaceship and will bring you and your vault-hunter team to different planets. You’re not alone when you’re there.
What NPCs return?
Old and familiar faces and voices return. Although, not all old familiar voices; a much-publicized payment and workplace dispute sees the voice actor who played Claptrap being replaced this time around. Claptrap’s back, but he may sound a bit different. We can only assume that the wisecracking will still be heavy.
What environments are explorable in Borderlands 3?
As to the different planets and biomes/environments they present as backdrop and setting for vault-hunting action: We know that they include (but are not limited to) deserts, cityscapes, and bayous. A fact sheet from Gearbox contains the following blurbs:
  • "Discover new worlds beyond Pandora, each featuring unique environments to explore and enemies to destroy."
  • "Tear through hostile deserts, battle your way across war-torn cityscapes, navigate deadly bayous, and more!" [1]
The idea of going beyond Pandora is the kind of expansion one might expect from an ambitious third installment. Opening up the gameplay style and feel of Borderlands combat into different scenarios and backdrops also opens up the ability to get creative with new monster and enemy types.

How many different guns are available?

Would you believe a billion? That’s what Gearbox is promising. What this means is a procedurally generated series of combinations and abilities, rather than an actual billion different named types of guns. But these abilities are absolutely bonkers, in a very Borderlands kind of way. For instance, guns that grow legs and chase down opponents. Not only chase them, but also literally add insult to injury, as they are equipped with quip-generators that mock and harass the enemies they target and chase.
If anyone ever asks, “What do you mean by Borderlands style ideas?” that would pretty much sum up the feel Gearbox has crafted for the franchise.
There are also guns that must be pull-started, lawnmower style, and a hamburger tossing rocket launcher, among others. And a billion others, give or take.

Who are the villains and bad guys of Borderlands 3?

The “Big Bad” of Borderlands 3 seems to actually be a set of “Big Bads.” Twins, to be exact. They’re called The Calypso Twins and their names are Troy and Tyreen. In addition to having fabulous matching evil haircuts, they’ve got personalities that lead designer Randy Pitchford describes as being like the douchiest kind of live streamers of the future you can possibly imagine [2].
Since the ones of the present can be that adjective to an unbearable degree, we can only imagine what this means in the far-flung, sci-fi-west-meets-Westworld setting of Borderlands 3.
They’re also described as “the most ruthless cult leaders in the galaxy,” which portends of an epic plot, no doubt involving waves of zealous followers, strapped with improbable weaponry looking to end your career in Vault Hunting, and willing to die trying. Also, there is very little doubt that Borderlands 3 will give players ample opportunity to take them up on that.
An interesting (possible!) note, to be gleaned from the trailers and teasers: Tyreen and Troy seem to be Sirens. But a male Siren is, according to established lore, impossible. Or is it? We’ll find out. But expect Sirens, and their origins and motivations, to factor heavily into the Borderlands 3 storyline as it unfolds.

What kind of multiplayer will Borderlands 3 have?

A four-player co-op multiplayer will see you, along with three friends, hunting Vaults in teams. For this third installment, Gearbox has raised the possibility of the inclusion (at some point, depending on various factors) of cross-platform multiplayer gameplay. This means, if things go well, you might be able to play Borderlands 3 on your PC and team up with a friend on an Xbox One, or a PlayStation 4.
Official word seems to leave this up in the air: "Cross-play is something we're looking at closely, but we don't have anything to confirm or announce at this time," a statement from the company reads [3].

What about loot in multiplayer?

There will be an optional level-scaling feature that will allow friends of different levels to team up together. There will also be “instanced loot,” which means no more fighting or racing with randomly teamed up players for the best dropped items in a loot drop. Each player gets their own loot drop by default, which is not raidable by the others. There will be an option, however, to keep the Borderlands 2-style loot drops.
This isn’t so much a radical change from the previous game as it is an option that addresses some user complaints. And the fact that it is a toggle option seems to mean that for Borderlands 3, Gearbox is trying hard to not fix what some people thought wasn’t broken, while simultaneously fixing stuff that others did. Again, a kind of tightrope to walk with a follow-up to a successful follow-up.

How much will Borderlands 3 cost and where can I get it on PC?

Borderlands 3 will be exclusively available on the Epic Game Store, and not Steam, at least until April 2020. Launching in the post-Fortnite era of gaming, and on the platform built on Fortnite money, this installment of Borderlands will launch with a Fortnite-style option: Season passes, and a bunch of different “editions” at different price points. As you may imagine, the pricier ones promise more content and options from the jump.
Standard version (Price: $60)
This version includes only the core game itself. However, pre-orders on any edition come with the perk of "gold weapon skins" and a "weapon trinket," which is a cosmetic little thing you can choose to hang on your gear, to show off the fact that you paid for the game before it came out.
Deluxe edition (Price: $80)
This middle-tier package comes with the standard game, along with a series of different skin options for your Vault Hunters and boosts.
They are:
  • Retro Cosmetic Pack
  • Neon Cosmetic Pack
  • Gearbox Cosmetic Pack
  • Toy Box Weapon Pack
  • XP & Loot Drop Boost Mods
Super Deluxe edition (Initial price: $100 preorder, $200 post-launch)
This package contains everything in the deluxe edition, along with more skins, trinkets, and mods, as well as the new season pass. The season pass contains, according to distributor 2K four campaign [downloadable content] DLC packs featuring new stories, missions and challenges [4].
There is no official word yet on whether or when the items and cosmetics in the Deluxe and Super Deluxe editions will be available a la carte, although the season pass and the DLC packs will be available separately, at some point.
Pricing is still in flux. As it stands, in pre-launch and directly post- launch, the only way to get the season pass would be to buy the Super Deluxe edition.
Diamond Loot Chest Collector's Edition ($250)
There is also, for the dedicated Borderlands super fan and collector who has copious amounts of cash to spare, a $250 Diamond Loot Chest Collector's Edition. This is for the hardcore fan who loves to have everything possible and is willing to pay for the privilege. It contains all of the Super Deluxe edition’s digital goodies, along with these real-world, physical item bits of tangible loot:
  • Diamond Loot Chest Replica: Built with a working, retractable lid, built to house all the other stuff they packed in
  • 10 Borderlands Character Figurines: Each stands about 3 inches tall. Includes Amara the Siren, FL4K the Beastmaster, Moze the Gunner, Zane the Operative, the Calypso Twins, and other characters from the franchise
  • Sanctuary 3 Snap-Together Model: Assembly required; comes with stand
  • Cloth Galaxy Map: A real-world version of the in-game Borderlands cartographer Typhon deLeon
  • 5 Character Lithographs: Art prints on fine, high-quality paper of concept sketches of the characters from the game
  • 4 Vault Key Keychains: For when you want to drive a variety of cars in real life and remind yourself you spent $250 on a special edition of a video game

Saving the best for last

Both the original and sequel in the Borderlands series, beloved for its shoot, loot, and RPG mechanics, have set the stage for excitement and anticipation surrounding the early fall 2019 release of the third installment: Borderlands 3.
The success of its predecessors might put it in a non-enviable position of having to live up to those well-established standards, but it may just do that and more. Based on the little tidbits of what we’ve seen and read, there is a very decent chance that it will end up in the “Best” position of a “Good, Better, Best” triad.
[1] Gearbox Software; Borderlands 3
About the Author: Jolene Dobbin is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Jolene is an East Coast-based writer with experience creating strategic messaging, marketing, and sales content for companies in the high-tech industry.

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