Borderlands 3 Review

The wait for Borderlands 3 has been a long one. It’s been seven years since Borderlands 2 really popularised the looter shooter genre, and in that time, we have seen several games take a similar model and be successful. The main one that comes to mind is Destiny 2, a game I really enjoy and think has perfected that addictive cycle of wanting to keep playing to get that next weapon. 

One key difference between Borderlands 3 and Destiny 2, is that the multiplayer isn’t as prominent. The multiplayer side of Borderlands now is a bit laggy and I prefer playing solo which is unusual. I have played a couple of hours in some mate’s games, but my own campaign has been entirely solo. I have just beaten the first Vault, so I am not 100% through yet, but I’ve certainly played enough to know what this game is all about.

The story is driven by antagonist The Calypso Twins, a pair of powerful siblings who are using a twitch like streaming platform to gain followers to join their cause and fight for them. That gives them an army of varied types to blast away with the plethora of guns in the game as you, the Vault Hunter, are tasked with beating them to the vaults. The game brings back several old characters from previous games, all the main characters from Borderlands 1 and 2 are on the cover and there’s characters from side games like the Pre-sequel and even TellTale’s “Tales from the Borderlands” game which is a nice touch and brings everything together.

I won’t go into the story any more than that, but so far, it’s a fine story, and that is all it is. The twins are fun villains but they’re missing the magic that Handsome Jack brought with him. It’s a tough bar to reach, but that is the precedent set when you deliver one of the best video game villains ever. Of course, I am not all the way through the game yet, and they have done some nasty stuff so far, so maybe they will get up near that level by the end of the story.

The reason to play Borderlands isn’t really for the story though, that’s just the vehicle that delivers the enemies for you to shoot, punch, explode and splatter at your leisure. I played as Zane and found his duel abilities all combine quite well. The shield he drops is a mainstay for me, and I swap out his doppelganger and drone abilities as and when I get bored of playing one or the other. They all feel very useful though, and although he doesn’t have an ultimate akin to the others like a giant mech suit that drops down for another playable character, but he does have a more consistent effect on the battlefield. Playing solo his shield provides a very useful defensive option that has save my bacon countless times throughout my time with the game and the drone can pester enemies for you and keep things from getting out of hand.

Each of the abilities are linked to their own skill trees, and as you level up you invest points into the trees to unlock augments and effects that change the way you use your arsenal. Late game, these options become very customisable and will make for some great gameplay fun trying out the different load outs. These abilities all contribute to the core gameplay, but none of them are vital to the game as the incredible selection of guns.

Guns are what Borderlands 3 does best, and it does it by giving you absolutely hundreds of them within hours of the game. It’s rare to get two of the same gun, and if you do it will have two different sets of effects and stats, so there is an even smaller chance of ever getting the exact same gun two times besides from the legendary weapons that your friends might stumble upon too. Every gun has a twist, every gun is powerful in its own way, and they are all brilliantly brought to life with attention to detail you wouldn’t expect in a game with so many options on the guns. Firing pins pop in and out of guns as they fire, a lot of guns have clip counters on them that count down, there’s pipes and nozzles flashing all over the place, it’s the best part of the game and I am glad they got it right.

I don’t believe I have kept the same set of weapons for any two consecutive missions yet, which is testament to the games loot system which is balanced heavily towards giving you way too much. early game you will find yourself having to throw out guns and items in favour of storing more valuable loot in your backpack, but as you invest more into the storage upgrades you can really start making plenty of in game money to keep yourself stocked up on ammo. You can buy weapons but so far, I have not bought one, there just isn’t any need.

Borderlands 3 delivers almost exactly what I expected from it, which is Borderlands 2 with just more stuff. There are more guns with some new tricks and features, more enemies with some slightly different attributes, and some new planets to explore. The planets all kind of have the same desperate tone so far, even if the environment looks different. They all are being attacked by the same enemies and that means you’re having similar fights everywhere, just the scenery is different. The boss fights are varied and fun, offering twists on the normal game play beyond just being bullet sponges, which there are of course.

It’s More-derlands, with nothing ground-breaking being introduced to the formula. They know what works, and they’ve worked on perfecting it. If you enjoyed the previous games you will enjoy this one for sure, just don’t expect anything new. It feels a little like a game made with blinkers on, ignoring the outside gaming world and sticking to its Guns.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though.

7/10 – More, More, More.  

 

 

 

Advertisements

This Week In Gaming – 08.03.2019

This week we have Microsoft cutting out their discs, EA announcing no conference during E3,  and the new PS4 firmware update that allows you to play on your mobile. That and all my usual waffle about what I have been playing this week below. 

What I’ve been playing

This week has been a movie week for me, and therefore games have taken a bit of a back seat. I did however manage to finish off Anthem, and get my first win on Apex Legends. Two games I have written a lot about over the last few weeks. Apex continues to be a game I want to play more of, whilst Anthem is very much the opposite.

Anthem sits in a very weird place for me right now. I do like the game, in fact I like every part of the game. When combined though, something just doesn’t feel right. I am left with the opinion Anthem is a really good BioWare, single player game, with the multiplayer looter shooter components strapped onto the game to make it into a live service. It has great characters, but if you’re playing through the game with friends in your party you will miss the majority of the best moments in the game.

Enough about the games I played, and onto the news this week!

Microsoft leaving their Discs out

Brad Sams at Thurrott.com (full story here) has revealed Microsoft’s plans to release a new Xbox one which will be the first of the major consoles to launch without a disc drive. The new all digital Xbox is being released with the aim to lower the barrier to entry for customers into the Xbox ecosystem. This news is the latest in a number of customer friendly stories that have come out around the Xbox system in the last few weeks, and I for one think the signs are positive, as I have mentioned before.

A digital downloads only console is another sign for me that Xbox is keen to really shock the industry with its next platform. If they are planning for Xbox Scarlett to be available as a service, it will of course not have a disk drive. This new level of Xbox could serve as the gateway drug for a lot of people into this new world, a world without having to get up off my butt and find the case for the game I want to play.

rumours suggest the targeted price for the digital Xbox is less than $200 (Post Brexit that’s just a cool £30,000.00) so it seems the idea is to get this xbox in as many homes as possible and get their foot in the door before the next-gen. The question I have is whether or not this move is a little late in the day. By now, if you are a PS4 only owner you are heavily invested in their system, and unlikely to want to change. The low price point may be enough to provoke one or two impulse buys, but I just cannot see this making a dent in Sony’s stranglehold over Xbox when it comes to active consoles on the market.

That thinking does lead me to believe that once again Microsoft are playing the long game, possibly taking a hit financially here, to gain favor with the public and increase their public image with the next console war on the horizon. They do not have an exclusive game to attract fans like Uncharted or Spiderman, but they have a Game Pass which will give Digital only Xbox owners a huge range of games to play from day one. My guess would be each digital console will come with a few months Game Pass included, just to get people’s toes in the water of the Xbox well.

E3 weekend loses another conference

E3 was the major event of the year in the gaming industry up until just a few years ago. It’s one of those events that I have followed and enjoyed all of the news and content that comes out of the show. Over the last few years the event has seen its guest list of companies throwing press conference has steadily shrunk, down to the point where now E3 is just another event, along with the PAX events and even San Diego Comic Con. It is still the biggest event of its kind, but the gulf has largely disappeared.

EA left the official show a few years ago, and launched their EA Play weekend to coincide with the week of E3. Each of these events to date has featured a key press conference, with game announcements, trailers and unveilings presented in the same manner Sony and Microsoft have done for years. They have now decided to pivot to streaming events for different games, a move which I think only EA could pull off.

EA as a publisher boast one of the widest ranges of games on its roster. Alongside franchises like Battlefield, Anthem and Apex Legends, they have the entire flock of EA Sports titles like FIFA and Madden. This huge range means a more focused stream approach should allow viewers to just tune in and watch a good showcase of the games they are most interested in. At present, fans of battlefield have to sit through a whole EA sports section, which could be featuring games they have no interest in.

It opens up the old debate of “Does the industry still need E3?” and for me the answer is a resounding Yes. The show is a focal point for news announcements as well as a place we can see the full diverse range of video games. Here’s hoping nobody else pulls out of the show.

PS4 Firmware Update might hint at their plans

Now this story is almost entirely speculation on my part, but I had a lot of fun last week with the Xbox predictions, so here is my thoughts on the direction Sony might be heading with their next console. The most recent firmware update to the PS4 allowed for access from iOS devices. Now this has been possible for a number of years on Sony’s own mobile devices, but this is the first time we’ve seen PS4 games accessible outside of their own ecosystem as far as I know.

What’s interesting about this to me is the fact that some people at Sony are still working on mobile integration even this close to the announcement of the next console. Could Sony’s next console be able to be played remotely from anywhere? I doubt it, but why on earth are people there still working away on this type of unrequested feature if the technology behind it wasn’t going to aid with their next console. I have never seen much fanfare around playing games via mobile. As our phones become more and more like small PCs, the possibility of me actually enjoying a big blockbuster game via a mobile is increasingly likely.

There are absolutely no details of the PS5, and Sony has no reason to rush it out. I am, as you may have been able to tell, absorbed by the mind games both companies are playing. Right now Xbox has all the work to do, and they seem determined to do it. Sony is in the dangerous position of being on top of the mountain, with everything to lose. The next round of consoles may be the last we ever see, with a digital only world fast approaching, so the winner of this final bout between Xbox and PlayStation may find themselves as the leader of the pack for a long time.

And of course, Nintendo will always Nintendo.

This Week in Gaming – 01.03.2019

This week I go over what games I’ve been playing in the last 7 days, discuss the Pokemon 8th generation announcement, take a quick look at the anthem release and the big story this week for me is Xbox Game Pass potentially showing us a glimpse of the future of Microsoft’s gaming platform. 

What I’ve been playing

This week started with Anthem. It’s a fun enough game, and as my review last monday mentioned, I think it is a good basis for what could become a good, possibly great game. I have to say though, it has not kept me on the hook and wanting more. The last few times I have logged in, I have played Anthem because it’s what i feel i should do, rather than what I necessarily want to play. For me personally, that is a very bad sign.

I did eventually find myself dusting off my PS4 controller, and jumping back onto Fifa 19 for the first time in months. Perhaps it’s my beloved Arsenal’s recent form, but I had a scratch only Pro Clubs could scratch. For those who don’t know, Pro Clubs is the game mode on fifa where you control one player on the pitch, and have to play your position. Ultimate Team is where the money lies, and the career mode is where a lot of hours are clocked up, but for me Pro Clubs is where the best football minds on fifa go to show their skills.

I am not an excellent gamer, I don’t claim to be the best at COD or Fortnite or Apex, I am decent, and can have a great game now and then, but I know my limits. When it comes to Pro Clubs on fifa, I am confident in being one of the best players I know of, and in my position (Box to Box Central midfielder) I am the best I know of. Humble brag. Anyway, that’s what I did this week, played five games with some of my old fifa team mates online, and we won all five. Now enough of my bragging, onto this weeks news.

Pokey Mans

Detective Pikachu’s trailers have made me excited for a Pokemon film, more than I would have ever imagined. The first games Pokemon games I have played a few times through, and I have some great memories with them. Since Gen 1, i have fallen out of the franchise completely, and I could not name more than 3 of the Pokemon from Gen 2 onwards.

This week, Nintendo called a Pokemon Direct, where they unveiled the newest additions to the Pokemon franchise, Pokemon Sword and Shield. In what is apparently a UK inspired setting, we see a more detailed, 3D world, and some new features that I am sure excited the hardcore Pokemon fans. For me though, Pokemon needed to do something drastically different. By now, everyone knows what Pokemon games are, every kid has their pokemon game. Mine was years ago, and when I look at this new game, it seems like things have not changed beyond the graphics. The idea is still seemingly to take one of your 3 starter pokemon, slowly gather more, and then eventually beat the evil corporation and become the best trainer in the region.

I sincerely hope that these games are exactly what their audience want, but to get someone like me to be interested, I needed something closer to Breath of the Wild. I didn’t get into that game because Zelda’s world doesn’t appeal to me, the Pokemon world does. A full RPG game, with the Pokemon creatures out in the wild to be engaged with in a new way would have made me severely regret departing with my Switch. As it is, I am comfortable that I made the right decision for me.

Anthem out of tune?

I have written a lot about Anthem in the last week, and by now I am sure you are sick of reading it, if you are one of the few who reads this regularly. Thanks for the support if so! Anthem’s launch has been rough, and apparently the sales figures haven’t exactly blown anyones minds either. The headlines read particularly gloomy, with a fraction of Mass Effect Andromeda’s sales figures being touted as the number. In reality I think the number is a bit higher, but there is no doubt it has not caught the imagination quite like EA wanted, and perhaps expected it to.

Apex Legends launched just a week before Anthem, and seems to have done exactly what Anthem was expected to do. Apex has become a phenomenon, with people I wouldn’t expect asking me about that new game they’ve seen people on twitter or Facebook talking about. Anthem by comparison, has been a barely visible ripple in the pop culture pool. As I’ve stated a few times, I quite like the game, but something is missing when it comes to that buzz you normally get from a big  game launch. BioWare need to keep the support up, and deliver regular updates straight away to keep people coming back to the game. Something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

Game Pass, present and future? 

My apologies for the terrible pun sub-title.

This week it was found that Microsoft has begun to push elements of its Xbox infrastructure onto the Windows platform PC users are familiar with. I won’t pretend to understand the details, but there is a tonne of detail in the story linked here in a story on Thurrott.com by Brad Sams. Long story short, Microsoft seem to be getting rid of the differences between how xbox and PC games are run, and bringing them together so that Xbox games could potentially be run on a PC. What does all this potentially mean?

Earlier this month, we saw an announcement about xbox live coming to Nintendo Switch. This led to stories that Microsoft could bring Game Pass, the best deal in the games industry, onto the Nintendo platform. This would mean that Nintendo players could play Xbox games, possibly including exclusive titles like Halo, on their Switch. Now of course we know the Switch doesn’t have the power under the hood to run games requiring the power that a Xbox One can provide, let alone a Xbox One X.

How would they get around this lack of processing power? Potentially with their own games streaming service. I speculated last week that Google may be dipping into the market and being the first games streaming available for the public. Microsoft have already announced they are working on a similar project, and that more will be unveiled in the coming months. Could the Project Scarlett we have been told about be a completely new type of console. Is it possible Xbox will become a service? So on top of being a console you can buy, there is also a dongle you can plug into anything, and an app on your TV or devices, and even an app on Microsoft’s rivals consoles.

PlayStation is so far out in front of Xbox that Microsoft are having to make calls that are risky, perhaps not cost efficient, and they seem to be approaching it with the consumers desires at the forefront of their minds. Is their plan is to make their games, their brand, available anywhere. Imagine if Microsoft announce that they are making the vast library of Xbox games available to everyone, regardless of the console they can afford. All you need is a subscription to Xbox Live, or whatever name they give the service, and you are free to browse the library of games and buy what you want.

It is no secret that the console making companies lose money on their Hardware sales. They make their profits through the cut of the money they take from the sales of every game on the platform. With this kind of service, they will still need to build the hardware, but can save a lot on packaging all the complex components in a nice, living room friendly shell, and shipping them around the world. Instead they can install the centres they mentioned in their last E3 conference around the world, allow anyone to connect to it via the internet with a relatively low-cost subscription, and voila, everyone is buying and playing games on their platform. Cloud processing has been a reality for a while, and google proved with their Assassins Creed test last year that it works. Microsoft have something Google doesn’t the Xbox brand. A well-known name in the world, one that immediately makes anyone think of video games.

Could Xbox be ready to change gaming, and bring it to the entire world? I could be completely wrong, but who knows, maybe Game Pass on switch is just the beginning.

For more speculation, ramblings and opinions on games, movies and TV, follow Screenbunka on Instagram, Facebook and twitter. Thanks for reading!

Anthem – Review So Far..

EA owned studio BioWare have a long history of single player, character driven, branching story path games. Mass Effect is well-known as one of the most beloved series in the gaming world, and that studio’s new property is a very enticing prospect for a lot of fans. However, being the first “Live service” type game BioWare have attempted, there is a lot of skepticism over how well everything will work and whether EA have affected the choices being made by the developer too much from above. 

As a big Destiny player, I went into Anthem with my expectations in what I feel is the right place. I know this game has micro transactions, but they are all cosmetic, and the suits themselves are so customisable in terms of pain jobs that the options really don’t matter very much. I also went in knowing there would likely be connection issues and game bugs, as well as little quality of life defects which were all present in the first Destiny, and still present in Destiny 2. These types of games are sold as a platform for players to enjoy for a long time, not just one 20-30 hour play through.

That being said, I still had pretty high expectations when it gets down to the feel of the gameplay, the production design of the world, the lore, the characters, and the story. I played a few hours of the demo a couple of weekends ago and the flying felt fun, but the small slice I got was tough to judge thoroughly on the gameplay. The world certainly looks beautiful, with lush jungles, stunning waterfalls and cool looking javelins to look at as they zip around the environments. But does it all click together?

Javelin. 

The games core gameplay is designed around 4 different classes, each with different abilities. At the time of writing, I have used the Storm and the Ranger, with one the Colossus unlocked. 2 of my friends have been using the Interceptor and the Colussus, so I am aware of their abilities, but I stuck mostly with the Storm class, as they suit the way I want to play.

With different elemental abilities, varying from shooting ice or fire at enemies to calling down lightning strikes, Anthem certainly does a good job of making you feel powerful. Despite there being a wide variety of guns in the game, I found they was almost a secondary weapon. The abilities refresh quickly, and there is a deeper than it first appears combo system at play during the encounters. Mastering these combos is never really explained, but as I play more I am beginning to get a feel for how you are supposed to play the abilities in tandem, not just with your other abilities, but with other players.

Being with other players is a key part of Anthem’s design, as the game regularly warns you should you choose to set your privacy settings to private and play missions solo. The game does not scale things down for you, you’re on your own and you have to do everything the usual 4 person squad would have to do. This makes some levels impossible, like the challenging Strongholds. I got over my desire to solo every mission with Destiny, so it didn’t bother me having 3 other people jump in on missions in Anthem.

Javel-out

Anthem’s hub world, similar to the divisions home base, is a single player area for players to walk around, interact with characters and pick up missions. All of this is done in first person, which to me eliminates the point of you picking a character model right at the beginning of the game. It’s most similar to the ship in Mass Effect Andromeda, with a range of characters in their positions, ready to talk to you about any number of things. One of the things it doesn’t do that Mass Effect did so brilliantly, is make all of them interesting. There are 1 or 2 dull characters on your ship in mass effect, beyond that they’re all engaging, unique, interesting characters.

So far in my time with anthem, the reverse is true. There are a couple of interesting characters, but only a couple who I am really invested in. It’s not as if the voice acting and animations are great, they all are as good as you will see in any big video game these days. My problem is that the game thrusts a few characters at you and kind of expects you to understand references they make which I feel will only make sense if you read all of the entries in your bio.

With a few characters, like Owen and Faye, they deliver some intriguing characters who actually seem to have an arc of their own. Their dynamic, and their relationships with your character make for some of the more entertaining cutscenes and I hope a few other characters develop in the same way they did in my play through.

Teething Issues

Turning on Anthem for the first time this weekend, I expected to run into a lot more game crashing bugs and glitches, but I have only had to reset the game one time, and I have only disconnected two or three times. All pretty impressive for a game that struggled in its beta/demo, but then they will argue that is exactly why they did the beta in the first place.

What Anthem does struggle with is a few little choices that were made when it comes to the menus and end screens of missions. Changing guns is something you do regularly in these games, and yet Anthem not only hides such a trivial task behind 2 loading screens, it also restricts you to only using the guns and abilities you depart with. Forget to equip that new assault rifle or new Ice attack? You will need to end your expedition, sit through the loading screens to get back to Fort Tarsis, then another one to get to the Forge menu.

The end of each expedition is a cumbersome affair. You get your experience points and rewards laid out, all in comparison to the rest of your squad, and then you’re given the choice of Fort Tarsis, The forge, or the Launch Bay. The one option missing from this is the ability to jump straight into another mission. Regardless of how short the mission was, you have to go back and then redeploy from the home base every time. This kind of thing is something that I can see them adding in with a substantial patch in a few weeks or months, but I do wonder how this has been overlooked.

At times these little quality of life touches in a game are overlooked, but when they are not there, you feel like something isn’t quite right. The comparison is being made a lot between this and Destiny, but I do feel right now they are unfair. At launch, Destiny 1 and 2 were vastly different. Right now, Destiny 2 is a well oiled machine, and its audience know exactly what the drill is. Anthem needs time to find its audience, and it needs support from BioWare and EA to make sure they listen to the fans and make the right choices.

So my thoughts so far…

Anthem is a game that feels a little under baked to me. There are some excellent ideas here, and I seriously think in a few months with the support of BioWare we could be looking at a really special game. The Stronghold levels are excellently designed, mini raid levels that are rewarding and still challenging. It’s those missions I want to see more of. I am about 20 hours in, at level 20 and I am pretty sure I have plenty of game left between now and the end of the main story. I have heard the end game content in Anthem is great, which bodes well. Right now it’s pretty much exactly what I expected from the game, but for people not experienced with Live Service games like this or Destiny, it may feel a little weird to you.

It’s an odd thing that only video games as an entertainment medium can deliver, but Anthem is essentially in its infant steps right now. Give it some time, and I think this could become something be great.

Played on Xbox One

Gamertag: ChAzJS