So…this game has problems. Following up arguably the greatest looter-shooter of all time, Borderlands 2, is no mean feat. I don’t envy the people who had to follow up that task. The concept for this game has genius wrapped all over it. You’re going from planet to planet, opening vaults and working to stop some hardcore villains, while there is a big corporate war going on too that you get dragged into. That has perfect sequel written all over it. And while I don’t think this is a bad game by any measure, it’s not the game I was hoping it would be. It really does feel like more of the same, and while you’d think that wouldn’t be so bad, the utterly lackluster story and character is what sets this apart in how much it doesn’t live up to the last game in the series. Let’s talk about it.
Instead of Handsome Jack, now we’ve got some new douchebag villains to contend with – the Calypso Twins, and their nefarious cult, the Children of the Vault. They want to open the vaults for unknown reasons, and you are going to assist them in doing so, as one of four brand new vault hunters. We have worlds to explore and old friends to reunite with. Time to get the looting and shooting going!
Like I said, this isn’t a bad game. On a lot of levels, it’s pretty great. You have some really refined shooting mechanics. At least, to a point. Can I just point out how utterly nerfed the shotgun is in this game? In the last one, this weapon is the close-range murder machine. You get up close and personal with this thing and cut your enemy down. In this game, they feel so weak. Sure, enemies fly around, but the damage level is such a freakin’ joke. That aside, this game does have some great shooting. Gunplay is slick, and so is using your abilities. Which is good, because that’s pretty much all you do. No surprise, right? Well, kinda.
I will say that the main characters are a LOT talkier in this game, and that isn’t a bad thing. Giving your characters actual personalities to play off those they interact with is genuinely enjoyable. It makes the amount of time you spend doing the same thing, over and over again a little more enjoyable. Which is where I get into my gripes.
The story in this game is garbage. Hands-down, it’s bad. Well, not so much bad, as unrelentingly boring. There are never any stakes to this. This is why I say that following up one of the greatest looter-shooters of all time works against this game. Borderlands 2 had a captivating narrative. The goal was simple – kill Handsome Jack and save Pandora. The entire plot centered around the villain, and as such he had to be a pretty damn good villain in order for us to really want to make him dead. Tribute to the creators of the game, he was. One of the greatest lovable villains of all time. Might make a list of those somewhere in the future.
In this game, they take you from one world to the next, but there is NEVER a sense of growing stakes. By the time I realized that we were coming up on the end, I was thinking to myself – really? Well, I guess that’s what we’re doing now. And we were. Which was it. My disappointment cannot be measured in words.
One of the most marketed thing in this game was that you’d be getting two games worth of the gang (and a Telltale series) back together to go on one last big rodeo to kill the baddest mother-fuckers not just on Pandora, but in the universe. And it doesn’t work! Why? Because you spend so little time getting to know them. Sure, there are some fun interactions. Zer0 being in the employ of the head of the Atlas Corporation and his haiku speech about enemies was pretty great. But the reunion with Tiny Tina was rushed. Same with Mordecai and Brick. The reunion with Maya was basically just the plot doing what the plot does. But where is Axton? Where is my home-girl Gaige?! This game has you spending a decent amount of time working with Hammerlock, and it does give his character some level of conclusion. This was the key aspect they marketed on, and it fails spectacularly because of how uninvested the story feels in anything that you do with these people, outside of the events on Promethea. That area had real stakes. It was the one and only section of the game where you felt some actual conclusion to what happens. At least until you get to the vault and the villains come back into the story. And on that note…
The Calypso Twins suck. Handsome Jack was lovable. You liked how much you hated him. He was such an asshat, doing these things to just fuck with you in little ways that left you really annoyed. There were the big moments like where he kills Bloodwing and Roland, which were used well to bring the tension levels back up. In this game, we get two absolute assholes who are the most annoying jack-offs ever. There were several scenes where I was screaming at the screen to let me right when they are fucking up my day and there is no good reason why I can’t come into the fight and blow their annoying heads off. I don’t love to hate these two. I just hate them. It’s ironic because I loved the hate the head of the Maliwan Corporation, when he is being a douche on Promethea. Again, ties in to that section of the game feeling like it actually ends.
All this complaining, you probably think I hate this game. I don’t. I really, really don’t. It’s just frustrating to see so much potential wasted because the game didn’t want to really take a chance and do something special with the concept it had. Maybe the DLC sections will round this out. I’m hoping that brings back characters that I love. For real, where are Axton and Gaige? Those two were my jam! It’s frustrating to see a great concept ruined by disappointing execution. Here’s hoping I’m right about the DLC.
6 out of 10