2K and Gearbox Software invited hundreds of games media journalists and influencers from around the world to attend the gaming event the community can’t stop talking about. The Borderlands 3 Gameplay Reveal Event took place here in L.A. spanning 4 sessions over two days. The live broadcast didn’t happening until today but Game On AUS were lucky enough to be there yesterday for day ones first session. Not only did we get to attend the fully Borderlands themed event and watch the gameplay presentation live but were also given the chance to get hands on with Borderlands 3. We even got to sit down and interview two of the Gearbox game devs.
Before being able to finally experience Borderlands 3, Randy Pitchford, CEO of Gearbox, and Paul Sage, Creative Director of Borderlands 3, presented the gameplay reveal keynote. They noted later on in the presentation that this was the biggest reveal of any game close to release. And they weren’t wrong. The presentation opened up to an image that was shortly revealed to be actual gameplay footage from the beginning of the game, now using Unreal Engine 4. The character we were introduced to was the newest Siren character to the series, Amara. Her along with Moze, Zane and Fl4k are new vault hunter recruits taken in by Lilith, the new Commander of the Crimson Raiders. And with the help of their new recruits, the Crimson Raiders are trying to find out more about a cult called Children of the Vault, led by Borderlands newest antagonists, The Calypso Twins. Think of them as religious overlords, with a twist of douchey YouTube content creators.
Already I was able to tell that the graphics had taken a huge step up from previous installments. Noticeably the depth perception when Amara first picks up her new Echo device. I found out later on in my interview with Seung Kim from FX/Tech that he was the brains behind the Echo’s new pixel art display. According to Seung, we can also expect more of the retro art style throughout the game.
Shortly after, Amara was thrown right into combat while learning about a couple of new features. Particularly the new alt firing modes, which are available for select guns. The way alt firing mode works is you have a particular type of ammo or elemental effect, and with the down button on the D-Pad, you can switch it over to something different. You essentially have two guns in one. During my gameplay, I was using a Shock elemental ammo to deplete shields and then I switched over to the newly added Radiation element to finish enemies off. The new radiation element finishes off with an explosion once enemies HP reaches zero. I also picked up a Sniper rifle that doubled as shotgun. I like this feature since I’m a big fan of always carrying one gun of every type which has not been possible before Borderlands 3.
The rest of the combat looked more fluid with Amara being able to run and slide around the battlefield and even hoist herself up on edges. We were also shown how Elemental Barrels are now even more useful in Borderlands 3 by smacking them towards enemies that aren’t so close-by. Little features like this add on in a huge way in regards to new ways of taking down enemies. However this took a little practice in efficiently pulling these moves off, I’m no expert in it just yet.
After the first lot of combat, I noticed how mini-map, as well as it’s larger form, highlight where Amara had already explored. Why this isn’t in all games is beyond me, but with the increased size of this game, a feature like this helps so much!
Cutting to the first mini-boss, I notice how Unreal Engine 4 has made Borderlands 3 in some ways look more realistic than it’s predecessors. They’ve added improved lighting effects which in turn improved the look of environments, particularly those inside buildings. The room in which you fight the first mini-boss, Shiv, would have been a visually flat dark room in previous installments. The improved lighting however gave the room some more spark and added character to the environment.
Once Shiv was defeated, we fast forward a few character levels and we’re shown the new Character tree system. Characters don’t just get one Action Skill, but no three. They can also be switched over at any time. During the presentation we were only shown one of Amara’s special abilities where she augments multiple fists that slam down into the ground. However during my gameplay, I show her 2 other Action Skills. One of which is similar to that of Maya’s in Borderlands 2. Along with 2 additional Action Skills, we’re also given Action Skill augments that grant certain bonuses.
At this point, we have Zane joining us in co-op who is sitting at level 25 as opposed to Amara who is only level 5. When it comes to looting in Borderlands 3 co-op, there’s no longer the problem of loot ninjas trying to fight over loot. Introducing Loot Instancing where each player has their own loot. Loot also syncs to your own personal level, so Zane wasn’t getting Amara’s level 5 guns, even if he was towards the very start of the game. However if you want to fight your mates over loot, there is the option of enabling Classic Borderlands Mode.
Zane’s Action Skills were also shown, however he’s lucky enough to equip two skills at the same time, but this replaces his grenades. In the gameplay we were shown how can make a Digiclone of himself and also swap places with said clone throughout combat. He also has a Sentry robot who Zane can mark targets for and have them attack said enemies. Zane wasn’t one of the vault hunters I was keen for since he just looked like another Roland or Axton character. But he left me more than impressed after seeing him in action. Zane was one of the two character options we had to choose from during our hands on gameplay. However, my 90 minute gameplay session was soley played through with Amara so I’ll have to wait to try him out when Borderlands 3 comes out on September 13.
After our introduction to Zane, we’re introduced to Guns-with-legs. These are only available by Tediore and how they work are you throw them once you have to reload and boom, guns with legs. Other Tediore gun bonuses shown were bouncey grenade guns that work exactly the same as guns-with-legs.
Now that we’ve seen everything to do with combat, we’re introduced to other gameplay features. The biggest one being your new personal HQ, Sanctuary 3. There’s a lot of things you can do here. You can purchase storage and ammo upgrades, collect lost loot from a new type of vending machine and even mount certain enemy heads on Sir Hammerlocks wall. However, Sanctuary 3 is a little different. It’s a spaceship which you’ll be using not only as a base but also to travel between planets. In Borderlands 3 you’ll be exploring more than just Pandora. And from newest trailer they showed at the end of the keynote presentation, these planets look stunning! They’re also incredibly different from each other in contrast. From futuristic cities to over grown wilderness and everything in between. It shows how far Borderlands has come from the first game where it’s environments felt flat and repetitive for most of the game. This is where the presentation wrapped up and our hands on gameplay began. My gameplay footage (a whopping 90 minutes worth) will be uploaded as soon as it’s finished exporting.
The Gameplay Reveal has me even more excited for Borderlands 3, and I’m incredibly grateful to have been given the chance to attend such a huge event. However this isn’t the last we’ll see of Borderlands 3 before it’s release. Gearbox have more to show us over the coming months at other gaming events including E3. Once again, keep an eye on our website for more Borderlands 3 updates as they come.
And remember, #MayhemIsComing