Some humor misses
I’m an old, tired man. I admit the dick jokes and other sexual tomfoolery in Borderlands 3 may not be for me. I got tired of it, quick. One sidequest is about a battle royale in which you get a set of tokens in order to win a night with a leech known as Killavolt, who croons about the sexual bliss he’s promising at the end of the quest. But your goal is to gain a special set of batteries that neuter Killavolt so you can kill him, and as you do it, Moxie (one of the supporting characters who reminds me of a innuendo-spewing refugee from Designing Women) throws out taunts about his lack of sexual prowess. It’s just tired, especially coming off the allegations of sexual abuse in the game industry … and the accused sexual predator Donald Trump in the White House.
One line insulted me. I think it was a throwaway comment from a Pyscho as you slaughter it, but when I killed it, it said, “I want to live in a more civilized age! No more wire hangers!” I took this as a reference to the unsafe abortions women had to seek out before the Roe vs. Wade decision … and others may be using as states camp down on abortion rights. It shook me, and it disgusted me given today’s anti-choice climate. Maybe I’m reading this incorrectly, and it’s pointing out how women are losing access to safe abortions. Or it’s more literal and it’s a comment on how awful wire hangers are in your closet. But that’s not how it came across to me.
After publication, Borderlands 3 co-writer Sam Winkler clarified what the reference is from. I’m adding it here for fairness.
Fair review! I’ll note that the Psycho line you mention is actually two different lines – the “civilized age” line is a randomized battle callout and the “no wire hangers” line is a scripted reference to Mommy Dearest.
— Sam Winkler (@ThatSamWinkler) September 9, 2019
I tried out every class of weapon. In previous Borderlands, I favored sniper rifles and rocket launchers. After mowing down waves of enemies, I found that sniper rifles feel weaker than they should, and pistols (in particular, those with elemental damage) were far stronger than they should be. At times, I had better luck shooting foes from long distances with pistols than I did with sniper rifles.
This just feels weird to me.
I’m not opposed to back-tracking in RPGs — it can be nice to go back to an area with new foes and quests. You go back to areas — and entire worlds — in Borderlands 3, sometimes for sidequests, other times following the main storyline.
This did bother me in one instance. Early on during your adventures on Pandora, you go through the same gauntlet of foes for one quest … but just in virtual reality. Now, this quest does have a good payoff, and I enjoyed what I discovered. But I did not like going through the same damn turf I just went through … right after I went through it!
When I started Borderlands 3, I expected to find some nice advancements on previous games. Gearbox has been making this series for years now, and it’s nailed the formula while advancing it with each new release, creating deeper, more interconnected systems and progression.
But since Borderlands hit the scene in 2009, we’ve had a new genre of online shooters that ape the loot-collecting of Gearbox’s franchise and older games like Diablo. And many of them do this well. Borderlands 3 reminds us that the market still exists for slower-paced single-player games with lots of loot and a variety of combat styles. Gearbox nails this.
I just wish the studio had advanced its humor and encounter design as much as class progression and weapon variety. If you enjoy lootin’-and-shootin’, check out Borderlands 3. But go in knowing that you’re going to cringe at some of the jokes and feel fatigue every now and then.
Claptrap’s ass can only plug so many holes, after all.
Borderlands 3 releases September 13 for PC (Epic Games store launch exclusive), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The publisher sent GamesBeat an Epic Games store code inside an Epic Games account — not the reviewer’s account — for the purposes of this review.
Update 11:49 a.m. to clarify that 2K Games sent GamesBeat sent an Epic Game store account with code inside, not just an Epic Games store code.
Update: 12:53 p.m. Added a tweet from Borderlands 3 co-writer Sam Winkler clarifying a line I associated with abortion.