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Borderlands 3

Borderlands is one of FBT’s favourite games. Here we go again.

To say I was excited about BL3 would be an understatement. BL1 is one of my favourite games, not just to play but it’s entire attitude, the way it shook up a somnambulant shooter genre and created shoot n loot, where we could play RPGs like it was a frat party. The in-it-for-themselves leads, the out-there NPCs, the insane weapons, the unfair number of nasties … And of course, Moxxi. This time I promise not to take screengrabs of just her.

Thing is, in the decade since the original’s shake up of shooters, that brashness, the insanity has become the norm for free-range shooters - Rage 2 for example - while even its sequels and ‘pre-sequels’, as good as they were, started to feel a little mainstream compared to the hand-to-mouth original. So, does BL3 reassert the original’s commitment to mayhem or is it just another loot n shoot? Well … put it this way, not even Moxxi can save it for me.

Some years after BL2, a new group of Vault Hunters answer Lilith’s call to aid her Crimson Raiders in opening new Vaults. Unfortunately, a new force has arisen; the Children of the Vault, led by Tyreen Calypso, a Siren who has the ability to drain other Sirens of their power. She and her twin brother Troy steal our Vault Map so Tyreen can absorb the powers within and become Queen of the Universe. Or something, wasn’t really listening because Tyreen and Troy are supposed to be oh-so hilarious parodies of social influencers, and they're about as aggravating as social influencers.

I picked ‘FL4K’ as my Vault Hunter, who is a hipster Legion. It has an amusing bloodlust and a good line in putdowns (It even got a Harlan Ellison joke in - “I have no mouth and I must vomit”), and a choice of three sidekick beasts – a Skag, a Spiderant or the Jabber, an ape-like creature which hilariously flings dung at opponents. BL3 loves poo, it features throughout; we search through it, step in it, blow it up and it even forms part of the plot. At one stage we get called ‘Turd farmer’ as an insult. It’s appropriate given how shit this is.

The other Vault Hunters are the standard load-outs; one can encase herself in a huge mech, there’s a Siren who can sprout multiple arms, and an aging crim who has tech on his side. They’re a mash-mess of previous Hunters and it would have been more interesting to gather every (surviving) merc for this supposed final vault run, and let us pick or continue previous ones. Turns out they’re all busy elsewhere.

Throughout the missions, you’ll get sent to meet a contact, find a missing person or rescue someone and they always turn out to be an ex-Vault Hunter. They’re woefully underused, appearing then disappearing or becoming redundant. While some mill about on Sanctuary III, our not-Normandy, no one really gets involved. At one point it appears an ex-vault hunter had betrayed us but no, they’re not even that interesting.

The nuclear family of Brick, Mordecai and (no longer ‘tiny’) Tina are a fun diversion, and Zer0 and Maya feature, but others are nowhere to be found – Anthea (out) for example should be here, and only hearing Kreig on recordings is sacrilege; we need him for this, and BL2 made much of his relationship with Maya which seems a missed opportunity – most of BL3 is like that, missed chances. One of the few surviving playables from Pre-Sequel rocks up as a boss which is good, and BL was never a game that really had any character investment, but I’d rather this go cartoon Mass Effect 2 than this Andromeda-like halfbake. BL’s considerable Pantheon deserved more than this. And so do we.

One of the reasons for this ‘meh’ness is the Calypso twins. Utterly infuriating, their peppy self-ironic ‘it’s fun to be evil’ posts inspire bandit clans to worship them. It’s nowhere near biting enough and they’re not threatening or dangerous, just intolerable and the joke wears thin instantly. They feel like they were written by a bloke who comments ‘who?’ on a Buzzfeed Kardashian article - and the plot is as over-done as the Kardashians. And Buzzfeed.