Borderlands 3 Review

September 24, 2019

Gearbox has been steadily building the Borderlands franchise for a decade now and we’ve been playing them from the start. The first Borderlands was ahead of its time. With its artistic direction, zoned open-world setting and insane amount of weapons and lootable objects, Borderlands helped path the way for many of the games that we enjoy today. Borderlands 3 is the first Borderlands built for the current generation of consoles and arrives near the end of their life, so we were eager to explore the new world (or worlds) that Gearbox has built.

After kicking things off on the very familiar planet Pandora, killing Skags and bandits, Borderlands 3 very quickly opens up into a whole new style of game. At approximately level 10 (without giving too much away) you leave the starter planet and begin exploring other worlds on a space ship called Sanctuary. Borderlands was always meant for space travel, so we were very excited when the second planet we arrived on had a bit of a cyberpunk feel to it. While each planet you explore has its own environment and tone, the overall feeling of exploring different ‘border lands’ is still present. Trekking off the beaten path often results in epic rewards or a swift death, and we were well accustomed to checking every nook and cranny for loot.

Borderlands 3 Review

There are four characters to choose from, each with their own unique abilities. For the sake of the review, we chose FL4K for the main story, a non-binary gender beastly robot with a pet. FL4K’s pet can be changed through the new skill tree menu and having a build that works with your style of gameplay is essential to dominating the battlefield. Each level you are given a skill point to spend on one of three trees, and as you work your way down a skill tree you also unlock special skills that need to be manually activated, with only two being able to be activated at once. While FL4K’s pet provides the perfect tank/dps scenario, the other three characters’ classes also have their own ways of avoiding the full brunt of an attack.

Enemies in Borderlands 3 range from your staple Skags and bandits to new types of alien life found on some of the other planets that you explore. Dinosaurs roam one of the planets for example, while a city-style planet has plenty of robotic and human-like enemies. If you’ve never played a Borderlands game before, enemies are scaled to the area as opposed to your character’s level, and they all display handy health and shield meters so you’ll quickly know if you need to put some more thought in to how you go about each combat scenario.

Borderlands 3 Review

Guns are the main focal point of Borderlands 3, and new players will soon learn that there are millions of varieties of weapons that you can find through various means such as random loot crates, boss battles, and mission rewards. Guns, grenades, shields and class mods are sorted by type, level and how common they are. Epic weapons are quite hard to come by and exotics seemed to only drop from the larger boss battles, though end-game brings plenty of amazing loot to bring death and destruction to your foes. We found that common and uncommon weapons were pretty much all useless, and even the blue rare weapons weren’t really used past the first few levels.

At the start of the game you can only have one weapon equipped, though once you progress you will unlock extra weapons to have on quick rotation. To be truly successful in Borderlands games it’s always a good idea to have a variety of weapon types at your disposal, such as a sniper rifle, shotgun, pistol, etc, and to also try and have them perform different types of bonus damage, such as electric, corrosive, fire or freeze, so that you can tackle harder enemies that have different types of resistances. Borderlands 3 introduces a bunch of new different types of enemies, so a lot of the harder fights become trial and error as tougher mobs can be immune to basic attacks.

Borderlands 3 Review

The new end-game Guardians system gives players plenty to do after completing the game. Guardian ranks provides you with a new leveling system that coincides with the normal levels if you haven’t reached 50 yet (which would be rare, as the campaign usually wraps up at around level 35). The bonus stats you can pick in the Guardians ranks reminded us of the end-game Assassin’s Creed Origins/Odyssey talents where you’re able to boost specific things like critical damage, shield capacity, or reload speed.

Couch co-op and online play makes it super easy to jump in with friends and strangers to help out after you’ve finished the game, which also means you’ll be unlocking those Guardian ranks nice and fast. This works both ways too, as lower level players will be blessed with leveling faster and have a much easier time of it if they have some ‘Guardians’ or even just higher level players to assist. We had no issues with the couch co-op and online play, though couch co-op can get a bit laggy when the gameplay gets chaotic. Apparently this is a bigger issue on the base Xbox One and PS4, though we only played it on an Xbox One X console. Luckily you can also switch between performance or resolution mode, and we definitely recommend to be in performance mode when playing couch co-op.

The vehicle system in Borderlands 3 has also received an overhaul, and there are now several different types of land-based vehicles that you can upgrade through various means. Some upgrades simply require you to hijack a vehicle that has the upgrade and return it to the nearest vehicle spawn point, while other upgrades require the completion of side missions. While upgrading vehicles wasn’t imperative to being successful in Borderlands 3, it definitely made it easier as traversing the maps without them isn’t a viable option.

There hasn’t been a Borderlands game that we’ve played where we’ve been disappointed with the graphics and character models that we came across. We waited six long years of this generation to finally get a proper Borderlands in 4K and the game looks and plays exactly how we were hoping for. While there are some muddy textures when zooming in or looking outside of the playable map, the attention to detail on the main areas of gameplay is just superb.

The music of Borderlands 3 provides a great setting for traveling through space exploring alien planets. Award winning musician Jesper Kyd leads the epic score with some of the more memorable tracks we’ve heard in 2019. A noteworthy mention to the Sanctuary soundtrack which is absolutely stunning and really helps set the mood of the game as you grungily work your way from planet to planet building and saving your crew. The weapons and environmental sounds all fit well in the universe as well, though later on in the game when the battles become more hectic, all of the sounds tend to blend in together in a total chaos.

In what some have described as a slow release year without huge blockbusters, Borderlands 3 is not a game to ignore. Newcomers can jump into the vault-hunting story and find an overwhelmingly exciting world filled with memorable characters, while franchise veterans will have plenty to enjoy with the new class system, space travel, and some surprising cameos from the previous games. With a campaign that spans around 30 hours and plenty of side missions and end-game content including the new Guardians system, Borderlands 3 packs a trusty open-world first-person punch.

Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Borderlands 3 on an Xbox One X console in 4K resolution mode. For more information on the game, head to the official Borderlands 3 website.


- Amazing art direction as usual
- Unique classes give reasons to replay the game
- Couch co-op and online play is a lot of fun.


- Some minor frame-rate issues, particularly in split-screen
- Exploration still isn't as vast as we had hoped - Vendor and inventory menus are frustrating to use.

Overall Score: