I Was Wrong About Borderlands 3

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Oct 1, 2019

Filed under: Column 100 comments

Like most of my work, this video / article was completed over a week before publication. Below, I brought up a lot of gripes about how the Borderlands 3 loot system works. Then early last week we got a patch to address these problems. I was worried I was going to need to rewrite the video or scrap it entirely. But as luck would have it, Gearbox’s changes were quite small and timid, so the patch didn’t fix my gripes so much as mitigate them very slightly.

Maybe some future patch will fix my concerns, but this seems less like a balance problem and more like a deliberate (although somewhat inexplicable) design decision. I guess we’ll see in the coming weeks. At any rate, to make sense of this we need to jump back a few months.

Back in January of this year – back before Borderlands 3 was announced – I had an article on the Escapist listing 5 reasons why I was worried about the game. Now the game is released and we’ve all had a chance to play it, so I thought it would be good to look at how it turned out in light of my concerns.

You can read the article below, or you can see the video version on YouTube.

Link (YouTube)

1. The Plan Was to Make Borderlands 3 REALLY BIG

Ah yes. Exactly what I wanted in my brawler. A completely different game.
Ah yes. Exactly what I wanted in my brawler. A completely different game.

I really thought the long development cycle of Borderlands 3 meant that the project had runaway feature creep and we were going to get something like Mass Effect Andromeda where the game was a hodgepodge of different conflicting designs, which is common with games that get caught in development hell. Or maybe we’d get something bloated like Batman: Arkham Knight, where new gameplay modes eclipsed the core mechanics. But that didn’t happen. The game isn’t an over-designed mess.

Don’t get me wrong. This game is huge. There are a lot of zones, a lot of foes, and a lot of story. Eventually it felt like the Lord of the Rings movies where you think, “Okay, that was a good ending.” and then it drags on for two more hours and ends four more times.

But that’s fine. The important thing is that the game wasn’t bloated and unfocused like I feared.

2. It’s Been a Long Time Since the Last Game

It wasn't a terrible game, but it didn't have the spark that the others did. Alas.
It wasn't a terrible game, but it didn't have the spark that the others did. Alas.

I was really worried that the team might lose their way. The Pre-Sequel was outsourced to another studio, which means it’s been seven years since the last Borderlands game from Gearbox. Seven years is a really long time in this industry. People come and go, and it was totally possible that changes in staff and company priorities would mean they wouldn’t be able to recreate the magic of Borderlands 2.

An example of this sort of creative shift would be in the evolution of iD Software. In the 90s they made energetic fast-faced gonzo shooters, and then as the company grew they shifted to slower, browner, more serious games like Doom 3, Quake 4Dangit. Bad example. Quake 4 was outsourced to Raven. Still, the point stands that id Software forgot how to have fun between Quake 2 and DOOM 2016., and the original Rage.

But this sort of creative erosion hasn’t happened to Gearbox. Borderlands 3 reached the market with its gameplay, art style, and oddball personality intact.

3. Anthony Burch is Gone

I mean, he's not GONE. But he doesn't work for Gearbox anymore.
I mean, he's not GONE. But he doesn't work for Gearbox anymore.

Anthony Burch was the lead writer of Borderlands 2, and most of the charming moments in the game were because of him and his creative sensibilities. He consulted on Pre-Sequel without being the main writer, and you could really tell. Pre-Sequel tried to imitate the previous game, but it didn’t have the same playful energy. The story wasn’t as interesting, the villain wasn’t as fun, and the characters weren’t as vibrant. I expected the same thing would happen in Borderlands 3.

I guess I was a little bit right about this one. The jokes in Borderlands 3 aren’t as dense or as strong, but the game has gotten a few laughs out of me. It’s fine. Maybe it wasn’t everything I hoped for, but it’s fine.

4. The Publisher Has Microtransaction Fever

Oh great. Exactly what I wanted in my sports game: A completely different game.
Oh great. Exactly what I wanted in my sports game: A completely different game.

Publisher 2K Games still has microtransaction fever. If anything, it’s gotten worse since I wrote the original article. And since then they’ve done a bunch of other really shady stuff that I don’t have time to get into. Publisher 2K Games are loathsome predatory creeps, the exact sort of cruel douchebags that Handsome Jack was designed to satirize.

But for whatever reason, the creeps kept their hands off of Borderlands 3. The game doesn’t have any loot boxes or pay-to-win microtransaction nonsense. It doesn’t have a hint of that stuff. It’s clear that loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions were never a part of the design.

Okay, there was some strange sketchy stuff going on with review copies and that was bad, but whatever the faults of publisher 2K Games, they at least had the brains to leave the core mechanics alone.

5. Gearbox has a Sketchy Track Record

I guess I was still a little bit right about this one. The game is a little wobbly at launch and feels like it’s one or two patches from being finished, but it’s not  a disaster on the level of Aliens: Colonial Marines. This game doesn’t feel like a mess of cut corners. It doesn’t look like the developer is mindlessly chasing industry fads. They didn’t turn this into an Ubisoft-style open world collect-a-thon, or add a Battle Royale Mode. The game looks and feels like the thing fans have been asking for and what we were promised in the trailers.

So yeah, I was mostly wrong on all 5 counts. Borderlands 3 didn’t make any of the mistakes I expected.

On the Other Hand…

There is just one little problem with the game, which is that the designers managed to muck things up in a way I never would have predicted. They messed up the loot system.

Actually, maybe it’s unfair to say they messed up the loot system. I can’t tell what they were trying to do or even if this change was deliberate or not. So instead of saying the loot is broken I’ll say it’s… weird. And I don’t like it.

A Loot Primer

This is just to help you visualize the system. This isn't based on the numbers used by the game. I don't have the source code.
This is just to help you visualize the system. This isn't based on the numbers used by the game. I don't have the source code.

Here’s a loot-grind primer if you’re not into games like Borderlands or Diablo. In these kinds of games, there are usually several tiers of loot. White items are trash, green items are barely usable, blue items are okay, purple items are really good, and orange items are incredible. Some white items are better than others, but you’re not going to find a white item that beats an orange.

Different games have slightly different scales. They have different names for all the colored tiers and often they’ll have more tiers above orange, and sometimes they switch the colors around, but this gives you the basic idea. Better weapons are more powerful but much harder to find.

The player will naturally want as much of their arsenal to be purple and orange as possible. Maybe they have an orange sword, but their helmet is only blue. So they fight a lot of monsters or psychos or whatever the game has. Sooner or later they’ll get the item drop they’re looking for. By the time they find an orange helmet, they’ve probably gained a few levels. Now that orange sword is a couple of levels below them and it doesn’t have the same punch it used to. And by the time they find a better sword, something else in their collection will be going obsolete. This is what makes these kinds of games so addictive. You’re always enjoying your latest reward while also looking forward to the next. The player can keep gaining power, keep getting rewarded, and there’s always something left to search for.

Borderlands 3 doesn’t feel like the games that came before. I don’t want to say the game is broken or anything, but it doesn’t have the allure that the previous game did. The first problem is that orange items are way more common. On my first trip through Borderlands 2, I found just two legendary weapons. I leveled up thirty five times over the course of forty hours or so, and got just two legendaries. They were really rare and special.

But here in Borderlands 3, they’ve gone completely crazy with the rare drops, to the point where they’re not actually rare anymore. Orange items are common. I mean, REALLY common.

These are all max-level legendary items. Issac farmed all of this in a couple of hours. Watch the video to see the full collection.
These are all max-level legendary items. Issac farmed all of this in a couple of hours. Watch the video to see the full collection.

They’re so common that there’s nothing special about finding them anymore. Finding orange items is just part of the routine.

The second problem is that the power of the various item tiers has been leveled out. Instead of this:

…it feels more like this:

I want to stress that this isn’t based on any hard numbers. I don’t have the source for the game and I don’t know what’s going on under the hood. This chart is just to illustrate how the game feels to me, and it’s based on taking one character to the level cap and leveling the other 3 into their teens and twenties. I’ve put some time into this game, and this is what I’ve observed. There’s more overlap between the tiers and there’s a ton of noise in the system. Good weapons are just as rare as before, but now you can’t tell if a weapon is good or not by looking at the color.

They even added a score to weapons to rate their overall power, similar to the Destiny games. Except, this number is a lie. I foolishly trusted it on my first character by equipping whatever guns the game promised were the most powerful. I had a collection of purples and oranges that were completely weak. It took so long to kill bad guys it felt like I was playingThe Division. Then I wised up and started ignoring the power scores and looked at the stats to realize that the system had been lying to me. Now it’s really common for me to find an orange item at my level, try it out, and then go back to using a blue item that’s two levels below me. That shouldn’t happen. Or at least, it wouldn’t happen in the old games.

The game displays an overall score for the power of a weapon, but it's completely useless for helping you figure out which items are useful and which ones are trash.
The game displays an overall score for the power of a weapon, but it's completely useless for helping you figure out which items are useful and which ones are trash.

With the new system, it’s very hard to tell if any particular weapon is useful. The power score isn’t reliable. Item rarity is too noisy to be a useful filter.  You can’t just look at the numbers because there are a bunch of attributes like projectile speed, weapon warm-up, and projectile size that aren’t shown but have a massive impact on performance.  If you really want to sort the good from the bad, then the most reliable way of doing that is to try them out one at a time. Maybe that sounds fun, but if everything from green to orange is viable then that means you’re going to need to experiment with a lot of weapons. In the old days, once you had purple gear you could sell everything below that to a vendor and get back to playing. Now, you gotta consider it all.

The problem is that this breaks the psychological loot cycle I talked about earlier. Previously, you were forever chasing the dream of being decked out in legendary orange gear. Now color doesn’t seem to matter and I’m not excited to see oranges. Borderlands 3 is like a slot machine that constantly rings the winner bell even when it doesn’t pay out. Legendaries are really common and rarely impressive, which makes farming them a lot less interesting.

I don’t know why the team made this change. And yes, I’m aware of anointed items. That stuff makes the end-game grind a little more interesting, but it doesn’t help the problems I discussed above. You spend more time sorting through less exciting loot and you have less information helping you tell the good from the bad. I’m glad the team avoided all those things I was worried about, but I wish the loot system made finding loot a little more exciting.

In particular, I wish that first play-through was more interesting than searching for the next Jakobs revolver. The way it is now, playing Borderlands 3 just made me hungry for more Borderlands 2.




[1] Dangit. Bad example. Quake 4 was outsourced to Raven. Still, the point stands that id Software forgot how to have fun between Quake 2 and DOOM 2016.

From The Archives:

100 thoughts on “I Was Wrong About Borderlands 3

  1. Shamus says:

    Fun fact for those that read the article instead of watching the video:

    I had a fake-out ending in the middle of the video. Right after I said, “Borderlands 3 didn’t make any of the mistakes I expected.” it cuts to the end credits for 3 seconds and then cuts back in for the ON THE OTHER HAND bit.

    I’ll look at the metrics later and see how many people stopped watching when the fake credits appeared.

    This is TECHNICALLY a bad way to make videos because you’ll lose a few people, but I couldn’t resist the joke.

    1. EwgB says:

      Man, people are weird. What did they expect, for you to be done after just four minutes?

      1. Lino says:

        I was actually about to close video thinking “That DEFINITELY didn’t feel like 11 minutes!”, but then I saw I had over half the video left, and I laughed out loud :D

        1. Michael Anderson says:

          Haha – exactly! I have a morning meeting and so I checked the time for the video to know if I could watch it before or if it had to wait for lunch. So I was ready for 11 minutes, and knew that when the first credits appeared it was too early and tapped on the screen. I actually thought it was a very clever effect! :)

          I am still amazed at what you call the ‘small crossover’ between the blog and YT … maybe will grow with time? I would rather comment here, but find the video format works very well. Will keep doing both for now !

      2. Lanthanide says:

        No, an ad for skillshare or some other internet service, or begging for patreon patrons.

    2. Karma The Alligator says:

      When that first ending happened I looked at the video timer, because it felt too short. And I saw there was something like 7 minutes left.

    3. Dreadjaws says:

      I noticed the fake-out immediately. Maybe because I’m used to Phelous pulling that joke all the time. Hilariously enough, I thought the real ending was a fake-out too.

      Now, if people will instantly turn off a video the moment the credits imply to show up they might have a bit of a problem.

    4. Kamica says:

      I was in the process of closing it, went out of full screen, but I was slow, so then it went “On the other hand” and I was like: “Yea, that makes sense”. Nevertheless, I appreciate the joke. Also, from my understanding it’s not your primary income, so I suspect you can afford to make such “not smart” jokes? Teach your viewers you do this kind of stuff now, and you’ll be able to do it more!

    5. Paul Spooner says:

      But where are the other four endings?

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        You do not have enough war assets to unlock them.

      2. Karma The Alligator says:

        You’re not missing much, really. The colour filters for the other endings don’t do it for me.

      3. Agammamon says:

        They’re coming as paid DLC.

    6. Duoae says:

      Man, marvel has a LOT to answer for!


    7. Chris Thibeault says:

      It’s not a joke, it’s a dick move. And it’s never funny.

      1. Shamus says:

        Never funny? A comment in this same thread demonstrates this to be not the case.

  2. Andrei says:

    I played all of the games, including 3, and I have to say that I want more common Legendary guns. I had several playthroughs of BL2 and didn’t get one legendary item. I was convinced they didn’t even exist. BL3, on the other hand, gave me a legendary at about level 10, then one at around level 20, and once I reached the max level 50, started giving them out a bit more often. However, a lot of them are lackluster. This is why I’m against lowering the legendary drop rate without improving their quality. If they drop less often but are still bad, especially when compared to a purple-tier, then it makes me hate the game even more.

    Another key thing I dislike about the Borderlands idea of endgame: you’re just supposed to farm bosses if you want to be efficient. I guess Diablo 3 spoiled me, as I can farm gear using Nephalem Rifts, which are procedurally generated dungeons filled with different enemies. This makes the farming fun, instead of constantly respawning and fast traveling to the location of a boss.

    1. Shamus says:

      I agree that grinding bosses gets old quickly, and I’d be happier if you could get that same assurance of good drops by doing something more interesting and varied.

      Although, rather than adding MORE legendaries, I think the better solution would be to make legendaries much, much better.

      Old game: Lots of guns are dropped. A small number of them will be awesome because they’re purple / orange.

      New game: Lots of purple / oranges drop, a small number of them will be good and the rest will be trash.

      It’s the same system, but now the colors don’t mean anything and you need to do way more sorting.

      1. Kylroy says:

        Some people hated the Borderlands loot system even when you could dismiss most of the loot:


  3. Moss says:

    A lot of the legendaries I have gotten on my two playthroughs are through quest rewards. I would dare say the majority. What has the ratio looked like to you Shamus?

  4. Jack says:

    Although I do agree with the loot assessment about Borderlands 3 (I was more excited about a green torgue shotgun that about a new legendary), I don’t think the previous games were quite that different.

    Before hitting the level cap, a good portion of my BL2 playtime is using simple greens and oranges. Sometimes the gun parts line up better, sometimes they’re just more well-suited to your build. I think I’ve used blues way more than purples in 2, for example.

    1. Thomas says:

      Is some of that about the drop rate? Purples drop rarely enough that you’re unlikely to spend much time with them?

      1. Guest says:

        Not really? I keep seeing people saying they were using greens and stuff in BL2, were they grandmaing the game like in Shamus’ autobalancing difficulty article?

        Generally, past like, level 10 or 12 or so, as you’re getting into the story proper and have left the most basic stuff behind, you’ll generally get a blue or better that will replace something you’re already using every 3 levels or so. You can end up with something that just stubbornly won’t drop, but generally, that’s how it works, and most blues and purples and oranges will outperform anything in a lower rarity for a few levels. So you’d be waiting so long, levelling, to get to the point where a white would ever outperform a blue or a purple. There are a few rare items that will be a pain though-things like classmods, because you’ll likely get a build inappropriate one, or a different class one, finding the right relic can be tough, etc. Some weapons are rarer drops, like Launchers. Generally, replacing a blue or a purple with a green has been very rare for me, and I’ve ran a lot of characters, so many that the unskippable opening BS kills my soul. It’s just rare to even see a green that comes close stat wise before I’d get a new one.

        High level play in that game is all about the legendaries, for instance, the Sham shield will add incoming fire to your ammo stockpile a certain percent of the time. These bullets do no damage to you, so I’ve used these shields just to survive while power levelling an ult cooping with a friend. The Bee shield, when combined with things like the B0re build, or anything with good DPS, is a boss ruiner. Yes, most of these sort of effects have a lower level alternative, that is way less effective. The DPUH is just ridiculously OP, and is basically necessary on a certain OP level. UVH levels enemies to the highest level in the server, so you need to be using those sorts of weapons if you want to have enough ammo to actually get through an area, and then you’ll still be struggling.

        You get so much green and white loot, that I’m honestly suprised by people saying “I used this one green gun for ages” like, you would have picked up dozens of similar weapons per level, how did you get stuck with that one? You probably got a better gun of the same type that wasn’t awful to shoot in that level, you definitely did next level, why are you stuck with that one? Do you just enjoy bulletsponges? Those items are vendor trash. I’m almost never stuck with them, and never for long.

        People get mixed up about the parts and the stats, and it’s bizarre. Look at the weapons manufacturer, look at the description. I’ve seen people saying “Yeah, I found a green shotgun that shot rockets and that got me really far” and I’m going “All Torgue weapons shoot explosive rounds, they come in all rarities and there is a legendary for most of them” just don’t get the Flakker, that gun is garbage. There literally would have been a better weapon you could find at a vending machine, and the vending machines in BL2 are garbage. Yes, some weapons have different sorts of rounds with all sorts of weird projectile speeds-again, if you’re looking at the manufacturer, stats and description, that’s usually pretty obvious.

    2. Karma The Alligator says:

      In 2 I had a lot of purples if only because I had basically infinite golden keys.

  5. Lino says:

    This was an interesting video, but I still think you need to start using more click-baity titles and thumbnails, so the videos can gain more traction.

    Also, Typolice:
    but it’s completely useless for heling you figure out which items are useful and which ones are trash.

    Should be “but it’s completely useless for helping you figure out “.

    1. Matthew Downie says:

      Yeah as far as I can tell you’re supposed to have a title like “Borderlands 3 is Worthless Trash!!!” and a thumbnail of someone making a crazy face with text on it saying something like “WORST LOOT EVER – MYSTERY SOLVED?!?”.

      1. Higher_Peanut says:

        Apparently the algorithm also likes massive redundant arrows and highlight circles. So maybe you could also circle the video a few times with some neon colour?

        1. Lino says:

          Also make sure the background of the thumbnail is some screaming colour that contrasts with the rest of the picture to maximize the burn damage on the potential viewer’s retina!

      2. Lino says:

        Yes, that would be some very effective clickbait :D, but there are also ways to do it a bit more tastefully, especially if you’re up for fiddling around with AdWords or Wordtracker, and if you try to be more descriptive with the title (Vsauce does some very good clickbait titles, and it’s working out very well for him)…

      3. Benden says:

        On the subject of clickbait, “I was wrong about Borderlands 3” is some serious clickbait on this site. I was hoping to see a re-analysis of the weapon experience in Bl2 vs Bl3 in light of the many commenters here who have countered Shamus’ early-take posts on Bl3’s weapons. My summary understanding of those counterarguments is that they disagree that you should be able to count on an orange to outclass everything else you have just because it is orange.

        And I’m especially interested in this topic because that was my experience of Bl2. Namely: not how Shamus remembers it.

        I can’t make any claims about Bl3. I’m just interested in the comparison. :)

        1. Benden says:

          That said… the locker clip in the video is impressive. Isaac has a lot of oranges held over. If he keeps them because he’s not sure if they’ll turn out to be awesome in some other context… then that is a LOT of orange. That is why I held some unused oranges in Bl2 and I rarely wished to hang on to more than a dozen.

        2. Kylroy says:

          I give him credit for making a clickbait-y title that’s also accurate. Shamus is saying he *was* wrong about Borderlands, both for better and worse.

        3. Matthew Downie says:

          He did reanalyse from the feedback.

          His first thoughts on the subject were that enemies in Bl3 are tedious bullet-sponges.

          His updated thoughts are that it’s not possible to tell good weapons from bad without exhaustive testing, and if you just grab the rarest one (a tactic that seemed to work fine in Bl2) or the one with the biggest number, you’ll probably end up with a bad gun that makes enemies feel like tedious bullet-sponges. This makes finding loot less fun.

          1. Benden says:

            Ah. It’s the “seemed to work fine in Bl2” part that I thought some had issue with. I do. I’m not saying it’s not worse in Bl3, because I don’t know. But it wasn’t good in Bl2. I didn’t find that game much fun until I found guides that told me which weapons, in any color blue and up, I should be looking for.

            It sounds like Bl3 is probably worse, since apparently greens might be contenders and there’s more stuff overall (?). But it sounds like the same kind of bad to me, different mostly in degree.

            1. Guest says:

              I get the feeling BL3 has upped my least favourite aspect of the looter part of the shooter: inventory management. I’m a big fan of making these loot systems really simple-hey, this is vendor trash, it’s broken/made for goblins you can’t use it, this is also vendor trash, it’s low rarity and they’re garbage”.

              I’m not a fan of “I’ve got to properly give an in depth comparison and maybe even test this item” before I use it. BL2 is already annoying enough with a piddling inventory space even including bank and storage. Like, what am I meant to do when I get legendary drops suitable for my other characters, immediately drop everything, head to base, put them in the trade box, log out, log in as other character, fix their messed up invent, and then take them, just so that I can play the game without filling my inventory so often, because ammo gets exponentially more expensive with difficulty level, so on high difficulties you need to still be selling vendor trash because your rockets now cost millions.

        4. Fizban says:

          If I had to take a guess at quantifying it, I’d say that each rarity tier in the previous games was worth about two levels, with green being par (and some orange going as high as +8 instead of +6), but noting that sidequest completionism means you’re usually a level or so above the suggested. So when you find a blue gun it’s actually about a level above the power of the quest, and if you go “buy” some purps from the golden key chest, they’re good for at least four levels above where you’re at, assuming they do what you want. Every time I’ve compared similar guns of different rarities (same make, level, properties, purpose, etc), the power difference provided by the rarity has been huge, including and especially up to orange. The only time the rarity “lies” is when there are wacky effects in play, at least in pre-sequel and 2.

          It looks to me like what’s going on in 3 is that people wanted more wacky guns, and I agree that for all the cool stuff you can read on the wiki, you’re never going to see hardly any of it. But that doesn’t mean you should muck of the rest of it.

          1. Hector says:

            My rule of thumb was plus 1 level per rarity. It seemed to track pretty well.

          2. Guest says:


            Also, my favourite thing about BL2 was the golden key glitch. Goodbye waiting forever for a better levelled version of the same classmod at the right rarity, bite me Pitchford.

  6. Hal says:

    As someone who’s playing through BL2 now, you’re always welcome to jump back in.

    Of course this is only my second time through, playing a character in True Vault Hunter Mode for the first time, whereas you might be bored to tears with the game at this point.

  7. Geebs says:

    I wonder how much of Shamus perception of bullet-sponginess comes from having replayed Quake 2 shortly before Borderlands 3? That game is a hell of a lot faster (and, let’s be fair, better) than any recent shooter.

  8. Mephane says:

    But for whatever reason, the creeps kept their hands off of Borderlands 3. The game doesn’t have any loot boxes or pay-to-win microtransaction nonsense. It doesn’t have a hint of that stuff. It’s clear that loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions were never a part of the design.

    Well, it definitely has the hooks for that implemented from the get go. Granted, BL2 and TPS had them, too – the golden keys, primarily. They have been given out for free over social media etc. and so far this trend has not stopped. However, there is nothing stopping 2K from deciding 2 months from now to sell golden keys for cash instead. And we already have precedents for this kind of tactic, in particular Activision and the Call of Duty series where they like to release without any MTX, then add P2W loot boxes a couple of weeks after release, once the review cycle is over, the bulk of initial sales are complete, and any potential refund windows have expired for anyone who bought it in the first weeks or as preorder.

    1. Shamus says:

      That’s certainly possible, and I wouldn’t put it past them.

      Although, the current loot system would make this a tough sell. I can already score tons of purples and oranges for little effort. The problem is that they’re not interesting to get. I’m never looking forward to the next drop, because I know it’s probably some weird-ass overvalued Maliwan trash gun that I’ll sell to Marcus. If they offered to sell me Golden keys so I could get another armload of dull garbage, I’d laugh.


      If they added a NEW tier (or brought back the special tiers from BL2) and made it so that those are the ACTUALLY GOOD guns? And you can only get those from golden keys?

      Wow. That would be super-evil. I guess I wouldn’t put it past them. It would explain why current “epic” loot feels so weaksauce.

      1. Misamoto says:

        They can also just make a couple of good affixes on the weapon guaranteed.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          But does Borderlands even have the longevity/replay value for this? To be fair my experience is probably not the intended one, as I’ve only played through the games once with a friend “for the story” and am now tentatively replaying them with a different friend to share the co-op experience with them and never saw the appeal of rerunning the game for better loot, but would people really be willing to pay extra money for a guaranteed, say, damage boost on a gun in a game like this? Without a constant gear threadmil like in Destiny? A competitive aspect like in… most other multiplayer shooters?

          1. Higher_Peanut says:

            At it’s heart borderlands and other looter games are essentially game play duct taped to slot machines, people would absolutely pay money for more spins. The problem I see with Borderlands pulling this off is offline files. Items have always been easy to dupe if you ever needed to and unless they locked the whole thing down you’ll be able to fiddle with the drop rates and weapon stats like before.

            1. Guest says:

              I don’t know that they would actually. Those items are the same junk, just guaranteed rarity, as everything else, and you will outlevel them, which makes that money a complete waste, and the game is not social enough for people to care that much.

              Sure, you’d get some takers, but “Buy golden keys so you can buy spins at generic high grade loot that may not be what you want” isn’t a great deal, and it’s not really how those microtransactions work, there is no FOMO, there is no PTW, there is a chance of a serious disappointment, and you can’t even resell duplicates or items you don’t need for actual currency or extra spins.

              Yes, they’re slot machines, but the slot machine is only satisfying in the context of actually looting.

              1. Higher_Peanut says:

                There’s always FOMO in a loot based game and pay to progress easier is the new pay to win. “Keeping up with the joneses” is a huge factor with how people play games and how they interact with social media. There is always the pressure to keep up with friends and engagement with social media takes this to new heights. All the best rarest loot that a single player will likely never see is constantly advertised through streams, subreddits and other social media feeds. All they need to do is present keys as a possible quick way to start to catch up to all those other people you see having fun.

                You don’t need many converts because the extra work is low, just enough to justify putting a small price on them. You can always use the free keys to draw people in, someone else will make the unboxing video for you. Not being able to resell anything or getting duplicates hasn’t stopped anyone before, look at Path of Exiles loot boxes. People constantly complain about duplicates but that doesn’t stop them buying hundreds or thousands of dollars worth.

                If there wasn’t such a large social and political backlash to gambling micro-transactions right now I would have been surprised to see them not lock the game to online only just so they could prevent loot tampering to make keys more enticing.

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        “I can already score tons of purples and oranges for little effort.”
        “this breaks the psychological loot cycle”
        “Borderlands 3 is like a slot machine that constantly rings the winner bell”
        “Although, the current loot system would make [P2W] a tough sell”

        … I sense a motive.
        Also, I’m not at all a fan of loot shooters. I loved Diablo I for the amazing atmosphere, played through 4 or 5 times. I played Diablo II only 1.5 times, because halfway into the second one I noticed that there was nothing but the loot to keep me going. The gameplay was somewhat more interesting than playing a slot machine but still kinda boring. So … what if someone decided they didn’t want to get into gambling? Make the loot system non-addictive, simultaneously making it an unattractive host for 2K’s ambitions, but compensate by paying proper attention to the rest of it?

        That’s just a hypothesis, and we can’t even know if this setup was intentional (or if anything about the game is by design or by mistake, really)

        I know not much about the game other than that it’s not fallen into any of the traps you had feared, so … is it good? Could someone who isn’t so interested in the whole loot angle still enjoy it, or would they go under because they’d be under–equipped? If the gear improvement curve over time isn’t so steep, then maybe you don’t actually need all the latest and greatest stuff to have fun?

  9. Chad Miller says:

    So, funny thing I noticed that makes it obvious this is an essay being transcribed to video: at one point there’s a mention of something that was discussed “above”, which only makes sense if you’re reading it in text. In a video that discussion would have happened “previously” or “before.”

  10. Tizzy says:

    Shouldn’t the nitpicking Quake footnote read Doom 2016 rather than Doom 2014?

  11. 0451fan0451 says:

    I think some are frustrated by the performance because the game doesn’t look that much that better then last gen which I suppose is a triumph of the art style. However, as a PS4 owner who hasn’t played any of them, I’m way more tempted to buy the older ones because they look almost as good and run at 60fps. Oh and Borderlands 2 has a PSVR version.

  12. Dreadjaws says:

    I remember that most of my legendaries in Borderlands 2 came from golden keys. I’m not even sure if you can re-use the golden keys in a second playthrough (considering the first time I played the game was on PS3 and the second one on PC), but if you can’t then that’s even a lower chance of legendaries.

    I’m not sure what is the reasoning for BL3’s loot system. Perhaps they were trying to address complaints about lack of legendaries in the previous game (though their scarcity is kind of the point) or maybe (more realistically) they simply wanted to give the players a bigger illusion of generosity. The real cynical view is that they intend to add microtransactions later (or they intended to do it at launch but backpedaled at the last moment without any chance to rebalance the game), as companies like to do these days.

    Granted, I understand that for many players playing around with the weapons by checking the stats and trying them out is what makes the game. Hey, that’s big part of the appeal of these games for me. Rather than just looking at a number and keeping it if it’s better I like to try them out and see if the bonuses and different stats feel better to me. But I wouldn’t want to have to do that with every single weapon, particularly in a game with such massive amounts of loot. That wouldn’t feel like fun, but like homework. The color system helped in previous games to make a distinction: “OK, these two dozen ones are all vendor trash, but these two I can try out”.

    Man, this system as you describe it would make the game absolutely irritating for me. I’m more and more glad each day that every move Gearbox has made has turned me off from trying it.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      add microtransactions later (or they intended to do it at launch but backpedaled at the last moment without any chance to rebalance the game)

      It can’t’ve been a last-moment decision, Randy was announcing no microtransactions at E3 in May.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Implying he’s not a lying bastard.

        1. Duoae says:

          Hey, just because someone tells the truth once doesn’t not make them a liar. :)

      2. Thomas says:

        Didn’t the game have microtransactions when he said that? Cosmetics or something, but definitely not not microtransactions

        1. Higher_Peanut says:

          Yes. It was announced publicly there would be no microtransactions and came out with cosmetic microtransactions. The justification was poor if I recall correctly. Something like, “oh, I only meant pay to win this was just a misunderstanding” despite the general use of the term and previous games selling skins with people calling them microtransactions.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            In fairness, the context of the ‘no microtransactions’ quote referenced skins done as in Borderlands 2 (which were available via microtransactions). Even Jim Sterling was willing to give Pitchford the benefit of the doubt for simply misspeaking on that front.

            The problem was that this mistake was made by someone with a history of dishonesty, which inclined some people to suggest Pitchford’s pants were on fire. He did himself no favors by unprofessionally lashing out at a news report which did not, in fact, suggest any flaming trousers.

            1. Thomas says:

              Yeah, maybe he misspoke, but if so lashing out at the journalist who correctly reported your mistake makes no sense.

              1. Nimrandir says:

                Oh, I agree. We have a person with a consistent pattern of sophomoric behavior, and he deserves any blowback he gets for said behavior. I just wanted to point out that playing the ‘serial liar’ card on that particular quote is probably inappropriate.

                I mean, if we pull a ‘corporate face swap’ and imagine Todd Howard said that, we probably would have forgotten the quote by now. It helps that Howard’s response most likely would not have been so . . . juvenile.

                1. Guest says:

                  Hahaha what? The infamous Todd Howard? The dude who has a bunch of memes about him? The dude who people are still joking about the Skyrim rereleases and Fallout 76?


                  Oh you’re serious.


                  1. Nimrandir says:

                    Todd Howard has electric powers? He should be using those at E3. I think his current hairstyle’s a better look, though.

                    On a serious note, I don’t associate Todd Howard’s name with the same sort of white-hot rage — backed up with empirical evidence — generated when Randy Pitchford comes up in conversation. Even if I did, I doubt I’d expect much fury before Fallout 76’s release last year. I’m not claiming honesty (I took that for granted when I used the phrase ‘corporate face’), nor do I find Howard particularly likable. However, I stand by the claim that he would have handled the Game Informer clarification in a way which would have quieted the less-vitriolic portions of the Internet. For what it’s worth, the guy who runs this site seems to agree with me.

    2. Xeorm says:

      I’d expect the reasoning is the same as with Diablo 3, since they had the same issue. A common complaint with the gear is that people want their rares and such to still feel meaningful and they still want to hunt for good maxed out gear. The simple (but wrong) solution is to do what both of them did: create more overlap between legendary and rare gear. A great legendary will beat a great rare, but a good rare can still beat a bad legendary.

      Now, this does create more choice in gearing for sure. But it comes at the cost of ruining the gambling portion of it. Shamus has a good point where he says it feels like you’re getting the winning sound all the time, even though you didn’t actually win. The player also needs to do a lot more decision making as every rare and legendary needs to be compared to each other. It’s just not the greatest system for feeling fun. It’s mechanically sound, but emotionally lacking.

      1. Bubble181 says:

        Every time I read stuff like this I have to mentally add “vanilla, at launch”.
        The loot distribution was horrible and un-fun, but it’s much better now. D3 actually has a fairly decent loot system in place now, for my taste.

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          While that’s true, we are still in the “vanilla, at launch” part of BL3, so that’s a valid complaint.

        2. Nimrandir says:

          I’m with you, because I didn’t even play Diablo III until years after launch, and on console to boot. I’m playing through the campaign with a barbarian right now, and I’ve been using the same legendary breastplate for something like fifteen levels. I’ve tried having the blacksmith make a (rare) replacement, and the additional benefits of the new armor don’t outweigh what the legendary piece is providing.

          If I have a complaint, it’s that the game keeps tossing legendary belts at me. What gives?

    3. Higher_Peanut says:

      Maybe it’s a response to the change in loot levels over time, over correcting from feedback. Adding oranges back in and not understanding why people like to see them.

      In BL1 a few specific oranges were reasonably common, you could expect 1-2 volcanos per play through and while they were great weapons they didn’t feel special. In BL2 it was fixed but caused a drought of oranges and edrian weapons. I’ve never had a first play through drop any at all (and the volcano is a shadow of its former self, possibly intentional given the flavour text). Now it seems like from Shamus’ experience the pendulum has swung back even more the other way and oranges are not only extremely common but frequently worthless.

      I feel like they don’t quite have a full grasp on what really works in their own games. They know people want loot and to compare strange guns, but haven’t refined the process of comparing them to be streamlined or fun. There seems to be a reliance on volume of guns and effects which can make comparisons tedious and interrupt the other parts of game play.

    4. Guest says:

      There is an exploit that will allow you infinite golden keys. I have never received a legendary from a golden key chest in BL2, I didn’t even know they dropped, and I’ve used several hundred at this point. It’s always purple and pink weapons, and potentially a few blue relics. The online material says that the Golden Chest never drops legendaries or pearls, and I’ve found that to be true, I’m very sure you’re mistaken.

  13. adam says:

    I noticed the power scores being completely meaningless within the first couple hours of play. IIRC main reason I noticed was because I had, by chance, equipped two of the same item type of very different power scores and found that the one with the lower power score was way better than the one with the higher score. That was my first inkling that there was something really wrong with the entire system. Since then I’ve come up with some rules for determining what to use and what not to use at a glance, since power score is effectively meaningless:

    1. Check damage per shot first and foremost. One of the best weapons I’ve gotten was a purple Atlas assault rifle that did 90×2 damage but only consumed one round per shot and had an acceptable fire rate. No other useful perks (tracking puck but who uses that?), just very high damage relative to the rest of the weapons dropping at the time. I got this weapon at something like level 25 and continued to use it almost exclusively through the early 30s. It shredded everything.
    2. Check fire rate next. Obviously the higher the better, and it’s ok to sacrifice a bit of damage for a higher fire rate.
    3. Check for a useful perk. Most perks are fairly boring but some can turn an otherwise mediocre weapon into a decent one.
    4. Check the manufacturer. In my experience, Jakobs tend to be the most solid, followed closely by Atlas. The rest are a mixed bag depending on the gun in question and your personal preferences, with Maliwan falling behind in almost all cases.
    5. Ignore everything else. Handling? Don’t care. Accuracy? Don’t care. Charge rate? Don’t care and Maliwan weapons are typically trash anyway.
    6. Assault rifles and pistols tend to perform best so I pay closest attention to those, with shotguns close behind, sniper rifles a bit further behind and submachine guns a bit further out from that. Sell heavy weapons immediately. God, what a thoroughly useless weapon type.

    The game is a mess in terms of balance and design but still manages to be fun, a testament to how hard it is to screw up a braindead-simple addictive formula like this.

    1. SAD1 says:

      I definitely find that my Mileage seems to vary from many people’s experience on this, as far as I am concerned it’s less about how much damage you are doing, and more about doing the right type of damage to the right type of target, (ie: if you are not doing incendiary damage to red targets, acid damage to yellow targets and shock damage to blue targets you are playing it wrong!). It seems to me like although a Jacobs gun may do more straight-up damage, its still never as effective as doing the right kind of typed damage for the target in question. I dump all Jacobs guns like the vendor trash they are, (for me), and use Maliwan Elemental SMGs as my go-to weapon of choice, letting the high rate of fire stack the Elemental effect for maximum destruction. Yes the delay they added to Maliwan weapons is a pain in the ass, but as far as I can tell they did this a balancing option because they were too O.P. in previous versions, (granted this isn’t so bad with the SMG, you pay the delay once at the start of the clip, then can fire-hose with abandon until you need to reload. Maliwan shotguns though? no thanks!)

      My dissenting 2 cents…

      1. SAD1 says:

        Not to mention that the dual fire mode with 2 different types of Elemental Damage now makes the Maliwan SMGs ‘twice’ as good! :)

      2. sheer_falacy says:

        I agree somewhat with you on elemental weapons. Shock vs blue and acid vs yellow, 100%. But fire vs red? Meh. Most red enemies will die to a jakobs headshot or two, it’s not worth waiting for the fire damage to tick. For bosses, sure.

      3. Higher_Peanut says:

        I always found rigidly adhering to the element game was Borderlands 2nd biggest mistake moving from 1 to 2. You have 4 weapon slots to cover every range and situation, functionally 3 if solo as one is dedicated to 2nd winds. There’s not enough space to add elemental combos and slag weapon swapping on top. You can menu more in inventory, but menuing isn’t fun. You can keep elemental enemies immune to their type but please don’t turn everything else into a bullet sponge to give elements power. BL2 dropped 0.4 damage multipliers on element types to shoehorn in swapping along with slag and it was awful.

        RIP Maliwan. SMG’s by their nature were always the best DPS weapons and way to proc elements. Pity they killed the entire manufacturer for it, charge-ups feel awful and run counter to their intended game play of weapon swapping. Not even bullet hose SMG’s could save it for me. I prefer fire control, missing just feels bad.

      4. adam says:

        I haven’t found any elemental options to be standout options over sheer damage with the specific exception of corrosive vs. armor. SOMETIMES shock vs shields is good, but sheer damage generally does just as well to chew through shields. Fire does not outperform higher damage against red enemies in my experience, and radiation just doesn’t do much for me at all. Cryo is okay but the guns that drop for me with cryo usually have significant drawbacks that make them not really worth using, but that could just be bad luck on my part.

        The reason Maliwan falls behind for me is a combination of all of the above. The charge time makes them sub-par choices for the types of weapons I find most useful (assault rifle, handgun and shotgun). For SMGs they are fine but SMGs in general don’t excite me as they tend to have very low damage that is not sufficiently offset by the higher fire rate. They’re also bad choices for sniper rifles, so the odds of a random Maliwan being a weapon worth using are not great, and owing to the pointlessness of the power score and how often weapons drop I am forced into playing the numbers game if I don’t want to spend half my playtime sorting through and trialling every weapon. It’s perfectly possible I have thrown away a number of good Maliwans but I do give them a chance every so often and have been thoroughly unimpressed pretty much every time.

        All of my rules could change at much higher levels of play, I haven’t gotten far enough in the game to see how things might be different there. These are, as mentioned, just my rules for quickly determining what’s most likely to be useful since the power score might as well not even exist.

    2. GoStu says:

      This makes me think that the game’s own loot-scoring numbers and colour codes might be factoring a lot of this “worthless” stuff in. Even in Borderlands 2, guns that did elemental damage tended to be over-rated (in that if it did fire or slag damage the game thought the gun was awesome… even if in practice it tended to be bad).

      If the Borderlands 3 loot system is accounting for a lot of “meh” scores like reload speed and magazine capacity that a player can work around then the system starts to make sense. A green gun with a high damage and tolerable everything else will be playable, while a blue/purple with better-than-average accuracy, magazine size, reload speed, and other attributes might have a sub-par damage that makes the whole thing pointless.

      The Jakobs guns from earlier games were nice examples of this. They kill what you point them at. Reload speed and magazine size matter less if you’re not taking fire because the enemy doesn’t have a head any more. Meanwhile the Bandit weapons with large magazines, mediocre damage, and lousy accuracy were mostly a good way to waste your ammo.

      1. Syal says:

        Yeah, if a stat is in the game at all, it’s because the devs think it’s valuable enough to include, so most algorithms are going to get you some overvaluing false positives.

        But plenty of games have these kinds of systems without making the tiers meaningless, so they’re doing something especially wrong here.

        1. Higher_Peanut says:

          Devs in loot games do sometimes add useless affixes to dilute item mod pools. Shout out to light radius in PoE being added primarily for that purpose.

          I feel like something here has gone horribly wrong with what the algorithm considers valuable and it’s resulting in more stats=better regardless of weapon type or usefulness of the bonus.

  14. Dustin says:

    I hate to be the guy that just points out typos, but you misspelled Ashly Burch’s name.

  15. Syal says:

    So do they still show the vendor price for the gun? Because that was the don’t-wanna-think-about-quality number of the previous games. They didn’t need to add a separate number to do the same thing.

    1. sheer_falacy says:

      Vendor price is not a reliable gauge for weapon quality. Pistols are cheap and heavy weapons are very expensive, regardless of quality or level.

      Also, they made vendor price incredibly annoying by adding in a cutesy feature – when you scroll to a different weapon, it’ll slowly spin the price numbers until they eventually stop on the new weapon’s price. Sometimes they’ll slowly spin to one number and then abruptly switch to another (by adding or subtracting, say, 111). I just want to see what the weapon costs, please skip the flashy effects.

      1. Syal says:

        Oh wow, that sounds unacceptably bad. Who the hell thought an inventory-heavy game would benefit from loading times between individual inventory items?

      2. adam says:

        Whoever thought that was a good idea should reconsider their professional skills.

        It feels like one of those features a UI committee thought would be neat and insisted on putting into the game without considering at all what it feels like to be forced to sit for 3 seconds waiting for the god damned price to show up over the course of looking at literally thousands of items. It’s inexplicably stupid and annoying.

  16. Steve C says:

    “Fussing about with inventory” burned me out of Borderlands 1. I can’t imagine how bad this one must be. It is also the core of my rant on the Sep 21 post about Baldur’s Gate. Strangely, I do like solving inventory problems though. Where something is permanently scratched off my mental ‘to do’ list. Like automating a fussy task.

    1. Guest says:

      Yes, give me some of that. I don’t mind it if inventory is an important and interesting part of the game (Hi Kenshi), but in looters, it’s a pain, and in RPGs it’s worse. The rush of Borderlands is finding that rare gun, and you know you’ve “won” because the gun is just really obvious. The system is already bad enough if you have a lot of good gear that’s situational because you just lose inventory space with it, why make it worse?

  17. Dev Null says:

    I honestly don’t know why game systems bother trying to invent complicated calculated ratings for weapons. Give it a number based on: a) its simulated DPS vs a random collection of 10,000 assorted mooks with the odd boss thrown in, or b) data collected about its actual in-game performance (not great for Borderlands-style randomly generated loot.) Once you have a number, convert to colors appropriately. Use level appropriate data and/or mooks if you insist on separating out the level, but why do that? 250 is bigger than 200; why make me decide between lvl 10 250 and lvl 12 200? No, it still won’t be accurate, but at least it’ll be based on something; people will learn that “shotguns are under-rated because the sim doesn’t account for spread” or whatever, but they’ll figure that out and adjust.

    Not criticism Shamus, but genuine curiosity: if you found so few Legendaries in the last game, how do you know they weren’t just as broken then, and you just got a couple of lucky draws? I’m assuming this – that the color-scaling mostly worked back then – is just a well-known fact about the game, but it seemed worth asking. (I played it, but ages ago, and I pretty much don’t read games news anywhere but here.)

    1. GoStu says:

      I think the problem is that the score likely represent a sort of budget that gets fed into the procedural generator for guns, but the values are all screwy within the generator. It’s not “this gun has these properties, now let’s assign a rating to it”. Like in the example photo Shamus has an Orange gun with an ‘item budget’ of 573 and a Blue gun with an ‘item budget’ of 489. The game’s generation system should spit out a superior weapon with 573 points to allocate to a gun’s properties than it should with 489, so it colours the 573 Orange and the 489 a mere Blue.

      The problem is that it probably over-values some stats and under-values others. The 489 is a Jakobs which typically value raw damage-per-shot over other scores. They also tend to have decent accuracy, but compromise on almost never being elemental damage and trend towards lower rates of fire, smaller magazines, and slower reload speeds. However, a high-damage accurate weapon is probably always going to be relevant. You might spend more time reloading in cover than is really ideal but you can make it work by shooting from range and enjoying its hearty stopping power to buy space.

      The 573-point gun is a Dahl. As far as I remember they’re all-rounders with no real specialties. So that thing might have some fancy elemental damage that’s often worthless, a larger magazine than strictly necessary, a reload speed that’s a bit quicker than usually necessary, a needlessly tight accuracy, a high rate of fire, and a mediocre damage per bullet… resulting in a gun that deals damage that’s just comparable to the Jakobs but that chews through your ammo way quicker.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      Few legendaries but lots of all the other tiers. If all the other tiers work properly it stands to reason that legendaries would too.

    3. Karma The Alligator says:

      if you found so few Legendaries in the last game, how do you know they weren’t just as broken then, and you just got a couple of lucky draws?

      Back in BL2 players would talk about all the legendaries, so even if you didn’t get it yourself you could tell that people were happy with theirs. Now, I don’t use the BL3 forums at all, so maybe it’s still happening, but if that screenshot up there is any indication, there’re just way too many legendaries to try to really get to know them.

    4. Shamus says:

      I only found 2 oranges on my first trip through the game, but I’ve made many more trips since then and gotten a lot more. It’s always possible that I’m some incredible statistical outlier, but after ~700 hours with the game I feel pretty confident in my assumptions about how the game feels.

      In BL2, a good purple shotgun would let me one-shot dudes at point-blank range for several levels. In the new game, I’ve only found one gun that could do that, and it was blue. (And I had to retire it very quickly.)

    5. Guest says:

      They don’t work like that there, he could have just googled it, because legendaries definitely work. Oh boy, do they definitely work.


  18. Gethsemani says:

    My personal belief is that the weirdness of the loot system stems from BL3 having too many things that affect gun stats, but not all of them being accounted for by the gun goodness rating, which produces a lot of the weird results. From a quick, non-comprehensive study of what goes into a gun, I found these things:

    1. Rarity. Higher rarities get better stats. Higher stats lead to better rating.
    2. Prefixes. All manufacturers get a bunch of prefixes that affects weapon stats (Synergizing for Hyperion, Gloobady for Valdoff, Asp for Dahl etc.) and these seem to be unaccounted for in determining goodness.
    3. Gun parts. All guns get individual parts based on their manufacturer. All parts alter the base stats of the gun and these not created equal. They also don’t seem to affect goodness rating.

    2 and 3 are problematic because you could end up with a purple sniper rifle that gets prefixes and gun parts that drag down weapon damage but increase reload speed and handling, leaving you with a base gun that was really good until it got -30% damage and +45% reload speed. Reversely, if you get an green SMG that starts out mediocre but fires 2 bullets for the cost of 1, does +20% damage and has 30% higher RoF it might end up being really freaking awesome. Thus there’s no real way to know if a gun is good or not until you either inspect it or learn to recognize individual gun parts on sight and know their stat changes.

    Gold/Orange items also seem to follow a slightly different design then in BL2, where they were always better weapons. I found that a lot of Golds in BL3 have special effects that make them unique but that might only be situationally useful or even just plain wonky. An example is the pistol that fires 3 exploding rockets in parabolic arcs that converge about 25 meters out and deals massive damage and splash on hit. It could 1 shot regular enemies but keeping them at the intended distance and making them stay in place for the half second it took for the shots to land was really hard. Amazing versus big, slow bosses, terrible versus mooks. The end effect is that a Gold weapon is fun to find, but not necessarily useful and since there’s no way to know what a Gold does until you try it, it might statistically seems useless but really be freaking awesome (The Monocle is a mediocre Jacobs sniper rifle with an insane headshot multiplier, for example) or seem really awesome, until you realize it has a terrible fire pattern.

    1. Steve C says:

      I think it has more to do with the math of multiple bell curves. Once you start mixing multiple bell curves together the result gets flatter and flatter. Eventually you get a line. The good stuff at the tail becomes increasing statistically unlikely. While the middle of the overall curve becomes flat.

      IE Everything evens out. The outliers are still technically possible but you have a better chance of drawing a royal flush in poker. They stop happening.

  19. cerapa says:

    I’ve been thinking about why I seem to be fine with the loot system as compared to you, and I think I figured out why. The other loot based game I played before BL3 was Path of Exile(actually directly, BL3 release might have resulted in lower player numbers for em).

    In Path of Exile the loot is divided into normal, magic, rare and unique. Normal are garbage as can be assumed, but the only difference between magic and rare is that rares have up to 6 modifiers while magic only have up to two. And a lot of modifiers are pretty bad. So a magic weapon with +60% damage can be a lot better than a rare with +light radius and 5 other crappy or non-useful modifiers. So I’m not peeved by finding a crappy purple or surprised when a green or blue is actually good.

    Similarly, in Path of Exile uniques are not commonly better than decent rares. They are frequently actually pretty bad. Their main usefulness is in their unique modfiers that might synergize well with some skills you are using or some weird combination of uniques you have. So similarly I am used to having unique items that aren’t good without synergies, or just do weird stuff.

    1. Higher_Peanut says:

      I think a major issue is when that system is applied to weapons and especially Borderlands. Whatever weapon you use boils down to “does it do more damage?”. Even in PoE very few weapons are used for mechanical purposes over dps and only then because of a combination of power creep and the effectiveness of farming weak content. Unique weapons tend to be trash or a cheap stepping stone before you reach bigger numbers. Uniques see more interesting use in other gear slots since they don’t have to compete so hard with the one slot where most of your damage comes from.

      In Borderlands this presents a huge problem where there just aren’t that many gear slots that aren’t weapons. Class mod, artifact, shield and if you’re pushing it grenades. Unique spray patterns and bullet effects can’t compete with DPS in a weapon slot most of the time and most of the drops are guns. This results in most of the unique gear dropping feeling terrible when the guns don’t have boosted stats.

  20. Alberek says:

    That fake out was okay… but what I really liked was when you turned around and showed the pile of “rare” items.
    It’s been awhile since I played a diablo-clone, the last one was victor bran or torchlight 2, figuring which “loot” is better sometimes comes down to what build you are making… but what I recall from borderlands 1//2 was that builds tended toward specific weapons, so it’s kind of a no brainer?.
    But I think Legendary items usually are better off having wacky mechanics that change things around… even making the game more difficult… that’s kind of what legendary items did in Diablo 1

  21. Ivan says:

    In Diablo, they’re called ‘Uniques’, not legendaries, for a reason. They aren’t procedurally generated items, they’re items custom designed by devs, and whilst you can get more than one of them, at least the good ones typically have some unique mod that doesn’t exist in the common items mod pool. Or several. In Path of Exile (the spiritual successor to Diablo) ‘build-enabling’ Uniques make up probably the majority of Uniques that exist (not necessarily the majority that drop, mind).

    Now, I’ve never played Borderlands (any), so this will probably sound ignorant, but to me these dev-designed uniques are what Borderlands perhaps needs. Cos, correct me if I’m wrong, but oranges in B3 are not actually like that, right? They’re just items with more mods from that same random pool that the greens, blues etc. draw from. They possibly draw from higher tiers within the pool, but it’s still the same type of mods, affecting the same things.

    The point is, with dev-made uniques, you can at least guarantee a baseline quality of ‘good(ish)’, and for me, at least, a baseline level of ‘interest’ when they drop. To me, the B3 system as described seems to be one where I’d swiftly not be interested, when a flashy orange drops. More, tho, I like that in PoE Uniques can be used to radically change the way your character plays, how they move, etc etc. Sounds like there’s nothing like that in B3…

    Anyways, that is, as I said, a complete non-borderlands players take on it, I may have been factually very wrong throughout, if so I apologise.

    1. Higher_Peanut says:

      The legendaries in Borderlands were like that in 1 and 2. In 1 they were mostly just upstatted guns with maybe a spread pattern or something. In 2 they were usually decent guns with some weird projectile effect unique to the gun that might change how it plays. They still rolled weapon parts but were usually on the whole better than the usual fare with appropriate bonuses.

      From what I can see of the BL3 system they get a predetermined effect like before, but some of the bonuses are allowed to roll. Not just values but what the bonus is entirely. This means you end up with a bunch of “rare” guns with trash item affixes that the game thinks are useful and puts into the power score.

      As far as I can tell it had what you might have liked and then it was removed.

    2. Guest says:

      Not really? The legendaries are uniques. There is just a pool of unique modifiers, and their stats appear in a range.

      So, as I’ve mentioned a bunch of times, the Double Penetrating Unkempt Harold synergises great with a lot of builds. The thing is, the legendary is actually just the Unkempt Harold. The Double Penetrating is a prefix modifier that means that each round fires two shots, and the gun already fires multiple shots, which means it’s like a shotgun pistol that does tons of explosive damage and isn’t subject to the usual multi-shot debuff of shotguns.

      Every legendary has a gimmick, and works roughly the same across every one of them, just some will have a different sight, and the stats vary, and there may be a modifier attached.

  22. Maryam says:

    Listening to this video at 2am wearing headphones, I was quite startled by what seemed to be a barely audible demonic voice in my right ear at about 5:13. What the heck is that? Some leftover audio from the game footage? (This is during a part with only a chart on screen.)

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Huuummmyeah. That’s weird.
      I’d describe it more as a horror synth voice than demon though.

  23. Taxi says:

    I think one way looter games could be vastly improved is if they’d allow players to set their own preferences about what they want in the gun.

    For example, let’s say you have 2 legendary assault rifles, and one has the overall number of 500 and the other 600.

    But the 600 one is a burst fire rifle and I can’t stand that so the gun is useless to me even if it has higher damage.

    Or there are 2 rocket launchers, where a 600 one does massive damage and can carry 3 rounds, and the 500 one is weaker but can carry 10 rounds. But I only use a rocket launcher on enemies that need 1 shot from any (decent) rocket to deplete their shield and another one to kill them, so the weak one with 10 rounds is much more useful.

    Or 2 sniper rifles, again one doing massive damage but takes 5 seconds to reload, and a weaker one that fires very quickly and I prefer the rapid firing one because a mook getting hit by a sniper gets stunned for a second so I can keep multiple enemies in a fun stun-damage-dead cycle.

    Well if I could go to the weapon stats screen and at least set burst fire in AR = dislike, ammo pouch in RL = high priority, firing rate in sniper = high priority, then the game could adjust the overall numbers to something that makes sense to me.

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