Borderlands 3 First Impressions

By Shamus Posted Sunday Sep 15, 2019

Filed under: Game Reviews 111 comments

I’ve only spent a few hours with the game so far. I just dinged level 18, and the game ends around 30-ish. My lack of progress since Friday’s release is mostly due to my switching between a few different characters. I started out as Moze, who can summon a battle mech. After a few levels of that I tried Zane, a hitman with a bunch of different abilities. I played him until level 18, and then started again as FL4K, a robot with a pet skag.

The game seems to be doing okay with critics. A score of 85 isn’t “OMG Game of the Year”, but it’s still a respectable score. Everyone has a few gripes with it, but the criticism is pretty scattershot. It’s not like everyone is rallying around one or two obvious flaws.

This is baffling to me, since I think there’s a really obvious problem with the game and nobody is talking about it.

Are We Playing the Same Game?

I forgot to get a screenshot of them at the start of the game, so here is a shot of the villains from the trailer.
I forgot to get a screenshot of them at the start of the game, so here is a shot of the villains from the trailer.

An example of the criticism of minor things that aren’t the MAIN THING: The big villains this time around are the Calypso Twins. Polygon said they were “boring”. PC Gamer said they’re “just two cartoon villains” with “no cultural commentary”.

This criticism is fine, I guess. If the villains don’t work for you, then they don’t work. But before the release of Borderlands 3, the series had one good villain and two duds. So now we have the Calypso Twins, a swipe at livestreamers / influencers. In BL2, Handsome Jack was a cartoonish take on ultra-wealthy corporate leaders, and the Calypso Twins are a cartoonish take on entitled, brand-obsessed internet jackasses. Both villains are arrogant and destructive. I think Jack’s humor landed a lot better than the humor aimed at the Calypsos, but if we’re grading on a curve then the Calypsos are the second-best villains in the series.

But fine. I’m not going to try and convince you that the Calypsos are brilliant, I just think they’re not the weakest part of the experience.

There are a lot of gripes like this with the game. Mission design. Allies. Loading screens. Travel system. Technical problems and glitches. These are all fine things to critique, but none of them are anywhere near my top two gripes.

My #2 gripe is:

The Interface Needs More QA

With all the elevations tangled together like this on the map, it's really hard to tell where you need to go and how to get there. This is not helped by the ultra-slow scroll speed when you try to pan or rotate around the map with the mouse.
With all the elevations tangled together like this on the map, it's really hard to tell where you need to go and how to get there. This is not helped by the ultra-slow scroll speed when you try to pan or rotate around the map with the mouse.

There isn’t a single, horrible sin at the center of the Borderlands 3 interface. It’s just that the game has a thousand trivial annoyances. The main map rotates to the player’s orientation instead of north=up, which is… that’s just not how maps work, okayThere’s a menu option to disable rotating the minimap, but the main map ignores it, so you end with the maps oriented differently, which does more harm than good.? The game begins with 8 solid minutes of completely unskippable cutscenes. After that it’s five more minutes of passively following Claptrap around before you can begin playing the game proper. This is ludicrous in a game with four classes where you might want to sample them all to see which one suits you best. The zones are now multilayered and the in-game map system is totally inadequate for helping to navigate these complex spacesLectra City feels like the 3D maze levels from the Descent games.. Stores are a chore to use. If you can’t equip an item, then you also can’t compare it to other items, so you can’t decide if it’s worth schlepping this gun around until you’re high enough level to use it. Map scrolling and zooming is agonizingly slow and awkward with the mouse. When you’re supposed to bash something open the game can’t decide if the proper button is melee, the use button, or shooting it. The game allows you to bind keys to steer left and right in a vehicle, but it never actually uses them and you’re forced to steer with the mouse. The entire inventory screen is somehow even worse than before, which is further exacerbated by the fact that inventory space is tighter than ever before and you’re going to need to make frequent stops to figure out what you should drop to pick up the hot new item you just found. NPC talking cues, tutorial messages, and quest items are often positioned so that characters will cut each other off, sometimes ending important plot stuff for less important “just so you know” type reminders. The game doesn’t go into idle when you alt-tab away, and instead continues devouring processing power rendering frames you don’t need and can’t see.

And so on, and so on. Like I said – these are all small problems in isolation, but as the hours go on I kinda start to lose my mind over all the little annoyances. In particular, I really hate how often I have to break the flow of the game to mess with stuff in the menus.

But all of these gripes pale in comparison to my main problem with the game…

Rubber Bullets and Foam Bats

Note that I'm the same level as this guy. I'm using a rare (blue) gun just one level below me, which is pretty good. Please note the cloud of critical hit indicators over his head. Now see that little sliver of white on his HP bar? That's how much damage these criticals are doing. This isn't a boss. I fight these guys every couple of minutes. Sometimes in groups!
Note that I'm the same level as this guy. I'm using a rare (blue) gun just one level below me, which is pretty good. Please note the cloud of critical hit indicators over his head. Now see that little sliver of white on his HP bar? That's how much damage these criticals are doing. This isn't a boss. I fight these guys every couple of minutes. Sometimes in groups!

What happened to my fast-paced game of punchy weapons and empowerment? Who looked at the Borderlands 2 gameplay and said, “This is good, but it would be so much more fun if the enemies were bullet sponges that could shrug off multiple shots to the face.”? Who said that? And who listened to them? Why does this game of frantic action now feel ponderous like Tom Clancy’s The Division? And why is nobody talking about this?

It took me a long time to realize just how deep the rot goes. In the early levels, I was a little taken aback by how many shots it took to put down the bandits and cultists. These games normally start you off with pushover foes. The game is giving you a free hit of dopamine to get you hooked so you’ll be willing to work for it later. But this time putting down the early mooks was kind of slow and annoying.

But okay. Maybe the designer thought the old way of paper foes in the first 5 levels was a little too patronizing. Maybe they wanted you to earn that kind of power by finding better gear. So then I got a green weapon. Then a blue. Then purple. Then finally an orange-tier (Legendary) gun. But the sponginess of the foes actually got worse over time. I would run up to a same-level mook and blast him point-blank in the face with my same-level shotgun. In the old days, that was very likely to take half his health, if not obliterate him outright. Now? It knocks 15% off his health bar and he ragdolls awayThe ragdolls in this game are oddly floaty. so I can’t even give him another shot in the head. Instead I gradually wear him down with my foam bullets.

In the old days, you searched for a legendary gun that would let you kill someone in just a couple of shots. Now you’re in search of guns that will kill someone in just a couple of reloads.

The bullets are so weak that I'm constantly running out. I see the OUT OF AMMO indicator so often I'm starting to worry about screen burn-in.
The bullets are so weak that I'm constantly running out. I see the OUT OF AMMO indicator so often I'm starting to worry about screen burn-in.

Every fight is so hopelessly ponderous. It feels awful to unload a gun on a mook’s torso, reload, empty my gun on him again, then reload again(!!!) to finish him off. In the old days, it always felt good to see someone’s face explodeDon’t judge me. when that bright red CRITICAL appeared over their head. Now I see the CRITICAL notification constantly, but it doesn’t mean anything because it does so little.

And that’s just a regular trash mook!

And there’s six more identical guys behind him!

Followed by a badass with 10x as much HP!

And then ANOTHER badass!

Stronger foes will often deplete all your ammunition for a given weapon type, forcing you to run around and collect ammo just to finish them off.

My son and I are both playing the game and every few hours we meet and compare notes.

Me: I found a sniper rifle that can kill mook in just three headshots. Although, it only has an ammo capacity of two.

Issac: I’ve had good luck with Jakobs revolvers. They can usually kill people before you need to reload.

On Saturday night I was having some fun and thinking, “You know, this is starting to feel like proper Borderlands again. Maybe I just needed to get some good weapons and get a feel for the new gunplay. I still feel a little nerfed, but I can live with this.” And then I realized I was level 16, and doing a level 10 quest.

The Shooting is Tedious, But how is the Looting?

Players get excited about orange loot because it makes them feel so much more powerful. If orange is just marginally better than the lower tiers, then they'll stop getting excited by it.
Players get excited about orange loot because it makes them feel so much more powerful. If orange is just marginally better than the lower tiers, then they'll stop getting excited by it.

The game is a lot more generous with loot. In my first play-through of Borderlands 2, I saw maybe 1 or 2 orange weapons. They were really rare. Even getting a purple was a big deal. In Borderlands 3, I found over half a dozen orange items before level 20. And I don’t care, because they still feel weak and ineffectual against these gargantuan HP bars.

The entire gameplay loop is broken. You’re supposed to be searching for power, but the mechanics make it clear that you’re never going to get any. As far as I know, orange is the top item tier in the game. And orange weapons in Borderlands 3 feel weaker than blue tier items from Borderlands 2.

In the old days, I could tell what tier of weapon I was using by just pulling the trigger. Now, the gains in power are very slight. I mean, killing a dude in 11 shots instead of 14 is okay, but it’s not the kind of thing to get excited about.

(And yes, I’m aware there’s a supposed “easy” mode. I honestly don’t know what it does. I tried turning it from easy to normal several times, and I couldn’t tell the difference. Maybe it lowers the amount of damage the player takes, but I’m not worried about that. I wouldn’t mind taking MORE damage, as long as the bad guys take more too. I’m not trying to make the game easier, I just want to speed up this glacial pace.)

Anyway. I don’t know why anyone would bother complaining about lame jokes or dull writing when the core mechanics are so screwy. I’ve looked, and I’m the only person talking about this. Am I losing my mind?

After enduring the ponderous fights in Control, I was really looking forward to the Borderlands-style gameplay of frantic empowerment. But instead I find myself once again trying to tickle my foes to death with NERF bullets.

I remember the Brown Age of the late aughts when every game was the color of mud and concrete dust. Then there was a stretch were every shooter needed to have sticky cover, even if run-and-gun would suit the setting better. Is this the new fad in video games? Bullet sponge combat?

I hope this fad is unlike the mooks in Borderlands 3, and dies quickly.



[1] There’s a menu option to disable rotating the minimap, but the main map ignores it, so you end with the maps oriented differently, which does more harm than good.

[2] Lectra City feels like the 3D maze levels from the Descent games.

[3] The ragdolls in this game are oddly floaty.

[4] Don’t judge me.

From The Archives:

111 thoughts on “Borderlands 3 First Impressions

  1. Joe says:

    There’s just been too much misbehaviour for me to buy this game. Supmatto was the last straw. I’m not going to give money to terrible people. So I really liked this look at it. Makes me feel like I’m not actually missing very much.

    Onto your gripes, you know that story going around about how buggy the review copies were? And that they weren’t supposed to be the final release version? Looks like they were after all. I wonder why. Trying to avoid crunch? Crunched too long and burned out? Jason Schreier might have something in the works.

    1. Vertette says:

      Why would crunch be necessary? They’ve spent five years making BL3, how on earth is it so buggy?

      1. Ivan says:

        Well… you say that. There was 6 years spent ‘making’ Anthem, as we all know, of which 5-ish were in fact spent doing a 3D Realms.

        1. Thomas says:

          Something must have gone deeply wrong in design, because the rumours are they kept syphoning resources from other games to put more into Borderlands 3

          1. Ivan says:

            Again, history teaches us lessons there. That’s exactly what they did with Borderlands 2 – made it with money they siphoned off from Colonial Marines (allegedly). Dunno why people keep trusting Gearbox in the corporate world to be honest.

  2. Lee says:

    I won’t be playing this until it’s available on Steam, if ever, but thanks for the insight.

    Missing some words in the map screen shot text, “it’s really tell”,

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      It’s not a matter of Steam but I probably won’t be playing it until all the DLC come and some kind of “complete collection” “GOTY edition” “full pack” or whatever they call it goes on a good sale.

      1. Mephane says:

        Same here. This decision is made all the easier as BL3 comes out on Steam about the same time as Cyberpunk 2077 is released, and it’s just not even remotely a contest between the two.

        1. Shamus says:

          The number of games about to die on the hill that is March / April 2020 is amazing. If I was a publisher with a AAA game scheduled anywhere in the March-May window, I’d move my ship date and let CD Projekt claim the territory. There’s just no beating them. The hype is already intense and we’re still more than half a year away.

          1. Daimbert says:

            If your game is different enough, then I’d be tempted to make SURE it came out then to catch all the people who either aren’t interested in it or else are planning on waiting with that one a bit.

          2. Simplex says:

            The chances of Cyberpunk 2077 actually releasing in April 2020 are close to zero. All their previous games were delayed multiple times.

  3. Liam says:

    ‘Please note the could of critical hit indicators’

    ‘Couple’ I presume.

    On the game note, I found a tiny Orange pistol in Borderlands 2 that let me one-shot almost everything. That felt properly special and powerful :)

    1. Bubble181 says:

      My guess is “cloud” actually.

  4. Jack says:

    What the hell. I honestly wonder if there’s something wrong in your copy, because enemies in mine drop like flies. And I’m used to Anarchy Gaige, so that’s something.

    1. Abnaxis says:

      Yeah I’ve been holding off on buying the game, but none of the steamers I’ve watched have been having the same issue either. Most enemies die in 3-5 pistol shots.

      Maybe there’s a bug, and the game is scaling enemies for multiplayer? If Shamus and Isaac are playing together, could this be an issue where multiplayer scaling is borked?

      1. Guest says:

        I think maybe they forgot how the game feels. Borderlands has always been spongy, that’s one of the reasons Anarchy Gaige is so fun, or the Gunzerker. There’s generally a period after the tutorial where you hit the hump, and everything gets spongy, until you start getting some class perk synergy and the right weapons, which is usually somewhere before the end of the first playthrough. Borderlands 2 is really bad with this, because once you get past this, there is a sweet spot that’s a lot of fun, then it gets grindy again as you pass it.

        For instance, Gaige’s BFF tree is useable up to like level 50, but after that, Deathtrap just can’t survive long enough to deal decent damage nor play tank. Up until there he is a ton of fun, but he doesn’t keep up with the scaling. There’s a lot of problems like that. Blue weapons aren’t “rare”, I mean, technically they are, but Borderlands has long had a problem where whites and greens are functionally worthless, even in the early game, and once you get past level 30 or so, you’ll almost never use them. Blue is basically the first useable standard, and you spend BL2 lurching from one purple weapon to another, using it for a few levels until you can find another of similar rarity.

        Zero is basically no fun to play as a sniper because of the sponginess and the level design, his only use in that tree is for boss raid DPS with B0re.

        If it’s worse than Borderlands 1 & 2, that’s not great, because those were pretty bad already on the shooter-responsiveness gamefeel side of things. That screenshot looks pretty bad to be honest, it looks a lot worse than BL2, that looks like BL2 when you insist on playing above your level to catch up to your mates on a new character, Shamus is reloading and he’s done a mag dump of that SMG at the character’s head and scored a bunch of criticals. If you have to dump 3 mags into a regular enemies head at close range, and you’re the right level, and you’re not using a white or green weapon, that just plain shouldn’t happen. The games were already sluggish and had massive health bars, that needed improving, not Divisioning.

        The Division is one of the least satisfying shooters to play right until the endgame because of how badly done the health is, terrible design. They seemed to use the same software to make the much better Wildlands (Still a bad game), and the difference is night and day. We do not need more of this garbage.

        That gives me a lot of pause about buying this one.

        1. GargamelLenoir says:

          I’m playing Borderlands 2 and Pre Sequel almost all the time, with all the characters, and no they are not spongy at all. If I can’t kill regular mooks my level with two headshots (except for the SMG) I usually consider that there is something wrong with my loadout.

  5. Ivan says:

    Shamus, I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while, now. The little numbered note doodads that pepper your articles, their boxes break pretty badly when the site is zoomed such that the borders outside the article space are almost none, and the numbered doodad is also right on the edge. Any chance you can fix this by checking for such conditions and popping the box under the number in that scenario?

    I’ll reply to this with a screenshot of what I mean, if I ever manage to figure out how to embed one/upload one to some image sharing service or whatnot.

    1. Ivan says:

      There, it looks like that, basically.

      1. Asdasd says:

        Do you use a monitor in portrait mode? I have this issue and I was assuming it was something to do with that.

        (The size of your scroll bar suggests you don’t, so maybe everyone gets it?)

        1. Ivan says:

          No, it’s not portrait. Pretty sure the only criteria is how close the number is to the side of your screen. Any orientation/zoom level/whatever else will probably trigger it. Since the basic root problem in word wrapping.

          1. Lino says:

            I also get it, but in my case it’s because I’ve got the site zoomed in, and in a little window. When I resize it, the it fixes the problem.

      2. Jeff says:

        That’s what mine looks like. I’m on my work computer right now, with a puny screen. I think I’ve complained about this before, but at least we had the footnotes at the end. That box is even thinner for me.

  6. Asdasd says:

    Typolice: Please note the cloud of critical hit indicators, not the could of critical hit indicators.

    Poe’s law typolice: Please note the could have critical hit indicators, not the could of critical hit indicators. For Richard and Mortimer’s sake, why do the normies struggle with this so!!!!11

    On topic:

    The game is a lot more generous with loot. In my first play-through of Borderlands 2, I saw maybe 1 or 2 orange weapons. They were really rare. Even getting a purple was a big deal. In Borderlands 3, I found over half a dozen orange items before level 20. And I don’t care, because they still feel weak and ineffectual against these gargantuan HP bars.

    The entire gameplay loop is broken. You’re supposed to be searching for power, but it mechanics make it clear that you’re never going to get any. As far as I know, orange is the top item tier in the game. And orange weapons in Borderlands 3 feel weaker than blue tier items from Borderlands 2.

    Is there a genetic condition that causes all third instalments in a series of ARPGs to do this? Because the game this immediately brought to mind was Diablo 3.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Much better in D3 now, though. Serious issue at launch, but balance has been changed so much it’s impossible to recognize the vanilla game (luckily).

    2. Ivan says:

      I’m not sure, but that second correction was a joke, yes? I looked up this poe’s law thing, and I guess what you did here sort of makes sense, maybe, but honestly I’m just confused. Possibly doesn’t help that I’m not American, so the horrible grammar joke about horrible grammar does not register as well as it perhaps was intended.

    3. Dreadjaws says:

      This isn’t a “could of”/”could have” issue. It’s the word “cloud” written wrongly.

    4. Lanthanide says:

      When D3 launched it was FAR from giving you heaps of legendary items – in my original play through I only found 2, and they were both complete trash, both in the base item design and secondly in the excessive RNG that meant only 0.0001% of items were worth having.

  7. Redrock says:

    I’m wrapping up Control, and I should point out that with the right mods Grip can feel very similar to a BL 2 Jakobs revolver. Just get the extra headshot damage mod and the damage increase on kill mod, and go to town.

  8. Ivan says:

    Regarding the bullet sponginess being a trend: yes, it sure does seem so. The newest Wolfenstein had that in spades, now B3. Things like Anthem had it, I’m told, though it was far lower down on the list of problems so no one noticed as much. Fallout 76 as well, same sort of deal, I recall hearing the endgame mooks for that took ages, not mentioning the 30 minute final boss. Though, I haven’t played Anthem or F76, so that may not be fully correct.

    1. Mattias42 says:

      …Honestly didn’t have any trouble with bullet spongy enemies in Control, outside of some optional challenges. Everything except those huge guys in armor, bosses and the healing spheres dies pretty consistently from 1-3 hits all the way through the game.

      I did go out of my way to explore, and pretty much maxed Jesse both in levels and gear, though. Maybe that’s it?

    2. Thomas says:

      I feel like the latest trend in games is extreme level gating. Everything has RPG mechanics now and that mostly amounts to

      a) Obsessive loot loops
      b) Massive health bars

      Assassin’s Creed Odyssey would be a good game – if being 1 level below an enemy didn’t turn your hidden blades to paper.

  9. Christopher Wolf says:

    If it’s any consolation you are not going crazy in my opinion Shamus. In a rush to review many people do superficial looks into games and I believe crib from other reviews, leading to most reviews being largely synchronized. You are playing the game for fun, and for yourself, so you have a more unique view on the game’s flaws, and likely upside.

    1. Thomas says:

      Never mind professional reviewers, I’ve found it impossible to get decent opinions on games in the first month from anyone. People thought Dragon Age Inquisition was as good Witcher 3 when it first launched.

  10. Ancillary says:

    Wow, the bullet sponginess in BL2 was awful at higher levels, and you’re saying this is worse? I was already leaning towards waiting for a Steam release, but this seals it. If this doesn’t change, maybe I’ll skip entirely.

    1. Grey Rook says:

      In my admittedly limited experience, enemies get much less spongy if you apply slag and use level-appropriate orange weapons. Of course, the PC will still have less health than a random explosive barrel, but there’s nothing we can do about that without modding.

      And yeah, I’m thinking I’ll get the GOTY edition for half off in a year or so.

      1. Ancillary says:

        Yeah, there were ways to mitigate the grind, but in my experience they tended to close off avenues of play rather than open them up. Spent the first forty levels building a sniper Zero? Good luck with that.

        As for oranges, well Seamus notes above that they didn’t exactly fall from the sky in BL2. Myself, almost all the oranges I found were preset quest rewards, and they usually had an annoyance—like slow-moving projectiles—alongside the awesome stats.

        1. Grey Rook says:

          Can’t really argue with that. But for getting oranges, most named enemies have a ten percent chance of dropping a particular orange item, and the Unkempt Harold can be gained about one seventh of the time from Torgue vending machines in the Campaign of Carnage. Yes, you’ll have to grind to get it, but that’s the endgame for you, more’s the pity.

      2. Guest says:

        Yeah, but high level BL2 it’s mandatory. You HAVE to slag an enemy first, and you need to be using optimal weapons like the DPUH to have any sense of gamefeel.

        And a bunch of skills in BL2 also don’t scale into the endgame, which drastically reduces build variety.

  11. tmtvl says:

    An 85? From today’s critics? Doesn’t that basically mean ‘it don’t crash too often and there are a couple of funny jokes’?

    1. Hector says:

      Reviewers aren’t as bad as they used to be, but big releases like this tend to be graded on a very generous curve, especially as they buy lots of ads. The other issues with BL3 are that very few reviewers received access to play early, and the user scores are… not that favorable. And hilariously, Epic’s infrastructure is so bad people are discussing the game on Steam instead.

    2. Decius says:

      It’s near the top of the standard 7-9 out of 10 scale.

  12. ShivanHunter says:

    I’m not so sure it’s a modern fad – Diablo 3 did this, Oblivion did this, I’m sure tons more games I can’t name right now did this across several gaming generations. It seems that sometimes, inexplicably, devs get the idea that if killing a mook is fun, then spending four times as long killing him must be four times as fun!

    1. Guest says:

      It’s a modern fad for shooters though. The great classic shooters are classic for good gamefeel, the ping of a headshot in Team Fortress, just about every gun in Counter-Strike, the ballet of dodging imp fireballs and getting close enough to take enemies down with a single shotgun round, good shooters are defined by good gamefeel, and part of that means snappy fights.

      Console shooters introduced third person sticky cover and enemies with higher health, while giving the player the same, think Halo or Gears, which made up for the difficulty of using a controller, but even in those, if you get close to an enemy and empty a mag in their face, they’re going to drop, and there are a bunch of weapons you can get a one or two hit kill.

      Lots of shooters now are sacrificing being decent shooters to play for RPG loot mechanics, and in the interests of making that loot more of a focus, the gameplay suffers. The Division is the worst example, if you aren’t carrying a top tier marksman rifle, you can’t kill an enemy with a headshot most of the time, and rarer enemies are ridiculously spongy, leading to awful fights where you have to constantly fall back to old cover in linear levels hoping you get in your DPS.

      It’s not great for Diablo or Oblivion either, but it’s especially bad for shooters.

  13. Dreadjaws says:


    With all the elevations tangled together like this on the map, it’s really tell where you need to go and how to get there.

    I’m assuming what this means is “it’s really hard to tell” or something to that effect because “it’s really tell” doesn’t make much in the way of sense.

    It feels awful to unload of gun on a mook’s torso

    “Unload off a gun”, maybe?

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      You’re supposed to be searching for power, but it mechanics make it clear that you’re never going to get any.

      its mechanics
      Man, I really should have taken these to Notepad before commenting.

      A-NY-WAY… It’s a shame about this game. I’ve said it before, but the complete lack of consistency in the Borderlands series makes me wonder if all fans of the series (myself included) only really remember the second game, which is the only really good one.

      This new game only seems to confirm my theory that Borderlands 2 wasn’t a refinement of the formula based on careful calculations and it was just a fluke that happened out of mere chance. These guys don’t seem to really know what made that game so special.

      1. Hector says:

        Gearbox does seem to have some real issues. The last real hit they had was BL2, and their portfolio looks really thin without it. I’ve heard that Battleborn was legitimately good though and simply didn’t catch on with Overwatch stealing all the thunder.

      2. Higher_Peanut says:

        I liked the first one and have good memories, but it probably wasn’t because it was good. Getting Diablo mixed into an FPS was something I wanted and getting an FPS that wasn’t military or halo was great. I probably have very rose tinted memories of it. BL2 did everything better bar obscenely tight level scaling on weapons and slag existing.

        They never did seem like they knew where to go with the series. 1 tried various DLC’s, zombies and wave based. We got General Knoxx and it focused on vehicles (the one part of the game to ignore all drops and build) for some reason.

        2 had a party focus and tightened up the humour that started in Knoxx. It dabbled in being an MMO with raid bosses and lockout timers, and drops so rare you’ll never see them. It basically teased an MMO with that ending.

        The pre-sequel thought the origin of Jack would be interesting and made air a thing. Mostly it was just inconsistent. Were they outsourcing because they didn’t know what to do?

  14. Gabriel says:

    But are there any typos in BL3?

    1. Syal says:

      There’s one right in the title. Was supposed to be BorederLands 3.

      1. Decius says:


  15. cerapa says:

    You have to actually look at the stats of the gun rather than just the level and rarity. The level scaling factor has been toned down significantly and weapon power variance seems to have gone up (at least from what I’ve seen). If you just want to use whatever the game thinks is strongest, then you can sort by “item score”. This isn’t like BL2 where you are forced to grab a new gun every 2 levels because the level scaling is so ridicilous.

    Also, it’s a good idea to grab the audiolog stash things. Most of my upgrades come from those.

    Also, snipers kinda suck now, so you don’t get that head-popping action with those yeah.

    1. Higher_Peanut says:

      Sniping has been pretty poor since the beginning, at least with the low fire-rate ones. Get past play through 1 and all the crit damage in the world won’t kill a bandit in one head shot.

      I’m glad to hear they pulled back on how hard the level scaling was, at least on weapons. I hear player-enemy level comparison is still pretty bad. Going from BL1 where a legendary pistol in fyrestone was useful to the end of that play through to BL2 where if it dropped over 3 levels ago you should probably vendor it was awful.

  16. Karma The Alligator says:

    The ragdolls in this game are oddly float.

    That sounds odd to me. Is it meant to be ‘floaty’, or is it another expression I never heard before?

    Why would they rotate the main map by default and not give an option to not rotate it (and yet give that option to the minimap for extra confusion)? And sad to see they didn’t improve the interface, which was already such a pain in BL2.

    1. Syal says:

      I was assuming ‘flat’ like unexciting, but floaty’s possible..

      Lots of typos in this one. This could be meta-commentary on the state of the game.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      I’m assuming ‘floaty’ means that there’s something off with the ragdoll physics. Like the bodies are affected by low gravity – they fly too far, fall too slowly, etc.

      Maybe. That was my take, anyway.

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        I get that, I was just pointing a typo in the original, where it was ‘float’ instead of ‘floaty’

  17. Moss says:

    BL3 reminds me of the video Campster made about Rage 2. Campster posits that Rage 2 feels incredibly good to play, but is still a bad game because of the writing.

    Similarly, the combat in BL3 feels incredibly good. I constantly switch between sniping, melee combat, jumping over obstacles, close quarter shotgun combat, using my special ability, and avoiding projectiles. Several times I’ve had to pause because I was in such awe of what I had just done. The ebb and flow of battle gives me flashbacks to Doom 2016.

    That is, until my shield depletes and I have to abort gameplay so I can hide like a coward behind cover for a quarter-minute.

    See, all the gripes Shamus lists are present and annoying. It keeps the game from being the best shooter this year, despite its fantastic combat mechanics.

    1. Syal says:

      That video bugs me, at least the gamefeel part. Campster got too “why is fun worth having” navel-gazey in that one. Like, there are valid points to be made about the limits of gamefeel, but he didn’t make them, he talked around them. Like, he didn’t even say Rage 2 was a bad game, he said it wasn’t necessarily a good one, which is just noise.

      1. Lino says:

        Campster got too navel-gazey in that one.

        Isn’t that his entire shtick nowadays? He used to make interesting, thought-provoking arguments, but the most recent videos of his I’ve watched are basically 20 minutes of him saying something that could be said in 2. And the idea in question isn’t even that novel or interesting.
        That’s the main reason I’ve stopped following his videos.

  18. The issue with Borderlands 3 is due to what several people have pointing (including Jim Sterling), the publisher gave out keys to journalists with a Alpha/Beta version of the game.

    Something that is pretty much unheard of as usually journalists are supposed to get to play the “Gold” version, the same one that is shipped on the discs to customers.

    This makes me speculate that perhaps they where’n really finished with the game. They never got around to proper QA and polish.

    This is part of a trend though, it used to be that that stuff got left out of the “Gold” version because of long lead time (especially with Sony’s consoles) so they needed a day 1 patch that they had worked on between the Gold landmark and release date.

    But this looks more like they just released a late beta build, which means that by early next year you’ll probably see balance issues and other bugs/quirks fixed. I guess you can say that Borderlands 3 is the first AAA(A) early access release?!

    Why can’t publisher allow devs to do what CD Projekt does? If the games need more time, just delay the release. But I’m guessing the publisher in this case wanted to beat the late fall/xmas rush.

    1. Decius says:

      It’s getting more and more common to release a late beta build and then finish it with patches later. See Pathfinder: Kingmaker and Battletech for two recentish examples.

    2. Ivan says:

      “I guess you can say that Borderlands 3 is the first AAA(A) early access release?!”

      Oh, you poor, sweet, summer childe. Where have you been?

    3. tmtvl says:

      If the games need more time, just delay the release.

      Devs need to eat and IT people are either A) Expensive or B) terrible.

      1. Nessus says:

        Operating costs exceeding what the market will bear does not justify or excuse willfully choosing to sell shoddy products. It indicates that either your project management has efficiency issues, or your design was too ambitious and/or inflexible. The former is never the customers’ responsibility. The latter is only the customer’s responsibility if product is bespoke. Products that are made purely “on spec” relative to demand are owed nothing but what they can earn.

        If you wanna charge big boy prices, you’re implicitly soliciting and agreeing to an expectation that you’ll deliver a big boy product.

        IMO If companies get to waffle on an arbitrary % of their end of the bargain, then customers should have the ability to charge-back whatever arbitrary % of payment they feel like as well.

  19. Dreadjaws says:

    I know this is entirely irrelevant to the subject, but I’ve been playing through Heat Signature lately and I could swear I had seen an article of yours about it, yet I can’t find it anywhere. Did I imagine it? Have you actually played that game or am I thinking of someone else?

    1. Nessus says:

      Spoiler warning did a one-shot video about it. Maybe that’s what you’re remembering?

  20. sheer_falacy says:

    I haven’t had as much of an issue with the enemy hp. Thinking back on it they are pretty tanky and I do run out of ammo a lot, but I figured part of that was that I’ve never been restocking at ammo at the ammo vending machines. I haven’t really minded it.

    There are some parts of the game where they do some solid quality of life stuff and then kind of forget about it. For example, you mention the limited inventory – I was actually totally fine with inventory size initially because of the incredibly friendly fast travel system. You can fast travel from anywhere, and your car is a portable fast travel point. So if you have your car or are near it and fill up on stuff, you can fast travel to a vending machine, sell stuff, and then fast travel back to the car, and stuff you left on the ground may even still be there.

    And then I got to do a zone where they don’t give you a car. And in addition to not giving you a car, they only had vending machines and a fast travel point at the very start of the zone. And if you fast travel back to sell stuff and then head back to where you were, all the enemies have respawned (though you can just run past them). It’s really weird to have these two zone types in the game, one of which is incredibly convenient and friendly and the other of which is just unpleasant.

    Oh, re the vehicle controls – you do use the turn keys on the keyboard, but as far as I know it’s just when you switch to hover mode, which can strafe.

    Also, on the map the mouse scroll speed is hilariously slow but the keyboard can scroll it fine, at least.

    Another kind of funny interface experience is when you open a chest, see all this exciting loot, hover over it, and the item score is off the top of the screen. It takes a little bit out of the experience when you have to move a round a bit to see if you actually got something good.

    1. King Marth says:

      All the inventory concerns just brought No Man’s Sky criticism to mind. Players like that one, right?

  21. Axebird says:

    I have no idea how this keeps happening for you and not me. In my experience all the non-boss enemies in Control had a time to kill under 2 seconds, but you described them as bullet sponges when I saw them go down in 1-3 shots depending on weapon and accuracy.

    1. Ashen says:

      Same for me. If anything, the TTK in Control is ridiculously low both for the opponents and yourself. Maxed out Launch one-shots all the basic enemies and you can use it like 4-5 times before recharging. Towards the end of the game you feel so overpowered the game has to literally throw dozens of mooks at you and it doesn’t even matter.

  22. Geebs says:

    Given Gearbox’s previous form, the broken level scaling might just be down to a typo in a config file. Which never gets fixed.

  23. michael says:

    Counter-Strike is by far my favorite game, but I can’t play any other FPS games because I can’t stand bullet sponge design (or the previous trends you mentioned, like constantly hiding behind chest high walls).

    It’s such a lazy design cop out to pad content with time wasting mechanics instead of having an actually engaging core gameplay loop. Would anyone play these games if they didn’t use Skinner Box loot systems to trick people into thinking they’re making meaningless progress?

    1. Guest says:

      Same, CS isn’t my fave, but I love it and have played it since I was a kid, and when you grow up on the satisfaction of learning to land a nice shot and actually getting rewarded for it, and that loop making this really fast, tense game, these clunky shooters where I can put multiple rounds in people’s heads and they don’t die are really frustrating.

      I don’t entirely hate the loot system in these games, but I tend to bypass it. There was an exploit in BL2 which allowed infinite golden keys, so you could get a new purple set whenever you wanted, and that made the game much more fun. Getting a cool gun is nice if it’s a reward, rather than feeling like I am being denied the equipment I need by RNG to keep me playing what is little more than a slot machine.

      But between Vermintide, Payday, and all the other crap, it seems like devs really like the way that slot machines spread out their content till they’re feeling like Bilbo after years of carrying the ring.

  24. Shamus says:

    Here’s a general apology for the sheer number of typos. This was written right before bed and I only did a one-pass edit.

  25. Agammamon says:

    Polygon said they were “boring”. PC Gamer said they’re “just two cartoon villains” with “no cultural commentary”.

    In order to appease the publication, an ‘interesting’ villain would have to be an over-the-top caricature of anti-SJW tropes – which would have just gotten them great praise from Polygon but a pass from everyone else who’s tired of culture war bullshit – or they would have been excoriated for ‘cultural appropriation’ and probably racism. And misogyny.

    IMO the main reason these publication don’t like the Calypso Twins (I’ve not played the game so I can’t evaluate them on their merits and they may genuinely be cringey and not in a fun way) is because they’re doing the exact same thing writ small – drum up outrage for clicks. Its pretty much what they do with every other article – yeah, I know Drumpf is bad, I’m glad you were able to shoehorn in a jab at him, slay kween and all that, but all I want to know is is the game fun.

    1. sheer_falacy says:

      Nice job turning a one word statement into your own personal political rant.

      1. Agammamon says:

        Not a political rant. A rant about a couple of publications who keep putting their political rant in place of an actual game review to the point I’m surprised anyone ever reads them.

        1. Guest says:

          No, it’s a political rant, and it’s explicitly against the rules here. You ranting about how your political agenda is different to their political agenda is still political.

          1. Mephane says:

            And it’s also off-topic. But I’ve already learnt over at r/PCGaming that some people are so absolutely triggered by the mere mention of Polygon or Kotaku, they just have to write a rant about them any time they get the chance.

          2. Shamus says:

            I hovered over the original comment for several seconds. “Should I nuke this or not?”

            See, I agree that it’s generally bad / sloppy / self-indulgent to dump political asides into work that has nothing to do with politics. Gaming sites lean one way, some YouTubers I’ve come across lean the other way, and in both cases it makes me roll my eyes and think less of the creator. I don’t like Serious Stuff inserted into my fluffy entertaining reading (I’m probably on a gaming site to get AWAY from that crap) and I don’t think those sorts of lazy digs at the Other Party are productive or useful. They don’t change minds. They start fights, and they distract from the topic at hand and derail the comment thread.

            On the other hand, it’s VERY HARD to do that criticism and not simply start yet another fight, because you’re sort of announcing a team affiliation when you do. You’re not talking politics, but you’re talking about talking about politics, and that makes everyone line up along party lines and the whole thing goes to hell.

            So yeah, I probably should have intervened sooner here. Let’s just consider the thread closed on move on.

            Sorry if it was irritating. I do my best.

  26. Agammamon says:

    The game beings with 8 solid minutes of completely unskippable cutscenes. After that it’s five more minutes of passively following Claptrap around before you can begin playing the game proper.

    Sometimes I think developers are taking the piss. We tell them over and over ‘no unskippable stuff’, ‘stop taking camera control away from me’ ‘let me play while the talking heads are talking’ and what do we get? More of it.

    XCOM 2’s expansion. We told them all that stuff. So what did they do? They added an enemy that says some stupid line to you at the start of EVERY FREAKING TURN – and you can’t play until they’re done yammering. There’s even a line by one of the other talking heads complaining about how much talking this other head does. YES ASSHOLE, so why did you guys double down on something you obviously know we don’t like.

    As you’ve pointed out – if you want to make a movie, go make a movie. Don’t make a game, shove a movie into the middle of it, and force everyone to watch it as the price of playing.

    1. ANGRYHorus says:

      Don’t forget the way XCOM 2’s Chosen would call you up on the base building/map scouting sections to monologues at you!
      Unskippably, naturally, because why WOULD’T you want to hear the same two-minute speech from a moronic blowhard every single game.

      As for Central Officer Bradford’s comment about how other NPCs talk to much, that was like the game devs had reached out of the screen to slap me. Genuinely insulting. You’re acknowledging that I don’t like something, by doing more of it, in a worse way, and now you’re being smug about it as well?!

      …But yeah, unskippable cutscenes etc are such a famous problem it is, in retrospect, odd. I mean, QTEs came, got unpopular and went relatively quickly…yet unskippable cutscenes have stayed strong. Weird.

      1. galacticplumber says:

        If I had to hazard a guess? The same kind of people who make over-long, annoying, or tedious things are also incapable of recognizing the possibility that someone would want to skip their hard work. That’s the hypothesis that doesn’t involve deliberate malice.

      2. Ben Matthews says:

        And yet a whole host of the older JRPGs being released that never had skip options now do on the Steam/HD re-releases. One step forward, two steps back.

  27. Grimwear says:

    My major gripe with Borderlands 2 was always the fact that if I wanted to listen to the audiologs I had to stop what I was doing and stand still because if I continued through the level odds were good that I’d trigger more quest dialog which would cutoff the audiolog and there’s no way in BL2 to replay them. I can’t recall how many times I had to remake a character because I went to listen to the character introduction audiolog only to have Claptrap interrupt it.

    While we’re on the subject of gripes I’ve recently been playing a lot of Japanese games (Metal Gear Solid 5, Resident Evil 2, Dark Souls 3, Sekiro) and every single one of them makes you quit to menu before you can go and quit to desktop. Bonus points if you’re forced to rewatch the splash screens before you can exit. Why? Just let me quit from the game screen to desktop. It’s not hard. I just started up Tyranny for the first time and boom can quit to desktop. Shouldn’t they know better by now?

    1. Chad Miller says:

      I suspect, given the specific games mentioned, that this is a matter of those particular games being designed console-first and ported to PC with little consideration for difference in platform expectations. For similar reasons I wouldn’t be inclined to play the console versions of isometric WRPGs.

  28. Jabberwok says:

    As much as I got sick of Handsome Jack after a while, at least “ultra-wealthy corporate leader” makes sense as the villain of a game about taking on whole armies of goons. Any random schmoe can be an asshole. The nigh-infinite wealth and power that comes with the archetype is what made Jack a solid villain.

    And our new symbol of endless power used for evil is…..a livestreamer? I’m not seeing that. Wanting to take a swipe at someone is not a solid justification for building a villain around them, outside of a South Park episode. Though I’m not at all surprised that they’ve sunk to that level.

  29. Tonich says:

    Found another typo:

    The game beings with 8 solid minutes

    Should have probably been begins

  30. Zeddy says:

    I’m very confused on the bullet sponge thing because Borderlands has always felt that way, and it’s primarily the reason the games never clicked for me.

    1. Jabberwok says:

      Yeah, same. Sounds like it may have gotten worse, but it’s almost an unavoidable trait of an ARPG. It’s why I hate that so many action games have moved into having enemy levels and RPG-ified weapon stats. It really ruins the designer’s ability to tune those things to feel good. Borderlands has always been mediocre as a shooter.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I experienced this to lesser or larger extent but I somewhat assumed it was due to me playing the games very casually and without a correct build. Also haven’t played BL3 yet so I can’t say if it gets worse.

        1. Jabberwok says:

          Builds can make a difference, but the other problem is that so much of it is based on the drops. In my experience, a good weapon drop can trivialize a whole portion of the game, and bad luck can turn it into a slog. Which can be fine for an ARPG, I guess, but doesn’t exactly make for a satisfying action game most of the time.

    2. Marc Forrester says:

      Two didn’t because every enemy type had an obvious Strike Weak Spot for Massive Damage. Sniping the limbs off robots was particularly satisfying.

      1. Jabberwok says:

        AFAIK, every enemy has always had at least one crit location, usually the head, The robots did have more than most, though.

      2. Matthew Downie says:

        I suspect most players can’t reliably crit in tense battle situations.

    3. Higher_Peanut says:

      It has always been that way, but I feel it’s been getting steadily worse. BL1 got real spongy late game but when starting out you could at least kill mooks without stopping to reload. Even with white weapons as long as they were close in level.

  31. Zeddy says:

    The game doesn’t go into idle when you alt-tab away, and instead continues devouring processing power rend

    It looks the alt-tab issue might not be sloppy programming but rather malicious programming. If this tweet with a screenshot of a cracker’s discord message is to be believed (and if you can’t trust those, what can you?) the game’s DRM uses your processing power and bandwidth frivolously:

    Grain of salt, of course. Maybe the whole salt shaker.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Ehhh, I’ll wait for more confirmations about this (it’s unlikely I’ll be buying the game within the next two years anyway). Honestly every single time someone has a problem with a game because most people can’t recognize between actual technical data and technobabble gossip pops up that its DRM is spying on you, hogs your PCs resources, damages computers (SSDs in particular) or at the very least slows down the game. I’m not even saying it’s not true, it probably is in some cases, but all this noise drowns out legitimate reports, which only makes things worse becasue the companies who do saddle games with bad DRM (is that redundant?) get away with it.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        The “denuvo damages SSDs” thing was total bullshit, and a fantastic example of the internet perpetuating bullshit because it tied into their “DRM is the antichrist” narrative. It all originally sourced to one rando’s post on rpgcodex which claimed Lords of the Fallen was writing to drive 40 times per second. There was no evidence DRM was the cause of this, and not so much as a screenshot to back up that it was even happening.

        My favorite part is that the first guy in the thread responding to it said “That would be horrifying if I hadn’t also read that Steam deletes your porn and Firefox is a botnet to farm bitcoins to fund CIA psy-ops”, the second said it wouldn’t be as bad as OP was acting even if his reports were true because [technical details] and guys 3 and 4 asked for source only to get nothing and there were no more replies to him. By running with the story uncritically the collective internet and an embarrassing number of game news sites proved themselves dumber than an RPG forum.

  32. Higher_Peanut says:

    Borderlands was already in a steady progression of HP bloat from game to game. So much so that I played 2 with a community patch that nearly quadrupled the damage of Jakobs (The “one shot one kill” manufacturer) snipers to try and make their less than 1 per second fire rate useful. Late game the top tier ones still won’t down a mook in one shot. The best way to get loot is to ignore every enemy and run onward towards chests and boss encounters. Fighting isn’t worth the time it takes for them to sponge up shots.

    I partially blame the introduction of the slag element. It causes all non slag to do double damage (triple on final difficulty) to the affected enemies causing easy slag access to trivialise encounters. The problem is applying slag is awful. You have to wait on your skill cooldown (if it can slag at all) or constantly weapon swap for each enemy. In parties you have the dedicated slagger, who does no real damage. It’s super tedious in single player and a total bore

    There are only 4 slots for weapons which need to cover different ranges, enemy types, elements, ammo types and emergency 2nd winds. It’s bad enough without restricting a slot or cooldown for slag just to make the game flow faster than treacle uphill.

    You can see how bad the HP scaling got (3rd play through everything even has %hp regen) if you find a couple of goliaths. Get them to fight each other and it could take 5 minutes til one dies.

    1. Ivan says:

      Never played orderlands, but, how do you “Get them to fight each other”? Is this like monster infighting in doom, or something? This suggests an unexpected level of dynamism in AI encounters that I haven’t heard mentioned before, if so. Tho I suppose it’ll just turn out you are using codes or something, hope not tho.

      1. Guest says:

        There’s a couple of spots where enemies fight each other, and there are a couple of specific enemies, goliaths and their variants, who, after having their heads popped, rage out and attack anything, levelling up on kills.

      2. Grey Rook says:

        Goliaths in BL2 wear helmets, which if removed by a headshot, causes them to fly into a rage, break their guns, and start punching anything that gets within range, including other Goliaths. It’s quite handy for crowd control in normal and True mode, but loses utility in Ultimate due to the aforementioned massive health increase and regen.

  33. Mephane says:

    Shamus, maybe you could chime in quickly on my main issue with BL2 and TPS and whether BL3 still has it, which is the that if you even slightly outlevel enemies, all gear except “weapon of the day” deals in vending machines are significantly below your level. Yeah, it makes sense that enemies will drop loot at their and not your level, but the games provided basically no effective outlet to actually do get some good gear at you level except to check out all vending machines in town, exit to main menu, back into the game (to reset the vending machines), repeat until you find something that is useful and roughly fits your play style and character build.

    Somewhat related and my 2nd biggest gripe was how many cool and interesting guns were rendered useless by the fact that they existed only as quest rewards, so if you end up outlevelling it, there is no way to get another one with a similar effect. For example, I liked Moxxie’s guns with the self-healing effects, or Torgue’s SWORDSPLOSION, for the brief moment they remained useful…

  34. EOW says:

    Basically yeah, now every game has to be a hodgepodge of open world, rpg elements (which just means random number and meaningless dialogue trees).
    Assassin’s Creed went from an allegedly stealth game to “hack at damage sponge enemies” with a level curve specifically designed around tricking you into buying xp boosters and better weapons.
    Even online pve games have become annoyingly damage-spongy.

    And the brown era is thankfully ending, i’m seeing more varied art styles, although all ubisoft games still mesh into one samey paste. But at least it’s a bit more colorful.

  35. Gary says:

    It is well hidden and extremely oddly worded in the options, but you can change the vehicle to respond to movement keys instead of the mouse. It’s in options under Controller -> Driving scheme -> choose “Vehicle Relative: Left Side” here. The only reason I know it myself is because I caught a stream where an actual dev dropped by to inform the streamer about it.

  36. Orange is the new grey.
    And here ends my brilliant contribution to yesterday’s article.

    Joking! (I joked so hard I forgot and hit sent before finishing lol)

    I was watching a bit of Upper Echelon Games livestream of the game and I thought the same: so many magazines to kill an enemy, this feels I’d get bored playing it. I was surprised when he didn’t talk about that in his review.

  37. Liam says:

    Small site gripe: I’m reading this on my phone, and as I scroll through the comments, if I touch a ‘Reply’ link whist scrolling (not a touch-and-release, but a touch-and-drag to scroll, the ‘Leave a reply’ box pops up.

    It seems like the Insert-Leave-a-reply function is tied to the mousedown or touch equivalent event rather than the click.

    1. Zekiel says:

      Seconded. I feel like this didn’t use to happen until a few weeks ago?

  38. Jon Stone says:

    I’m super late to start playing the game, as not only waited for it to come out on Steam, but I waited for a sale.

    I’m still in the very beginning, just about to leave pandora, and I just had to look up on the internet if I was doing something seriously wrong or if all of the mooks felt like I was playing UVHM without using slag. Head shot after head shot, critical after critical, and the guy is still standing.

    Good to know I’m not the only one.

    I’m not sure why most people aren’t saying this, maybe everyone is afraid and thinks people will just tell them to Git Gud. All I know is, that almost every video about “tips when starting Borderlands 3” video, involes making sure you have one of each gun because you will be running out of bullets.
    I guess I should have read between the lines.

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