Borderlands 3: Second Impressions

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 16, 2019

Filed under: Video Games 115 comments

There’s no Diecast todaySorry., so instead I’m going to do a follow-up to yesterday’s post where I complained that the guns in Borderlands 3 felt weak and ineffectual and the foes were all super-absorbent damage sponges. I had a lot of other gripes with the game, but that was the main one. The responses were very mixed. Some people agreed, some people reported the opposite. Both groups seem to be people who are familiar with the series and I’m sure everyone is giving an honest report of their own experience.

This means we’re probably missing some context. Something about this game is causing different people to report different experiences, and I’m curious to see if we can drill down and figure this out. Please do read the original post if you haven’t already.

So now let’s ask the question…

What’s Causing This?

One of the few pleasures in this game is when a bandit leaps at you, and if you time the melee strike properly you can knock him down and spoil his attack. That always feels good.
One of the few pleasures in this game is when a bandit leaps at you, and if you time the melee strike properly you can knock him down and spoil his attack. That always feels good.

Some people – my son and I in particular – have found the weapons to be pathetic and un-fun. Other people say it feels more or less like the last game. I’m going to assume the game is the same on all platforms, since it would be insane to mess with such fundamental mechanics on a per-platform basisBut for the record: I’m playing on the PC.. So something is causing this difference of perception. I don’t have any answers, but I have a smattering of theories. I’m going to list them all here and then we can compare notes.

1) Maybe we’re remembering the last game wrong?

In Borderlands 2, you can complete in-game goals to unlock badass ranks. Kill 10 skags. Then kill 100 skags. Then 1,000. And so on. These ranks enable you to buy small bonuses like 0.5% more gun damage or 0.1% more health or whatever. These bonuses apply globally to all characters. I described the entire badass system in this post if you want all the messy details. The point is that when I last played Borderlands 2, I’d earned enough badass ranks that I had a bonus of 8% to 11% to almost everything. If you’re doing 9% more damage and shooting 9% faster and shooting 9% more accurately , and reloading your gun 9% faster, and experiencing 9% less recoil, and inflicting elemental damage 9% more often, and doing 9% more elemental damage, then you’re way more than just “9% stronger”. BL3 doesn’t have badass ranksIt has a new system that only kicks in when you best the game., which might help explain why I remember BL2 guns having so much more punch. Maybe BL3 feels exactly like launch-day BL2, but I’ve grown accustomed to playing with tons of badass bonuses in place and so the new game feels wrong.

Also, the hazy memory might go the other direction. Maybe some people have been playing BL2 in Ultimate Vault Hunter modeThe third and final difficulty tier. for years, and so when they play Borderlands 3 and it takes ten shots to kill a common mook, they think, “Yup. This is totally normal.”

This is ambiguous. Is the game going to auto-level stuff all the time, or only when I'm playing with someone else? And hey, I don't mind experimenting with features to see how they work, but YOU CAN'T CHANGE THIS ONCE YOU START A CHARACTER, AND IT TAKES 13 MINUTES OF UNSKIPPABLE CUTSCENES TO START A NEW ONE!
This is ambiguous. Is the game going to auto-level stuff all the time, or only when I'm playing with someone else? And hey, I don't mind experimenting with features to see how they work, but YOU CAN'T CHANGE THIS ONCE YOU START A CHARACTER, AND IT TAKES 13 MINUTES OF UNSKIPPABLE CUTSCENES TO START A NEW ONE!

2) Maybe the game mode Matters?

When you start a new game, you’re presented with the choice of playing with “Cooperation” or “Coopertition”.  The first mode is new in BL3. In that mode, there’s a lot of level-scaling going on. If you’re level 5 and you join the game of your level 20 buddy, then you’ll see foes and loot at your level and they will see foes and loot at theirs. You’re shooting the same mooks, but you’re seeing different things.

Coopertition is just classic Borderlands. If you’re 5 and you join a level 10 friend, then the level of your foes and loot will depend on where you go.

For all of my characters, I chose the classic experience. Level-scaling freaks me out. I like to know I’m up against a fixed challenge, and that the game isn’t invisibly adjusting things in the background to make sure I have the “proper experience”. If I sneak out of the tutorial zone at the start of the game and hike to Mt. Evil, then I expect to get one-shotted by a monster 50 levels above me. If I’m at the endgame and I return to the newbie zone to pick up a few collectibles I missed, then I want to effortlessly brush those level 1 mooks out of my way. If that’s not the experience you want me to have, then don’t put a leveling system in your game. Like I said in my Dead Island review, if all foes level up with me, then leveling up becomes a bad thingObviously there are exceptions. In Dark Souls, YOU level up, but nobody else does. Right now I’m specifically talking about games where players, foes, and weapons all have levels.. I get stronger, my foes get stronger, and my weapons… don’t. Gaining more levels just means you need to retire your weapons faster, which means getting an XP reward for sidequests is effectively a punishment.

I don’t know if this is how Cooperation mode works. I just saw the promises of auto-leveling and went the other way. By necessity, the modes need to use different logic when calulating things. Maybe one mode is better balanced than the other?

Look at all those nice, big numbers below the weapons. That would be super-helpful for sorting loot if the numbers actually told you anything.
Look at all those nice, big numbers below the weapons. That would be super-helpful for sorting loot if the numbers actually told you anything.

3) Maybe we can’t trust the claims the game makes about weapon power?

Actually, this one isn’t a “maybe”. This actually seems to be the case.

In BL2, items are classified by tiers of increasing rarity: White, Green, Blue, Purple, Orange. Generally, rarer is better. Now, there’s a bit of slop to these. Sometimes you’ll find a blue that happens to out-perform a purple. The game gives bonuses to guns based on those rarity tiers, but the system is so complicated that there’s no way for the computer to really understand how good a gun will be without resorting to brute-force simulation. For example, there’s a bonus for a gun that enables you to fire “as fast as you can pull the trigger”. If you’re using a sniper rifle with a large mag, that bonus is massive. If you’re talking about a double-barrel shotgun that needs to be reloaded after every shot, then that bonus does nothing at all.

Still, in BL2 it was totally reasonable to use color as a first-pass discard filter so you don’t need to experiment with each and every gun you find. I generally only bother with weapons at or above the rarity I’m using. If my gun is blue tier, then I’m going to dump greens and whites without looking at them.

In BL3, this doesn’t seem to be a safe assumption. The tiers are all much closer together in power and there’s a lot more noise in their individual performance numbers, so it’s totally possible to have a green out-perform a same-level orange.

Feedback from the comments and from Issac confirm this. This is certainly a contributing factor to my woes. Once I had a pool of purples and oranges, I ignored most of the other stuff. I like questing for guns, but I don’t enjoy spending a quarter of an hour going through my haul and experimenting with each and every weapon. I enjoyed the old system where I could filter out low-tier guns.

Borderlands 3 even adds a Destiny-style “power” value to guns that’s supposed to rate its overall strength. This feature is evidently meaningless. I really thought – perhaps foolishly – that I could trust this number and use it to select the most powerful guns without needing to do manual unit testing on them. But after reading other people talk about guns that kill people in “2 or 3 hits” as opposed to “1 or 2 magazines”, I experimented a bit with the supposedly “weaker” weapons and discovered how badly the game had been lying to me. In particular, I discovered that Jacobs guns are really powerful. With a decent Jacobs revolver or shotgun, the game nearly feels like BL2. My blue level 8 Jacobs pistol easily outperforms oranges at level 10.

This is crazy. This goes against the entire premise of the game. If oranges aren’t special, then why are they rare? If this power number doesn’t tell me anything, then why does the game display it? If the trash loot I find is just as powerful as the stuff I can get from killing bosses, then why would I go out of my way to kill bossesI mean, obviously you kill bosses because they’re part of the story, but grinding boss fights for epic drops was a big part of the endgame in Borderlands 2.?

Some weapons will have a huge wind-up time. Like, a shotgun where you have to hold down the trigger for two full seconds, and if you let off too soon it’ll fizzle and give you nothing. That’s a very bad feature to have in a hectic fight against up-close enemies, which is when you’d use something like this. But the power numbers don’t seem to take stuff like this into account. I realize it would be really hard to make this number useful. I’m not mad they failed, I’m mad they left the broken feature in the game where it could lie to me about the value of the stuff I was looking at!

4) Maybe it’s just certain weapons, characters, or playstyles that are unbalanced?

I’ve played Zane the longest, and it really was a miserable slog. I saw his skill tree had all these bonuses to movement speed, and I had this crazy idea I could run around at frantic speed, killing stuff like the Doom marineAlso, somewhat randomly, the game gave me more than one epic class mod for that particular skill tree, which perhaps encouraged me to stick with it for longer than made sense.. In reality, I ended up running around very quickly and doing almost no damage to people.

I’ve played a few hours as FL4K. I’ve never been one for pet classes, but it’s got some great skills for boosting damage output and that makes it much less of a chore to play. Now I’m playing as AmaraA Siren – she smashes people with space-magic. but I haven’t spent enough time to make a proper comparison with the others.

Want to lose all your progress in this grueling test of endurance and patience? Just fast travel to literally anywhere else!
Want to lose all your progress in this grueling test of endurance and patience? Just fast travel to literally anywhere else!

5) Maybe I’m just dealing with a mid-game slump?

I really started having problems sometime around Lectra City. That, and the Skywell-27 installation were a miserable slog. I’d felt underpowered for most of the game, but this is where it really started to feel like I was shooting Styrofoam bullets at people. After a few hours of that cruel grind, I was longing for the fun empowerment of Borderlands 2.

And since I brought it up, allow me to say a few words about the crime against fun that is the Skywell-27 installation:

This place is an hour-long linear murder dungeon against the same few enemies, with no fast travel and no shops, that’s packed wall-to-wall with groups of badasses with support / healing units that turn every mook fight into an ordeal. Just like the designers don’t have any way to know how powerful your guns might be, they don’t seem to have any way to judge how hardRead: TIME CONSUMING. a fight might be. The final boss was a joke pushover compared to several of the mook fights that preceded him.

The important thing about Skywell-27 is that if you want to unload your gear, buy some bullets, or exit the game, then the entire place will reset and you’ll have to do it ALL again. I’m leveling new characters, but I don’t know if I have the willpower to endure that horrendous garbage a second time.

So What’s Your Experience?

I know a lot of you are giving the game a miss. Between the Epic exclusivity and the 2K Games thuggish behavior, and the various PR problems surrounding Gearbox head honcho Randy Pitchford, some people have lost interest in the game.

But for those of you that are playing, I’m curious to hear your take. Some people said the foes felt “too weak”. What do you mean by that? Do you mean you were one-shotting everyone, or do you mean, “This game is too easy! Mooks go down after just fifty or sixty measly shots to the face. Borderlands 3 ought to be balanced like a REAL looter-shooter, like Anthem!”

And if you were dispatching foes easily, then what’s your strategy? My strategy of “shooting people in the head many times with orange guns” hasn’t been working out, so I’m wondering what you’re doing differently.

And just in general I’m curious: What characters are you playing? What’s your go-to weapon? What’s your favorite special ability?

 

Footnotes:

[1] Sorry.

[2] But for the record: I’m playing on the PC.

[3] It has a new system that only kicks in when you best the game.

[4] The third and final difficulty tier.

[5] Obviously there are exceptions. In Dark Souls, YOU level up, but nobody else does. Right now I’m specifically talking about games where players, foes, and weapons all have levels.

[6] I mean, obviously you kill bosses because they’re part of the story, but grinding boss fights for epic drops was a big part of the endgame in Borderlands 2.

[7] Also, somewhat randomly, the game gave me more than one epic class mod for that particular skill tree, which perhaps encouraged me to stick with it for longer than made sense.

[8] A Siren – she smashes people with space-magic.

[9] Read: TIME CONSUMING.



From The Archives:
 

115 thoughts on “Borderlands 3: Second Impressions

  1. Grimwear says:

    I’m currently in the camp of avoiding BL3 for all 3 reasons noted above but what I can say is that I noticed this problem when they released the newest piece of DLC for BL2. I booted it up again on release and thought I’d gone crazy when I was having so much trouble getting through the DLC on True Vault Hunter Mode when I’d had no trouble with every other part of the game. I’ve still never beaten it, just gave up and uninstalled when I realized I was in a giant slog and not having fun. And this was with me having access to all their new highest rarity rainbow weapons. From what Shamus is saying about BL3 it honestly seems like whatever team they have do not know how to make an enjoyable shooting experience.

    1. Grey Rook says:

      Yeah, Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary is scaled to be significantly more difficult than the preceding expansions, under the assumption that you’ll have beaten them all including raid bosses. This means that you need an optimized build and high-end gear just to have a chance. Not entirely fond of that design decision myself, and I went through it in True mode with a level 80 character while escorting an acquaintance of more appropriate level.

  2. Karma The Alligator says:

    playing BL2 in Ultimate Vault Hunter mode

    Tried that once, and immediately stopped. Bullet sponges in BL are not fun, and I had what was supposed to be OP stuff at the time.

    As for BL3, I’ve seen some gameplay (waiting for the Steam version before I even consider whether to buy it or not) and I feel like some enemies do take an awful lot of shots to die, but it’s also very inconsistent in that some others are total pushovers. Could be that the players I saw were not using optimal guns, though.

    1. Guest says:

      I agree, I’ve played a lot on there, and you really need optimised rare weapons and to always slag enemies, which is less fun to me. But if you want it to work, you pretty much always want a “Double Penetrating Unkempt Harold” (Yes, awful name), because it’s basically the best weapon in the game, or something like a “Conference Call” shotgun.

      I only really tolerate it to play with my friend, because needing really specific legendaries (Especially Class, Shield and Relics are needed to do well), is just really boring for me. It creates that Dead Island problem Shamus mentioned: you feel punished for levelling up.

  3. Ancillary says:

    I’m holding off on the game for now, but I have to say, your description of the weapon generation system in BL3 sounds like a positive to me. It was a bummer in previous games to survey the carnage post-battle and know that all those whites, greens, and blues were headed straight to the vendor. Now it’s possible for a great gun to come from anywhere. A shame the UI doesn’t make comparisons easy.

    1. Moss says:

      I would agree. I don’t associate purple or orange with “power” since bl2, but with “interesting mechanics”.

    2. galacticplumber says:

      Give me easy comparisons or give me a damn filtering system. Having neither in a game with this much loot is unacceptable.

      Ideally give me both.

  4. boz says:

    I for one never really enjoyed Borderlands series and now at a place at life that I’m not going to buy anything on 2K inventory without 90% discount.

    That said, looks like game is a huge success
    https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2019-09-15-borderlands-3-is-giving-gearbox-its-best-numbers-in-gearbox-history-says-ceo-randy-pitchford

    1. Dev Null says:

      I suspect it _is_ doing well, but I’m still not believing a story that is essentially “CEO says sales are awesome; trust him!”

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Particularly if that CEO is Randy “I literally cannot stop lying” Pitchford.

        1. Hector says:

          Plus, there’s been a pattern with explicitly pro-Epic boosters using extemely vague comparisons to claim things are great. As in, making unverifiable statements with no numbers or context.

          Those usually make me suspicious, because of all the weaselly marketing in the world.

          1. Asdasd says:

            I agree. The fact that you’re bragging about having ‘the most concurrent users since records began’ or whatever only makes me more aware that you aren’t bragging about sales.

            Having said that I’ve no doubt the sales are extremely healthy indeed.

          2. Dreadjaws says:

            Indeed. I’ve said this numerous times before, but if things were going so great for Epic, they would be giving us actual numbers. If their strategy was working, they’d want us to know for sure it was.

            Like the whole deal with The Division 2 and how Epic claimed the game had a larger number of preorders than the previous game, but they never explicitly mentioned how many of those preorders were on the EGS and how many on UPlay, which most users seemed to be gravitating towards (considering that they’d still have to use UPlay anyway).

            1. Decius says:

              Their strategy is working, but their strategy does not involve being bigger than Steam, at least not in what most people would call the long term. Any numbers that don’t show them bigger than Steam would be ‘proof’ that they were ‘failing’ in the eyes of the people who don’t like EGS because Fortnite codified the battle royale gamemode.

        2. Vertette says:

          I got the name “Gearbox” from a poker bet with Gabe Newell! I can’t believe that story is ten years old now.

          1. Duoae says:

            Is that the first recorded lie?

        3. Duoae says:

          “I literally cannot stop [myself from doing anything] Ants-in-his-pants Pitchford.

        4. Ben Matthews says:

          I’m not honestly sure who’s worse at this point, Todd or Randy. Least Todd’s lies are mostly gameplay-related and marketing, whereas Randy is just a complete shitheel.

  5. Jack says:

    So, my report:

    I am very very used to playing BL2, but I’ve never done UVHM or the OP levels, and the character I’ve played most is Anarchy Gaige of all people, so I’m used to guns pulverizing bandits.

    I’m playing on PC, on Cooperation mode, and enemies do NOT scale to my level; I’ve both found higher-level areas and gone back to lower-level areas. I think it just uses scaling when you co-op as a guest.

    As for weapon rarity, one of my favorite weapons in BL3 is a green torgue “shotgun” (which is actually a rocket launcher), and I don’t even look at the item numbers; but that was how I always played the series, I never cared about rarity, I just see how the gun actually performs.

    With all that said, Lectra City can die in a fire. The rest of the game’s good.

    1. Guest says:

      That’s the thing though, rare weapons generally outperform less rare ones in BL2.

      All Torgue weapons fire explosive rounds, you can get a purple version of that same shotgun that just has straight better stats.

      It only works because you’re staying on that first playthrough, which usually you’ll pass the level cap for before you finish the run.

      I don’t think it’s a good thing: Personally, I think the way that the loot system works, where getting gear that’s properly competitive is a crapshoot that punishes you for levelling up.

  6. Raion says:

    If I may add my uninformed and pointless observation to the discussion;
    when I read that bit about mooks being bullet spongy and weapons feeling awful I thought to myself… wait, isn’t THAT what Borderlands… is?
    I played some 10ish hours of B1 alone and B2 in coop, and I had the same experience with both: I hated every weapon that wasn’t a sniper rifle, which were the only ones that felt like they had some punch to them and would actually, you know, shoot where I was aiming at, instead of just down the general direction (only slightly exaggerating).
    So that complaint struck me as humorous, but as I am not well versed in this particular kind of shooter genre, so I suppose there are some subtleties to it that I’m blind to.

    1. mdqp says:

      That was my same experience. Then again, I also don’t like Diablo-clones (I don’t find the gameplay enjoyable, feels like I am just babysitting timers while the “action” is a solved, but repeating problem that is trivial after 5 minutes of playing), so it seems like I don’t care for the “loot shower” idea that seems to be one of the cores of these games.

      1. Duoae says:

        I felt the same way when I played Torchlight 1 and Diablo 3. I think that the implementation of the feedback loop has been lost since Diablo 2. There is a necessary “upgrade” to modern expectations and yet, despite being successful, neither game managed to do that….

      2. Michael says:

        I also don’t like Diablo-clones (I don’t find the gameplay enjoyable, feels like I am just babysitting timers while the “action” is a solved, but repeating problem that is trivial after 5 minutes of playing), so it seems like I don’t care for the “loot shower” idea that seems to be one of the cores of these games.

        I’m going to go from this to talking about a cousin game to Diablo — Angband. Diablo is, of course, a roguelike game with turns replaced by a real-time clock, which, for me, entirely removes the possibility of having much fun with it. But as I understand it, people see a lot of similarity in the loot generation of Diablo and more traditional roguelikes. Items are generated with a random assortment of flags that may help the player in various ways. Back to this in a paragraph.

        Angband definitely suffers from the problem that “combat is a solved, but repeating, problem”. Here’s a complete list of applicable combat strategies:

        1. If the enemy will come to you, dig a tunnel, ensuring that while you’re fighting him, only one monster — your target — can be adjacent to you or, for that matter, see you.

        2. If the enemy won’t come to you, it can’t move. Based on your memorized knowledge of projectile pathing, remove walls in a pattern that will allow you to shoot its location without allowing it to see you. Since it can’t see you, it will take no action to defend itself, and it will eventually die.

        3. For extremely tough enemies, use consumable healing items as you fight them.

        4. Powerful wall-destroying enemies invalidate strategy #1. This makes them dangerous, so handle them by using a *Destruction* effect to automatically remove them from the level.

        Everything in the game can be defeated without difficulty by applying one of these strategies, though several powerful uniques will require choice 3. Plenty of stuff is so weak that you don’t need any strategy in particular.

        Now, back to the point I wanted to make about loot. I don’t think “loot shower” describes or even addresses the appeal of the game. To me, the fun comes from the problems that arise when you find powerful gear. The system is like so:

        – There are about 40 flags your character might have, plus stat bonuses. More is better. Some flags are critically important, some are nice-to-haves.

        – You have about 10 equipment slots. You want to use those to fill in every mandatory flag, as many stat bonuses as possible, and as many additional flags as you can.

        This is an optimization problem. As you play, you’ll periodically find powerful items with flags you want, but that you’re unable to wear because putting them on would remove a flag you need even more. You’ll probably store those in your home against the day when you find a source of that even-more-important flag that fits a different equipment slot. Maybe you find a weapon that doesn’t do much, but it does do a truckload of damage against dragons. If it’s good enough against dragons, you might carry it through the dungeon, occupying a valuable inventory slot, just in case of encountering a particularly fearsome dragon, even though in almost all circumstances your other weapon is better.

        That’s the fun part, swapping equipment items in and out in the effort to maximize a large list of requirements and goals. Having tons of loot drop is more burdensome than fun; at high levels, it’s common to farm up a lot of drops by some means, leave them on the floor, and then attack the loot with area effects that will destroy non-artifact items, just to cut down on the time you spend identifying dropped loot.

        1. Duoae says:

          This is similar to the argument I made surrounding health and inventory management in the Baldur’s Gate series by Bob.

          Basically, it boils down to: “Choice is interesting for players”.

        2. Dev Null says:

          “at high levels, it’s common to farm up a lot of drops by some means, leave them on the floor, and then attack the loot with area effects that will destroy non-artifact items, just to cut down on the time you spend identifying dropped loot.”

          That is awesome.

  7. GargamelLenoir says:

    I think the point you made about people comparing with the true vault hunter mode (which for a lot of players is where the “real game” is) is the most valid. I mostly play on normal because and in either 2 or pre sequel that screenshot of you removing a sliver of health from an equivalent level mook with a critical would never happen (except maybe with a few SMG).

  8. Profugo Barbatus says:

    I’ve been playing Moze with my coop buddy who’s run FL4K, in the competitive loot environment because we like being able to bicker over, sort and trade loot. For context to the following, we’re exactly the sort of people who came into this game from Presequel’s Ultimate Vault Hunter mode where every bandit ate extra steel plates with their breakfast to keep up that bullet resistance.

    And its been going pretty well, honestly. Moze and her Mech are a powerful combination, with popping the Mechsuit acting as a full heal for you essentially, atop the Mech bonuses. She also has special abilities that do ammo regeneration for criticals, which I combine with Jakobs weapons for the critical shots hitting multiple enemies. I’ve been living exclusively by Jakobs weapons, their damage and accuracy is just too good to turn down. If you’re good at nailing those headshot and weak points consistently, Jakobs guns seem to become far superior to most of the other guns in the game. I’ve recently started playing around with her mobility skill as well, the ability to unlock shooting while sprinting. Its situational as you can’t really sprint strafe, but when your going from A to B in a hurry, being able to drive-by shotgun some poor mook feels good. Especially when scoring a headshot on him will shoot someone else, and start regenerating the magazine for free.

    Enemies don’t feel too beefy, mooks take 3-4 well placed crit shots to put down with a rifle, less with a good shotty. Badass enemies are immense beefstacks, but something that feels perfectly normal when coming from UVH mode. We’re currently on Eden 6, fighting around level 25, so I feel comfortable saying that’s not likely to radically shift as long as we keep our gear up to date. Reading this back for sanity though, 3-4 headshots does sound pretty bad, but its back to the Jakobs, I can land those hits as fast as I can pull the trigger, so mooks are lucky to last more than a second or two a piece.

    Loot wise, I feel your spot on item scores and rarities being lies. I had a level 13 white jakobs rifle that beat out level 18 blues and purples. Using a level 13 gun at level 18 should have been a miserable experience, but in reality that gun was still kicking all sorts of ass in ways a white rarity really shouldn’t, from how we used to sort guns. Rather, I’ve started treating Rarity as a visual clue to how many modifiers I can expect for a gun, not its base power level. The higher the loot grade, the more of the convenience effects like ‘absorbs bullets as ammo when shot’ are present, which is also the sort of things that the loot score modifier seems to struggle to quantify value on. I have a shield that happens to stack a bunch of bonus capacity modifiers with the ability to crouch to project it, and the projected shield has 20% damage resist. Combined with my sprinting attack abilities and the crouch slide, which triggers the projected shield, and I can sprint straight at a boss, shooting away, and powerslide to basically negate his entire opening volley of fire when it comes. This is only a purple shield, and the game scores it worse than a green shield at the same level. So loot levels are completely useless, and we absolutely spend like a quarter of our time just sorting out gear. Its not so bad at low levels where it usually manifests an obvious and easy upgrade, but we’re starting to hit the point where its harder to sort things out without worrying that your maybe selling a diamond in the rough.

  9. Hal says:

    I most likely won’t pick up BL3 for a long time. I only picked up BL2 when it was free on the PS4 in anticipation of the release of BL3, so my playthrough is very recent.

    I can say for sure that the opening levels of BL2 felt grindy/spongy/etc. You felt very vulnerable, your weapons didn’t do enough damage, there was never enough ammo. It took to about level 12 or so before I started feeling confident in my ability to take on challenges; I started to get elemental weapons, which meant I could take advantage of enemy weaknesses. I first noticed it when I went to rescue Roland at the dam; I’d found a sniper rifle that did fire damage, which made taking out all those unarmored bandits extremely satisfying.

    I’m playing through now in True Vault Hunter mode, and I (oddly enough) just rescued Roland again. Are things more grindy at this point? Eh, not really. If I ignore elemental resistances, enemies can take a lot of pounding to get down, but if I take the time to zap down shields or get corrosive gear for armored enemies, they go down just fine. It really helps to use at-level gear, too. The level dependency is significant in this game.

    Maybe those impressions will change as this playthrough wears on. If I stick around to go into Ultimate Vault Hunter mode, maybe I’ll see what everyone is talking about.

    1. Guest says:

      Normal playthrough, most enemies top out around level 30. Enemies levels are based on their location.
      True vault they scale to around 50. Some scale, particularly DLC.
      Ultimate, they scale to the level of the highest level player.
      OP, they scale to the level of the highest player, + some for difficulty in some location, + the OP level.

      For me, Normal and True Vault are the best experiences. Between level 30 and 50, you will be at your most powerful vs the bloating of enemy health, and your level ups are getting you high tier abilities which changes your playstyle and make the game fun.

      After level 50, the scaling really affects suboptimal builds, and you’ll need something optimal just to make headway. That’s usually where you’re hitting Ultimate VH, and OPs.

      The thing is, Borderlands is alright in those first two playthroughs, but it’s not great. And if you get something wrong mechanics wise, or your build is suboptimal, or you really need to replace a weapon and the RNG won’t favor you, you can end up in a situation where the shooting is completely unsatisfying. What I like about those first two playthroughs, is if you can optimise a little, the game will feel responsive.

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    I know a lot of you are giving the game a miss. Between the Epic exclusivity and the 2K Games thuggish behavior, and the various PR problems surrounding Gearbox head honcho Randy Pitchford, some people have lost interest in the game.

    This is generally true for me, but being honest even if the game had released on Steam day 1 and 2 wasn’t up to shenanigans I would have still waited until opinions were set. Like I said before, I think Gearbox peaked with Borderlands 2, but not just in that series. It really seems to be the best game they ever delivered. Looking at their catalogue, every game of them I’ve played that’s not BL2 is either mediocre or terrible (though I haven’t played well rated ones like Bulletstorm or Battleborn, for instance) and, like I mentioned in your previous article, the quality of BL2 seems to be the result of an accident rather than quality control.

    So yeah, I wasn’t going to up and dip myself into Borderlands 3 until I had made sure it was good enough. And now, well… Guess I’ll have to “enjoy” the game through a possible future retrospective of yours.

    1. Geebs says:

      Bulletstorm is fantastic, but that’s because it was made by People Can Fly, not Gearbox. Definitely worth a play if you like a fast-paced linear FPS with crazy set-pieces.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Ah. Well, one less triumph for Gearbox, then. This ends up making my point stronger. These guys really, really lucked out with Borderlands 2.

        1. Moss says:

          I enjoy bl1 far more than bl2

  11. Syluxrox says:

    Shamus,

    I was honestly very confused reading your first and second impressions articles on this, because that has not been my experience whatsoever. Ill start with the two parts we can agree on:

    Driving: Yeah its a mess, but it always has been in borderlands, so I didn’t expect anything less haha. Its a lot of fun customizing your vehicle with individual parts now though!

    The Map-Yeah I totally agree the way it is spaced out in terms of elevation can be confusing sometimes, and the fact that the orientation changes when you move is definitely a flaw. I am sure a proper orientation lock can be patched in in the future. However, I have found that it is much easier to orient yourself in terms of areas of the map with elevated areas if you just rotate the map to look from a side-on perspective, rather than a top down one. I will also agree that there are some areas that could use some vending machines and fast travel stations.

    The Inventory System: Honestly I do not think it is as confusing as some people are making it out to be. I always have my inventory sorted by “item type”, rather than rarity or gear score, which is more sensible to me, since if I want to compare two shotguns I just picked up, they are already close to each other. Or if I want to compare two shields, I just scroll down to where all my shields are right next to each other. In addition, I do not know what you mean by not being able to compare items that you cannot equip yet? I have picked up items that I was not high enough level to use yet, and was able to compare them just fine. You know you can compare two items that are both in your inventory right? Not just to ones you have equipped? Just hover over them in your inventory and press Q. I will concede that space is a little more cramped in this, but I havent found it too much of a bother at all personally.

    Lastly, the Loot/Bullet Sponginess: Unfortunately, this is where I think you just have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the loot system works in the series, because it has functioned effectively the same way through all three games. Your comments in this post especially highlighted this suspicion of mine that I had when initially reading your first impressions. Your understanding of the loot system in this seems to be higher rarity automatically means “better than every other weapon below it in rarity, regardless of weapon type, level, or build”. That is definitely not the case, and I am curious as to how exactly you made it all the way through BL2 with this mindset. While purple does GENERALLY mean “better”, that is definitely not always the case, especially when it comes to the item level/score. For instance, a purple rarity gun at level 10 is definitely going to do less damage, and as a rule perform badly, when stacked up against a level 15 green or even sometimes white. In the same vein, a level 10 purple will not be very effective against a level 15-20 enemy (unless its a Jakobs, in which case, their manufacturer “perk” is dealing a ridiculous amount of damage, with low magazine sizes). The fact that you JUST now are realizing that Jakobs weapons are “very powerful” makes me wonder if you’ve considered the different perks of weapon manufacturers, or even knew that they each had a specific “style” to them? Jakobs weapons have always been powerhouses.

    Your general rule of “ignore everything below my current rarity” ONLY works when viewing weapons that are your specific level. If you are in an area where you are getting loot that is about your current weapons level, then yes that is a good rule to follow. However, if you are getting loot that is three or more levels above the current level of your weapon, then you should start paying attention to the greens and blues, even if you are carrying a purple or orange weapon. Because even if your purple weapon is “rare”. It is only rare when stacked against other weapons of its SAME level, and will generally only outperform other weapons within 3-5 levels of itself. After that, you need to upgrade, and lower rarity weapons of a higher level will definitely otuperform it. You can’t just filter everything out, you NEED to compare damage and stats for higher level drops to your lower level weapons. Like I said before, I am confused as to how you got through BL2 with this philosophy, because there is even a loading screen tip that reminds you of this exact principle. Higher rarity doesnt always equal better. The Item Score on the top left of the card can give you a general idea of how a weapon will perform, when stacked against others, but not always.

    As far as the legendary weapons go, your perception of these seems to be flawed as well. Legendaries aren’t meant to be “god tier” weapons. Again, as a general rule, they are usually pretty dang good. But what makes them legendary isn’t necessarily that they will one-shot everything in the room, or are meant to VASTLY outperform every other weapon in the game. What makes them legendary is their unique effects or methods of dealing damage. This doesnt mean that if you find a nice purple pistol that you really like using, that finding a legendary pistol of the same level will automatically be better than your purple rarity. It could be of a different manufacturer that doesnt mesh with your build, or it could have a weird or wonky effect that doesnt work the way you like it to. Legendaries are, well, legendary, moreso because of their unique or special effects, not because they are “better” than a purple of the same variety. For instance, I have a Moze build that functions around having my shields up constantly, and I get perks and damage bonuses when my shields are up. AKA, in order for my character to “work” and deal damage, I NEED a good shield, with a high capacity. I found a legendary shield the other day that has a unique effect of constantly dealing radiation damage to any enemy around me. However, it has a much smaller capacity than my purple shield I am currently using. Even though both are the same level, equipping the orange shield doesnt mean that I will do better, because it doesnt work well with my build. Same logic could be applied to a purple shield I may find, that happens to have a lower capacity than my currently equipped blue shield. Even though the purple shield is more “rare”, it might be from a manufacturer that doesnt generally have very large shield capacities, and instead focuses on other secondary effects, rather than just being a tank. Again, you NEED to compare stats.

    I have been playing the game in both cooperative and “classic” mode with several different groups of friends, all of them playing different classes, and none of them have experienced the “bullet sponginess” that you seem to be experiencing in your game. I for one have been very happy with how the scaling has been working, and there has never been a point at which I felt underpowered. As much as you could be concerned about level scaling, I will assure you that the cooperative mode is very well done. I can safely join my lower level friends games as a level 40ish character and still feel effective, and the game will level up their enemies to be level 30-40 for me, while they are still level 10-15 for them (no matter where they are atm). It doesnt artificially create a challenge, as it will still keep “harder” areas gated off by having high level enemies there for both you and your partner. Like you said, if you decide to go fight the final boss as a weakling, in a cooperatively level synced game, say I am I level 40 character, and my friend is a level 15 character. A boss that we are “underleveled” for will appear as a level 25 character for my friend, and a level 55 character for me, telling us both to “hey, level up some more”. Its very smooth. You should try it out.

    The thought process that I go through when looting weapons is this.”How are my weapons performing? Have they been feeling weak? If no, then I can generally ignore everything beneath my current rarity. If yes, then lets take a look at the enemy level. Are their levels significantly higher than my weapon levels? If no, then there is something wrong with my build, or it is not syncing well with the weapons I am using. If yes, then it is time to start widening my eyes to blues and greens, since my purple weapon is now obviously getting outclassed in terms of pure level. Ok, lets look at these blues and greens, what weapon types are they? My build uses shotguns and assault rifles, with the occasional pistol. So I can ignore other weapon types. Alright heres some shotguns and assault rifles, what are their manufacturers? Manufacturers X and X mesh well with my build, so I can mostly ignore everything from other companies. Ok, this blue weapon and this green weapon are of a higher level than everything I have equipped, and of the manufacturers that work well with my build, so they may be a good fit. Ok, looks like they are both shotguns, so I can compare them to my underleveled purple shotgun. Looks like the blue weapon is rare because it is a Torgue with an elemental effect, which is not very common. Since it has an elemental effect, it deals less overall damage than normal, but the elemental effect compensates for that. However, my build doesnt use elemental effects very often, so it will probably not be as effective in my hands as it would in a build that uses elements. This green weapon however has 75% additional damage because of its randomized parts, and does more damage than my current purple because of its higher overall level. In this case, I will go with the green shotgun to replace my purple. It is better than my purple because it is a higher level, and thus deals more damage because of the higher level, and has the additional 75% damage effect as part of the randomization (the numbers will show this). I choose this weapon over the blue one, even though it is less rare, because the blue weapon wouldnt work effectively with my non-element focused build. I can send that blue weapon to my friend who can make good use of it with his alternative build.

    I hope that makes sense. I know I am not alone in this philosophy, because it is how all my friends view loot as well, and none of us have had issues with enemies feeling “bullet spongey” whatsoever.

    TL;DR-Your main issue with bullet sponginess seems to stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of how the loot system works in this game. Rarer does not always equal better, and legendary weapons are only legendary because of their unique and oftentimes silly functions, not necessarily because they are “better” than purple weapons. The level of the weapon itself is always the biggest factor in terms of its effectiveness, followed by manufacturer perks and how well they work with your build, then rarity. A level 10 purple will be outperformed in all regards by a level 20 green, regardless of manufacturer. And a purple jakobs will be outperformed by a blue or green torgue of similar level if your build meshes with torgue weapons, and has no synergy with jakobs weapons. This has always been the case since BL2, and if your philosophy of “ignore everything beneath my rarity grade, even after leveling up several times and fighting enemies higher level than I initially got these rare guns from” carried you through BL2, then you must have gotten some seriously lucky drops.

    1. Hector says:

      Hey, look: its That Guy.

      Ridiculously long post, misunderstanding what Shamus wrote, obfuscation of the facts, and self-congratulation.

      Shamus is clearly breaking into the normal gamer crowd!

      1. Syluxrox says:

        Hey look: its That Troll

        Ridiculously long post

        You got me there. Shamus however made a long post about his complaints, so I made a long response addressing them. Nobody forced you to read it, and I put a TL;DR at the bottom for people with short attention spans like yourself.

        misunderstanding what Shamus wrote.

        I read through both posts multiple times to make sure I wasn’t misinterpreting him. I feel as if I understand his complaints pretty well. He’s complaining about his purple guns becoming outclassed as he levels, and outright states that he ignores everything below purple if he already has a purple gun. This will 100% lead to trouble as both rarity and weapon level play into the effectiveness of your guns. In addition, in article 1 he showed an example of “bullet sponginess” he was complaining about. After viewing the photo I saw that he was facing a Maliwan Heavy Gunner with what seems to be a Corrosive Vladof pistol. Heavy Gunners are meant to be absolute beefcakes in terms of health, and Vladof pistols as a rule do less base damage than other pistols, and make up for it with large magazines and high fire rates. In addition, Corrosive damage deals less damage to straight health (only 75%). So Shamus there is using a pistol (the weakest gun in terms of base damage) with corrosive elemental effects (dealing less damage per game mechanics) of Vladof variety (a manufacturer that is naturally weaker) to an enemy that is supposed to be difficult to kill, with a pistol that is very likely underleveled. If the pictures are any indication of his experience, I feel as if there is little room for misunderstanding.

        obfuscation of the facts

        I feel as if you are just using random phrases here without any evidence to back it up. Care to elaborate? I was very straightforward with my experience.

        self-congratulation

        Ok?

        I would be more than happy to have a civil discussion, but you seem to prefer to insult people instead.

        1. Shamus says:

          “He’s complaining about his purple guns becoming outclassed as he levels,”

          Actually, not at all. I’m complaining that the purples I found were useless. At level. The moment I could use them.

          I’m complaining in the first post that all of my weapons were weak. I was using blues and better, and focusing on guns with high power numbers, and then experimenting to find good weapons from out of those. And I wound up with guns that were hilariously, obnoxiously, impossibly underpowered.

          In this second post, I’m not complaining that I can’t keep using my orange guns for 10 levels, I’m complaining that weapon tiers and the power number seem to have no effect at all on the usefulness of the weapon. I said in my post that there’s always been a bit of slop to the system, so you can get a good green that might compete with a purple. But I NEVER saw a same-level green outperform multiple purples and oranges by a wide margin for multiple levels, but that’s how BL3 seems to work.

          Right now my entire weapon sorting scheme comes down to “Find Jacobs weapons”, because everything else is garbage. I’ve been experimenting more with lower tier weapons, and I can’t find any non-Jacobs that can kill a dude without needing to twice, or requiring some ridiculous wind-up.

          Since 90% of all Jacobs weapons are revolvers and shotguns, this is making the game very limited.

          1. Syluxrox says:

            Thank you for your response.

            After posting my comment, I reread both your articles once again, and I realize that I may have indeed jumped the gun by assuming you were ignoring rarity regardless of level. So thank you for your clarification.

            If the purples you are finding are indeed useless at the same level you are getting them, and the only weapons that seem to be doing any damage are Jakobs weapons, then I am curious to see which builds you have made for the characters you have been experimenting with. I have a friend who is completely new to the series, and he chose to play as Amara for his first character. For the most part he has been using elemental assault rifles and SMGs from Maliwan and Hyperion, and he hasn’t had any complaints about bullet usage or feeling underpowered at all.

            I will agree that the “item score” assigned to weapons does seem very arbitrary at times. I generally ignore it when deciding if a weapon will perform better unless an item score is 100 points above a weapon I am using.

            If your builds synchronize well with your weapons (and theres no way they all only sync well with Jakobs), and you are maintaining level appropriate gear, I honestly have no idea why enemies are feeling so spongey for you. I’ve read plenty of reviews and critiques of the game, and while some have complained that some bosses are bullet spongey, this is the first I have seen stating that the mobs are so difficult to kill.

        2. Hector says:

          Me, a troll? Please.

          I’m a vampire, not a troll. I prefer to latch onto people and devour their hopes and dreams and leave them bitter, wretched husks of humanity that will repeat the process on others.

          I was being serious behind the ribbing though. Broadly speaking, your post falls back on the “You must be doing it wrong.” argument that pops up much to often among gamer culture (and, coder culture as well, a phenomenon which may be related). Shamus isn’t the only reporting serious issues with the loot in a, well, looter-shooter game. And the fact that I’ve repeatedly seen players wave off problems by chanting “JACOBS” as if it were a magic spell is a huge* red flag. It means the balance and itemization look significantly off.

          And you spend most of your post talking about fantastic YOUR build is and how YOU understand the mechanics and how great YOU are at playing the game. This is basically a textbook example of how not to argue.

          1. Lanthanide says:

            “Broadly speaking, your post falls back on the “You must be doing it wrong.” argument that pops up much to often among gamer culture”

            Well sometimes Shamus does actually just do things wrong. Like his 2 post article on Diablo 3 where he complained about the difficulty being too low and the game feeling pointless. Diablo 3 is (now) designed with a difficulty slider, you are supposed to increase the difficulty if you are finding it too easy. Shamus didn’t and then complained about it, at length.

            1. Shamus says:

              I dedicated an entire paragraph to your complaint. In that series I said:

              “Yes, you can turn up the difficulty. I tried it. It was awful. I still didn’t feel like I was in danger of dying from playing sloppily. Turning up the difficulty just gave everyone more health[1]. It was as boring as ever, except now fights took five times as long. That’s not a solution to the problem, that’s just adding another problem. I can choose between a mode where I’m durable and the foes are trivial, or the mode where I’m durable and foes are also durable. The game can be effortless, or a dull slog. I suppose if I turned it up high enough[2] I’d finally be fragile, but by that point fights would take forever. There doesn’t seem to be a way to play this game as a challenging, fast-paced action title, even though it feels like that’s what it’s supposed to be. The “kill streak” mechanic in particular seems to suggest a game of frantic brinkmanship that never actually materializes.”

              That system is ridiculous and wrong-headed. The default experience – which a sane person would conclude is the intended system – was broken.

              But!

              You’ll have a much better example of “Shamus playing a game wrong” in the next week or so.

              1. Asdasd says:

                FWIW, I had the exact same experience with Diablo 3. The difficulty modes within arms’ reach are respectively trivial, tedious and impossible. And I came to it after all the much-touted updates and patches. I just think it’s a problem with the way those games are designed; combat isn’t meant to be engaging, it’s very much a ‘zone out and talk to friends/watch a show’ type affair, a slightly sped up version of the MMO loop.

                Having said all that I think when you really get into the higher difficulties with an appropriately levelled and geared character, you can find the spot where ‘I’m fragile and they’re fragile’ and everything moves at a good clip. Once I had a Necromancer in adventure mode who was chain-detonating entire mobs with corpse explosions I even was surprised to find myself having fun. But the vanilla experience is definitely not that (it’s a grim chore with the worst-told story I’ve ever encountered in a game.)

                1. djw says:

                  The bad story was such a disappointment. Diablo 2 was one of the only games I that I ever played where I actually looked forward to the cutscenes, but lightning sure didn’t strike twice.

              2. Lanthanide says:

                Yeah, and your problem there is that higher difficulties = higher drop rates, so you find better items more quickly and also get more experience and level up faster so you can do more damage.

                Going from a character tempered in the fires of Normal difficulty and with equipment to match and ramping the difficulty up without the commensurate increase in item quality and experience to handle the foes will be a poor experience.

                I’m not defending Blizzard’s design btw, just saying that you weren’t playing it the way they intended it to be played.

            2. Chad Miller says:

              Aside from the fact that he did discuss the difficulty slider, I don’t think this defense is much of a defense of the game. Accepting the premise means also accepting:

              * Expecting the player to adjust the difficulty during play for a remotely well-tuned experience
              * Defaulting to “a baby can play the game with his toes” as the difficulty level
              * Calling said difficulty level “Normal”
              * Giving no in-game hints or prods that any of this is going on

              1. Lanthanide says:

                Totally agree that the situation Diablo 3 arrived at is completely lame. The point is that it didn’t play like that on release, they overhauled the game drastically and ended up there and I’m pretty sure their target audience for the overhaul were the players already playing the game, so they’d already know about the difficulty slider and wouldn’t be playing on the default difficulty anyway, etc.

                1. Chad Miller says:

                  I guess the point of contention is how relevant the default experience is. This is similar but distinct situation to the comment I made downthread about suboptimal play.

                  It is fair to say that the game was not designed with a player naively using the defaults in mind, and that it might be better if you already heard how you’re “supposed” to play it.

                  It’s also fair to say that this is a design flaw.

                  It’s debatable how interesting it is to discuss this default experience at length.

                  It’s fair to say Shamus covered this in his retrospective; in addition to the aside already quoted here, there’s this:

                  This can’t be the experience the designer intended. If the game had behaved this way at launch then the fanbase would have revolted. I have no idea why it works this way now. Maybe all the patches and expansions have tweaked the gameplay for the benefit of people doing end-game loot grinding, and as a side-effect it trivialized your first playthrough? Maybe this is like World of Warcraft, where they deliberately trivialized the early-game leveling because most of the player base is at the endgame? Perhaps at this point in the life cycle of the game, that first play-through is seen as little more than a formality?

        3. Guest says:

          Don’t play the civility card bub, you were not being polite. You literally took a digression to explain choosing someone’s weapon, explaining the basics of weapon classes, that’s more than a little rude.

          When you drop an essay like that, filled with as much wrongness as yours, people are going to let you know you’re being a little unreasonable.

    2. Lahrks says:

      This comment is articolate, touches a lot of subjects worth of discussion and seems to address the heart of the problem. How It Is possibile that It has zero answers?
      I would be very intrigued by other opinions on this.
      At least It is worth of an “i avere/don’t agree” type of answer (i agree by the way)

      1. Matthew Downie says:

        (1) It is long. You have to scroll down several pages to even have a chance to spot the TLDR bit.
        (2) “Your understanding of the loot system in this seems to be higher rarity automatically means “better than every other weapon below it in rarity, regardless of weapon type, level, or build”.”
        Shamus never said he thought rare weapons were better “regardless of level”. Level is obviously important. It’s stuff like the manufacturer that’s worth discussing, since that looks like a mere flavor modifier, but might actually be quite important.

      2. Baron Tanks says:

        Well, reading the comment I found myself agreeing with a lot of the points and would love to see people engage. At the very least I would love a discussion to see which points are correct or not, from others who have hands on experience. However, since I have not played the game myself I can not add anything informed to the discussion. I suspect this is the case for a bunch of readers and combined with the length of the comment leading to a number of people skipping it. Hence no other responses to this. If there was a way to like and or upvote or whatever, that would have been a way to communicate, hey, good point or sure, I agree. It often feels empty and/or superfluous just to comment I agree. That’s just my two cents on why this comment may appear to just be sitting there.

      3. Tuck says:

        It’s patronising and condescending.

        It also doesn’t match my experience of BL2, so maybe it’s also just outright wrong. Who knows?

        1. Guest says:

          You’re not, he’s flat out wrong about 90% of what he’s saying. And he’s massively condescending and a windbag.

          Source: 3 playthroughs to OP levels.

          In BL2, for the most part, after about level 15 or so, you’ll be getting blue gear of the right level, at least, long before the 5 or so levels needed for white gear to compete. White and green gear are exactly like the lowest tiers of loot in Diablo, it’s trash you’re not even meant to bother really considering and just sell.

          It is extremely rare, and will get rarer the longer you play as level gaps get longer, that you find a green item that is worth equipping past the introductory levels.

          1. Shamus says:

            Gah. Let’s not stoop to name-calling. I know it’s frustrating, but this thread really didn’t need to escalate the way it has over the last few days. At the end of the day, it’s just a dumb system for pretend guns. In the grand scheme of things, I’ll take this over loot boxes any day.

    3. Higher_Peanut says:

      The loot system hasn’t functioned this way in all games. In BL1 if you found a good purple or orange then you could use it for an entire playthrough without upgrading. A large number of BL1 legendaries didn’t have strange mechanics and basically were just pure damage upgrades and every Tediore legendary just had ammo regen. Rarity could be easily tied to power for a long time.

      It was BL2 that introduced the tight level scaling and mandatory projectile shenanigans for orange tier. That tight level scaling is the thing I found worst with the changes in BL2. At low levels there’s no reason to bother comparing loot. If it dropped recently it’s better and don’t bother checking because if it’s worse you’ll have a new one within 10 minutes anyway.

    4. Guest says:

      I feel like you just gave us a really long condescending nerd lecture where you don’t understand the previous game either. Jakobs weapons? Powerhouses? Please boy, they don’t do elemental, and elemental and slag are essential for high level play.

      The rarity? BL2 is super strict with that, I’ve played hundreds of hours, I would have gone in exactly like Shamus, throwing away white and green, because it’s trash. If you’re actually considering white and green items in BL2 past the first few levels, you’re an idiot. Generally, a purple or blue weapon gets extra perks, and has better stats, and will often outperform trash weps up to around 3 levels higher-nobody is considering white weapons in BL2 except the guy who still hasn’t worked it out. And generally, it’s not worth swapping out a Blue or a Purple item for a white one, because you’ll usually get another blue or purple one of the correct level before that’s a worthwhile decision.

      Nothing you’ve said matters past level 20. Don’t give us a long and boring lecture where you tell us how to pick a gun, we know that-you’re the guy who likes jakobs weapons lol. Hell awaits.

      You don’t understand the game at all, please, stop condescending us.

  12. Darren says:

    Ah, level scaling debates. Some things never change. My two cents is that I like level scaling like what Pillars of Eternity 2 has, where the composition of enemy encounters are tweaked rather than (or in addition to?) changing stats. It really opened up the game for me, but tough foes were still tough, dangerous areas were still dangerous, some areas were simply not that troublesome, and it felt like expanding my toolkit through leveling up and getting better equipment still mattered. Helped that scaling was in addition to other difficulty options. Probably hard to do, though.

    I am extremely interested in this critique. My boyfriend and I don’t have time right now for BL3, but we planned on playing it at some point together. Does playing solo versus with others make much of a difference?

    1. Syluxrox says:

      Honestly I have no idea how they accomplished the level scaling in this game. I am sure there is a ton of math behind it. It is nice being able to see my level 9 friend deal consistent damage to an enemy that appears to be level 20 for me (but on his screen is still around his same level). Even the loot and drops are instanced and scaled for each person. So if I kill the level 20 enemy, I will get loot around level 20, and my friend will get loot around level 9. And of course, if either one of us has a build that is very effective, we will still both demolish enemies in our own right. I will see my level 9 friend “go off” every once and a while and completely annihilate some enemies on my screen, and vice versa. Its nice, neither one of us feels underpowered, and we both have opportunities to feel very powerful when our build is working properly.

      Youll get the same core experience of shooting, looting, and leveling up when playing solo or coop. When grouped together with friends, enemies will receive a small buff to their health and stats to make up for the extra DPS that will obviously come from having more players involved, but not so much that it feels unfair. In addition, the more people you have joined, the more likely you are to get better/rarer loot, higher money drops, and encounter rare or more powerful enemies (that obviously drop better loot). Its a ton of fun with friends, and solo play is definitely enjoyable in its own right.

      1. Fizban says:

        I would expect its by making the level scaling effectively cosmetic. In pokemon, the levels barely even matter anymore- moves that used to require level 40 or 50 can be starting moves, newly hatched pokemon will literally just inherit the moveset of one of the parents, etc. Meanwhile, the game can just scale you to a certain level, because the stats shown are actually just a set of initial and bonus values that don’t care about level, put through a formula to produce the shown result.

        Pre-sequel had few skills which seriously changed the gameplay, but those that did really did (and it seemed to be the most refined so far). How do they pick the numbers for all those other skills that are +1% this and +0.4% that? It’s almost certainly already done by a formula. Leveling up and picking all those small boosts that add up over time doesn’t actually increase your overall power level, the values have to be assigned to make sure everyone has the same upper limits (aside from the few truly unique skills)- what it actually does is specialize you, so that where at the start of the game you had an appropriate power level with all types of guns, by the end game you only have it with those that match your skill trees.

        If you’ve already built the game around a set of character values that don’t actually change, run through a bunch of cosmetic leveling optics, well it’s gonna be real easy to balance characters of “different levels” because the level is just a display change. It’s basically just being honest about that part of the system.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          I wouldn’t have called it cosmetic, so much as indirectly related. If your level primarily impacts your item drops and skill ranks instead of contributing directly to statistics, the real variables would be damage rating and health/shield values, right? From there, damage dealt/taken should be able to get fed through a transformation appropriate to the desired power curve during play.

          I’m by no means saying this is trivial, but it seems reasonable enough for me to be surprised Diablo III didn’t do it.

      2. Chad says:

        This sort of level scaling is an interesting problem in game design, but it was mostly solved (over a few iterations) in previous games. My personal favorite is City of Heroes, where it was called “sidekicking”, to match the genre. Various versions of D&D have used similar systems in the background (some, arguably too much). If you’re interested, I’m sure there’s plenty of reading/watching/research material available.

        Effectively, each challenge is built around a rating of how hard it should be compared to a typical exemplar challenge of it’s sort. Those exemplars are assigned baseline stats and abilities, and the rating is applied as a modifier. It takes some trial and error to find the right values for everything, and you tend to get jumps when certain abilities come into play or thresholds get passed – for example, when health is above/below a (multiple of a) typical ‘critical’ hit. At the far end, it can below a little too obvious that everything is scaling to meet your current “level”, which gives the world an SSDD treadmill feeling, but if you can avoid that, you can create a long-term growth potential that stays in th fun zone.

        It sounds like BL3 is hitting that for you and your friends, which is great to hear, because I’m a fan of the series so far, and I’ve been discouraged by user reviews so far (plus the reports of bugs, UI slowness, EGS, and RP/PR factor).

    2. Higher_Peanut says:

      If it’s anything like the other Borderlands, solo is hard mode. Enemies run and hide from 2nd wind attempts frequently and you don’t have a partner for a revive. Some enemies are extremely resistant to damage from the front and they’re always facing you requiring more work than a pair who could flank.

  13. krellen says:

    I’m giving BL3 a miss not for any of the listed reasons, but because I did not enjoy the Pre-Sequel at all. Played it up to some boss on a big platform with little pillar things you could jump up on against a wall and just had an absolutely miserable time (and could not get past it). I enjoyed being a badass as Gaige in BL2, but that seemed to be unique to her character build alone.

    1. Fizban says:

      I’m trying to think of what boss that would be, and the funny part is, “pillar things you can jump on” doesn’t actually sound all that discriminatory. They have pillar things in a bunch of bosses and every boss fight is a jumpy boss fight when you’ve got free butt-slams!

      (Unwanted advice you’ve probably heard before incoming)- On the off chance you decide to give Pre-Sequel a try again, I’d recommend either Athena’s Ceraunic Storm tree, or Claptrap’s Boomtrap. These are the two trees that anarchy was split into. Ceraunic Storm is the more chaotic one, starts out far more modest but by the endgame it can be ridiculous- its self-compounding, so the more your elemental effect chance goes up, the more triggers happen, and the more it goes up. Game doesn’t actually tell you how much the effect is, but I was breaking 400-600 “stacks” during spikes on the final boss with a white shock laser, and stuff basically just melts. You just swap into your weapon to trigger the first fire rate buff, unload the shock or fire smg/fast firing laser into foe, and by the time its empty you’re at full enough power.

      Boomtrap has the version with the accuracy for damage trade, also at first level, but it activates after reloads and caps at +25%/-10%. But it also increases your reload speed, the same as Athena’s tree, so re-triggering it is essentially automatic. But then you get Coincidental Combustion, which also just stacks up to an effective +35% for all (non-explosive) weapons. And he’s also got the new version of Blood Soaked Shields, but trading shield for health instead. The result is that while Athena has to jump through a bit of a hoop and build up, Claptrap is just easy mode, fountaining damage with pretty much whatever weapon you want and refusing to die.

      Unless what you wanted was the bullet bouncing, which is under Nisha’s Riflewoman tree. It takes a lot longer to get to, she’s got a lot more restrictions, and her “aimbot” skill is very jarring to use. And from what I’ve played of Willhelm, his robots are just lame. So if those were the draws, yeah I’ve got nothing.

  14. Jabberwok says:

    Still need to finish the article, but a couple things about Borderlands in general before I forget:

    Weapon power is absolutely not just about rarity. Rare guns tend to outclass normal guns of the same level, but will themselves quickly be outclassed in damage output by higher level weapons, even the common ones. If you’re making story progress, and also dumping every lower rarity item, you’re rare weapon will probably become underpowered quickly. In my experience, this has been true throughout the series.

    As to how much slog was in the previous games, it might actually depend on when someone played it. I wouldn’t be surprised if BL2, for example, had game updates that made serious changes to the loot tables throughout its life span. Especially later on, games like this tend to become more generous as time passes to keep or pull in players. The last time I launched the game, it gave me a whole stack of golden keys for free. Pretty sure you used to have to beat the game just to get one of those. I definitely remember a mid-game slog in BL2, but it’s not really there anymore.

    And in my estimation, the variance in weapon stats has a larger impact than badass ranks.

  15. Mattias42 says:

    PSA: There’s currently apparently a really nasty bug in the PC version that eats your save-game. Seems to be tied to the cloud save feature, but nobody is quite sure yet.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pl2jZOPkJl4

    Haven’t played the game myself, but thought I’d share the word while there’s still a tiny chance this won’t be buried.

  16. cerapa says:

    I have been having a decent amount of fun with the game. I’m one those people who preferred the looting experience of borderlands 1, one of my fondest memories from any looter game has been finding a really good caustic revolver in borderlands and using it for a large portion of the game. In borderlands 2 the guns all seemed interchangeable to me, no gun ever lasted more than a couple levels. Right now in bl3 I have an inventory full of older guns I keep around because they were useful in some bossfight and they still do a bit of damage. I like the variance in loot, and I like experimenting with guns. Makes them feel like an actual thing, rather than just a number stick to hit my enemies with, which will be effortlessly discarded at the next chest with a bigger stick.

    Screw Skywell-27 though. Got TPS flashbacks from that, to the extent that I genuinely believe they used the same level designers. Also same general complaints about the UI as everyone else.

  17. Abby says:

    “I’ve played a few hours as FL4K. I’ve never been one for pet classes, but he’s got some great skills for boosting damage output and that makes him much less of a chore to play.” FL4K is officially (as in to my understanding, straight from a developers mouth) nonbinary, so its they/them, not he/him here, just as a heads up.

    1. CQ says:

      This fictional character probably isn’t going to get upset about it.

      1. aradinfinity says:

        No, but it’s good practice for real people who will be hurt by misgendering.

        1. Abby says:

          Exactly! And like…even if we’re ignoring that (which we shouldn’t), then, well. if it isn’t important, it should just be treated as a typo, yes? Last i checked, Shamus usually fixes typos when they’re pointed out…hell, if i remember right, last article had ‘FLAK’ instead of “FL4K” when i first read it, and that’s been fixed even without anyone pointing it out. So even if we ignore the issues of misgendering, it should be fixed.

          1. Distec says:

            You could consider it a typo, but only if you respect the premise of that argument.

            I’ll stop here, cuz politics.

            1. Abby says:

              I mean frankly, its either a typo (either in the sense of ‘didn’t know’ or in the sense of ‘forgot/mistyped’), or its a political statement by the author, because again, canon. I frankly had assumed the former, hence why i made no mention of politics in my original comment–that only became a factor when others decided to bring it up.

      2. Olivier FAURE says:

        Yeah, but it’s still important. People who tie their identity to this category will mind, and it’s generally considered polite to respect people’s gender/sexual identity even if it makes no sense to you.

        To put it another way, if you call, say, Ellie from The Last of Us a dyke, people will get offended, even though the character is fictional and isn’t going to feel hurt from the insult.

        The same general principle applies here; it’s arguable whether misgendering a character is equivalent to using a homophobic slur, but, again, it’s considered polite to respect the terms a given minority wants you to use when mentioning them (within reason).

        1. Shamus says:

          I like the idea of a genderless robot, although the way they went about it is extremely annoying. The character has a deep masculine voice – probably the deepest voice in the game! The physique is also extremely masculine. Maybe the most masculine body in the game. The thing looks like The Rock in a hobo coat. Fl4k looks like a dude, and sounds like a dude, but then the game occasionally tells me it’s genderless. The whole time I’m playing I’m thinking “dude”, and then I’ll read a tooltip on the skill tree and it uses they/them.

          Since this is a deliberately designed character, it would have been cool (and helpful for us forgetful types) if they went for a gender-ambiguous body (like Zer0) and a similarly gender-ambiguous voice.

          1. Abby says:

            I mean, coding can be a fraught subject in general, especially with so few examples of enby characters, but part of this is just that sometimes that’s just… how it is for enbies. One of my friends came out as non binary earlier this year, and they don’t adjust their voice at all, its still what most would consider a very feminine voice–because that’s just not something that conflicts with their identity, because its other elements (primarily appearance based) that cause dysphoria for them.

          2. Raven_Sloth says:

            I haven’t heard the voice, but I think that only having ambiguous coded non-binary characters is as helpful as having many different presenting non-binary characters. The way that you present can be different than what is the “normal” presentation for your gender. Also if you only see non-binary people presented in the middle of the presentation spectrum, then you would probably assume all non binary people dress like that. Which could harm the expression of non-binary people of the generations to come, since it is suggesting that you have to be that way if you are non-binary. I slot into the non-binary slot as I am agender and I still wear cloths that are considered masculine because I wear the cloths I like. And I completely understand assuming a characters gender on first glance due to the cloths and voice especially if you haven’t come across people that present different than their gender.

            I do have to say though that FL4K’s outfit seems more fem to me as it reminds me of the motorcycle women in the last two thirds of Mad Max Fury Road, but I guess it is kinda just generic wasteland wanderer outfit. I should also probably note that I have not looked up their voice, or played the game so it could be that the voice/ animations are so aggressively masculine that it feels like the devs decided after recording the lines that they would be non-binary

            1. Shamus says:

              I KNEW when I posted the last comment that the answer would be “But sometimes people are like that!” I didn’t want to work through all the points & counterpoints of this very predictable exchange, so I left at that. I should have just bit the bullet and taken care of this then.

              Let me skip to the end of this and save everyone some time:

              My son is trans. I love him with all my heart. It was a little hard calling him a “him” at first, because I had 17 years of muscle memory of calling this person a “she” and 45 years of identifying gender by sight. So we had months of people saying, “I talked to her- uh, him the other day and sh- he said a visit would be great.” Once he started looking less feminine, it became WAY easier to get it right.

              I wasn’t being a dick, it’s just a hard pattern of behavior to break.

              I love my kid, and I’ll call him whatever he likes. I know lots of kids are rejected or persecuted for their gender identity, and they have miserable lives. I can’t help my kid with his identity, but I can make sure he knows I’ll always love him.

              Having said that: I do not give a goddamn about this fucking robot. This thing was DESIGNED, on purpose, by human beings. I like the idea of a robot with no gender, but if you make a robot that sounds Darth Vader and has the stature and physique of The Rock, then I am going to think of it as a dude. It’s entire presentation is screaming out as MALE, and I’m not going to do a mental find & replace on all of the fucking pronouns when talking about the stupid thing. I’m playing Borderlands, not taking Gender Studies 101, and I have no patience for this nonsense.

              This is obviously a touchy subject for me, and I couldn’t possibly moderate it fairly, so let’s consider the whole discussion closed for now.

              Thanks.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Ah, now we’re talking about the important issues.

    3. Olivier FAURE says:

      As an aside, it’s kind of screwed up that there’s a growing trend of LBGT+ (especially non-binary) characters being very obviously included for representation points… as members of a single-gender species (the Asari, the Crystal Gems) or otherwise being very obviously non-human (FL4K, Halo in Young Justice).

      Sometimes it’s done well (I’m thinking of Jessie in Wildbow’s Twig) and it can help people empathize with why people feel non-binary in real life; but usually it really feels like a cynical attempt to get brownie points while still sticking to midwestern conservative standards, and portraying non-binary identity as something so strange and not-normal that only aliens/robots/dead-bodies-resurrected-by-alien-robots could have.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        This was the source of my confusion: the word robot.
        I haven’t played BL3, but since when do robots have genders? Even if you gave it a specific shape and/or genitalia, I’d just assume it had been designed as a sexbot and wouldn’t care about gender enough to accept – or reject – any one.

        1. Abby says:

          “since when do robots have genders” …presumably about the same time they started to have sentience? or from what i’ve seen of the character from clips, emotions and a very human approach towards humanizing animals? Also, you know, the fact that sex and gender are not the same concept and address different things, but that’s a topic for a more political and/or philosophical space. Within this context, all that’s important is “these robots clearly are capable of a lot more than real world robots or the robots in some other series, and that includes having a gender identity”

          Edit: for that matter, these robots are capable of specifically deciding to wear a pin in the colors of the enby flag, with some binary numbers crossed out, so…

          1. Nessus says:

            Basically this, more or less.

            The thing about strong AI is that it’s a tech doesn’t exist in real life. At all. It’s not an “almost there in theory” sci-fi tech like Mars colonies or fusion reactors: sentient machines are more or less one step down from FTL and time travel on the “shit we actually know how to do” scale (it seems much more plausible that it could be done at all, but the “how” is arguably even more vague). There’s no detail for “realism” to hang on other than the just bare, vague idea that it will likely be possible… someday.

            This makes it functionally equivalent to asking why a dragon would care about gender. So little is determined about how they would ACTUALLY work IRL that an author can make them WHATEVER, and any criticisms against that can only be equally an ass-pull.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              This makes it functionally equivalent to asking why a dragon would care about gender. So little is determined about how they would ACTUALLY work IRL

              *Instant flashbacks to Heather’s story about typing ‘dragon’ into Tumblr before she’d put up porn filters.*

              Dammit, Shamus shut down this conversation just at a good moment!

              Anyway, just to say I’m not as trans-skeptic/-phobic as I possibly come across in other comments. Peace.

          2. Ben Matthews says:

            “presumably about the same time they started to have sentience?”
            Ugh, just no. They wouldn’t even have a CONCEPT of gender except as it relates to organic species where two genders (yes, two) are necessary for procreation.

            Maybe you should try watching something like Land of the Lustrous, where genderless rock people NEVER TALK ABOUT GENDER because it’s irrelevant to them, exactly as it would be to robots.

            The no politics rule seems to have been loosened a bit and I’m not interested in that, so I probably won’t be commenting much from now on (under any name I’ve used here). Sorry, Shamus, but identity politics is everywhere and I’m tired of it, nothing personal or related to you or your work, which I love.

            1. Shamus says:

              I actually closed this topic above, but I can see how some people would see that as closing that particular thread and not the whole topic.

              Let’s just move on. Thanks everyone.

        2. Matthew Downie says:

          I’d say, since they got humanoid bodies and human-like voices. C-3PO (probably) isn’t a sexbot, but has a male (if not very masculine) voice, is frequently referred to as ‘he’, etc.

        3. Dev Null says:

          How do you determine the sex, gender, and/or appropriate pronoun for a sentient robot? Find one, and ask it what it wants to be called…

      2. Lanthanide says:

        As a gay man I appreciate they’re making an effort, but I agree that a lot of the time it comes off as a token effort and I wish they didn’t bother.

        Very hard tightrope to walk IMO.

        1. Ben Matthews says:

          If you want to explore this issue, then make a game where the story and gameplay actually do that. Senua’s Sacrifice but for identity, basically. Shoehorning it in as a token just pisses everyone off and no one wins.

  18. Bubble181 says:

    While I haven’t played BL3 (or any BL, for that matter, I should get around to them – I own all the previous ones from free deals…), I have plenty of Diablo experience and some of it transfers over.
    As has been noted by a few people higher up, higher rarity is not always about more damage – some uniques/legendaries can have special powers worth building a whole build around, others have powers that are just for laughs…And some that are game breakingly strong on one character might be useless or counterproductive on another.
    What BL3 is doing “wrong” in my opinion, is trying to factor all possible stats into an equation to generate one final number for “weapon power”. Some stats simply can’t properly be factored like that.
    In D3, you’ll get a general “damage” score for your weapon, and in the early game that’s pretty much enough…But a bit higher up, and that number alone is kind of unimportant (up to a point). Other stats like area damage (not factored), attack speed (factored, but some builds rely on it and others want as slow as possible a weapon), reload time, etc affect your weapon choice as well.
    Going by only rarity and one number oversimplifies things. I’m aware you don’t like inventory Tetris and comparing guns etc ,but for some, that’s the main draw of the game. I know I’ve spent literally 10 minutes just deciding between two or three sets of pauldrons in D3, with one giving slightly more damage but the other slightly more toughness, but on the other hand the first one also gave an additional proc for an effect from another item, while the second one added a minor rune to a skill I used, and…. Well, anyway, I think you’re trying to oversimplify loot comparison and weapon choice because, to you, the main draw is shooting and killing stuff and feeling powerful. Which is absolutely a valid way to play the game, but ignores the first part of “looter-shooter”.

  19. lxr says:

    A heads up… from the picture caption, it looks like you think you can’t change between cooperation and coopitition mode without restarting the game. That isn’t (at least on consoles, and I’d assume the PC as well) the case…

    Select the meshed gear icon to the right of your character name/class box and you should be able to toggle the coop mode there.

    As for the ‘level scaling’, I believe it only applies to multiplayer games. My understanding is that enemies don’t ever scale, but all the players will scale to the host players level.

  20. Timothy Coish says:

    Shamus, having only played B2 years ago, and not even finishing, I’m wondering if there’s some technical reason why they went the damage sponge route. I mean, if you take the health and damage of 10 enemies and then you shove them into one, that’s going to help performance. Do you think this is what they did here? Or is there roughly the same number of enemies as previous installments, except now you’re tickling each other with damage?

    1. Timothy Coish says:

      Whoops. Meant to comment on the First Impressions article instead.

    2. One thing I will say is that bullet sponges for me CAN be more satisfying because they allow high power slow shot weapons to feel a bit more useful, because if anything can down an enemy in a few shots, why not just use the fast shooting accurate gun?

      1. Higher_Peanut says:

        The problem Borderlands has is a tendency to trend all the way through sponge and out other side past play through 1. Enemies can have so much health that a slow firing high powered weapon doesn’t have the dps required to bother with it. If the 0.8 fire rate weapon isn’t 1 shotting mooks with a head shot why would you ever use it?

        Slow powerful stuff walks the tightrope of shots required to kill. Taking just one more shot can move it from overpowered to useless.

        1. Timothy Coish says:

          Yeah, if you have a gun with, using extremes, 300 damage, but it takes five second to reload and it’s single shot, that has some uses compared to a gun with 50 damage, but it shoots twice a second and never reloads. Even saying there’s no backpack reloading, some playstyles could be all about running in and out of combat, getting a shot off before ducking back into cover.

          The problem is a combination of the numbers, as well as Borderlands just not justifying that playstyle at all in terms of level and enemy design. That works a lot better when you can one shot enemies with the doomstick and duck out of combat. If you can’t do either, it becomes significantly less useful.

  21. I don’t have the problems with damage you are having…but i also use Amara, who was overlooked at release even though she has a HUGE 36% damage boost by level 3 (but you have to be close to enemies to use it, but that’s not too much of a limitation if you use shotguns and smgs as much as I do). I also can confirm the power level calculator is wonky. I made my own very, very crude spreadsheet that measures dps over a certain amount of time. It does not factor in accuracy or handling because i read the wiki and I STILL don’t get it. It does factor in elemental damage, but it assumes the elemental effect is always happening on the enemy. Honestly it’s more useful to me then the power levels the games give you, and for now it’s the best thing I have found for my purposes. here is the link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/12fkGcEKhy4X-9R9KIE-rj0K635pJYWiU/view?usp=sharing

    1. Matthew Downie says:

      Nothing says “thrilling action game” like a spreadsheet…

      1. Higher_Peanut says:

        Wasn’t Doom an easter egg in one of the early versions of Excell?

  22. jawlz says:

    “I saw his skill tree had all these bonuses to movement speed, and I had this crazy idea I could run around at frantic speed, killing stuff like the Doom marine.”

    You could always give Ion Fury a try, which I’ve found to be my own most enjoyable shooter since Borderlands 2.

  23. Khizan says:

    I’m around L15ish on FL4K and I’ve got no complaints about bullet spongeyness or balance. I just cleared out most of the Lectra City quests, is where I am at.

    For the most part, I’ve been using shotguns and a very up-close and personal style of gameplay. FL4K has a lot of abilities that depend on critical hits, and getting up to knife range with a shotgun is a great way of getting them. He’s also got an ability that gives critical hits a 36% chance to add another bullet to his magazine, so getting up close with a shotgun can give you some long extended periods with no reloading and it can be remarkably easy on the ammo due to how often it gives some back. They’re also very bursty and good at getting second winds in close quarters.

    It’s also a very satisfying playstyle, IMO. Shotguns often send enemies ragdolling away so there’s a big element of crowd control to it, and the shots feel very impactful and meaningful. Blasting a dude and watching him go flying back is great.

  24. Jason says:

    I remember slogging through some tough parts in BL1 and BL2, but BL2 seems like it was more difficult. I played some of the DLC’s as well, but got stuck in Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, where it started getting too tough and never went back.

    I had the same problem with the Pre-Sequel, where I was just dying way too much and it stopped being fun. I don’t want to spend a ton of time researching and trying to figure out the very best combos. I enjoy min/maxing to an extent, but it shouldn’t be required to finish a game on normal difficulty.

    I’ve gotten all the BL games on sale well after release, and it sounds like if I ever play BL3, it will be the same thing, I don’t have much time to play anymore anyway and have too many games in my backlog as it is.

  25. Destrustor says:

    If oranges aren’t special, then why are they rare?

    In my experience, oranges are only rare due to their unique mechanics. Don’t think of them as a class above purple, but rather as extra-silly purples.

    As for my own game report:
    I’ve been using Fl4k, and speccing into the crit-stacking orange tree supported by the green action skill that gives me guaranteed crits.
    Combined with a Jakobs shotgun, I can go invisible, find the biggest enemy, and unload massive damage into him while letting the Jakobs’ brand effect take care of most of the rest of the room by bouncing bullets into other foes when I crit.
    It’s been going pretty well; those bulky suit-guys you showed in the first impressions post, with the cloud of crits above their head, tend to go down in about four shots with this method, with the added benefit of clearing the room of weaker mooks at the same time.
    But yeah, anything other than this strategy would usually have me plinking at them for two or more whole reloads of my smg.

    Other than that, my gripes about the game tend to involve the level design; everything is too sprawling and devoid of “checkpoints”. And by checkpoints I mean “Places to sell stuff and buy ammo.” Most areas in the game have only one cluster of vending machines, where B2 usually placed one or two of them at nearly every spot where you’d catch-a-ride.
    Single-point vending machines were usually reserved for dungeon-type areas like the steam power plant where you kill the four assassins.
    Also, on console, the map is really annoying; if you open it up and try to move it, it tends to scroll all the way to the nearest fast-travel point. I think it’s supposed to help you move faster when you’re trying to go towards the fast travel point, but the game’s definition of “towards the fast travel point” seems to be “any movement within 120 degrees of the direction of the fast travel point.” This is especially infuriating since there’s usually only one of those points, and it’s usually at the very start of the level. Thus any time where you want to look at the map fairly often, and need to spin it and move it around (like in skywell 27) becomes a massive struggle against the map itself every time you open it. You open the map, give the joystick the barest hint of movement in any direction, and then have to drag it back manually to your position before you can take a look at your surroundings. And yeah, the joystick you use to move the map around is the one that sends you flying to the fast-travel point, and it only does so once when you open the map before letting you have control correctly.

    1. sheer_falacy says:

      I definitely agree on the map design. It feels like they expected you to have a car for a second fast travel point and then just kind of… didn’t give it to you on that map.

    2. Nimrandir says:

      I haven’t played the game (an incomplete run at Borderlands 2 is my only experience with the series), but I’m noticing an awful lot of Jakobs showing up in response to criticisms of the damage levels. The only other manufacturers mentioned are specifically for automatic weapons, which would fly in the face of Jakobs’ whole schtick.

      There are a bunch of other weapon brands, right?

      1. Asdasd says:

        This brings to mind a classic paradox about choice in game design: would you rather have a wide range of choices and all of them be equally viable (balanced gameplay), or a wide range of choices and one of them be optimal (solvable gameplay)?

        At first it seems like #1 would be the obvious answer, but finding the one solution among many that makes your character significantly more powerful can be a lot of fun and make the brain really feel good. Meanwhile too much choice can be a big source of paralysis, fatigue and stress.

        This might help explain why a lot of people who insist the game is fine also tend to cite one particular build (Jakobs) as evidence: the game in a default state might be a horrible slog with massively spongey enemies, but having found a way to subvert that makes people more satisfied than if they’d never had to overcome the obstacle at all.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          That makes sense, as we’re puzzle-solving creatures at heart. On the other hand, I’m not sure it bodes well for Borderlands 3 if our iteration has arrived at a fixed point within a week.

          Now, I’ve played enough fighting games to know the metagame is a living document. MvC3 Sentinel springs to mind, but the competitive nature of the genre incentivized the development of countermeasures. Can a directly cooperative game adapt similarly?

        2. Chad Miller says:

          This brings to mind a classic paradox about choice in game design: would you rather have a wide range of choices and all of them be equally viable (balanced gameplay), or a wide range of choices and one of them be optimal (solvable gameplay)?

          Even this is only part of the battle. Even in PvP-only games with an active tournament scene, good game designers spend a lot of time making sure that people playing reasonably-suboptimally aren’t completely locked out of having any fun.

          If average players need a strategy guide for your game not to be horrible and boring, that’s likely a problem regardless of what the top tier looks like.

        3. Syal says:

          Mentioned way back on a Morrowind topic, the key to overpowered builds is the game having more than one of them. If you’re making a bunch of builds, preferably all of them should have some kind of exploit; they don’t all have to be equal to each other, but they should all be good enough to make fights easy. If there’s only the one good option the game will get boring.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            This tracks with my experience messing with Final Fantasy VII’s Materia system, where I had half a dozen different ways of cheesing battles.

  26. Redrock says:

    I’m gonna wait a bit before getting BL3, I think. Got a lot of games on my plate, and I’m also angry as hell that the robot vault hunter turned out to be FL4K and not my bestie Loader Bot. The weapon issue doesn’t bother me as much, because, being the rabid Western fan that I am, I’ve always been a Jakobs guy. Gotta love those sandalwood grips, man.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      The 2K/Gearbox double whammy is enough for me to steer clear, unless I buy a used copy at GameStop well after launch. I toyed with revisiting Borderlands 2, but I eventually decided Diablo III would scratch the itch.

      My problem with Jakobs guns was my inability to pull a controller trigger quickly enough to make shots count.

  27. reisseli says:

    Me and my GF played BL2 co-op quite recently before now going for BL3. So the BL2 experience is quite fresh in my mind.

    With BL2 my experience was that enemies took a lot of damage to take down and also were quite lethal themselves. In the beginning of BL2 at Midgemons camp, every time I’ve played we died a ton of times until getting it done, even though we were at the intended level. Then there was a brief period after a few quest in Sanctuary where we could get things killed and stay alive. Then again when nearing level 20 it’s back to pumping endless amounts of bullets at enemies and dying constantly. For story quests, it seemed that we always needed to be a couple of levels above the intended level to not die all the time. A lot of this is probably caused by the fact that neither of us has the patience to compare the myriad of stats on guns so a lot of gear is selected on the basis of “this feels like a fun gun to use”.

    With BL3 we’ve not had this same experience (we play the cooperation mode). I think we’ve died twice and although enemies take some damage to put down, it feels they go down easier than in BL2. Granted, we’ve only played for a few hours. That been said, it does feel that criticals are not nearly as useful than they were on BL2.

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