Borderlands is easily one of the most content heavy, fun, and innovative games available. It has a little something for everyone: RPG elements, great humor, gritty and unique graphics, loads of weapons, and a wealth of DLC and replayability. The ability to play through the game multiple times, however, leads to some of the weaknesses in the franchise.
The Bothersome Bullet Sponge
Similar to Diablo and other RPGs, after you beat any of the campaigns in the three Borderlands titles, you can roll the game over into a second and third playthrough with increased difficulty, stronger weapons, and continued leveling for your character. One of downfalls is that the game doesn’t necessarily get any added depth because the enemies just become harder and harder to kill, drinking in your bullets like they are tasty skittles. While I think some of the bosses in the Borderlands franchise are guilty of this regardless of what playthrough you are on, this is generally a frustration when replaying the campaign a second or third time. One creative way to make bosses more interesting and less of a, “just-keep-shooting-circle-fight”, would be to have interactive objects or weapons in the boss lair that are needed to weaken or “down” the boss in order to damage them or to get a damage multiplier. Since the game promotes itself as a great co-op experience (and it is!), you could even have different roles when playing with multiple people. So instead of just boosting the boss’s health because another player is in the game, add a role that must be done like “stand on this switch to electrocute”. Or just give the boss an elemental shield that needs taken down by one player before usable items in the lair have an effect. And you could make the roles and boss lair usable objects more complicated with each playthrough. Remember, on a second playthrough players should have a more varied arsenal, and having them use that arsenal in creative ways would be more engaging and fun. This doesn’t solve, however, the slog-like feeling the game can have when dumping endless bullets into all the standard enemies you fight in main mission areas.
Shields up, Captain!
An easy way to solve every enemy feeling like a bullet sponge in extra playthroughs would be to increase health minimally, but add extra or layered shields that are weak to a specific element. This would force players to be more tactical and smart with weapon selection and it would fit well with the large armory a player has amassed after completing the campaign. For example, a “badass” would have a regular shield, the same as in the first playthrough, but then on top of that could have a green shield that is very vulnerable to corrosive. This would add a layer of benefit for those who play cooperatively, motivating them to work on combos and communication to take down tough baddies quickly. It also gives regular enemies a slight edge of toughness, but since the shield is weak against a specific element, it can be dispatched quickly, making the engagement more tactical and less exhausting.
I’m a huge fan of the Borderlands franchise, and can’t wait for the Handsome Collection to arrive on next-gen. I have more hours logged in the first two titles than any other game available. But Borderlands 3 could easily disappoint the fans simply because it will be the most long awaited release in the franchise as well as the first official next-gen version made. I have more confidence in Gearbox than probably any other game company out there, but even with very moderate hype and marketing, a long anticipated game has an uphill battle to impress and satisfy gamers. The Borderlands world stands to have some updates and improvements, but the core game, if delivered with a mountain of content like previous titles, will easily be another fan favorite. I just hope it’s as good as possible, and recent comments from Gearbox’s president Randy Pitchford about the need to take risk has me very optimistic.
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