As a huge Borderlands fan I have been kicking around ideas with fellow fans of the franchise during my daily twitch stream. I’ve decided to do a series of posts with my various ideas about how to create depth and vibrancy in a game that already has tons of variety. The challenge for Borderlands, with three titles, a unique aesthetic, and a well woven and long story, is avoiding two chasms: adding so much they lose their identity or not adding enough and boring their fan base. Both pathways are tempting as you can ensure purchases with either approach, so I would like to make suggestions on how to add things that will allow the wonderful tones and themes from the original games to carry through without hampering the game and keeping it down.
Patricia Tannis FTW
If you’ve played the first Borderlands title you should be very familiar with Patricia Tannis. She is the insanely brilliant scientist who carries good dark humor through the narrative as well as showing the sad ramifications of the greedy and destructive corporatism from Atlas, Dahl, and Hyperion. Tannis also happens to be the reason you get 8 extra levels of OP weapons in Borderlands 2 with the Raid on Digistruct Peak DLC. The story goes that she developed technology to “digistruct” all the various enemies from Pandora as a way for you to train, level up, and get access to harder waves and stronger enemies. I think a brilliant use of this story element and technology would be to have it be the foundation of a pet system in Borderlands 3. This would allow some classic Borderlands animals to carry over into the title, while the rest of the areas and environments could have all new and fresh wildlife to fight. A pet system like this would also help straddle the chasms of adding too much or not enough, keeping the Borderlands identity in tact, while adding a new mechanic and leaving space for new wildlife as enemies.
Impactful player choice
One of the great balances I have always appreciated about Borderlands is that the character you choose has a permanent and lasting impact on the way the game plays, but you can always “respec” and try different builds within that character’s skill trees.Too many RPGs make you feel regret or frustration later in the game as you learn how different buffs and effects work within the world without the ability to change your skill points or build. A great way to implement what I call “impactful adaptable decision making” in a pet system would be to have 5 pets to choose from that come with strengths, weaknesses, and their own skill tree. The vision I have is that they would level with you and could compliment or adapt to your own build. So by the time you are rounding out and hitting the level max you could have an “ultimate” and larger version of your pet moving through the game with you. And the digistruct technology could explain why the pet doesn’t need to be deployed, so as not to interfere with any “deployable” classes, and then dying and having a cool-down and respawn time would keep it from being too powerful or invincible. But like choosing a character, each animal would come with a long lasting impact on the game. For example, the go-to-middle-of-the-road pet could be the skag, with average attack and defense, but then greater risk could be taken by choosing a thresher or a stalker for higher damage or stealth at the cost of health or vulnerabilities.
Adding depth without destruction
Whenever an established franchise decides to add an entirely new mechanic there is the risk of the added depth causing harm to systems or balances within the game. The makers of Borderlands already know how to adequately use deployable helpers with characters like Willhelm, Handsome Jack’s Doppelganger, and Axton. Many would argue, and I would agree with them, that Axton’s turret becomes broken glass in the later playthroughs, which is unfortunate and surprising it was never given a health buff. But I think they’ve proven to have a better grasp on the balance of a deployable helpmate in the Pre-Sequel and could apply those same rules to a digistructed pet. I don’t think having to press a button to deploy or call them would be a good idea as I think it would become disorienting to have to use both an action skill and a deployable pet, causing most users to just hit them at the same time, nullifying the choice and making it somewhat mechanical. It would be best to have them follow you around with a reasonable health bar and aggro attraction to give solo players or a co-op crowd a little extra help while opening up the battlefield and creating more fun filled chaos. If you’re a fan of Borderlands I would be interested what you think and if there are animals you’d like to see as a pet. Just comment below!
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