Borderlands 3 – Rethinking Melee

Borderlands meleeAs I continue my series of posts about Borderlands 3 and things that I would like to see added, I turn my sights, or fists, to melee. Borderlands is clearly a franchise built around the shooter platform and genre, and I’m sure something they intentionally avoided is the “one slice kill” mechanics from Call of Duty. It always felt a little silly to shoot an enemy numerous times but one quick swoosh from a knife and down he goes. I do think, however, that Borderlands runs the risk of having the exact opposite problem. Melee does practically nothing unless you are Krieg as even Zer0 saw significant nerfs to his melee. Even if both Zer0 and Krieg had sufficiently strong melee attacks, it is woven to their character and skill trees, and not to the game world itself. I think there are some simple ways to open up the game’s fighting mechanics, since so many melee enemies charge up in your face, to give each player a unique melee attack specific to their character. Fans of melee characters, don’t worry, my idea would make your favorite character type cooler, so just hang with me.

Hack & Slash & Shoot

A few of the current characters have melee overrides within their respective skill trees that can be turned on for minor bonuses or changes to their melee attack. Rather than burying a melee override in a skill tree, each character could have reasonably powerful melee attack that scales with them. The attack would need a cool down so as to keep people from just slashing their way through the map and it would enable the developers to give a bit more punch to the punches. It could also be an opportunity for a graphical flourish. Similar to the 3rd person animation from Destiny the camera could pull back and show them spinning in a circle, pounding the ground, or swinging a sword. These melees could also pair well with my idea about relics. If a person has a spot for a “melee relic” they could apply elemental powers to it or buff it with skills for things like stealing health. Regardless of how it’s buffed or added to, melee could afford improvements and changes that keep it from being such a universally ignored mechanic outside of the melee specific classes.

It’s all about the characters

Given that the game and it’s playable characters have always been driven by good voice acting and story it would be a mistake to have generic melee attacks. All three Borderlands titles have had characters with unique melee animations like swords, axes, hatchets, and whips. So it makes perfect sense to give them unique attacks if the melee system were to be changed. And obviously you would want attacks that are in line with the character’s action skill and identity. So if a character is built for crowd control they could have a spinning melee that does “knock back” or a ground pound that stuns. This would bring some of the Diablo influences into the game in a fuller sense and would create a greater depth of combat. And similar to Diablo, if these new attacks had good cool-downs they would be used sparingly rather than become overused or overpowered.

What about my melee characters?

Obviously Krieg has become a fan favorite even though I never got the hang of him or enjoyed playing as him. I probably played too many hours as non-melee characters to develop the right habits, needing to charge toward characters when health and shields get low rather than drawing back and activating an action skill that helps keep me alive. The truth is, giving each character a unique and more powerful melee attack would make melee characters even better. They could be the only classes with skills to shorten cool-down, improve duration of stuns or buff melee damage. Action skills could be used to string together combos, like a classic hack and slash platformers where each hit advances and improves the combo ending with an epic final blow. This type of improved melee system would allow a melee character to furiously blast through enemies, and the 3rd person view would really crank up the fun factor. Everyone loves watching their character do awesome stuff, and getting to see a melee character punch+kick+uppercut through a crowd of enemies would be a riot. At the end of the day, these types of changes would improve both melee and non-melee classes as it would give more depth and options within the fighting mechanics and choices of the player.

What do you think? Does the current melee system work? Or would you like to see improvements?

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One thought on “Borderlands 3 – Rethinking Melee

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