Review | Borderlands 3

Looting and shooting has never been this great!

As progressive as Borderlands 2 was, the sequel is that traditional. At a time when, thanks to titles such as The Division, the lootshooter consists of open online worlds with a constant stream of content, Borderlands 3 remains close to the roots of the franchise. And that is absolutely fine, because the game is a fantastic cooperative loot shooter and a wonderful parody on the stream culture.

Borderlands 3 is a tour through the rest of the universe, which has been hinted at numerous times in previous games. The Calypso twins, two evil streamers with crazy followers, force Lilith, the player and a lot of old acquaintances to scour the universe for The Great Vault: the ultimate power. For those who appreciate puberty humor and were looking for a fresh setting, this is the premise for a hilarious roller coaster ride!

Leaving Pandora, which has already been chewed out, is a pleasant release, as we see when we visit the colorful new planets. Promethea is a brightly lit, futuristic city, Athenas has calming Eastern settlements and Eden-6 is a green, dangerous swamp planet. During the story, Borderlands throws 3 players between different conflicts that give each environment its own identity. On Promethea, for example, a childish war is raging between armament manufacturers Atlas and Maliwan and your Vault Hunter is embroiled in a cowboy-like blood feud within the Jakobs family.

The design of planets is grand, although loading individual areas sometimes breaks the pace of the game. It simply feels a bit old-fashioned to have to load another world instead of just chugging on with one of the vehicles. The rigid steering of vehicles is otherwise unchanged, although this is compensated by the fast Cyclone engine and above all a greatly improved fast travel system.

The downside of this traditional setup is that players have no idea of ​​the scale of the planets, so the game often misleads you. Several times the story takes you back to a previously visited planet, where suddenly a new, large region opens up. Environments are richly filled with vegetation and all sorts of activities, so it is not striking that there are actually very few NPCs in the game world. Moreover, most of the action takes place in varied, well-designed environments.

Side activities consist of crew missions, such as finding parts for a friend for Claptrap, and a considerable amount of side missions. Some contain a fun environment puzzle, but in general they must have the fantastic Borderlands humor, of which you already know if you can appreciate it. As usual, some of the best moments of the game can be found in these side missions. Think of a lurid brain transplant, setting up a network for an old pro-gamer, a shooting for the coffee supply in Promethea and even sad glimpses in the lives of characters. Ice-T, who plays the AI-driven teddy bear Balex, also deserves a compliment for his comic acting performance.

Nothing in Borderlands 3 is really serious and everywhere you’ll find comic details and references to the current internet culture. This manifests itself especially in the bad guys, Troy and Tyreen Calypso, who are actually a parody of the sometimes foolish supporters of Twitch streamers. Donations, loot boxes: it is all covered, and in my opinion largely successful. Fortunately, the background of the twins is also well deepened by their constant presence during main and side missions and they’re not only present for a smile.

Ninety percent of the gameplay consists of endless popping on screaming bullet sponges, which thanks to a greatly relaxed feeling of shooting remains fascinating for much longer than before. At 60fps (note: on the original PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, the game runs on 30fps), the game even feels a bit like Apex Legends. Moving is faster, your Vault Hunter can now finally vault and sliding brings a pleasant flow to the gameplay. It feels like we can run, shoot, reload and switch weapons forever in circles.

Playing with the weapons themselves is also more fascinating thanks to a very broad randomly generated range. During your playing session you will find clearly several archetypes, but emotionally there is much more room for maneuver than in Borderlands 2. Some weapons are wonderfully exaggerated and each manufacturer brings unique bonuses, such as extra shields, reflective bullets in the event of a critical hit, infinite ammunition and shooting guns on legs. Even after about forty hours of playing, we still find plenty of new guns and with that, hunting for loot remains extremely fascinating after the story.

Weapons, as before,  have elements, which means that despite aggressive opponents, players still have to think about which bullets they use. Vault Hunters also offer a deeper strategic layer thanks to the extensive skill tree. Players can now expand and mix three categories to your liking, resulting in a variety of options. For example, Fl4k can focus on a solo playing session, where his animals can revive him, or on pure damage with critical hits. The choice of a Vault Hunter – Zane, Amara, Fl4k or Moze – is therefore more difficult, and that is a nice luxury problem.

The way in which players can set up their skills also depends on whether they regularly play solo or with others. Borderlands 3 is an excellent experience on your own, but traditionally it remains superior while playing in co-op. In many ways, the game has evolved into the ultimate cooperative experience thanks to the ease with which players can enter each other’s sessions.

Moreover, loot scaling ensures that every player hits enemies and loot of his or her own level. That means that players can now play with everyone regardless of their progress. Borderlands 3 has more options that improve the quality of life. For example, it is possible to skip missions you have played with others in your own game, there is a machine that collects abandoned loot, weapons can be shared between your different characters, and it is even possible to mail weapons to each other.

And you’ll need that, because the endgame content of Borderlands 3 is quite extensive. There are Horde-like challenges in the form of Proving Grounds and Circle of Slaughter. There are also higher levels of difficulty that yield extra rare shoots after the story has been played. Add up the upcoming events and paid dlc, and I expect that  i’ll continue to play Borderlands 3 for a long time.

Score:

9,0

– Loading of the maps sometimes breaks the pace of the game.

+ Planets are very varied.
+ Shooting feels good, smooth.
+ Profound skill trees.
+ Great cooperative options and gameplay.


Review | Anthem

While the reviews  in progress, I waited for the day one patch for the final conclusion.

Anthem tells a very and broad story that master storyteller BioWare knows how to handle and tell. At least, you would expect that. Unfortunately, the story remains safe on the surface. Just like the gameplay, the characters and the amount of content. Anthem is not a bad game, but certainly not a good one either. Does this mean that you cannot enjoy it? Certainly not! But those looking for the complete looter-shooter experience must have a lot of patience or play a different game.

Rarely did a game give a more paradoxical feeling of freedom than Anthem. Your Javelin, your personal Iron-Man suit, lets you experience a wonderful feeling of freedom with minimal effort. At the push of a button you ascend and fly just over the treetops of the truly beautiful world that BioWare has created. You avoid enemy fire with a barrel roll and while floating, you approach special enemies while using your skills. Shooting at the pretty silly and suicidal enemies is wonderful. You fire or freeze a group of enemies, and then you throw a bomb on it for a huge damage bonus.

But just when you think you are one with the world of Anthem, when you think you are an iron killing machine, the game will blow you back. You can’t stay too long, you have to keep going. And if you don’t fly to the next point fast enough, you can expect a loading screen, even though this loading interrupts part of the story you’re trying to follow.

It is symptomatic for the whole of Anthem. The game has no continuity, no immersion. Anthem does not want you to do a whole lot in one go, but to break everything into pieces that are behind a loading screen. Take as an example the equipment and weapons to be found: this is hidden in a kind of box that only when you stop your playing session shows what is in it. Stopping playing is rewarded in a certain sense, which is a bizarre and unfortunate design choice.

You always have to return to the Forge, the place where you can customize your Javelin with your finds and change the looks. There’s nothing wrong with the Forge itself: it’s a handy screen in which you quickly switch between your  weapons and equipment in the form of icons. In an instant you have changed your Javelin in terms of color and cosmetic parts. You can buy cosmetic parts with real money, but also for a reasonable sum of the ingame currency. The problem of the Forge is that this part is behind a loading screen and cannot be accessed while playing. Adjusting your weapons or equipment to a situation that you had not anticipated is not possible while playing. The result is that you sometimes feel Javelin useless, while you have the right equipment in your possession.

Fortunately there are still the challenges. These challenges, ranging from killing a certain number of monsters with only a specific weapon to completing a certain amount of events, do not offer really exciting rewards, but they do give you a lot to do. There are also daily, weekly and monthly goals to complete.

You can only start the endgame yourself when you are level 30, and then it is about content that you already know, but that can then be played at a higher level of difficulty. Anthem then scatters with a good loot and that is of course great, but it also ensures that players of level 30 have quickly brought in the best loot so that there is really little left to do, apart from the challenges.

Anthem’s biggest problem, however, is that it was developed by BioWare. You can expect more from BioWare than what Anthem is at the moment. That is not entirely fair. Because when you look objectively at the game itself, it is scanty, but certainly playable. If you are only looking for simple fun shooting in a beautiful world while you fly through the air like a bird, Anthem may be something for you, because the game is really excellent. But this will be the minority. Everyone who likes to play BioWare games expects more from the story and the world. This developer invariably offers the highlights of his games there.

In addition, Anthem is not really what it promises to be. Anyone who likes to play looter shooters will notice that Anthem is actually not with the strange loot system. Anyone who likes to play co-op in a close team can do this in Anthem, but then via a Discord server, because the game itself offers a kind of pseudo team game without functional means of communication. But even the people who only come for flying and shooting will be bothered by all the loading screens and the huge amounts of bugs that the game still knows.

Of course Anthem is not the first game of the last years that has been launched with many start-up problems. Many people make the comparison with Destiny 2 and The Division and rightly claim that those games got a lot better with a lot of attention and updates after they were released. The big difference is that Destiny 2 and The Division were already great games at that time. Both had too little content and were judged on that, but the developers were able to work on it: they could immediately start expanding the game.

Anthem not only has too few exciting endgame content, but is also a much lesser game. The game gets in the way of players, and that is difficult to correct with a few patches. BioWare not only has the task to add more content, but must first make the game more playable if it is to attract and retain players. That does not mean that it is impossible for Anthem to ever become very cool, but it does not happen quickly.

Score:

7,0

– No distinctive variation in the world.
– Loading screens.
– Story filled with holes and not really fascinating characters.

+ Flying in the game world is and feels great
+ Visual a stunning spectacle