PC Gamer

Borderlands 3 hasn't been announced, but it almost surely exists. In 2017 Gearbox's Randy Pitchford got on stage during an Unreal Engine 4 presentation to show what, hypothetically, a new game that happened to look a lot like Borderlands would look like running on that shiny new engine. E3 is coming up; could this be the year that Gearbox decide to show their major new shooter to the world? As Destiny 2 struggles along, there's certainly room for a shiny new loot-driven shooter to steal the crowd.

But what would Borderlands 3 have to do to win out? Here are a few features we'd love to see in a new Borderlands game.

Less playable Claptrap

Actually, less Claptrap period, please. Borderlands' little robot mascot was always a bit grating, intentionally so, but over the course of three games became a bit of an Urkel: that obnoxious minor character who somehow gets so popular they show up more and more and before you know it Reginald VelJohnson can't even find a moment's peace in his own house. Claptrap is like that, but for our ears while we're playing Borderlands.

Less is more. Borderlands 3 could do with some fresh characters, so let Claptrap run a shop somewhere we can talk to him once every 10 hours or so.

Bungie-caliber shooting

Okay, this is a big ask, cause just about nobody does guns like Bungie does guns. But Borderlands has always been a shooter where the feeling of pulling the trigger and killing an enemy was fine, but not amazing. The fun comes from the wild variety of weapons and their outlandish effects, like an SMG that fires 43 lightning bullets a second, or a grenade launcher that fires grenades that explode into yet more grenades and blanket an entire area. The effects of the weapons were fun, and so were combining them with abilities that upped your crit damage or sent you into a melee-killing god rage.

But how much better would Borderlands' procedurally generated arsenal of wacky guns be if the feedback and punch of each gun was as satisfying as it is in Bungie's Destiny 2? Or in 2016's Doom? Or Tripwire's Killing Floor 2? Those are lofty goals to aspire to, especially with procedurally generated weapons, but Gearbox has a big opportunity to buff up the fundamentals of its trigger-pulling, bullet-firing animations and physics. Make each weapon archetype feel incredibly good to shoot, and then figure out how the random modifiers would tweak those sensations. Make Borderlands 3 a shooter we'd want to play even without all the lootin'.

Broken builds

The best payoff in loot-dumping RPGs is to find loot that actually matters. In Borderlands 2, it was possible to make some ridiculous builds (remember when literally every shotgun pellet was counted in damage multipliers?) that took down endgame bosses in seconds. We’re not asking for a buggy, easily exploitable stat system—we just want loot stacks that actually get better the more you play. Don’t scale the challenge and suck out the expressive traits of classes and weapons like Destiny 2.

Channel those wack-ass late-late game witch doctor Diablo 2 builds where molten frogs and jars of spiders cloud the screen, pulling loot from corpses like water from a loaded sponge. Hell, how about a gun that shoots loot?

Raids

Borderlands’ sturdiest leg was its co-op play. Without a buddy or two to lean on, the massive empty worlds felt far more massive and empty, and the more challenging combat encounters felt too onenote without other players to synergize with. But even with friends, the only time close cooperation was required was during the endgame boss encounters and those synergies played out similarly every single time—you just had to play your damn class. With full-blown raids, the rest of Borderlands’ mechanics could get put to the test in areas designed for a specific amount of players.

Imagine big dungeons that match (or surpass) the sophistication of Destiny 2’s first-person platforming ballets and phantom-realm symbol memorization, but with Borderlands much more diverse classes, skill trees, and weapon types. I can’t wait to hate my friends all over again. 

Leave Pandora behind

Look, Pandora's great. It shows that the Sanford And Son aesthetic works well in almost any environment—be it deserts crawling with skags or decrepit hamlets ripped out of Dungeons & Dragons. But after three games, piles of DLC, and Tales From the Borderlands, it's time to move on. A new Borderlands would do well to set its unique brand of shoot-and-loot on another planet entirely, or for that matter, on multiple planets. It's a big galaxy out there, and letting us explore it would not only give us a welcome change of scenery, but also let Gearbox experiment with different physics and elemental loot.

Planet hopping could be an especially cool twist, making your ship home base along the lines of a 3D Starbound. However Gearbox chooses to handle a new setting, it should feel free to detach itself from the history it's built up on Pandora. We're ready for entirely new adventures.

Improved character customization

Since Borderlands, similar shooter/RPGs like Destiny and Warframe have placed a huge emphasis on character customization, because they know RPG players love to look fashionable. Borderlands 2 had some light customization options, but didn't go nearly far enough. Borderlands is best enjoyed in its cooperative mode, and extensive customization would allow players to distinguish themselves from their party.

We'd like to see more options besides swappable heads and color variations for outfits—instead, let's have entirely different costumes for each character. Just imagine, for instance, how much better Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep would have been if you were allowed to put on a robe and a wizard hat.

Improved enemy AI

You know the drill: You encounter an enemy in either Borderlands, and then they go nuts, either rushing you with makeshift axes or pelting you with bullets while they saunter from right to left. In time, the only thing that makes non-boss fights different from one another is how many bullets to takes before the baddies fall over. That's not going to cut it for the next game.

Enemies need to be more responsive and less bullet spongy, and more varied in their behavior. We're not asking for tactical geniuses, here, but the occasional flanking maneuver wouldn't hurt. Make playspaces arenas that enemies will intelligently navigate, rather than rushing at us like maniacs over and over again. Just because the enemies are psychos doesn't mean they have to be idiots.

Improved difficulty balance

The Borderlands games are definitely built for co-op, and they're a blast that way, but that ends up meaning some sections are almost trivial with a full group, and maddeningly tough solo, depending on your class. Better scaling for number of players could help smooth things over. Going further, we'd love to see more nuanced difficulty in Borderlands for New Game+, which is a crucial part of the Borderlands experience. Most of the time, that New Game+ difficulty just means enemies have much larger health pools. Give them new attacks, bring out surprise new enemy types, shake things up. 

Smoothing out the difficulty curve for various player numbers is important, but so is keeping that difficulty interesting for the entire run.

Make your own bounty hunter

Customizing premade characters would be cool, but we wouldn't mind seeing Borderlands lean into its RPG side even more and let us completely design our own characters from scratch. Let's be honest—we're not playing Borderlands for the story, even though Borderlands 2 did have some fun twists and turns. But the point is, we don't need to play predefined characters. Let us create our own and fully customize their looks and playstyles.

A broader, more open-ended skill tree for a range of character classes would be a huge task to balance, but would make us more attached to our characters and make Borderlands even more replayable than it already is.

Better inventory and bank space

What's the most heartbreaking moment in Borderlands? You'd think it's the death of a major character, but it's not. It's tossing aside your legendary Fashionable Volcano with a 44.5 percent chance to ignite because you had to make room in your 27-slot backpack for some new specimen of badassery. Borderlands 2 remedied that problem a bit when it released a patch for new slots (among other things) back in April of 2013, but even then it seemed like a sin to toss aside legendaries that couldn't fit.

While we're at it: Gearbox, give us a place to display some of that cool loot that we may have outgrown but we're still proud of. It works for Skyrim, and there's no reason why it can't work on Pandora.

BioShock™ - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brock Wilbur)

12

After Irrational Games was dismantled in 2014, the future of the Bioshock IP was left twisting in the wind. It certainly wasn’t going to fall on former studio head Ken Levine, as he departed to run a smaller studio called Ghost Story Games which would have nothing near the production scale required to take on a new time-period magic-potion exercise in the violence of political ideologies and/or golf. But as part of a much larger 2K expose written this week over at Kotaku, it appears news has leaked regarding a Bioshock title in development at a super secret 2K studio. Or at least, you know, previously super secret.

(more…)

XCOM: Enemy Unknown - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brock Wilbur)

phoenix_point_6

Snapshot Games, lead by David Kaye and X-Com creator Julian Gollop, is a runaway success. Or at least I would think $100k a month in pledges would give a game studio some breathing room. But Snapshot isn’t sleeping at night. The prevalence of cheap games and promotional bundles has the studio spooked because, while this is a time of incredibly bounties for consumers, not every game can have the financial safety net of, say, Sea of Thieves. This makes creating a game of the scale of Phoenix Point exceptionally perilous.

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Sid Meier's Civilization® IV - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

Sid [Meier] didn t know he was inventing a genre back in 91 – if he had he might have been a lot more careful. He was just making it up as he went along.

That s how genres begin. By mistake. Somebody creates a set of rules and systems for the needs of a particular game, and then either people adopt and adapt those rules. Soren Johnson, creator of Offworld Trading Company and lead designer of Civilization IV, is working on a new game called Ten Crowns and after spending almost an hour talking with him at GDC, I get the impression he s going to be very careful indeed. Not cautious, because I expect some bold reinvention of 4X strategy fundamentals, but careful in his treatment of a genre that we both agree needs to escape its own past.

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Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops: The Line is a hell of a game. On the surface it's a conventional third-person military shooter, but it goes places and does things that you don't very often run into in videogames. I will say no more! Except to say that it is currently free on the Humble Store.

Spec Ops was definitely not a hit when it came out in 2012, probably because it looked at a glance like an unremarkable shooter, where you and the rest of Team Ooh-Rah go in and shooty-bang-bang some guys and 'save the world' and whatever. Nothing about it appeared to stand out, and the parts of it that did prove exceptional were neither immediately apparent nor the kind of things that lead to "that was awesome!" moments on Discord. 

But it is a hell of a game, and if you haven't played it yet, this is a perfect opportunity to correct that oversight—or add it to your pile of shame will all the best intentions. However that works out for you, you've got until 10 am PT/1 pm ET on March 31 to grab it. Don't forget while you're there that the Indie Mega Week Sale, with up to 75 percent off all kinds of indie games, is also still rolling.

Spec Ops: The Line - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

Spec Ops: The Line is free over at the Humble Store right now. It’s only available for 48 hours, ending March 31st at 10am Pacific, so I advise you to go there now. Congratulations! You are hopefully now the proud owner of a game about the horrors of war. It’s hell, in case you hadn’t heard, and many people are unsure what it’s good for. Hu-ah.

Here’s wot our Alec thought back in the day.

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brendan Caldwell)

phoenix-point-preview-1

The mutant spider queen ripped through another building and I knew my team was dead. This didn t bother me, I ve played enough of nu-XCOM to accept the loss of humanity s last hope. But there s something more unsettling than being impaled by a large arachnid in Phoenix Point. Its the game s uncanny and unnerving resemblance to its XCOM cousins. It s like seeing a doppelg nger of your mate suddenly appear behind him, walking to the bar. You sit there stuttering, looking over his shoulder, wondering who’s really sitting in front of you. (more…)

The Darkness II

For a very limited time (just over a day and a half at the time of writing), PC owners are able to snag a free copy of what I, personally, would deem one of the most overlooked games of the last few years - The Darkness 2.

Head over to Humble today and you can claim a free copy of the 2012 paranormal mafia shooter for absolutely nothing. Your game will be delivered as a Steam key and is compatible with PC or Mac.

For those unlucky enough to have not played The Darkness 2 when it launched, the game tells the story of Jackie Estacado, head of a brutal New York crime syndicate who also happens to be host to a ruthless demonic force known only as The Darkness. This means that in addition to battling rival mob bosses and his own personal struggles, he also has to quite literally battle for control of his own body.

Read more…

The Darkness II - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

“Give the guy a gun and he’s Superman,” Hard Boiled said. “Give him two and he’s God.” But give the guy two guns and two hungry tentacles and he can only be the mafioso host of a demonic power. Discover that in The Darkness II, which you can grab for free for keepsies right now. The Humble Store is giving the game away for a fleeting 48 hours to celebrate the launch of a new sale. Made by Warframe devs Digital Extremes, it has buckets of guts and a surprising amount of heart. (more…)

BioShock™ - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brock Wilbur)

Unitology_020

Cults in games have a long, proud tradition of getting to go full wackadoo. Mostly, they’re a really nice device to lean on, especially in a game where you want to fill the world with collectibles and audio logs and you need some narrative to build that space. Also, they’re pretty easy in that, if you don’t give a flip about collectibles, you can generally parse that cults are evil and cultists deserve to die. I may have learned a few things about that the hard way this year. That said, Far Cry 5 releases this week and focuses on a cult in America that uses religion and being pretty crap people in general to take over an entire state. In preparation, we look back at some of the wackier cults to be featured in games’ proud lineage of brainwashing.

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