Left 4 Dead 2 - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

Steam Spring Cleaning

I’m not sure if Valve’s latest promotional wotsit on Steam knows whether it’s coming or going. On one hand, it’s nice that the Spring Cleaning Event (running until Monday, 28th May) is nudging players into trying out games they may have bought in sales and never touched, but pairing that with nine simultaneous free weekend events does somewhat undermine the message.

Ah well, it’s an excuse to play videogames all weekend. Can’t grumble about that. Plus, there’s an actual free game giveaway running – take a peek within. Oh, and yesterday’s big Steam giveaway is still live until tomorrow, so try that too. Oh dear, there’s just too many games.

(more…)

Left 4 Dead - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

Sometimes you need a hand to hold, so we ve updated our list of the 25 best co-op games to play on PC with a headset-wearing friend or a muted stranger.

Everything’s better with a pal or two in tow, from collaborative puzzle solving to sublime double stealth takedowns. Equally sublime are when those takedowns go awry, your partner shrieks in panic and all hands are needed on deck to clear up the mess. Whether local or online, co-op games offer some of the best fun you can have in 2018.

(more…)

PC Gamer

Borderlands 3 quickly earned worst-kept-secret status in the years following Borderlands 2's smash success, but developer Gearbox has mostly steered attention toward its two spinoffs and the shortlived Battleborn for thirsty Vault Hunters. Apart from an outright confirmation that some sort of Borderlands development definitely exists, we haven't heard much news about what's next for the looter shooter series, or when we can expect to learn Borderlands 3's release date.

But we know more Borderlands is coming, so expect Gearbox to finally start talking more about Borderlands 3 in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, we've gathered everything we know here about Borderlands 3's release, rumors about characters and setting, and what else you should expect. Check back for updates as we learn more.

Because Borderlands 3 hasn't been officially announced yet, Gearbox has kept silent on a specific date, even though it was entertaining concepts as far back as 2012. Publisher Take-Two seems keen on a potential 2018-2019 launch window, as suggested by an investors call report from March 2017. In it, CEO Strauss Zelnick included a “highly anticipated new title from one of 2K's biggest franchises” as part of the publisher's fiscal 2019 outlook, a span of months ranging between October 2018 and September 2019. 

Zelnick's comments appeared again in subsequent reports in August, November, and February, increasing the likelihood of a solidified timeframe. Though not named specifically, Borderlands 3 is a strong contender for Take-Two's plans, especially considering the known quantities of the studio's annual sports releases, the juggernaut omnipresence of Grand Theft Auto V, and the radio silence from Steam sale darlings XCOM, Civilization, and BioShock (the latter's recent stirrings notwithstanding). 

Where does Borderlands 3 take place?

Not Pandora, hopefully. While the plundered planet could make a threepeat (or fivepeat if you count Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Tales from the Borderlands) to our collective boredom, it's far more feasible that we'll visit one of the many other Vaults dotting space, a welcome change of scenery teased during Borderlands 2's conclusion. Hints of a new world named Promethea were discovered by Battleborn sleuths, including hidden graffiti of a Vault symbol and peculiar audio patterns heard from portal anomalies beckoning listeners to Promethea and warning of Patricia Tannis, the unhinged scientist researching the Vaults' mysterious origins. Promethea's candidacy was strengthened most recently by a tweet last month from the official Borderlands account that restated the Battleborn Easter eggs in clearer form.

In the Borderlands canon, Promethea is where the gargantuan Atlas Corporation first harnessed the alien Eridian technology to manufacture advanced weaponry and starships. The Crimson Lance, Atlas' private military and playable character Roland's former employer, would return to prominence as it keeps a major base planetside. Promethea also houses the first Vault discovered by Atlas which would eventually kickstart the rush of hunters and rival corporations plying the stars in search of riches.

With all clues pointing to Promethea's importance, there would be little reason to pass up the chance to understand the true nature of the Vaults, perhaps bridge the connection with the magical Sirens, and, of course, loot one of the juiciest motherlodes in the galaxy. 

What has Gearbox said about Borderlands 3?

The studio is certainly withholding major announcements as we creep closer to the summer convention block, but that hasn't stopped CEO Randy Pitchford from drip-feeding progress updates on Borderlands 3. During PAX South 2015's Gearbox panel, Pitchford opened recruitment for Borderlands 3's development team, saying, “We want to think about the future, and we want to think about what the next Borderlands is, and we're going to need some help.”

Later, at PAX East 2016's panel, Pitchford noted that “obviously there's going to be another Borderlands.” He also mentioned the transfer of Battleborn art director Scott Kester onto the team in a similar role. Staff changes are common for large projects, but this aligns with Gearbox's plans to refocus manpower onto Borderlands 3 after Battleborn was finished.

During the same panel, Pitchford pondered whether the next Borderlands would use a number or a more exotic designation. “We don't even know if we're going to call it that,” he said. “We could call it Borderlands 4 for all we know.” The tongue-in-cheek style of Borderlands' comedy might involve a box cover poking fun at colons and buzzwords. More clear cut is Gearbox's intent for delivering a “really big, worthy” continuation instead of an offshoot like the Pre-Sequel, as Pitchford explained in an September 2017 IGN interview.

Another major Pitchford preview surfaced in April last year with a tweeted photo of the man himself wearing a motion capture rig. The getup was for a shoot that “may or may not be a psycho bandit in a video game we may or may not be working on.” Seeing as psychos are the babbling poster-mobs of Borderlands' wastes, it's almost assured a Borderlands 3 is on the way teeming with more masked madmen.

Image via The Nocturnal Rambler

What sort of loot will be in Borderlands 3?

Expect the usual bevy of wacky weapons and bizarre effects—and a fire-spitting gun straight out of Tesla CEO Elon Musk's laboratory. No, really: In January, Musk attracted Pitchford's attention when he debuted a novelty flamethrower available to the public from his Boring Company, joking on Twitter that the flamethrower was sentient and came with a free cryptocurrency blockchain. Pitchford then declared the flamethrower's inclusion in the next Borderlands game, requesting Musk to write the flavor text. Surprisingly, Musk agreed. "Boring Flamethrower" already smacks of a cheekily named legendary drop, and sentient guns aren't anything new—this is the same series that gave us a yelling SMG—so keep an eye out for a flavored firestarter blessed by Musk. 

Other Borderlands 3 details

  • Around 90 percent of Gearbox is working on Borderlands 3. Pitchford told last year's PAX West panel audience that the studio was full steam ahead on a project “most of you guys want us to be working on.” Since no one was brave enough to shout out “Colonial Marines 2,” that project is most definitely Borderlands-related.
  • An Unreal Engine 4 talk at last year's GDC included a very Borderlands-looking sequence. Pitchford presented the engine's features of improved lighting and shadow effects that would “power the next Borderlands game” but was quick to disclaim the footage as just a “technology demonstration” and not a snippet of actual gameplay. The previous Borderlands games ran on the Unreal Engine, so it makes sense if the next entry kept tradition with snazzier tech.
  • Gearbox saw a few notable departures, including writer and Scooter voice actor Mikey Neumann. Borderlands 2 lead writer Anthony Burch also left the studio in 2015 to eventually join League of Legends' Riot Games. Claptrap voice actor David Eddings moved on to Rooster Teeth last year.
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.

Borderlands 2

The pantheon of great videogame weapons is dominated by shotguns, rocket launchers, and the odd sword or hammer. And it makes sense, these tools are responsible for the large majority of blood you’ll spill in most games. It’s a shame though, because there’s something wonderful and elegant about a perfect grenade toss—that graceful arc through the air before unleashing untold, instant destruction. If the rat-a-tat of a gun is the string section of an orchestra, grenades are that ear-splitting crash cymbal. Pound for pound, grenades can be every bit as satisfying—and there’s no shortage of wacky grenades that rival the most absurd guns.

In honor of these little death dealers, we’re rounding up the best grenades in PC gaming—from the satisfying shockwave of FEAR’s frag grenades to the divine chorus that spells doom for your team in Worms. If you like watching things explode (or implode!), we’ve got some good ‘nades for you.

Holy Hand Grenade - Worms 

Few grenades are capable of triggering horrific childhood memories quite like Worms’ Holy Hand Grenade. I vividly remember the dread of seeing one plop down next to several of my worms, a chorus of angels singing a triumphant “Hallelujah!” before blasting them all straight to hell. It’s the enormity of God’s holy wrath contained in the tiniest of weapons. Compared to Worm’s other assortment of absurd weaponry, the Holy Hand Grenade is elegant and simple: You throw it and count to three—four shall thou not count, neither count thou two, accepting that thou then proceed to three—and revel in the obscenely large explosion capable of destroying a huge portion of the map. And if the initial blast doesn’t finish off your enemy, you can always rest easy knowing it’ll send them soaring through the air to a watery grave. Monty Python might have invented it, but Worms’ hilarious variation is what really made this one of PC gaming’s most iconic grenades. — Steven Messner

Pulse Grenade - Destiny 2 

I generally don’t like a damage-over-time ‘nades, but until these were nerfed they were straight up broken in Destiny 2. Pulse Grenades are arc-powered pineapples that are exclusive to the Warlock Stormcaller and the Titan Striker subclasses, the latter of which could carry two at once with the top skill tree. Toss a Pulse Grenade down and the initial impact sends enemies pinwheeling through the air. Anything not killed instantly is then flash fried by repeated bursts of electrical energy that look like a fire in a sparkler factory. The funny thing is that Pulse grenades were absolutely garbage in Destiny 1, but for the sequel they were buffed to be good enough to melt bosses, whilst almost every other grenade got reduced to water balloon effectiveness. But that’s Bungie’s sandbox balance team for you. The daft bastards. — Tim Clark 

N6A3 Fragmentation Grenade - FEAR 

*Slow motion voice* Get dowwn!

I don't know what porn is, but watching a N6A3 fragmentation grenade explode in slow motion is grenade porn. The explosion bends the air into a visible concussive bubble, a shockwave that sends office supplies flying and men's asses to the ground. There's a half-second of quiet as everything floats away from the grenade's center, and then pop, fire and shrapnel fill the screen and dissolve the men and their asses into errant blood spatter textures and goofy little giblets. It takes some time for the smoke to clear. Exhale with it as you try to convince yourself FEAR came out over ten years ago. — James Davenport 

Medic grenade - Killing Floor 2 

Killing Floor 2 is so focused on shooting and blowing stuff up that even its medics get to shoot you (with love) and blow you up (with vitality). I love that KF2's medic class doesn't have to slow down or weild a Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch-like proton pack to do the job: just alt fire to stick a teammate with a healing dart, or throw a medic grenade to pop a cloud of blue smoke for everyone to suck into their lungs. It’s not the most impressive visual effect, but nailing a toss and capturing your struggling teammates in the cool, healthy embrace of your medicinal gas, which also damages Zeds, can prevent a team wipe—and I love saving my teammates by violently chucking metal at them.— Tyler Wilde

Boogie Bomb - Fortnite Battle Royale 

Would you rather your digital avatar be torn limb from limb by bits of shrapnel or would you rather lose control of it altogether, forced into some stupid boogie nights wiggle as your executioner watches and laughs? Sure, Fortnite Battle Royale's Boogie Bomb is cute, but the reality is a horror show, a tool built for humiliation. Death by one such mirror-plated 'nade is like being taken to the influencer gallows, where you're forced to tromp around and bash cymbals together for a meme-hemorrhaging audience before the floor gives out. I'll take the shrapnel, please. — James Davenport

Thermal Imploder - Star Wars Battlefront

The best grenades don’t always have to have to do something wacky, sometimes it’s all in the presentation—and in that regard the Thermal Imploder is unparalleled (except by FEAR’s N6A3 ‘nade, maybe). EA’s Battlefront stuck relatively close to Star War’s canon when it came to weaponry, but the Thermal Imploder is an exception I’m willing to make. The blast effect is gorgeous, but it’s really the bwah-bwuuuuh! of its detonation that makes this grenade stand out. If FEAR's frag grenade is grenade porn for the eyes, then the Thermal Imploder is grenade porno music for the ears. — Steven Messner

Candela - Rainbow Six Siege 

The fanciest flash grenade in video games, Ying's 'candela' spits out not one but six independent flash charges in quick succession, making it hard to shield yourself from. It also has strangely nuanced throwing behavior. If you cook it, up to three LEDs will illuminate on the candela before throwing. The more lights that are lit, the further the tactical light ball will roll along a floor. And separately, you can simply affix the thing to any 'soft' wall in Siege to flash through the wall. It's fun to hurl into a bombsite or hostage room, knowing at the very least you've sent anyone inside scattering. — Evan Lahti

Singularity grenade - Borderlands 2 

I played most of Borderlands 2 solo as Maya, so singularity grenades, which suck enemies into a little black hole before exploding, were my best friend. I sampled a few other grenade mods in the early hours, but once I found my first singularity, I never looked back. I'd actually hold onto low-level singularity mods instead of using higher-level bouncing betty mods and the like. They're that good, especially for Maya, whose super skill preys on clusters of enemies. They're also fabulous with rocket launchers, and I have fond memories of gawking at their Geforce PhysX particle effects. Remember when that was still novel? Where do the years go... — Austin Wood

Frag Grenade - XCOM

On the surface, frags in XCOM are not that impressive. You can cause more damage by shooting someone, their range isn't great, they destroy equipment so you can't salvage stuff off anyone you do manage to kill with them, and lining up that bubble showing where they will land can be annoying. It's not flashy, it's not special, it doesn't draw attention to itself. It's the Jimmy Stewart of handheld explosives. But the humble XCOM frag grenade is in everybody's inventory from mission one, they destroy cover, and you don't have a percentage chance to miss with them. They always lands where you want and cause enough damage to kill a baseline sectoid. The number of turns where I've messed up every easy shot and found myself in a situation where someone's fucked unless I can cause precisely three points of damage to that one guy over there are beyond counting. In those situations, the XCOM frag grenade is the best.— Jody Macgregor

Incendiary Grenade - The Division 

If the twenty first century has taught us anything, and so far it probably hasn’t, it’s that blowing people up is bad. But for real transgressive thrills you can’t beat setting (pretend) people on fire.  I think my love of immolating NPCs began with TimeSplitters on PS1, because Free Radical Design went the extra mile to code in really scared HOLYFUCKIMONFIRE screams. But it was with The Division that my pyromania took root. I main the Firecrest gear set which is built around setting dudes on fire. Mostly with the rinky dink flamethrower turret, but also with the extra Incendiary Grenades the gear grants. Pop one of these spicy little peppers and it spills liquid napalm over a satisfyingly wide surface area. Enemies caught within the nade’s roast radius start flapping around like, well… like their arses on fire. With the Wildfire talent enabled the burn spreads to their colleagues in that satisfyingly organic way that Ubisoft games seem to have nailed. I dunno, man. Burning is just the best. — Tim Clark

PC Gamer

Back 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. A game like, say, Borderlands 3, which hasn't been announced but almost surely exists. It's been five years now since Gearbox made Borderlands 2, and three years since the Pre-Sequel mostly followed the same playbook, with more Handsome Jack and more playable Claptrap. That's long enough for us to reflect on what we want from Borderlands 3, and we're ready for another round of sarcastic looting and shooting.

Here's where we want to see Gearbox take Borderlands next.

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.

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'.

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?

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Borderlands 2 - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

borderlands-1

Strange now, when Borderlands is as big as it is and as synonymous as it is with bug-eyed shrieking, to think back to the transformative and ambitious promises of the first few times we glimpsed it. The idea of an FPS with the mentality of Diablo was ahead of its time, and at the time seemed thrilling rather than, as is the case now, the most lucrative business model. And that cel-shaded look in the era of Gears of War? Woof-woof. (more…)

Left 4 Dead 2 - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Another year over, a new one just begun, which means, impossibly, even more games.> But what about last year? Which were the games that most people were buying and, more importantly, playing? As is now something of a tradition, Valve have let slip a big ol’ breakdown of the most successful titles released on Steam over the past twelve months.

Below is the full, hundred-strong roster, complete with links to our coverage if you want to find out more about any of the games, or simply to marvel at how much seemed to happen in the space of 52 short weeks.

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Borderlands 2

Welcome back to the PC Gamer Q&A. Every week, we ask our panel of PC Gamer writers a question about PC gaming. This week: which game were you the best at? We all have those games we become obsessed with, until we reach some level of mastery. We'd love to read your suggestions in the comments, too.

James Davenport: Super Hexagon

I never get too attached to one game for very long. I think the most time I've spent playing any one game is Borderlands 2 with something like 300 hours clocked, and I don't even like it that much. But when I do love a game, it's a swift, dedicated, blinding attachment, usually the product of horrible depression or anxiety. So it's weird that I would play Super Hexagon during one of the most difficult months of my life, but I did, and it helped me calm down. Within a week I beat the hardest difficulty and managed to stretch nearly a minute beyond the 'win' time, though I can't remember my times exactly. When you see that game for the first time, it's almost not easy to parse what's going on. Between the rotating screen, flashing colors, and intense chiptune soundtrack, maneuvering that tiny triangle for even a few seconds was impossible at first. But then it wasn't impossible, just difficult. Then it wasn't difficult, it was second nature. It's a silly example, but I try to remember that when I don't feel capable. Super Hexagon is more potent than any quote from a dead philosopher. 

Wes Fenlon: Tower Wars

Years ago, a friend and I spent a good week mastering the wonderful tower defense game PixelJunk Monsters on PS3, which had a rare co-op mode that let you run around the map together building and buffing towers. So when we happened upon another cute tower defense game on Steam with online co-op, we decided to give it a shot. And for a couple weeks we were utterly addicted to Tower Wars.

It's classic Tower Defense, really: you build mazes out of towers, upgrade them as you get more cash, and defeat hordes of enemies as they wind their way towards your base. But in online multiplayer, you had to manage building your own defenses and send waves of units crashing down on your opponents. We played the 2v2 mode and quickly developed a pretty effective strategy. Cheap towers to sketch out just enough of our maze to handle early waves, and then rush the right combination of fast units to send our opponents into a panic. We figured out some good unit combinations and managed to win against most of our opponents. It was a winning spree of only a few days, but man it felt good.

Only a few thousand people owned Tower Wars when it first came out, and I don't remember how many people were on the 2v2 leaderboard, but I do remember we got down below 100. Maybe 80? Maybe 40? We were definitely some of the best players in the world. Never mind that it was a very small pool. Wherever we peaked, we definitely started playing against opponents who could outlast our rush strategy and slowly wear us down with clearly superior maze building. Those matches would drag on for so long that Tower Wars' framerate would slow to a crawl as we delayed the inevitable. We knew we'd topped out. But for those couple of weeks, we were unstoppable. 

Chris Livingston: Half-Life 2: Deathmatch

I'm sad to say it's Half-Life 2: Deathmatch. Damn, I was good at that. Something about flinging around toilets and file cabinets with a gravity gun was second nature to me and it's pretty much the only multiplayer game where I'd routinely wind up with the most kills. And there's no better kill than a toilet kill, except possibly using the gravity gun to catch someone's pulse rifle orb and fling it back at them. I was good at that too.

Unfortunately, HL2 Deathmatch was about as popular as an antlion at a beach party and quickly fell by the wayside. Maybe everyone got tired of being killed by flying toilets. Or maybe it just wasn't a good multiplayer game. I guess I'll just wait for Half-Life 3: Deathmatch. Should be out soon, right?

Tim Clark: Hearthstone (obviously)

This feels like a very deliberate attempt to trap me into answering Hearthstone again, which I will now step smoothly into. The one time I put the effort into grinding to legend rank remains the single hardest thing I've done in a game (even though I played Zoo for quite a bit of the way), and so seeing that card back reward pop when I made it is also one of my happiest moments. For the rest of the month I tooled around playing comedy decks with the pressure off, and one Sunday afternoon managed to find myself at about rank 400-and-something (blaze it) on the EU server with Yogg & Load Hunter. For about an hour or so, I was technically, sort of, the 400th-ish best player in Europe. Contract offers from pro teams should be directed to the usual address. 

Austin Wood: Hearthstone

Most of my best games aren't on PC, so I was having a hard time choosing—until Tim answered Hearthstone. Which reminded me that, for a glorious hour, I was legend rank four (which, correct me if I'm wrong, is better and handsomer than 400-and-something) on the North American server. It was during Midrange Paladin's Goblins vs. Gnomes heyday. I built a list with two Equality, two Solemn Vigil, one Defender of Argus and only one Quartermaster, and climbed the ladder with a 67 percent win rate. It's still the only time I've actually recorded Hearthstone matches. That deck absolutely feasted on the Zoolocks and Handlocks in that meta. I hit legend at rank 13, and climbed to rank four before being beaten back by a wave of Rogues. Which was when I, too, started playing meme decks.  

Jody Macgregor: Thief Gold

After finishing Thief on normal difficulty I went back and did it all again on expert, 100% loot. I was unemployed and living with my parents, which is the only reason I had time for it. Replaying it more recently I'm pretty average, and have forgotten where half the secrets are. But on the other hand I don't sleep on a mattress on the floor of my parents' spare room these days so it's hard to feel sad about my atrophied stealth skills. 

Andy Chalk: Doom

I was an untouchable OG Doom machine. Ultimate, Master Levels, Lost Episodes, WAD CDs, you name it, I slapped 'em all around like they were a pistol zombie standing in the middle of a room full of barrels. Opportunities for multiplayer were far rarer than they are now—you could go one-on-one over a phone line, or put yourself through the hellish wringer of setting up an IPX network for some four-way fun—but I was a monster there, too. And strictly with the keyboard—it never occurred to me to play with the mouse at first, and mouseketeers couldn't keep up anyway so I never saw a point in changing. (This attitude would come back to bite me in the ass when I attempted to take on Quake.)

At one point I exchanged a few messages with American McGee on the Software Creations BBS in an attempt to shit-talk John Romero into taking me on. McGee politely but firmly told me to stop bugging him. 

Samuel Roberts: Batman: Arkham City

I'll never be Batman, but in Arkham City's challenge rooms I got pretty damned close—while still being able to maintain my diet of cheeses and red wine. The amount of tools you get deep into the second Batman game, like the ice bomb and the remote electrical charge, give you numerous ways to creatively deal with Gotham's thugs and send your score soaring. It's terrific to just practice that until you can perfect each room without breaking your combo or taking a hit. I never quite mastered Arkham Knight in the same way. 

But what about you, reader? Let us know below.

Borderlands 2

The Humble Bundle's latest collection of games goes big on Borderlands, packing Gearbox Software's original role-playing shooter, its immediate sequel and its low-gravity follow-up, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. 

It's all part of the slightly awkwardly-named Humble Endless RPG Lands Bundle. The 'Endless' bit is because it also throws in Endless Legend, the excellent sci-fi 4X game.

The pay-what-you-want part of the bundle includes the Original Borderlands (which is probably just about still worth playing) plus all its DLC, as well as action-RPG The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing and Wurm Online, the fantasy MMORPG.

Splash out more than $4.96 and you'll get all that plus Endless Legend, Borderlands 2 and some of its DLC (some major story add-ons are missing) and Guild of Dungeoneering, a card-battling dungeon crawler that Andy wrote about back in 2015.

More than $10 will also nab you Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, which Evan called a "well-executed but thoroughly unambitious extension of Borderlands 2".

Overall, the package is a good one for those who haven't played the Borderlands games. $5 is near enough a historic low for Borderlands 2 alone, which is the star of the show. You can read Tom's original review here.

The bundle is available for the next two weeks: grab it here.

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