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First Impressions
I had no intention of getting Borderlands 3 (BL3) so early, but I was fortunate enough to win a copy from a generous giveaway. I've enjoyed the other games in the series, though I wondered if this sequel would live up to the anticipation surrounding it. As I started playing, I was surprised how much it appealed to me, since at its core it shares so much in common with its predecessors. Those were certainly fine games, but there's something about BL3 that stands out and makes it more fun to play.

For me, though the gameplay is seemingly so much alike to the previous games, this is where BL3 shines. The pacing for the game is better, as you won't traverse as many dead areas, trudging along because you have to run across the map just to find the start of a quest. With the ability to fast travel to specific markers, like your vehicle, getting around is faster and easier. It's hard to describe, but fighting enemies is also more enjoyable, as the action feels more fast-paced and engaging. You'll be punished if you are too reckless or get surrounded by enemies, but if you can single-out targets and pick them off reliably, your survivability will be quite good.
The control scheme is nearly identical to the other games, and I had no issues playing it with a controller. Movement and aim is controlled with the 'L' and 'R' joysticks respectively. 'L trigger' brings up your gun sights, 'L bumper' activates your special ability, 'R trigger' fires your gun, and 'R bumper' throws grenades. You'll jump with 'A,' and if you hit 'B' while running you'll slide. 'X' reloads your gun, 'B' makes you crouch or stand back up, and 'Y' switches guns. You have to change this in the settings, but as you open gun slots, you can use the 'D-pad' to change to specific guns. By default, this will only effect your emotes.

Whereas the gameplay was a highlight of BL3, its story is its biggest failure. The antagonists come off as obnoxious brats, who are so dysfunctional they barely get along. It seems like an insult to the younger generation, with them lampooning Twitch streamers and being so childish. Though they have amazing powers, which should make them more of a threat or menace than Handsome Jack, they're a shadow of the presence he had, and I just wanted them to shut up. As far as the general fan base is concerned though, they despise Ava even more than the antagonists, and I can somewhat understand why.

As you progress through the story, protagonists you're familiar with wind up being ineffectual and incompetent, especially when key characters die without putting up much of a fight. However, the player is similarly limited, because even as cutscenes play out, and it's clear you're standing just off-screen, you never intercede. This means the player has no impact on the story, since they're so disregarded in what happens, including how you receive no grand reward for all the work you did. This seems especially annoying because you're a voiced character, not a silent protagonist.
BL3 maintains the aesthetic and art style it's known for in the series, but it's been significantly cleaned up from the older games. There are more details, better visual effects, and things don't look as flat. I'm not one to over-emphasize graphics, but I have to admit that starting a new BL game and having it look so crisp was nice. One downside I've noticed is that I need to close other programs to make sure it starts and runs smoothly.

Sound Design
I think this pertains to the idea that you're going to different worlds, but the soundtrack seems more varied and without as strong a core theme compared to other BL songs. This isn't to say the music is bad, as I enjoyed the different songs and styles incorporated. I would admit, some of the combat tunes felt overly intense, as they'd take place with regular enemies and mobs that went down easily, but that's a minor nitpick. I found the sound effects to be appropriate, but I did get annoyed when a nearby NPC would repeatedly shout at you until you talked to them.

🌟 When playing with others, you no longer have to share loot and decide who gets the rare item. Also, gold items drop fairly often, so you'll be more likely to trade or share them then in other BL games.
🌟 The crew challenges help fill out each area with additional things to do, without having to pre-activate quests. I especially enjoyed Hammerlock's legendary hunts and Zer0 Targets.
🌟 There's a loot collecting device in Sanctuary. If you miss gold, purple, or blue items, it'll gather them for you, but it has a limit on how many it can hold.
🌟 The game is still receiving patches, and they're having different events throughout the year to reward active players.
😐 The ability to climb up obstacles and slide around are nice improvements to your mobility. However, there are times when you won't grab onto a ledge when you should, which is annoying.
😐 Other BL games emphasized character customization, but there are more options now than before. For instance, you can personalize the colors for your characters, guns, and vehicles.

❌ While playing, I experienced at least 3 bugs while trying to complete missions, all of which centered around issues with items or NPCs glitching into the ground. These weren't hard-locked, exiting out to the main menu and reloading fixed it, but there are still issues with the game's coding.
❌ Increasing ammo capacity is done with money instead of Eridium, so for most of the game, your money is used only for that. They're starting to put in more uses for Eridium, but so far it's been fairly useless, for being a rare, highly sought out item.
❌ It seems like Gearbox doesn't know how to write more than a few personalities, as there's not much variety in the characters: hyperviolent sociopaths, rambling lunatics, condescending braggarts, and awesomesauce cool guys.

🔍 I noticed that when I tried sniping, several enemies would dodge out of the way just as I fired, with sniping not seeming to be as effective as it did in BL2. Additionally, I find myself firing from the hip more often, and being more aggressive.
🔍 The value listed beside each weapon is a useful guide, but it's not an end-all be-all metric. Depending on the effects and combination with your abilities and playstyle, a lower value item might be better.
🔍 Corrosive damage isn't that useful, as only a few enemies have armor. However, radiation and cyro seem particularly effective.

Final Thoughts
I find BL3 to be a mixed bag. On one hand, it's a very fun coop shooter, which I have been playing with my friends regularly since getting it. On the other, we'll often discuss problems with it as we play, such as the horrible story, and how unimpressive the bounty is in the vaults. Infrequently, you'll get a golden weapon as a mission reward and can even find them in white chests. However, when opening this legendary vault worth killing over, it has items ranging from white to purple, with no guaranteed gold items, so it seems like a joke by comparison. Despite these and other criticisms, I find BL3 to be a game worth playing, but it certainly has problems. At this point, it's not worth paying full price for, though if you do get it, I think you'd find it fun to play, which is why I still recommend it overall.
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I spy with my little eye, a racist dog whistle. They can't keep getting away with this.
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