Review | 2019.09.14

Borderlands 3 screenshot billboard we are the children of the vault psycho

The August-September handoff has been hot and muggy - perfect weather for AM runs and surf sessions followed by afternoons in the cave.
Borderlands 3

Borderlands 3 Super Deluxe Edition box PS4

At long last, BL3 has arrived. I played it a bit at E3 and came away with the impression that it was a faithful iteration on the Borderlands formula. That's pretty standard for a AA+ title; produce new content but don't take risks. While it's nice to see innovation, there's a lot to be said for iteration- up to a point, anyway. Gearbox has been bitten by innovation, and so they were probably more inclined to make BL2.5 than BL'76.

Combat evolved

Borderlands 3 title screen

So down to it. J and me are about eight hours into the game and have a pretty good sense of things. All the usual features and mechanics are there but with just a bit more. A few examples:
Borderlands 3 catch a ride buggy vehicle spawn Borderlands 3 badass trooper Maya Borderlands 3 vending machine purple amplified alley oop frag grenade Borderlands 3 Captain Traunt ice

And who has a better story than Bran the Broken?

thumbnail Borderlands 3 Mouthpiece intro thumbnail Borderlands 3 USA flag skin thumbnail Borderlands 3 Crazy Earl door thumbnail Borderlands 3 brain boss
thumbnail Borderlands 3 Zer0 heart emote

After giving us Handsome Jack, every Borderlands title will be judged by its characters. The new and returning personalities in BL3 are interesting and amusing, but so far the main antagonists seem rather flat. While it'd be a mistake to try to rehash the sympathetic anti-hero that was Handsome Jack, the vault twins are so far rather ho-hum. This may pick up as the story progresses as they almost certainly have some backstory reveal incoming.

Borderlands 3 screenshot Hyperion easter egg magnet banners

The plot texture may come from the conflict between arms manufacturers. Throughout the series, the household-name weapons (and technology) manufacturers have risen and fallen - Atlas was featured heavily in a BL1 DLC and, of course, Handsome Jack took over Hyperion. This time around, Maliwan is deep into a hostile takeover of a number manufacturer planets. Perhaps Mister Torgue will soon join the fray.

Mr Torgues Splodeos

The returning cast of characters have been steadily reintroduced over the few hours that we've played, much like in the previous game. This works well for giving them screen time and a chance to update us on their backstory.

It should be said that the departure of Dave Eddings from Gearbox has completely ruined Claptrap. The replacement voice actor simply does not compare. In some ways, it's not so bad since the Claptrap shtick has gone stale and it makes the character easier to ignore. If there a symbol for Gearbox needing to not upset their fans in order to recover from several failed endeavors, it's the decline of everyone's favorite door-opening robot.

Borderlands 3 screenshot heatant coolant Sanctuary

But the franchise-milking is predominantly limited to Claptrap. I was afraid there would have been an exodus of writers between installments and that BL3 would be a shadow of its predecessor. The dialogue, references, and easter eggs in BL3 cover the spectrum of intelligence and quality, but they are creative enough and dense enough to live up to the series.


Borderlands 3 screenshot cinema vehicles

But the performance. Oh my. True to the internet anger, menus are dog-slow. I haven't paid too close attention to framerate issues, but not noticing any is a plus.

Oh, the places you'll go

Borderlands 3 screenshot Sanctuary 3 liftoff

Interplanetary vault hunting has arrived. Okay, functionally it's just like the previous game with DLCs that would take you to non-wastelandy places. The only real difference is that there's a three-layer map (local/planet/galactic) that is both an improvement on the flat fast travel list and a UI nightmare, particularly with the laggy menus. In any event, it's great to have unique scenery built in to the game; although this is somewhat unfair to BL2's distinct locales - Wildlife Exploitation Preserve, Opportunity, Eridium Blight, and of course Ore Chasm.

Borderlands 3 Hostile Takeover Borderlands 3 Athenas monk monastery

The bottom line?

Will this end up on The List? Ask again later. BL3 has added depth and variety to the franchise and it's maintained the important gameplay elements. Is it innovative enough? Is it iconic enough? Is it well-executed from beginning to end? At the very least, it's definitely good enough to find out.

Borderlands 3 Cult Following explosion Borderlands 3 Hostile Takeover Meat-Thief Atlas building Borderlands 3 Enforcer phase locked Borderlands 3 Jakobs scope
Risk of Rain 2 / strategies

Risk of Rain 2 Magma Worm Aurelionite

CattleDecapitation and I finally completed 20 laps. Apparently, during pre-release, trips to the newt vendor and gilded coast counted toward 20, but that appears to have been nerfed. I'm not really sure what set the run apart, but toward the end we were rushing the portal to try to make it. Aurelionite was a must but he only goes so far when you're staring down malachite and overloading worms.

Risk of Rain 2 The Long Road clover unlock

57 leaf clover baby! An extra roll for most ability procs.

Risk of Rain 2 engineer screenshot multiple magma worms

We're definitely all about the shrines of the mountain. Get greens, trade them up to reds.

Risk of Rain 2 Happiest Mask ghost Stone Titan engineer

Happiest Mask has been a fun one. Props to the developers for not excluding boss-type enemies from special abilities.

Risk of Rain Gilded Coast portal war banners engineer

After some research it appears that the Gilded Coast is a good place to farm - endless enemies and time is stopped. I still haven't watched any streams of epic long runs, but maybe they're all anchored in grinding.

Risk of Rain 2 Magma Worm
The Division 2, fin

Tom Clancy The Division 2 hovercraft

J and me had maybe a couple more sessions on tap for Division 2, but there wasn't a ton to do and, well, BL3 dropped. It's been a good run.

Tom Clancy The Division 2 quadrotor

In a case of mild irony, my new mobile console (thanks, Corey), has the two single-player games I've cracked open. Naturally I'm very excited about any Zelda or Fire Emblem title, but I don't get much solo gaming in when not traveling.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Zelda Breath of the Wild outpost

I've played a couple hours of BotW. It's probably going to take a back seat to Fire Emblem, but I'm excited to get to it.

Zelda Breath of the Wild Link bomb Zelda Breath of the Wild Link magnet effect Zelda Breath of the Wild Link church roof

The new abilities/puzzle solving mechanics are interesting. I do wonder how they'll come together as I get to the challenging parts of the game.

Zelda Breath of the Wild cooking

Of course there's cooking.

Zelda Breath of the Wild view

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Fire Emblem Three Houses school

I'm hoping for some work travel soon so I can play more FE. Three Houses definitely steps up the production quality - and I was plenty happy with the classic gameplay with a bit of dialogue. If this indeed is like FE meets Persona, I'm going to be very pleased with this game.

Fire Emblem Three Houses Hilda lineage Fire Emblem Three Houses flashback battle Fire Emblem Three Houses monastery horse Fire Emblem Three Houses Edelgard

Fire Emblem Three Houses fishing Teutates Loach

Of course there's fishing.

ESPN javascript flood

Good news, ESPN finally started using ssl for fantasy. Bad news, their redesign kind of sucks and is javascript casserole. Still, another year of fantasy and greedydraft.

Derek Carr Joe Flacco postgame

Other than my normal strategy, I decided to fly close to the sun and get some Raiders picks really deep. Deep like Tyrell round 12 and Carr last round. Everyone seems to expect the 2018 Raiders, and that's fair. They didn't even get a Hard Knocks bump like Tampa Bay did. My biased, hopeful, but honest belief is that the difference between Pro Bowl Derek Carr and 2018 Derek Carr comes down to his o-line. Ostensibly, Gruden shored that up quite a bit, so it made sense to get some value picks with a pro bowl upside.

I didn't draft he-who-shall-not-be-named, simply because his ADP was very high and he'd be getting nothing if Carr had no protection. Greedydraft told me to get a TE early, so I missed out on Waller. One week isn't much to go on, but at least Carr didn't get lit up. And if I have to dump them Tuesday anyway, I didn't risk much.

Medieval Gridiron: d'oakland d'ogs of war

QB Russell Wilson Drafted QBs late this year, Wilson should be good value.
RB Dalvin Cook First pick, paid off week 1.
RB Joe Mixon Was worried about Cincy in general, but hoped he'd get carries.
WR Robert Woods Fourth round keeper, was on the fence about him. Still am.
WR Tyrell Williams See 2019 secret strat.
TE Vance McDonald Picked up off the wire when Henry went down.
FLEX/RB David Montgomery I wish I knew the Bears RB situation a bit earlier. My thinking was "great team, strong defense -> get RB" expecting to draft Tarik. Imagine my surprise when Montgomery had a higher ADP. Week 1 sure looked like RBBC.
D/ST Vikings Picked up off the wire after drafting Detroit just for their week 1 matchup against AZ.
K Harrison Butker Greedydraft said pick Zuerlein or Butker early (round 6ish). Legatron was gone, so I grabbed Harrison. He put up 17 game 1.
Bench/RB Tarik Cohen Being #11 in draft order I was able to get one of Montgomery's two handcuffs. In retrospect I'm not happy that they're my rounds 2 and 3. And having a handcuff in a league with four bench slots is the worst.
Bench/TE Hunter Henry Makes sense to get a Rivers TE, unless he catches an injury week 1.
Benchy/WR Robby Anderson At this point I just was going off ADP. Drafting a Jets WR isn't really my thing.
Bench/WR John Ross III Week 1 flash in the pan or new AJ Green? I grabbed him off waivers based on targets.

Week 1: win, 107.9 - 73.6

Password is Taco: d'ogs of war

QB Derek Carr Drafted as my #2 very, very late, but I knew to sit Big Ben week 1 and hope that there's a shootout in KC.
WR Adam Thielen Came up big week 1.
WR Tyler Boyd At the end of the day, the Bengals should still have a passing game even if it's deep in garbage time after five turnovers.
RB Todd Gurley II I didn't want him, really, but he's theoretically a three-down back on a very good team. Oh, no, looks like he's splitting carries pretty evenly. :|
RB Leonard Fournette Another RB in danger of falling off completely. Gotta be active on the wire here.
TE Travis Kelce No brainer. LBs watching Mahomes will lose Kelce. Also his numbers are great.
W/R Adrian Peterson Picked him up late, hoping he'd keep on chugging. Started CJ Anderson in this spot week 1. Before that, Lamar Miller occupied this spot for about four hours.
D/ST Rams I didn't go early for the Rams, but grabbed them well before last call. Games against SF and AZ should be magical.
K Greg Zuerlein Went early for Greg the Leg. He scored 15 week 1.
Bench/RB CJ Anderson Maybe he'll be flex material, he wasn't week 1.
Bench/WR Tyrell Williams Took the risk here too, it paid off at least once. He maybe should go in the flex this week, but I'm hesitant to start him and Carr.
Bench/QB Ben Roethlisberger At whatever his age is, Ben still throws like 50 times per game. Just waiting for a good time to start him.
Bench/RB Kareem Hunt Planning for late season.
Bench/WR John Ross III All in on Ross, for now.
Bench/RB Rex Burkhead Grabbed him off the wire when I dumped Renfrow since it appears Tyrell is the deep threat and Waller will have the short game targets. I don't like NE RBs, but it doesn't hurt.

Week 1: loss, 83.96-90.36

Reverse Rules: c*ntpunters

QB Ben Roethlisberger A throwing/running/sacking QB is pure gold in reverse rules.
WR Corey Davis Stats/projections said he's good for short yardage targets.
WR Robert Woods Andy discovered that rushing for negative yards means big points. So I made some pre-week 1 adds of WRs who get handoffs.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson Another WR who gets handoffs.
RB Nyheim Hines A post-luck Indy RB seems like a solid play.
RB Chris Thompson Scored big last year. Did well week 1.
TE Geoff Swaim Grabbed off the wire when Foles was injured. A TE is a rookie QB's best friend.
W/T Willie Snead IV Scored big reverse points last season. Was in the negative week 1. Hopefully he stops getting touchdowns.
D/ST Bucs The defense of a disaster team should pay off. It hasn't so far.
K Greg Zuerlein 50+ yarders are good for 69 points.
Bench/WR Mike Williams Scored a lot last year, west coast offense and all.
Bench/QB Mitchell Trubisky An okay QB that is used to having his legs to get him out of trouble. Like a young Big Ben.
Bench/RB David Johnson Was bad for bizarro last season, but I'm hoping the Cardinals terribleness means he gets bottled up more often than not.
Bench/WR Marvin Jones Jr Maybe too much of a stretch receiver, but I like him as a safety valve for short gains.
Bench/RB Chris Carson Picked up off the wire, the Seattle ground game is good for bizarro.
Bench/Def Bills Good defense but paired with a bad offense. Have to keep an eye on them.

Week 1: win, 1445.04-1288.16
Real life

Dog weimaraner nose

A little while back we discovered a growth around Kafka's thyroid. After a couple vet trips, it was determined that he has cancer. As the growth was fairly small and well-circumscribed, the onocologist recommended surgical removal.

Dog weimaraner stitches cancerous thyroid removal

The surgery seemed to go well and after just a couple days Kaf was back to his usual routine.

Duck Foot brewery Kook Slams IPA

A Kookslam beer? Whaaa?