Borderlands 3 has now had its first gameplay debut in a special stream presentation, shedding a ton of new light on the long-awaited sequel. You can re-watch the stream and find out everything we learned about the game here, but keep on reading for a breakdown of the gameplay that Gearbox showed during the event.
To start, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford and creative director Paul Sage were sure to note that everything we were seeing was rendered in Unreal Engine 4, but the transition hasn’t lost the iconic Borderlands style–or the inclusion of Claptrap to kick off the proceedings. This story revolves around a new faction on Pandora, a cult called the Children of the Vault. Lilith, the Siren from the previous games, is heading up the Crimson Raiders and attempting to investigate the cult.
Speaking of Sirens, the demo starred Amara, the Siren warrior. After a visit to a Quick Recharge station to check customization options, Amara is off and running with a helpful new traversal tool. The Vault Hunters can now sprint-slide or hop over ledges.
The new Vault Hunters have a variety of new combat tools as well. Guns will sometimes offer multiple firing modes, like a Vladof pistol that can swap between semi-auto mode or a bunch of “micro-missiles.” Similarly, some elemental weapons can swap between elements. The demo also showed cover being destroyed, and explosive barrels can be propelled toward enemies with melee attacks. Plus environmental hazards can be impacted by elements, like oil catching fire or water conducting electricity. You can also revive NPCs, and the favor goes both ways.
In the story, Amara quickly butts heads with the leader of the cult, Shiv. He captures Claptrap, forcing you to take up a shield and get into a melee fight with him. Gearbox promised bigger bosses that will require some more coordination to beat as well. Once Shiv has been taken down, Lilith appeared and explained that she’s looking for a key that will lead to vaults on other worlds.
We also got a closer look at Amara’s skill tree. It’s very similar to the other Borderlands games, with three branching skill trees and one powerful action skill. Each character can choose one action skill to equip, besides Zane who can equip a second by opting out of grenades. Amara’s three action skills are Phaseslam, Phasegrasp, and Phasecast–in the demo, they selected the AOE ability Phaseslam. This time some skills will also have optional augments and modifiers, like an electric Phaseslam.
From there the demonstration transitioned to co-op play. Everyone receives their own stream of loot, and a level balancing tool keeps everyone fighting enemies and receiving loot at their own level. This feature is called “Loot Instancing,” according to Gearbox. If you prefer it to work like the older Borderlands games instead, you can turn these options off and play using the “Classic Mode” setting.
The co-op partner chose to play as Zane, and Gearbox showed off his own skill tree as well. He can make a digital copy of himself called a Digiclone, and swap places with it at will. He can also create an autonomous Sentinel robot or summon a barrier shield.
During the gameplay showcase, Gearbox showed off a new feature that makes Borderlands 2’s disposable guns a little more useful. Now, when thrown away, they can some strange properties. One gun became a bouncy ball that hurt enemies on impact–and also was sentient. Another became a turret, while a third turned into homing rockets.
In co-op, the partners went to the cult’s Holy Recruitment Center to take on another boss called Mouthpiece–the head of the Children of the Vault’s propaganda operation. True to his theme, his weapon is sound, and when defeated the players received a unique gun that shoots soundwaves. At that point, the demo showed a short introduction to the chief antagonists, the Calypso Twins: Troy and Tyreen.
Finally, the demo showed off Sanctuary, your customizable home away from home. Sanctuary is a ship that hops between planets and serves as your base. You can put your favorite guns on display, recover lost loot that you may not have been able to pick up earlier, visit Moxxi’s bar, open Gold Key chests, chat to Tannis, or do business with merchants like Marcus and Crazy Earl. Hammerlock has his own trophy room, where your most important kills are showcased, and Maya is also knocking about too.
The demo then took us to Promethea, the neon city that serves as home to the Atlas Corporation. Two players showcased how co-op plays and, as you can imagine, it was a chaotic mix of explosions, abilities, and loot gathering. A new NPC called Lorelei was guiding the players, and she’s a character that Gearbox said players will spend a lot of time with.
Borderlands 3 is coming on September 13 to PC via Epic Store, PS4, and Xbox One. Check out our pre-order guide for more details. We went hands-on with Borderlands 3 and found that it now supports solo play in a way previous entries in the series didn’t. Check out our full Borderlands 3 hands-on gameplay preview for more on that.