A few weeks ago, Gearbox announced a second wave of Borderlands 3 downloadable content. Among the offerings will be a new mode called Arms Race, which Gearbox chief Randy Pitchford said is “not a battle royale,” despite it exisiting on an isolated map and granting players progressively powerful gear over the course of a round. Today, the developers pulled back the curtain on this new mode, and it turns out that Arms Race is not, in fact, a battle royale. It’s a roguelike.
Gearbox officially describes Arms Race as a “roguelike experience,” rather than a straight-up roguelike. You’re dropped into a new area on Pandora—the snow-coated Stormblind Complex—and stripped of your weapons and skills. The Stormblind Complex is constantly plagued by a weather pattern called, in suitably Borderlands fashion, the “Murdercane,” which limits how long you can survive. Your goal is to “extract” as much gear as possible. If you want the best gear, you’ll have to take down a high-level big bad, which will likely require collecting increasingly powerful randomized gear as you find it. Oh, and Gearbox says that you may “die repeatedly.”
Arms Race is part of the upcoming “Designer’s Cut” add-on for Borderlands 3, one of two new expansions included in the game’s second season pass. (The other is the “Director’s Cut,” which thus far has been kept under wraps.) In addition to the new mode, the Designer’s Cut will introduce new skill trees for each of the four vault hunters.
It’ll be curious to see if Arms Race can earn a seat in the roguelike pantheon, which this year has given us gems like BPM: Bullets Per Minute, ScourgeBringer, Going Under, and, of course, Hades. A live-die-repeat format sure sounds like a good fit for Borderlands 3’s unique brand of hijinks, and a cooperative shooter roguelike sounds terrific on paper. At the same time, Borderlands is at its best when you play with guns and skills that you’ve meticulously curated over hours of play. Losing both could sap the fun entirely. We’ll see when the Designer’s Cut—and the Arms Race mode—becomes available on November 10.