On Wednesday, Gearbox Software showed off the first Borderlands 3 gameplay, playing through an hour’s worth of tutorial and gunfights in new regions of the series’ long-term setting of Pandora, and a place or two beyond. The gameplay displayed a vault’s worth of small new tweaks while still sticking to Borderlands’ art style and core gameplay.
Today’s Borderlands 3 gameplay stream—hosted by Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford— showed reworked controls. You can now mantle and slide, making for more fluid gunplay than the stodgier, straightforward movement of the previous games. Some guns also come with an alt fire mode. One pistol, for example, had a tracking round you could fire, which made all subsequent normal rounds home into the tracking bullet’s location.
That’s in addition to expansive and reworked skill trees, which give each playable character three action skills to develop and swap between at the start. In the demo, one player controlled Amara, a Siren class with a suite of abilities that included a Phaseslam area-of-effect attack, a Phasegrasp that lifts enemies and holds them in place, and a Phasecast that sends an astral projection of herself forward, dealing damage along the way.
Pitchford said that each action skill will also eventually unlock augmentations that will allow for further customization, which could lead to very different builds between players who choose the same character. These augmentations were not shown, however.
Borderlands 3 has also made some changes to how loot works in co-op: The game comes with what Gearbox calls “loot instancing,” which means each player will effectively get different, level-appropriate loot as they play together. This comes coupled with level balancing, which scales higher-level characters downward so they’re not overpowered when they join a lower-level character’s game. Borderlands 3 will also come with a classic mode that keeps co-op exactly as it was, complete with loot for you and your partners to fight over.
For the first time, Borderlands is leaving its long-term setting of Pandora and its moon, moving the hub city of Sanctuary to a giant spaceship—the Sanctuary III—and eventually taking players to a number of planets.
As the event wrapped up, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford rallied fans by noting that Borderlands 3 wouldn’t have microtransactions “or any of that nonsense,” a statement that, according to other members of the Borderlands team, is false. There are microtransactions set for Borderlands 3, but according to producer Chris Brock, they will be for purely cosmetic items.
“When we say ‘no microtransactions,’ what we’re really trying to say is that we’re not trying to nickel and dime people,” Brock told GamesIndustry.biz. “We’ll probably make content after launch that we will sell, but we also don’t intend to take what Borderlands was and then chop it up into chunks and sell it.”
At this early stage, Borderlands 3 looks like it’s bearing down hard on the series’ big calling cards—a wild variety of guns, a sense of humor that walks the line between irreverent and obnoxious, and flexible cooperative play. We’ll see whether or not that’s aged well when the game comes out in September.