I try to be a ‘Week One’ gamer. I wait for the ‘Day One’ furore to die down and the inevitable patches to fix the main issues, read a few reviews then decide whether I’m going to reach for my credit card. Generally, if I don’t pick up a game within the first 7 days, it is highly unlikely that I’ll pick it up at a later date.
I broke that routine this month. I picked up Borderlands 3 and Gears 5 without waiting to see whether they were everything I thought they would be, everything they should have been.
To explain, I’ve enjoyed previous installments in the Borderlands franchise so actually pre-ordered the third entry to the main series. And with Gears 5, I signed up to the Xbox Game Pass for £1 and figured I may as well check it out. I’m a little time poor and I wish I hadn’t bothered with either game, not because they’re terrible games, but because they should have been better than they are. They’ve shown that even AAA developers can be completely unambitious.
To start with Borderlands 3, I’m sorry but, those outdated jokes are completely ridiculous. And, not in a good way. The ‘…will remember that’ thing was finished years ago, and Wick and Warty (‘heh, like Rick and Morty, d’yah geddit?’) are just the tip of a very stale iceberg. Borderlands 1 and 2 were genuinely funny, Borderlands 3 is less so.
Still, we can look past the dialogue, but what the lack of varied content will mean that you’re bored long before you get anywhere near the end. We all knew that there would be a grind involved, but the designers spent very little time thinking of imaginative set pieces or varied missions. It’s not even worth exploring the map – most routes off the beaten path will take you to a few chests containing… ammo? Whoop.
Borderlands 3 isn’t a completely terrible game, it’s just not as good as it should have been. The developers have released a game that would have been completely fine if it was released a year or two after Borderlands 3 – it’s more of the same, after all. But, after 7 years, fans of the franchise deserve more than what they’ve been given.
Gears 5 suffers from similar issues, despite the favourable review that’s been published here. While I agree, Gears 5 is a decent Gears of War game, it hasn’t taken the franchise anywhere other than where it’s been. The missions barely vary, the combat is essentially the game as in Gears of War 1, and the story is forgettable. Literally the only attempt at doing something new was open world sections. The problem with these are, they’re bland, lifeless and not worth exploring. It’s as though they took what was going to be another narrow portion of the map and stretched it out to make it feel different. And it does, but not for the better. While I can see where the favourable reviews are coming from, I ask a different question: does Gears 5 do enough? In my opinion, the answer is ‘no’.
Developers, and AAA developers especially, should be more ambitious with their games. I understand that there are lots of pressures from within their companies, gaming media, and fans, but that is no reason to ‘play it safe’. More should be expected from franchises as iconic as Borderlands and Gears.