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Borderlands 3 Has an Endgame Problem

Michael Bitton Posted:
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This probably comes as no surprise, but I’ve been playing nothing but Borderlands 3 since the game dropped last week. While I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had in the series due to improvements in gameplay, there are some significant problems with the endgame right now.

As excited as I’ve been for BL3, I was a bit apprehensive about the endgame even with the encouraging details I heard on the run up to launch. This time around, Gearbox clearly put more focus on that aspect of the game right out of the gate, but old issues that have plagued the series have reared their head once again and there are new issues here, too.

Overtuned Items Trivialize the Experience

It’s the classic double-edged sword of the series’ insane approach to loot. The same thing that makes the item hunt so appealing can also end up trivializing the experience if outliers aren’t caught early on. It’s one thing when players figure out some crazy combination of a specific piece of loot and its interaction with some skill that maybe the developers couldn’t anticipate, but you really don’t need to look hard to find stuff to break the game in BL3.

Sticky grenades on Torgue shotguns can break most encounters, for one. And this is something that people noticed even at pre-release press events. But there are also specific items such as the Porcelain Pipe Bomb, the Flakker shotgun, and other examples that simply trivialize encounters. I’m not sure if this is a sort of laid back Gearbox philosophy at play or a failure to identify these outliers and curb them before release, but what’s the point of all of this additional challenge content if it can be broken so easily?

Challenge Content Isn’t Challenging Enough

Even if you aren’t taking advantage of some of the overtuned items or combinations in BL3, the game’s challenge drops off pretty significantly with most any competent build and assortment of gear. I play Moze, but I’m not doing anything crazy with her. In fact, I run an Autobear build which is a far cry from the most OP thing you can do with her and I’m not having an issue at all on Mayhem 3. Some fights are still challenging, but I expected to have to work a bit harder to move up through the difficulty levels.

This is something I worried about when Gearbox planned to roll out only three Mayhem levels at launch. Each Mayhem level should require a more refined build to tackle adequately and there should be additional Mayhem levels to continually challenge a player to improve their build to overcome.

Also, Mayhem modifiers could be a lot more inspired than they are now. The current set of options are workable, but I’d like to see some of the crazy mutators from the Pre-Sequel’s Claptrap DLC mutator arena come into play here as well. Hopefully this is something Gearbox has planned for higher Mayhem levels coming down the line.

Loot Generosity is a Problem

On the one hand, it’s great that BL3 isn’t as stingy about loot as Borderlands 2 could often be, but BL3 offers too much, too easily. Even without getting into Mayhem modes for increased drop chance, it’s easy as hell to farm loot due to the base drop rates and the ease of boss farming (or worse, loot cave farming).

With a huge selection of the game’s items being world drops, this just leads to players farming the most efficient encounters. Even though nerfing the aforementioned loot cave is a fix in the short term, being able to rush bosses so easily now due to the way save points work in BL3 ensures that players won’t have much reason to do anything else but farm the same few bosses ad infinitum.

Sure, one could argue that it’s not enough to just get the items you’re looking for, but finding a “god roll” isn’t really a thing with Legendary items besides looking for particular Anointed effects. There are some additional things to consider, such as element types or specific affixes in some cases, but again the game isn’t hard enough right now to even necessitate digging in that deep. 

The loot is so plentiful on higher difficulties that it also removes the need for increased Mayhem levels or difficulty modes. If I can get a boss I burn down in seconds to consistently drop 4+ Legendary items on Mayhem 3, what’s the upside on pushing a theoretical Mayhem 4, 5, or 6? I’m already getting tons of loot for little effort.  The overall drop rate needs to be lowered and the differences between Mayhem levels need to be a bit less extreme in order to give space for additional difficulty levels in the future.

All of the Above Make Endgame Content Pointless

Why should I care about doing five rounds of Circle of Slaughter for a single chest at the end or for trying to finish a Proving Grounds run in 15 minutes if I can just boss rush or farm loot caves in a fraction of the time? The time investment vs. reward potential just isn’t there. Heck, there isn’t even a reason to care about TVHM right now. Loot is so plentiful and easy to acquire that you can get everything you could ever want just grinding Mayhem 1-3 on Normal.

If the endgame in BL3 is going to have any legs something needs to be done to pull back on a lot of these issues, otherwise people are going to run out of things to do—and reasons to do them—in short order.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Nerf drop rates across the board, not to BL2 levels, but enough to give each Mayhem level (and TVHM) a reason to exist. Drop rates should improve reasonably as players move from Normal to Mayhems 1-3 on Normal and from TVHM to Mayhems 1-3 on TVHM.
  • Make each Mayhem level and difficulty mode (Normal/TVHM) more challenging to go with the changes to loot. Include more varied and creative buffs/debuffs for Mayhem mode.
  • Move some of the world drops to specific enemies, bosses and modes to encourage more varied farming.
  • Create Proving Grounds and Circle of Slaughter specific loot (and/or include boss loot tables here) and improve the overall time:reward ratio for these modes.
  • Add Proving Grounds style challenges to boss runs to give more incentive for players to do more than just kill the boss in less than a minute and repeat. Award bonus loot chests (more at each Mayhem level) for completing various zone challenges before defeating the boss.
  • Address overtuned items and combinations. The craziest items and builds should be fun and zany, not delete bosses in seconds.

I realize that longtime fans of the series may view some of these “problems” as features or part of the charm of the games, but I simply disagree. Yes, there are plenty of similarly egregious examples to point out in Borderlands and Borderlands 2, but Gearbox has potentially the best loot shooter in the business and it’s my opinion that things need to change to reach that potential as an enduring ARPG that can be played for years to come.

What’s your take on endgame in BL3? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB