Borderlands 3’s third DLC, Bloodsize, takes the space western settings of the Gearbox game to the extreme.
Three months ago, the publication of Arms, love and tentacles had returned to reaffirm the strengths and weaknesses of an effective but not particularly brilliant post-launch support, unable to replicate the quality peaks which Gearbox had accustomed us to with the Season Pass of Borderlands 2. Content able to offer hours of fun, loads of amiable foolishness and remarkable stylistic flashes, but rather stingy with novelties on the exquisitely playful side. A lack which Cut of blood, the third DLC from Borderlands, tries to work around with some valid gimmick, succeeding, however, only halfway.
Once upon a time, there was Space West
After taking us to the confines of space to empty the safes of the Jack the Beauty casino, and in the heart of darkness of Xylourgos between frozen expanses, weddings in danger and tentacled horrors, the Borderlands 3 Season Pass continues its crazy ride with a new thematic change, this time towards what is undoubtedly an ideal setting for the Gearbox intergalactic epic. With Taglia dialogue, in fact, the Texan team presses the accelerator on the stretches from “space western” of the franchise proposing an adventure all spurs and fist fights from saloon, without renouncing the shades of bizarre typical of the saga.
Gehenna’s dusty frontier delights the eyes with an intriguing mix of spaghetti western clichés and peculiar oriental contaminations as if it were the scenario of a dream shared between Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa, with Takashi Miike acting as an “Inception” style architect. Ingolosito by an unprecedented size, therefore, our Hunter of the Crypt travels to the town of Vestige to put an end to the abuses of the gang of the Devious, who has long targeted the settlement and its inhabitants.
The reasons for this fury concern a mysterious stone that has stood for years in the main square of the village, at the centre of the interests of the brutal gang leader: the charming Rose, an antagonist as ambiguous as it is relentless. Just the encounter with the outlaw marks the beginning of a story that moves on generally more serious notes than the canons of the brand, without however eliminating some pleasant Ridancian diversion from the equation of the narrative.
Whatever the mood of the sequence in the centre of the screen, we will always find ourselves company during our ballistic raids “The Liar”, an old school cowboy who plays the role of the omniscient narrator in Bloodsize, ready to comment wisely on our actions on the field as in the best tradition of Hollywood westerns. A decidedly pleasant baritone background, which adds personality to the Gearbox proposal and fits perfectly with the characteristics of the content, supported by an overall effective script, but with some clear fluctuation on the writing front.
While offering a handful of genuinely memorable moments, in fact, the story is not entirely convincing: the characterization of the characters is sometimes mild and superficial, while the abrupt change of pace in the middle of the campaign quickly leads to a rather hasty ending, which closes the main questline just three hours since our arrival on Gehenna. Among collectables, bounties and secondary missions, the DLC offer will probably keep you busy for twice the time, but keep in mind that even these contents show evident qualitative fluctuations.
Side missions, in particular, seem in many cases lack of the typical verve of Borderlands, a circumstance that makes the structural defects of a quest design even more evident, which, between massacres and objects to be recovered, tends to cyclically reproduce the same patterns. However, it is urgent to break a lance in favour of Gearbox, which has probably found itself forced to completely review the gestation times of the DLC due to the health emergency (for the same reason, Bloodsize does not offer support for the moment Italian language, which will be added later with an update). An unpredictable contingency that it has inevitably also influenced on the playful side, ending up reducing the impact of some interesting news on the gameplay front.
New ideas and old problems
If with the previous additional contents of Borderlands 3 Gearbox had not altered in any way the range of mechanics proposed by the title, Bloodsize represents a significant – and very welcome – a turning point. In addition to making a new vehicle available to adventurers, the rumbling motobestia, the developers have added a couple of brand new ingredients to their formula, which reinforces their character and paves the way for somewhat stimulating war strategies.
In the course of the campaign, we will in fact gain the ability to exploit to our advantage particular crystalline formations which, once struck, will throw a hail of explosive fragments against the enemies. These can also be used to destroy some elements of the scenario, in order to access previously precluded areas.
As we progress through history we will learn to use it too wind-eating platforms and herbaceous: the former is capable of throwing the player into the air until they reach elevated areas, advantageous positions or secret areas, while the latter can be hit to ensure the support of a swarm of insects capable of forcing enemies to fight alongside us (only for a short time).
Towards the end of the adventure, an upgrade for the ECHO device will allow Hunters to use some of them teleportation stations arranged around the different maps, which like the wind-eating platforms will be able to give our fighters additional tools to dominate the flow of the battle or to guarantee them a providential escape route in case the clashes turn to the worst.
While not being disruptive news for the balance of the gameplay, these elements help to add a note of freshness to the war routines of the title and therefore end up breaking – at least in part – the monotony of a clearly conservative post-launch support. For this reason, we would have liked to see a more careful implementation of these dynamics during the campaign, especially regarding the boss fights.
Although these enemies return to manifest the talent of the Gearbox artists with an inspired and captivating style, the design of the battles fails to offer the public significant variations compared to the standards of the previous DLC. This with the aggravating circumstance of a level of difficulty strangely calibrated downwards, especially once you have reached level 60 (the new cap) and put your hands on some of the most powerful weapons included in the package, so flashy (in a good way ) how insanely lethal.
As a bottom note, we can only recognize once again the excellent work done by the study on the level of design and the characterization of the scenarios: the maps are large, well-articulated, offer a great stylistic variety and enchant the eye with a kaleidoscope of extraordinarily suggestive panoramas. Although not all scenarios are equally suggestive, the average quality is decidedly high. The variety of the enemies is also good, with some “new entries” that you won’t belong in putting in your black book, probably using their own blood as ink.
PC Analyzed VersionWith Borderlands 3’s third DLC, the Gearbox proposal is enriched with a package with all the credentials to feed the ballistic habituation of the brand’s admirers, loot fanatics who seek nothing more than a pretext to return aboard the Sanctuary III and explore new corners of space. Unlike the previous contents, however, Bloodsize does not just capitalize on the attachment of the loyal ones but tries to offer something really new, putting in place a handful of unprecedented dynamics that help to instil a breath of fresh air in the title gameplay. It is a pity, however, that these elements are not fully exploited among the links of a short campaign and with some evident fluctuation on the writing front, with the complicity of a stale assignment structure. On the narrative front, there are some valuable creative flashes, perfectly consistent with the tones of a western story that moves within a stylistically excellent setting, but we cannot help but perceive the DLC as a wasted opportunity. With Taglia dialogue, fans of the series will experience 5 hours of quality, full of fun and frenzy, but it is clear that the potential of this content has not been exploited in the best way.