by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Recent updates for Borderland 3 have bought with it some great missions – the most recent being the trip into Krieg’s mind to see what goes through the mind of a psycho. These have added lengthy missions to the Borderlands series and have provided for some of that well known humour in the stories that accompanies the famed Borderlands gunplay experience. The Designer’s Cut is different – offering a new mode as well as some cool new features for each of the vault hunters.
The new mode is Arms Race. Arms Race drops players into a DAHL complex known as Stormblind, set in a frozen wasteland on Pandora. With commentary from former vault hunters Axton and Salvador, the game feels like an episode of The Running Man and your character is Arnold Schwarzenegger. And like that movie, contestants begin the game with nothing but their fists and their wits.
That’s right…players are dropped into Stormblind Complex similar to Battle Royale games such as Fortnite and PUBG and must then collect weapons and shields to help them to survive as they work their way towards the final battle against the powerful Heavyweight Hawker. But not only are players thrown into the game with a lack of firepower, but they are also without their Vault Hunter abilities for the entirety of the match.
A bit windy
However, it is not just the usual manner of enemies that players must content with, but a deadly wind known as the Murdercane is also prevalent during a match. Like the blue circle in Fortnite, this storm increases in size, narrowing the playing space as the match progresses. Getting caught in the Murdercane spells doom for players if they cannot find a way to safety within a short amount of time. The wind and ice accompanying it, make it difficult to see, so finding your way to safety is doubly difficult if you lose your bearings.
I must admit that it took me a match to get used to not having any of the vault hunter skills that I had become accustomed to in the main game. Without any skills, it doesn’t matter which of the four vault hunters you choose to play. Picking up new weapons and shields did not matter so much, as I will often switch weapons and armour in the main game if I find one that better suits my style or has better stats. With the Murdercane bearing down, I found that there is a bit more urgency in the gameplay. I normally take things a like more cautiously, checking loot boxes to top up with ammo, but Arms Race and it’s circle of death means that contestants are better off scouring the area for the all important weapons boxes rather than the standard ammo crates.
Some great weapons can be collected within the matches, but the best weapons are found in special areas of the map. Unfortunately, these areas are loaded with a heap of defenders who will do their darndest to prevent you from collecting the valuable loot. In my numerous playthroughs I was able to scavenge some great weapons that I was able to transfer to the main game. There is a caveat to this though - if you die, then in the immortal words of Willy Wonka “You get nothing” . However, if players reach a Gear Terminal, they can transfer any wanted gear to their Bank back on Sanctuary.
Enter the ring
In the end though, the goal is to work your way through to the middle arena to take on the boss, the Heavyweight Harker. The final battle can be contested whenever you reach the cage-style battle zone, but be warned – you will have needed to collect enough firepower to defeat him and his minions before entering the combat zone. Enter too early without respectable weapons and you’re bound to fail, but once the Heavyweight Harker is defeated, any spoils of victory can be used inside the main game.
Arms Race can be played solo, or as co-op. Co-op has the added advantage of being able to be revived by teammates if you should happen to succumb to enemy fire or the Murdercane. When playing solo, there are no such liberties. If you die…then it is game over. You can however jump straight back into the fray for another attempt.
Along with the Arms Race mode, the Designer’s Cut brings with it some changes to the Vault Hunters themselves. Each of them has an added skill tree that brings with it a number of useful abilities. They have been made somewhat obsolete by the Arms Race mode, but for those who are still working through the main Borderlands 3 storyline or the side missions, they bring some wonderful new features for each of the Vault Hunters.
Kills with Skills
Amara can now use her Phaseflare action skill to summon a giant ball and use it to knock down enemies like a giant bowling ball, whilst her skill tree now gives her the option of using the Cryo elemental effects against her enemies. FL4K now has access to a Gravity snare which throws enemies up into the air. This temporarily prevents enemies from attacking and then slams them back into the ground. The addition of the Trapper skill tree is great for FL4K’s beast, granting an extra shield bonus and added damage. Moze’s new Bear Mother action skill works similarly to FL4K’s Beastmaster ability – but instead of having a beast, Moze’s has a mini-mech that fights alongside her for a short period of time. I found Zane’s new MNTIS shoulder cannon to be a superb addition but wasn’t overly impressed with the grappling hook feature in his skill tree. As a sniper style player, bringing players closer to you isn’t an ideal scenario.
If the Season 2 Pass only brings us Arms Race, I would be disappointed. The additional skill trees in the Designer's Cut for the vault hunters are wonderful additions, but are somewhat obsolete for current players, particularly for those who have completed the bulk of the missions. Arms Race itself does provide a new perspective though, focusing purely on gunplay rather than combining it with Vault Hunter skills and although it took me a couple of turns to get used to, I found it a great way to collect some great weapons. It does however provide for a replayable experience, each time entering the zone and discovering new areas before taking on the Heavyweight Harker. I am certainly hoping that the next phase of the Season 2 Pass will add another playable mission though.
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Infinitely replayable, great loot up for grabs, new skills for vault hunters
Rather short, and not much in the way of a storyline