“Everybody has that game that they fell in love with because they make an impact. Those games were somebody’s legacy.”– Rob McElhenney (Ian) in Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet
For those who have read my blog post about my weekly movie chats with my brother Jeff, this post will be similar, yet different. As the pandemic has forced us all to rethink our everyday interactions and for over two months, from April to June, we were in lockdown, finding things to break feelings of anxiety took on new meaning. While discussing movies with my brother was one outlet, playing video games with my brother-in-law Kyle was another.
In March, with a lockdown looming, I contacted Kyle and posited the idea of meeting up virtually through PlayStation Plus and playing video games online. Kyle is a gamer. He has played more games than I can even think of and is very knowledgeable about what types of games are perfect for a joint online adventure effort and the kind game I would enjoy. After all, Kyle introduced me to one of my favorite games of all time, one that inspired an awesome Halloween costume and a Funko Pop purchase. This game; Uncharted. Ah yes, the adventures of Nathan Drake. It has adventure, danger, and, may I say, comedy. Love that game, and it was Kyle who suggested it. So, his track record is 1 for 1, hey he’s batting a thousand! Therefore, when he suggested Borderlands 3, even though I had not played 1 or 2, I didn’t even think twice. I was all in, and I would not be disappointed.
I have been playing video games as long as I can remember. Whether it was Rocky on Atari, or Contra or Excitebike on old school Nintendo, or Madden and Resident Evil on PlayStation 1, 2, 3, and now 4, I have a long history of playing on many different gaming consoles. The fact I have played video games for many years does not make me gamer because I am terrible. I have fun, always finish a game, but for those it may take mere hours to complete a game, it will take me days, if not months. And that’s ok! It’s about the enjoyment of playing and the thrill of the adventure the game provides.
The Resident Evil franchise and Uncharted, with, as I alluded to, one of the best heroes Nathan Drake, are my all-time video game favorites because they have that mixture of great storytelling, suspense, action, and gameplay. Mystery, adventure, humor, and danger are core parts of their games and what draws me to them. The bonus being that it takes me forever to complete these games, so I need to be invested in the type of game because it will be a commitment. Other than those two-game franchises, I am reluctant to take on similar genre games, unwilling to give them my time. But with hours now available, I needed a task to enjoy and a game to play with Kyle. So, when I asked him for a game, he suggested Borderlands 3. I trusted him, bought PlayStation headphones, and texted him with three words; I am ready!
Not going to lie, I was nervous the first time I logged on to play. First, I have never played Borderlands 3. Second, I would be playing with someone who was a legit gamer and could quickly figure out the necessary style of gameplay required to complete the game. Third, see above, I suck at video games. I didn’t want to embarrass myself or slow Kyle down playing a game franchise he loved, even though he was new to this particular game. Like most things, I put unnecessary pressure on myself, but he quickly showed me the ropes.
Borderlands 3 is a type of game that I had not played before. First of all, “The plot is centered around stopping the cult-leading twins, Troy and Tyreen Calypso, from harnessing the power of the alien Vaults spread across the galaxy.” Now there are tons, and I mean tons, of information on the internet about the game, how to play, and even more information about the history, abilities, and strengths of each character, “Vault Hunters,” who you will select to be your avatar. I will refrain from going into all the details of the game and keep it simple. You will choose a character, customize your Vault Hunter with clothes and hats, go on an adventure on several different planets searching for vaults, looting and causing mayhem along the way, and accumulating unique and interesting guns to use against those seeking to stop you. Simple enough, right?
First, the character of choice! You do have several “vault hunters” to choose from. Seeing as how I usually select strong female characters for the video games I play, like Jill Valentine in the first Resident Evil, I decided on Amara the Siren. She is a badass. Amara, like all the Borderlands characters, has strengths and weaknesses and different types of skills. Each character in Borderlands 3 has “Skill Trees,” three of them to be exact, and on each tree, the various skills you will build, strengths you will enhance, and weakness you will remedy. But, to improve your character skill tree, you must ascend the player levels of Borderlands 3. During gameplay, you accumulate points, which allows you to add various skills to your “Skill Tree” which makes you more powerful.
My favorite of Amara’s “Skill Trees” is called “Fists of Elements,” which produces a “Phasegrasp” that allows her to summon a fist from the ground, hold an enemy, and inflict massive damage. With “ties that bind,” which Kyle and I consider the best Amara skill, added to her “tree,” she grew exponentially more powerful. With this skill locked in, she can use her Phasegrasp, as long as the “Fists of Element” skill tree is activated, holds not one enemy, and binds several other individuals in the area to her Phasegrap a short period. Not that I understood what I was doing, and maybe what I wrote sounds like nonsense. Even so, watching as a massive fist comes out from the ground and picks someone up, encasing them in a giant orb, and then holding them, for around 15 seconds, allowing me to hit them with shotguns, bazookas, or anything else in my bag, was pretty awesome. I liked her immediately.
So, pick your vault hunter and proceed to the primary mission for a life-altering adventure. Too much? Well, play Borderlands 3 and prove me wrong! Playing with Kyle allowed me to learn as I go and follow his lead through the different missions and objectives. Undertakings small and large did not matter, we took the game step by step, one level at a time. Ah, “leveling.” You see, when you destroy bad guys or complete goals, you get points and money, but, as I said above, the points allow you to achieve new levels to add skills to your skill tree. Every time you got to a new level, a huge, “Leveled Up” would appear on the screen. It was very satisfying, and whenever it happened to either Kyle or myself, we would immediately add a new skill and go back to our mission.
As I said above, playing more slowly and going from mission to mission was incredibly helpful and extended the amount of time we logged on and played. Kyle and I would meet up regularly, almost every other day in the early days of the pandemic. It was a nice distraction for both of us. I would text him, or he would text me, usually with just a word or two like, “game it up?” Then, we set a time, have headphones ready, and get to our mission.
I ended up really loving this game and even playing it at off-hours when Kyle was not available, to get some practice and get my Amara character ranked, or leveled, to where he was. During our game sessions, he regularly gained more points and leveled up faster, leaving me in the dust. So these practice sessions allowed me to “farm” new and unique guns, shields, and other goodies I thought might be appropriate for me when I met up with Kyle, or even something he might need since I would sometimes play for so long, gain so many points, that I would move past him in player level. This status only lasted until he joined me again and quickly overtook me. But we were a team, therefore the better he was, the better I was. But I did start to have a reputation that if Kyle was looking for a specific gun or shield, or whatever, he checked with me first, “I’m the guy who can get things.” Do you see what I did there?
Playing Borderlands 3, and all the other Borderlands games, I quickly learned about the unique, badass, and sometimes downright strange guns you can acquire. You can get pistols, bazookas, assault rifles, shotguns, SMG, and sniper rifles. Guns that shoot things called elements, including Cryo, Corrosive, Radiation, Shock, and Incendiary, proved to be the best, no matter the manner and form. At one point, I remember having a bazooka that shot burgers. Not sure Kyle believes me, but it’s true, the massive rocket launcher shot burgers. Not sure why, but who cares! As my character is Amara, she is an aggressive Siren. She would lift people with Phasegrasp and fight in close range, so a shotgun or SMG was my weapon of choice for her character style. Kyle was more the sniper character, so we initiated a successful shock & awe attack when we met enemy forces and badass monsters.
There are thousands, and I am not shitting you, thousands of guns in this game. There is even a gun that shoots other firearms, which is perfectly Borderlands! So you might think it would be hard to find a favorite. Nope! The Lob Gun! The Lob is a shotgun that shoots Cryo, Corrosive, Radiation, Shock, and Incendiary like orbs. It offered an incredible elemental damage ranking (guns get ranked to go along with player levels – higher level, more damage ranking, and having an element are always better). I had every type of Lob gun, ranked “Legendary,” meaning for the Borderlands beginner MUST HAVE! They were so easy to use for the Borderlands 3 novice. Go into a battle, shoot one Cryo or Corrosive orb at the enemy and they explode, or you weaken them so extensively that you initiate your skill tree, use Phasegrasp and pound them with slow-moving, but highly damaging, elemental orbs. It was such fun, and Kyle would breakdown laughing as I would run around, shooting dozens of orbs, with enemies exploding all around us. At one point, you couldn’t see anything on the screen except fire or crystal orbs slowly moving everywhere. Not much skill involved, but I play by shooting, as I called it, the “sun gun and run!”
Whether Kyle and I were going through our missions, or even more fun, battling in the various “Circles of Slaughter,” or the numerous “Proving Grounds” or expansion DLCs, we would laugh, try different things, and pass the time enjoying a shared interest. One of the things that made these hours and hours of Borderlands 3 play extremely hilarious was how bad I was at doing the simplest action in the game. I could loot and farm, I built a varied and powerful Amara skill tree and did surprisingly well in battle (I think the Lob gun helped here). When Kyle’s character “died,” usually because I would get lost trying to help, I was surprisingly good at staying alive and taking on enemies. But, getting into a vehicle, waking over a bridge, or getting aid to an ally in battle, was asking way too much; I was downright terrible in those instances.
Again, I am a beginner in this world of Borderlands, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was comical how bad I could be at times. Hence the title of the blog, where it comes from, and what it means. It has become a running joke, between Kyle and myself, that if I need to jump across something or climb a ladder, it is a given that my character will perish doing that simple task, especially if a cliff is anywhere near me. There were times when we would start a mission, and somehow, someway, I would fall off a cliff and leave Kyle alone to battle by himself. That might sound normal, but often the cliff was nowhere near where we were. Falling off was some act of dive mercy to the game gods, so they would not be forced to watch me play anymore.
Using my Lob elemental orb shotgun like a madman, somehow staying alive when I should die, and perishing by falling off a cliff by walking normally, were strong characteristics of my play style. But there was another thing I would often do that would usually leave Kyle and me in tears, laughing at how incredibly random I could be. That was the number of times I destroyed vehicles.
To be clear, it did not start as a thrill of mine to blow up our mode of transportation at various moments in our gameplay. It just happened that way. Ok, I get it; how do you blow up your vehicle? Well easy, an accident at first, and then being pissed off at my terrible game skills. There would be times when I would be outside the vehicle and shoot my Lob orb gun at an enemy, well the orbs move slow, as I have said, and sometimes, ok most times, I am a terrible shot. While running around firing orbs with no real direction, I would accidentally hit and blow up our vehicle. On other occasions, I would attempt to jump into the car and inadvertently blow it up by hitting the wrong button. Then, more often then not, I would be standing around, waiting, and would see the car and fire an orb leading to an explosion and loss of our transportation. That I did on purpose, I own it and accept it. But, most of the time, I was a terrible shot and blew up our vehicle. Now, whenever we need a new car and get one we don’t like, all Kyle has to do is say take care of it, and [orb gun vs. vehicle = gone!]
So, falling off cliffs and blowing up cars, that’s me in a nutshell with Borderlands 3. I am proud of it. Hey, Kyle and I did finish the game and are currently taking on Borderlands 2. Yup, going backward, that’s how we roll. But, seriously, Borderlands 3 is a fun and well-developed game. I built an excellent Amara character, with impressive skills, which have made playing the game a unique, fun, and different experience. The missions are detailed, and the storyline is, at times, insanely comical, well-written, and brilliant. I can honestly say I have never played a game this fun with so much to see, collect, and do. It’s hours and hours of gameplay in such a small package. The best part, the game maker, Gearbox, continues making updates and adding more gameplay, so there will always be more Borderlands 3 to play, and I hope it never ends.
I appreciate Kyle suggesting this game and taking the time to play together during these difficult times. It has been a great experience, one I am excited to continue. Like watching films weekly and chatting with my brother, playing Borderlands 3 with Kyle offered an excellent way to de-stress from all that was going on. I will continue my love of Borderlands 3 by playing all the new updates and expansions they release, like Mayhem Mode 2.0, Revenge of the Cartels, Guardian Takedown, or the new DLCs, like Guns, Love, & Tentacles and Bounty of Blood, when they become available. I do not doubt that Kyle will continue to join me in these Borderlands adventures; it would not be the same. No matter how long I play, I will continue to consider myself a Borderlands 3 beginner who loves the Lob elemental orb gun that shoots Cryo, Corrosive, Radiation, Shock, and Incendiary, who falls off cliffs and can’t stop blowing up the damn vehicle. I am coming back to Borderlands 3, park the car in the garage!! Who wants to join me?