Borderlands 3: Designer’s Cut Review: A Cut Below

Because people just can’t get enough shooting and looting, Borderlands 3 is adding even more content with a second season pass. The first piece of DLC is Designer’s Cut, which is certainly one of the more unique add-ons that the Borderlands series has done. Instead of a story campaign, it includes a brand new game mode and additional skill trees for each Vault Hunter. These features add some new value to Borderlands 3 as a whole, but it’s difficult to say if this is enough content to justify opening up your wallet once again.

Designer’s Cut brings back Axton and Salvador, two of the Vault Hunters from Borderlands 2 (aka the best Borderlands.) They’ve gotten out of the vault-hunting game and have now purchased an old abandoned DAHL military base on Pandora. They’re using it to film a new reality show and they want you to be the star. So, you teleport to this new area and once there, you can play a separate game mode called Arms Race.

In this mode, you have none of your previously acquired loot and your specific Vault Hunter abilities are disabled. You have to scavenge the level for guns, ammo, shields, grenades, and other gear. While this is all going on, something called a Murdercane is slowly but surely closing in on you. So, obviously, this mode is trying to appeal to fans of battle royale games, but it’s not really anything like Fortnite or Apex Legends. There is the need to search for weapons and armor, and there’s an ever-approaching threat that will kill you if you linger too long, but aside from that, it’s the same kind of cooperative PvE Borderlands experience, just done in a different way.

Scattered around the area are special chests filled with high-tier loot that are guarded by force fields. You have to kill a whole lot of enemies to get to these chests, but it’s worth it since there’s usually some pretty good stuff inside them. The object of this mode is to grab whatever loot you can, and then head over to a tough boss located in the center of the map. If you can beat the boss, you can then use an Extractor to take some of the loot you’ve found back to Sanctuary with you. After that, the mission is pretty much over, but you can return to run this mode again and again to get even more loot.

It’s a neat idea, but I think it’s a tad undercooked. For one thing, the level itself is kind of a generic Borderlands location. It’s just a snowy mountain base with no memorable landmarks or notable enemies. That might be acceptable if there was a different boss to fight at the end, but every time I ran this mode I fought the same guy. Eventually, this mode started to feel really repetitive since I would just run around this bland map, use the same tactics to get loot, and then beat the boss without breaking a sweat.

This concept has potential, but it lacks variation. If there were different maps you could land in, different bosses you could fight at the end, or a way to turn up the difficulty, then this could almost become a kind of roguelike Borderlands mode. As it is right now, it’s fairly easy to get sick of it after three or four runs. The only reason to play it is to get some valuable orange loot, but that’s something you can do by just playing the game normally.

The other new addition in the Designer’s Cut DLC is an extra skill tree for each Vault Hunter. Moze’s new skill is Bear Mother, which gives her a smaller version of her Iron Bear mech suit called the Iron Cub. This follows you around and blasts enemies while also sharing any bonuses that the Iron Bear suit currently has. Vane’s The Professional skill tree gives him a shoulder-mounted cannon that can also grapple enemies closer. Amara gets the Enlightened Force skill tree that lets her fire a giant orb of energy that can cause elemental damage and slow down baddies. Finally, FL4K gets a new pet with the Trapper skill tree. He can now summon a loader bot to follow him around and shoot foes from afar.

These skill trees are fun to experiment with, although I don’t think they’re game-changers. I’m a big fan of Tales From The Borderlands, so it’s nice to have a loader bot companion for FL4K. However, it would take an awful lot for me to give up my beloved Jabber sidekick. Still, these skill trees are a nice addition for people who have played the hell out of this game and want to try switching up their playstyles.

I don’t know how I feel about this being premium content for Borderlands 3. As part of the overall season pass, it seems fine, but some new abilities and a somewhat underdeveloped new game mode don’t feel substantial enough to be sold on its own. I wouldn’t want to spend more than $5 on it, and even then it would be a hard sell.

If Arms Race is updated and improved, then I could see it being worthwhile, but if this is all it has to offer, then Designer’s Cut feels like something that should have been a free update rather than an integral part of a new season pass.

A PC copy of Borderlands 3: Designer’s Cut was provided to TheGamer for this review. Borderlands 3: Designer’s Cut is available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

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Jamie Latour is a writer and actor based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. From his hyperactive childhood to his….Well, still hyperactive adulthood, he’s been writing and performing in some capacity for practically his entire life. His love for video games goes all the way back to the age of 4, playing Mega Man 3 for the first time on his NES. He’s an avid gamer and can be found nowadays either messing around in Red Dead 2, or being cheap as can be as Reaper in Overwatch. He’s still starting out when it comes to making online content, but aside from his writing he can found on his Twitch page under the handle SpontaneousJames. You can also find him on social media as @SpontaneousJam on Twitter (because Spontaneous James was too long apparently).

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