gamescom 2019: Borderlands 3

Oh Borderlands, what fun we’ve had over the years. I don’t remember much of the first game but played Borderlands 2 for many hours on multiple platforms. Its claim of containing a billion different guns was no lie, with each core weapon having many combinations.

 
Poor Claptrap has had some bad press over the years and some have compared the robot to Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars as an attempt to entertain children. Funny when you consider the game has a PEGI 18 age-rating in the UK. I quite like Claptrap and his social awkwardness and penchant for puns, probably because he most reminds me of myself. He’s always been helpful to his Minion, the protagonist the Vault Hunter, and has saved their lives on more than one occasion. Claptrap didn’t make an appearance in the gamescom demo sadly but that may have been on purpose.

I mentioned in my round-up post earlier this week that the queue for Borderlands 3 was nowhere near as long as it appeared. The wait was around an hour and didn’t lack for entertainment, with at least one guy in the queue stripping down to his undies while the 2K Games staff cheered him on. That was the most enjoyable queuing experience at the whole event as there was the typical Borderlands level of comedy mixed in with cartoon violence. However, I was praying that they didn’t try and convince me to dance as well, and luckily for everyone else that didn’t happen.

Once inside the play area, each station was set up with an Xbox One controller and the loudest set of headphones I’ve come across. The gunshots were deafening but it added quite a punch to the gameplay. I immediately noticed the player had a better feeling of movement than in previous releases with added motion when changing direction or stopping without it feeling heavy. It’s hard to describe the addition, but hopefully you’ll know what I mean when you get to play it. I’ve included a video of the demo further down so be sure to check that out and you should see what I mean.

Borderlands, Borderlands 3, gamescom

Even though the game is out in a couple of weeks, the gameplay is so smooth and enjoyable enough that I was more than happy to queue for a go. The gun play is fast, deliberate and full of variety with lots of exciting weapon mechanics. I selected the Siren class in the demo, which was equipped with a shotgun and rifle that had no reload and would fire faster the longer you held the trigger. It’s like an automatic rifle with a long-range scope but little recoil and fast rate of fire. This isn’t obvious at first as the weapons are visually unique compared to their real-life equivalents.

As for the Tediore shotgun, if you’ve played Borderlands before you’ll know that the gun is thrown like a grenade and explodes when reloaded. I’d forgotten this at first and wondered why I blew myself up as I reloaded it while facing a wall. This is one of the weapon mechanics that is unique to the franchise and adds variety to the gun-play. The third title claims to have gazillions of weapons this time but I don’t know how we’ll tell the difference considering a billion is already an absurd amount! There were weapon drops in the demo but I didn’t take the time to investigate them, so I had no hands-on the various damage types unfortunately. The one grenade type was of the bouncy kind and because it was such frantic section of the game I didn’t get to check out what it actually did!

The playable segment was the mission shown back at E3 in June and ended with a boss called Mouthpiece, who is a big dude with a shield and loudspeakers to cause an area of effect attack. Sadly I failed a couple of times while trying to figure out how the attacks were signposted, but there were plenty of smaller enemies to kill and achieve second wind instead of dying. After finally completing the demo, I was getting ready to walk out but saw everyone was still playing. The whole room was empty of players when we were brought in so luckily I realised it was a time-limited demo and started a second run. I selected the gunner class and was able to try out the mech-style ability before running out of time and, while it was short-lived, it was thrilling to stomp around in a big robot firing lasers everywhere.
 
Overall I was delighted with the experience and while I wasn’t too excited by a similar-looking sequel, the gameplay feels so refined I’m now looking forward to getting back into Borderlands again. There are only a few weeks until the game is released on 13 September 2019 and I probably wouldn’t have considered buying it straight away. Having now got a taste of the title, I’m looking forward to it. Is anyone joining me with Borderlands 3 once it arrives? What did you think of the demo if you’ve also had the opportunity to play it?

gamescom 2019: a round-up

I’m writing this halfway through the last day of gamescom 2019 after finally having been able to get my hands on some games. The past few days have been both amazing and challenging at the same time due to it being my first time at the event.

If you’re someone who loves being part of a crowd then you may well disagree, but I’m not alone in thinking the organisers may have attempted a new visitor record. Moving around within the halls wasn’t too bad unless you were in a rush, but there were a few choke points in the corridors between halls with crowd-control. The queue length for most games was up-to two hours, although some were visibly deceiving and moved faster. However, there was no instant gratification to be had at this event.

gamescom 2019, Borderlands, Borderlands 3

I’ve always enjoyed the Borderlands series and, even though the third installment is due out in just over two weeks, I wanted to have a go. A Reddit for Gamescom revealed details about the queue for this particular game and that it was much quicker than other queues of its length. So I jumped in first thing on the last day and was able to play roughly an hour later. Once I was inside the play area, it was obvious why: there must have been 50 or more stations.

My longest queuing experience was for Final Fantasy VII Remake in the PlayStation section. I saw that the queue at the Square Enix stand was massive and thought that for Sony’s area would be shorter. I finally made it to the front over two hours later even though they had 24 stations set up, and my thoughts on the game will be posted tomorrow. Thankfully I had a book to read but I almost forgot what I was queueing for by the time I got to my destination.

gamescom, Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy VII Remake

The PlayStation section became my favourite due to it being a welcoming space with plenty of things to do. A stage hosting frequent live-streams had lots of seating space and there was plenty to play, with quick access to titles such as Dreams and Medievil as well as the longest queues for Death Stranding and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The Experience PlayStation app provides digital queueing but I found the spaces were quickly taken. It was a case of spamming the RSVP button at 08:59 to grab a booking when they became available at 09:00 – although that would have been for one game only so the other slots were gone immediately.

Another reason I enjoyed Sony’s area so much was the PlayStation Plus lounge exclusively for subscribers which I really appreciated. They served free drinks and had a balcony overlooking the show floor where I spent an hour taking photos and recording time-lapses. It was a great feeling to be there and watch everyone else moving around, glancing up and likely feeling envious. The lounge wasn’t completely obvious so you could forgive attendees for not realising it was there. They also had a playable version of Erica but again, there was a queue so I skipped it. It’s now available anyway and was already on my to-buy list!

gamescom, PlayStation

The PlayStation app also has a reward system for scanning QR codes after playing each game, with a dynamic theme as a reward for scanning all of them. It was a fun side-mission to collect these even though the staff were quite happy to share them regardless of having played the specific title or not. I don’t know if Microsoft or Nintendo had an equivalent because I sadly didn’t spend any time in their areas. There was a general digital queue for any participating stands but I wasn’t impressed with the offerings: DOOM Eternal, Dragon Ball Z Kakarot, Wasteland 3 and The Witcher 3. It didn’t appear there were many companies taking part in this service, which is a shame and I hope they improve on it next year.

I’ve learnt a few things from my gamescom experience that I would like to share for those that visit next year.

Wristbands can be obtained inside the venue

Upon arrival I followed the masses from the nearby train station through a very long route snaking around the venue. It was confusing as most people were continuously moving forward to tents scattered along the path. These were issuing colour-coded wristbands indicating your age group and I jumped into a queue, which took half an hour before I received my red 18+ identification. These tents are also inside the venue with much shorter queues and so they can easily be obtained any time. They’re designed to last so unless you cut it off, the wristband will last all four days.

Research digital queues before the event

As mentioned earlier, PlayStation had their own digital queuing via the Experience PlayStation app and Linistry provided queues for other games. This is apparently a new feature this year and will no doubt be improved upon in 2020. It gives you the freedom to roam the event while waiting for your time slot, before heading over to the fast track of the particular title you’re after.

BYOS: Bring Your Own Stool

If digital queues aren’t your thing and you prefer good old fashioned queuing, then bring something to sit on! I noticed recyclable cardboard stools were given out by three companies if you played their demos so be sure to make that a priority. Some visitors had brought their own foldable camping chairs showing their gamescom knowledge. The longest queues are two to three hours, if you can wait that long.

Try the currywurst mit pommes

I was actually quite surprised by the number of food stalls compared those at UK gaming events. I can’t speak for pricing as I’m not used to the Euro and the British Pound is weaker than ever, but you can’t beat currywurst mit pommes. Seating is a problem unless you walk your food over to a chill-out zone (not recommended) so I had to sit on a curb because I didn’t bring my own stool.

Getting around the venue

The Koelnmesse venue is massive and well air-conditioned, but there were areas crammed with people all trying to move in opposite directions. Find the side-routes between halls and avoid the main corridors when it’s busy as crowd-control can really slow everyone down and cause frustration. For halls that run parallel with each other, there’s usually a route between them outside and I recommend taking them. I found that because Germans drive on the right-hand side, the flow of people around the individual halls stick to this format.

Stuff I can’t comment on

There were a few things I wasn’t so interested in seeing and so can’t comment on: anything eSports related, the various streamers broadcasting live, Google Stadia, Facebook Gaming, FIFA 20, Call of Duty, and sadly the Ubisoft section as it was mostly Tom Clancy titles. If you did attend these sections or play the games, please do leave your thoughts in the comments below in case I missed something special!

gamescom 2019, crowds, queues

Cologne itself was a wonderful experience, and the architecture is eclectic to say the least. The tram service I used from where I stayed in Marsdorf was fast and efficient. I felt terrible for not speaking any German but that didn’t cause any issues as everyone I talked to was quite happy to converse in English. At the time of writing, I still have one last day in the city where I’ll be visiting the chocolate museum overlooking the river Rhine followed by general sightseeing.

I’m not sure whether I’ll attend gamescom next year at this point but I will certainly miss the city – including one particular potato restaurant that has changed my life – so watch this space!