The public (and many games sites) have finally gotten their hands on Borderlands 3 for a bit. And most seem to agree that it feels… like a lot more Borderlands. Although I would argue that, even if you only focus on quality of life improvements, it’s not necessarily better Borderlands. One aspect in particular has felt incredibly off to me from the beginning. The sniper rifles of Borderlands 3 just don’t feel good at all. And I think it’s a indicative of a bigger problem with the game’s numbers.
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It’s hard to compare them directly to Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel. It’s been years since I played the former, and I have yet to touch the latter spin-off. Yet I don’t remember snipers feeling quite this underwhelming before. I played Mordecai the (sniper class with a pet bird) in the first game, and used the gun type pretty regularly as Maya in the second. Now I’m playing FL4K — another pet class with somewhat sniper rifle oriented skills — in Borderlands 3. But the weapons just aren’t passing muster.
My current FL4K build is all about waxing enemies in one shot. My “active skill” allows the Vault Hunter to turn invisible. While in this state, I can fire three shots of any weapon I like for guaranteed critical hits. Naturally, I want to get the most bang for my bonus by using slow, powerful weapons that benefit the most from a single critical hit. That includes shotguns, rocket launchers, and theoretically snipers. But 12 chapters in, almost halfway to the game’s level cap, I have yet to find a sniper that fits this style.
I’m not the only one, either. A handful of folks on Reddit have pointed out the relative weakness of long-range weapons. Some theorize the hitboxes on enemy weak points are much stingier than in Borderlands 2. Others believe the bad guys just move around too much. I’ve even seen people say snipers do less damage overall than other, equally precise weapons, like certain pistols.
For my money, it’s a little bit of all these things, smooshed together like a script full of year-old internet memes. I can usually get just as much bang for my buck, plus more ammo capacity, with a solid assault rifle. Not to mention that most Borderlands 3 boss fights force you into cramped combat arenas — often with melee baddies that constantly charge you and without high ground to climb. I think the real kicker is the lack of critical damage, though.
Borderlands 3 Sniper Rifle Damage
To me, video game sniper rifles are all about a certain high risk and high reward. You risk a very limited ammo pool taking shots at hard-to-hit weak points. Your reward is instant, explosive damage. Destiny 2, for instance, gives snipers almost three times as much precision damage as other weapon types. I haven’t felt anything close to that in Borderlands 3. The best I’ve gotten so far is a sniper with a randomly rolled 21 percent crit bonus.
That feels pretty much in line with the other paltry math in Borderlands 3 (you get as little as 0.25 second cooldown reductions on parts of the FL4K skill tree). None of that lives up to the promise of anarchic, over-the-top fun Borderlands 3 sells itself on, though. Gimme them chunky numbers! Without those, the game feels like gore-drenched party streamers trying to hide some secretly conservative bones.
Whatever the design philosophy, or the reasons behind it, I just wish I had more excuses to play my preferred way in Borderlands 3. I hate rocking an AR, the Corn Flakes of video game guns, 90 percent of the time. But so far that’s my best way to make bad guys go away at farther than mid-range. As I slowly crawl my way through 1.25 percent damage boosts on the road to level 50, I really hope they add up into something more exciting.
How about you folks? Have you had any issues with the weapons of Borderlands 3 just yet? Got any favorites? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!