Borderlands 3 Doesn’t Care About New Players

YouTube has been pushing a lot Borderlands lore videos for me lately, so I’ve watched some of them. Everyone hates Ava and the story of the third game in the mainline series sucks. But this got me thinking: What if I hadn’t spent something like 1200 hours playing the previous games when I started this game?

Spoilers. Spoilers. Spoilers.

Moxxi in the Lectra City

Moxxi is mostly known for her overt sexuality. She’s very flirty, dresses very provocatively and is known for her numerous former husbands and lovers (most prominently Jack, Mordecai, Mr. Shank, Marcus, that old Hodunk, who’s first name I can’t remember right now, Steve, and even Tannis, if you pay attention). She’s fun, she’s sexy and while she is protective of her children and the Crimson Raiders, she’s also extremely dangerous. You don’t cross her. She is still Mad Moxxi, even if we don’t hear that title in the game until the first DLC.

The problem is that if you haven’t played the previous games and you take her up on her side mission in Lectra City, she seems kind of an asshole. She makes it clear that she doesn’t like Kill-A-Volt, or Kevin as she keeps on reminding us. This Moxxi isn’t fun. This Moxxi isn’t someone you want to know. This Moxxi is just a petty little creature.

I’ve known women like this in real life. Gladly I wasn’t on the receiving end in any of these cases, but it wasn’t like my sympathies laid with the female part of these relationships. I don’t actually know what happened in these cases, but in my eyes bringing out the dirty laundry like that makes you the bad guy in the situation.

Sure, she has similar disdain for Jack, but the difference should be obvious. Jack was a monster, who was ready to destroy worlds for his own benefit and to build his legacy as the savior of the universe. It’s understandable that she should have such strong feelings against Jack. Kill-A-Volt is just a forgettable boss in a side mission. She shoudl reserve her hatred for those who really deserve it.

If you are a new player, you just basically met Moxxi once, so you wouldn’t like one of the most likable characters in the whole franchise. The first DLC redeems her quite a bit, but again, if you don’t have the full context of all the interactiosn with her in the franchise, I don’t think that would be enough to redeem her.

Death of Maya

Like Moxxi, Maya is also fun, but in a very different way. She is sexy, but not overtly sexual (actually, she’s surprised that someone – Tannis – finds her attractive in one of the BL2 DLCs). Like most of the Vault Hunters, she is dealing with literally worldending consequences, but she is having fun while saving the world.

We also learn from her ECHOs at Wildlife Exploitation Preserve, that she has a very strong moral compass, as she stops the corrupt brotherhood of monks on Athenas, who control the planet using her as a deterrent. These same ECHOs also tell a tale of someone curious, which is for me personally always a very strong character trait.

Of the 700 hours I’ve played Borderlands 2, I’ve played Maya easily the most. I do like to play Gaige as well, and I enjoy Krieg’s character, but Maya for me was the most perfect mix of character and abilities. So, Maya means something for me.

What about a new player? We meet Maya on Athenas and she gets the usual animation to make her seem cool. Soon, we go through Neon Arterial together and she does at the end of it. Since Ava sort of ruins the moment, the impact of her death is kind of soft. This was supposed to be a moment similar to Roland’s death in the second game, but by that time we’ve had a lot of interaction with Roland. Here, Maya just seems like a lazy plot device. Where is the impact supposed to come from?

Some Wisdom From Stan Lee

No, as far as I know Stan Lee didn’t have a cameo in the game (although the movie is produced by Avi Arad, so there is a connection, even if it’s somewhat strained). I don’t remember the writer I heard this from, but apparently Lee would advice the people at Marvel that they always have to keep in mind that each issue of the comic is going to be first comic they ever read for someone.

What does this mean? It means that you have to explain what’s going on and who these characters are in each issue. You can’t expect the readers to know, even if these characters are kind of ubiquitous in our culture currently. Still, if you go back and look at old issues of various Spider-Man titles for example, they always explain Spider-Man’s origins. Not necessarily in detail, but they still tell you what this superhero is about.

After all, your goal should be to broaden your audience. Looking back, I think BL2 did a good job of this. We meet all the four Vault Hunters from the first game, we interact with them and they are presented as real characters. The first game wasn’t much of a problem at that point, as the characters weren’t very strong (and they changed Roland quite a bit). On the other hand, the writers on BL3 had soemthing to build on, but rather than doing that, they just threw something they know you’ll recognize in the game and didn’t put more thought into it.

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