I never expected that I’d back to loot farming a full seven years after the initial release of Borderlands 2. And yet, here we are. When the new DLC, Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary, came out in June, I checked in with the game in preparation for Borderlands 3. And not only did I get sucked right back into its epic tiered loot system, but this time the obsession has also gone deeper. I’ve been doing solo runs of the raid bosses using Legendary gear, diving into years worth of old forum threads to craft my perfect build. I never had the chance to defeat any of the Invincibles before (Terramorphous, Pyro Pete, Hyperious, Master Gee, Voracidous, Dexiduous, Son of Crawmerax, and now, Haderax), because in the past I could never manage to coordinate a full group of people to take them down. But with the improved Legendary drops implemented in the past few years, it’s now possible to quickly farm a meticulous build designed specifically to defeat a raid boss on your own. With such an active and robust community surrounding Borderlands 2 loot farming, it’s as if there’s an entire world in the game I never knew existed.
Borderlands 3 already makes some significant changes for loot hunters, including loot instancing and the lost loot system, which saves your drops after a boss fight in case the connection times out or the item clips through the floor. These alone will massively free players up to farm for loot without fear of wasting their time. But after all the hours I’ve recently spent, I also have a few ideas of my own. Here’s what Gearbox Software could do to improve the Borderlands 3 experience (besides fire Randy Pitchford, of course).
An excellent way to encourage the obsession with loot farming would be to let players create gear profiles. While the challenge of building a well-balanced character is fun, it would be nice to organize items into sets for quick use. Favoriting them with a little star to put them at the top of the load list just isn’t cutting it. There are, after all, multiple factors to consider: weapons, shields, relics, class and grenade mods. The combinations and permutations are endless.
Since the environments in Borderlands reliably group similar enemies together, sets could be designed to meet specific gameplay challenges, like armored vs. unarmored, and swapped out as needed. Now that each player has three action skills that can be switched out, maybe they could be tied to a gear profile too. It would dramatically reduce the amount of time spent equipping loot for different boss runs, or respeccing a character altogether, and that alone would make it worth it. I would probably make better use of all my loot if I could just “set it and forget it.”
At this point in my loot obsession, I have at least ten different grenade mods, and all have particular uses. Sometimes I need to swap them out as fast or as often as my guns. But the only option to do so is through the inventory, which is a time-consuming process in solo games, and a rude one in multiplayer.
But the freedom to quickly use one and then the other can be essential to victory, and grenade mods are just as crucial to your character build as guns. Thus, there should be an option for cycling through your grenades, similar to how you can swap through weapons. As with gear profiles, it would help make full use of all your prized looted items.
I hate to admit it, but there’s no way any single character could hold every piece of Legendary loot in Borderlands 2. The Backpack and Bank top out too quickly to store them all. And while some would say this is a fair way to make the player prioritize their weapons, it’s often hard to know what will stand out from the others over time. I’d have twice as many items to farm right now if I hadn’t held onto everything with red text, even if it seemed useless. That strategy paid off, but not for years.
The price for the highest upgrades to the Bank and Backpack is high, but worth it (and easily achieved) once you’re in the higher levels of the game and loot farming frequently. If a person has the Eridium, they should be able to keep buying slots, no matter how expensive it gets. It’s the best way to make sure the player values every high-value drop they get.
The Commander Lilith DLC is promising in that it brought something to the game I’ve never seen before: sets. The Effervescent tier has a weapon, shield and relic set that increases damage and intensifies the player’s running speed when all three items are in use. There’s also a set dropped by Haderax the Invincible for use at Digistruct Peak, where players can run levels to reach the new 80 level cap. I’ve always liked these little bonuses for collecting and holding onto set pieces; they reward the player for being a packrat, which adds value to the process itself. It also adds to the lore of the items, an essential part of establishing what sets the Legendary items apart from the Common ones.
How cool would it be if you could duel other players for loot? Right now, the dueling system in Borderlands 2 doesn’t offer much in the way of rewards, other than bragging rights and the opportunity to smack another player in the mouth. But what if you could raise the stakes by putting up a piece of loot? Or maybe even participate in a duel tournament for a bit of Gearbox-issued Legendary loot? There should be more opportunities to earn loot through means other than farming, especially in ways that interact with other players. With over a “billion” guns coming to Borderlands 3, the game could stand to place some additional hype on the special ones. And making us fight an unpredictable human opponent for a piece of loot that only one person can possess would be a great way to do that. (Note: the rudimentary dueling system in Borderlands 2, as pointed out by reader GospodChoda, does actually allow you to duel for loot. However, it was little-used due to its limited features, in turn a result of the game’s deep balance issues).
As the game becomes awash in randomized prefixes and modifiers, retaining some sense of individuality for some of the gear will be necessary. Without it, the game risks undermining its original appeal. Maybe some of these will show up in the new game, and perhaps they won’t. But for now, a loot farmer can certainly dream.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.