Borderlands 3 Designer’s Cut & Arms Race Impressions

Borderlands 3’s Season Pass 2 kicks off on November 10 alongside the Ultimate Edition, new skins and mode; Arms Race. On November 10, Borderlands 3 will also launch for Xbox Series X, with the PS5 version coming a little later. Ahead of the release of the Designer’s Cut, I’ve had the chance to play around with the new content and get a feel for Arms Race and the new Skill Trees.

Designer’s Cut is much, much smaller in scale compared to previous DLC releases, however, Arms Race is almost infinitely replayable. We all love a good narrative DLC, but it’s not something you’re likely to go back and play multiple times.

The beauty of Arms Race is its replayability, scalability and (of course) LOOT!

Borderlands 3 Designer’s Cut

So what is Arms Race? In the Borderlands universe, it’s a reality show hosted by Salvador and Axton in which competitors must collect weapons, survive the Murdercane and defeat Heavyweight Hawker. In gameplay terms, it’s part Roguelike and part Battle Royale.

Each time you attempt Arms Race, you’re stripped of all weapons, items and skills and are dropped into the centre of the Stormblind Complex. This new location is full to the brim with all manner of enemies so you need to find weapons and find them quickly. Thankfully, they’re everywhere and it doesn’t take long before you’re carrying some genuinely good loot.

I played Arms Race solo and while it was great, it’s a mode designed to be played with a squad. Surviving a fight by the skin of your teeth just isn’t the same when there’s nobody there to witness it. Plus, if you die while playing solo, it’s game over. If you die while in a squad, your team can revive you and get you back in the fight. And it’s not just baddies that can take you out of commission. The Murdercane is a gigantic, howling, snowy hurricane bearing down on the Stormblind Complex; it functions the same way the shrinking safe zones in Fortnite, PUBG and Apex Legends do.

Every few minutes, the Murdercane makes the safe zone of the Stormblind Complex smaller and giving you fewer options of where to go. The only way out of Arms Race (aside from dying) is to make your way to the centre and defeat the boss. However, going in underequipped means certain doom. On the other hand, staying out too long means the Murdercane will get you. It’s a clever way of forcing players to quickly hunt for decent weapons while always staying on the move.

Legendaries drop with surprising regularity in Arms Race but you can’t equip most of them until you finish your run. What’s more, anything you don’t send to your bank via the Gear Terminals is lost. Multiple Gear Terminals are located around the map but they each only have a few slots before they’re depleted. If you’re carrying too many weapons you want to keep, you’re just going to have to sacrifice one of them.

Also dotted around the map are treasure rooms. These are actually marked on the map and require you to survive an onslaught of enemies before you gain access. There are usually two chests filled with high tier loot available, so if you can survive, it’s worth going for the ones within the safe zone. After a while, you can also access special airdrops which are also filled with awesome loot.

Air drops also appear on the map and yes, you guessed it, when you reach their location, dozens of enemies come crawling out of the woodwork to try and kill you.

Being stripped of all weapons, items and skills is quite jarring at first. Especially when you’ve grown fond of your character build and have specced them to suit your playstyle. However, being dropped in the middle of a warzone with nothing on you is a fun challenge and when you have to fight with whatever you find, it forces you to experiment and use weapons you might not have considered before.

Overall, Arms Race is like a much better version of Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot, with elements of Battle Royale and Roguelike games and a propensity to dish out insane quantities of loot.

Also dropping alongside Arms Race are the new Skill Trees for each of the four Vault Hunters. I wasn’t able to test every new Skill Tree since I don’t have all four characters at a high enough level, but having played around with a couple of them, it’s clear the new Skill Trees are going to create some badass new builds. Not only do the new Skill Trees give each Vault Hunter a brand-new Action Skills, but the perks and abilities that go along with them have also been designed to emphasise and exaggerate the existing combos and synergies.

For example, one of Zane’s perks allows him to shoot while sprinting. Given many of his perks are designed around improving his stats when he moves at speed, being able to sprint and shoot makes him even more of a weapon than he already was.

It is odd for both the Skill Trees and Arms Race to launch alongside one another though, since you enter Arms Race without any skills at all. If you’re keen to check out the new Skill Trees, I’d suggest avoiding Arms Race. But not for too long since it’s a great new addition to the game.

Since launch, Borderlands 3 has delivered an enormous amount of content to its fans and players. Season Pass 1 had four narrative DLCs while a number of in-game events and bonus content drops were dished out. Not to mention SHiFT keys. Season Pass 2 is kicking off with a bang with Designer’s Cut and while the content isn’t as impactful or as large as those that came before, Arms Race has the potential to be played more than anything else.

Borderlands 3 players are in for a real treat with Designer’s Cut in addition to the next-gen upgrades and more DLC to come. It’s been a great ride for Borderlands 3 so far and it’s not over yet.

Designer’s Cut was played on PC using a digital code provided by 2K.

Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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