The Art of Borderlands 3 hit the shelves at the end of October and has quickly become scarce. Amazon, for example, can’t get you a copy any time soon. It’s been selling well.
No wonder, Borderlands itself has sold over 43 million copies. It’s a popular game and a successful inspiration for cosplay. Cosplay, by the way, joins the list of reasons why people buy art books. In the early days of Geek Native, I envisioned art books as either for artists who wanted to study and practice, or as excellent gift ideas for coffee tables and geek shelves. Now people art buy books to dig into the mythos of games and study costumes.
Scott Kester, the art director at Gearbox, the people who make Borderlands, pens the introduction. Then Chris Allcock takes up the writing. Allcock is a game designer himself, who started at Rare in 2003 and most recently worked on Microsoft’s Sea of Thieves.
Does it make a difference that an actual game designer is the book’s author? It absolutely does. It’s all about understanding what gamers want to see and learn more about.
In Borderlands 3’s case, “understanding what gamers want to see” means quickly getting to and then lingering on the game’s characters. We get to see Amara (the Siren) from sketch to final render, the same for Fl4k (Beastmaster), Moze (Gunner) and Zane (Operative). While artists explored many different looks for each character, I think Zane went on the longest journey as the team considered some very different angles.
Of course, many more characters are detailed (just with fewer pages) such a Claptrap, Lilith, Zero and Moxxi to name only a few. The approach is the same; one good render and then a little galaxy of supporting sketches and illustrations showing what could have been.
There’s a cost for this approach. The Art of Borderlands 3 does not make any space for full-page illustrations. If you were hoping to find heroes and villains depicted in an epic battle, then you’ll be disappointed. This art book is more of a reference and less of a call to arms. That’s no bad thing, it just helps to know what you’re buying.
Next comes Environments, of which there are many in the game. Of course, there’s no such thing as character concept sketches for environments, and so the artbook has to use a different presentation tactic here.
In this chapter, and pretty much only this chapter, we’re left with final versions of illustrations without any supporting sketches or alternative angles. Even here, though, The Art of Borderlands 3 stays away from letting any image fill a page and vistas come at you in two-per-page, three-per-page and sometimes more than that.
It’s back to the combination of final and supporting images for the Creatures and Enemies section. Perhaps it is my RPG roots, but this is my favourite chapter. A monster manual, except without the helpful meta-gaming insights on weaknesses.
If weapons are your thing, and the people who make them your study, then you’ll no doubt appreciate the Weapon art section that follows the monsters. For a start, Atlas is back in Borderlands 3, and you get to look at their gear here in a way you might not have time for in the game. The same for Dahl, Hyperion, Jakobs, Maliwan, Tedicore, Torgue, Vladof as well as Children of the Vault and alien gear.
In the rear you’ll find a range of vehicles included for completeness, but not in the same level of detail as the sections that came before. And I think that’s the right call. Borderlands 3 is a shooter with madcap characters. The vehicles are part of the carnage that creates.
In this review, you’ll find three examples of art spreads from the book. Hopefully, they’ll show you what Borderlands 3 looks like far more effectively than I can describe it. I suspect my time is better spent telling you what I thought of the collection.
I liked the Art of Borderland 3. It’s a safe and substantial book. It follows an approach that Titan Books, the publishers, know works and is jam-packed with illustrations.
It doesn’t take any risks, though, and because it’s determined to be good value, the art sometimes gets a bit squashy. There are pages covered in very similar guns, for example. I would have been happy to let Pandora breathe a little.
Overall? An excellent gift to get any Borderlands 3 and if you’re a Borderlands connoisseur, then it’s worth ordering yourself a copy, rather than hoping someone is generous this festive season.
My copy of The Art of Borderlands 3 was provided for review.
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