Borderlands is a really popular series. Even with the main plot threads dead, a spin-off based on DLC based on a fake board game that’s now a real board game is on the way as a full-budget project. Yet one issue with the franchise is that a lot of grinding is required to actually get to the good stuff. It can take 40 or more hours to finally max out an amazing build in Borderlands, which is a real shame. But there is an alternative – just play Gunfire Reborn.
There’s no way to not compare the two games because, at a fundamental level, Gunfire Reborn is cut from the same cloth. Cel-shaded visuals. Multiple playable characters. Big bosses with dramatic cutscene intros. Boatloads of loot across a grab bag of environments populated by colorful enemies.
The difference is that Gunfire Reborn is a roguelite, and gosh does it have fun with it. Your objective in Gunfire Reborn isn’t narratively based – the story is so forgettable that it’s not even really referenced all that much outside of the initial tutorial. Instead, your goal is quite simple: get stupidly powerful over and over again in increasingly strange ways.
In the span of an hour, with the right friends in co-op, even a beginner player can reach Gunfire Reborn’s final boss in a single session. While there are objective stat boosts to grind for and additional equipment unlocks as you complete challenges, from the very start, Gunfire Reborn wants you to feel like a badass ninja cat with an assault rifle.
Mid-run upgrades give you massive boosts even in the early stages. You might be able to cause your enemies to explode upon death if they merely got hit by a grenade at some point. Or you might sacrifice having any sort of shields but gain the ability to leech enemy health by dealing damage on top of a bigger health bar.
A personal favorite of mine is an upgrade scroll that gives you an extra hitpoint for every enemy you kill within seven meters. If you’ve specced yourself out for close-range combat and have this scroll, you can turn yourself into the cutest-looking Doom Slayer this side of Mars.
What’s brilliant is that, despite your feeling incredibly powerful, Gunfire Reborn doesn’t do the Deathloop thing where enemies become increasingly trivial. You don’t retain anything besides your core stat upgrades, which are universal across all the playable characters. This way you can’t end up in a rut, with Gunfire Reborn constantly throwing new weapons, enemies, and upgrades at you that are so tempting that you just have to give them a try once or twice.
To be fair, bosses, optional mini-bosses, temples full of traps, and even some regular enemies can be absolutely punishing if you have a bad build. Yet it’s by design that if your current build isn’t working, you die so quickly that you can start fresh without any problem. It’s the right sort of rogue-lite building, that instant “One more round…” energy that keeps you playing for hours.
I’m not saying a slow grind to becoming a demigod can’t work. Dark Souls wouldn’t be half as enjoyable if it had Gunfire’s frantic escalation. Yet I also can’t help but wonder why more games don’t try to let players get to the fun part sooner. Gunfire Reborn lets my friends and I smash through a boss like he’s made of toilet paper, but that doesn’t diminish the enjoyment.
Gunfire Reborn still requires skill and understanding of the underlying mechanics – just less time investment to get to the hook. There’s plenty there to toy around with once you reach that first high of completion. Becoming powerful isn’t the endpoint for Gunfire Reborn – it’s only just the beginning.