Checking the Score: Borderlands 3 is Back with a Bigger, Badder Sound

It’s been about five years since we last heard from the Borderlands mainline franchise with their Pre-Sequel installment. Since then, fans have continued to play the original games that have never seemed to lose their luster. Borderlands is one of those rare titles that knows how to do just about everything correctly. From a gripping story to over-the-top action and witty one-liners with off-beat humor, Borderlands delivers a classically fun formula just about anyone can get into. Yet that’s not all Borderlands is known for. Oh no, dear reader. Borderlands is also known across the galaxies for one very important thing: its music. From the moment our bus tears through a skag to the beat of Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” in the first Borderlands, I knew I would be hooked. Yet the franchise didn’t stop there with its heavy hits. Borderlands 2 upped the musical factor by bringing The Heavy into the mix with its opening scene. Through all of its installments, Borderlands has never dipped in its musical quality. This latest title is no different with all new sounds to compliment all new sights. Strap in as we dive into Borderlands 3‘s musical vault.

One of the most pleasant musical surprises to hit us in this new title is the return of The Heavy for another stellar intro scene. Borderlands 2 made use of the band’s “Short Change Hero” track with its funky brand of hip-hop/soul/dance music to set the tone for the game. The band is back for Borderlands 3 with an all new, original track for the series that solidifies the franchise in its commitment to quality music. The Heavy does not disappoint with that funky western style made specifically for this game. “Put It on the Line” has that hardcore beat that screams “Borderlands” while also lyrically setting the stage for the game:

Ain’t nothin’ too bad
Ain’t nothin’ too strong
Ain’t nothin’ too dangerous
To get what I want
I made a deal with glory
I made a pact with pride
I’m walking down with honor
I put it on the line

We, the vault hunters, are literally putting ourselves “on the line.” Borderlands oozes danger at every turn, with no sure chance of success either. To get The Heavy to write an original song for this new title is the baddest thing that could be done for this game. If you haven’t watched the intro yet, do yourself a favor.

The Borderlands 3 Main Menu Theme is vastly opposite to the opening sequence and chills us out with a beautiful combination of organic percussion with a science fiction synth twist. After waiting years for another mainline Borderlands game the Main Menu Theme feels like a homecoming. Its percussive beats feel almost like drums of war, or drums of preparation at least. Its melody also feels lonely, possibly to simulate the wastes of Borderlands. Its themes like this that set the game up for a shift in story and game content. We can actually hear the use of organic components with synthetic to create a mesmerizing mashup that breathes life into the world.

At some point in the story, we find ourselves on Eden 6, a beautifully swampy planet dotted with crashed ship sites and sparse settlements. The sound for Eden 6 continues to play on organic themes and sounds. Exploring abandoned vessels gives way to an eerie theme created by Jesper Kyd, whom also worked on the Borderlands 2 OST. Delicate strings with hard percussion and light synths create an organic sound to represent the wilds of Eden 6 and the planet’s natural elements. The haunting melody is fitting for gameplay as we explore the untamed wilds of Eden 6 while keeping ourselves on high alert. Even Jesper’s own words from his site solidify these composition choices, “For Borderlands 3 we created a unique music style that embodies the organic location of Eden-6. Subsequently I wanted everything to be recorded a bit more lively, loose, and organic. It was important that the music sounded more like it was performed by a band in places, and other times I resort to a fully electronic approach. But I always approached the score with lots of melodies while retaining an organic foundation.”

But not only do we hear organic melodies and composition on planets, but we also hear a hardcore shift to sci-fi for boss themes. And yes, the Boss themes are epic. Take Mouthpiece, for example. He’s the first big bad boss we meet in the game and he serves as the Secretary of Press for The Children of the Vault (the antagonistic cult within the game). As his name suggests, his abilities revolve around sonic booms and damage dealing speakers all around him. His theme takes a hard synthetic turn into an EDM track to represent the frantic gameplay necessary to beat him. It’s also an awesome track that represents him as a Boss, with its synths and fade-outs. It’s appropriate since even the setting feels like a dance club when we fight him. Throughout the game, we can hear the attention to detail in composition as it goes hand-in-hand with source material.

Borderlands 3 hits hard and fast with its gameplay and musical composition. It doesn’t pull any punches in the way it delivers its material and its soundtrack has the guts to back it up. A beautiful mix of organic instrumentation and synthetic components create a new sound for the series and play on natural themes as well as the hardcore science fiction the series is known for. The title’s composition is also thoughtful of gameplay and content to create a soundtrack that fits the series. From exploring lush jungles to fighting big baddies, there’s a perfect track for everything in the game. Throughout the entire soundtrack, we can also hear the evolution of the series through its music to a more epic sound. Cheers, Borderlands, to another stellar body of music. Now, let’s crank some tunes and hit the wastes.