Borderlands is a comical realization of two things. One is an apocalypse. Two is that apocalypse leaves only people and the American dedication to capitalism behind.
Slavish dedication to money created what’s left of this planet (and others nearby in Borderlands 3). People go insane worshiping entertainers and capitalists like gods; they promise the population vast riches buried within a mythical vault. Unrestrained by any law, this is profit-seeking business removed of morals. The strongest (manipulators) thrive. The middle class worked out a system of vending machine automation to make due. The rest fight for scraps that pop out of recently used toilets, given the same American promise they’ll one day ascend to a grand mansion and millions of dollars. So, capitalism.
The satirical target in Borderlands 3 is a couple of YouTube-like stars and by luck, Borderlands 3 releases the same week as PewDiePie reneged his offer to donate to an anti-hate charity. Borderland 3’s antagonist kills people on camera; she gets higher ratings. Make racist statements, get higher ratings.
Of course, killing is key. By guns, specifically. Borderlands is still about the guns. Buying guns, finding guns, shooting guns. “Everybody gets shot someday,” spouts an outlander as she dies from shotgun wounds. An extreme, if not far off from the heightened truth of Borderlands 3. There’s enough distance between Borderlands and Earth to make it funny, if still bolted down by an aggressive posture that mocks the American infatuation with weapons.
By this third game, Borderlands doesn’t show signs of tweaking its surface humor. Nearly every enemy is a mental illness or deformity trope. Writing continues reaching for a low bar (although successfully as Claptrap, sucked into broken glass of a spaceship spouts, “My ass, it’s full of stars!”), while some of the ambient high school-level chatter reaches lower still. That’s forgiven because Borderlands 3 finds it target, doesn’t relent, and keeps on with a smile.