Borderlands 3 is particularly well written. (Obvious Spoilers)

I will begin this with two forewords;

First, I am not remunerated by GBX in any way. I am just a moderator, not an employee. If I weren’t a moderator tomorrow, I wouldn’t be bothered much by that fact. I do this because I am very fond of the folks over at GBX, I adore my fellow mods, but mostly because I am particularly fond of most of you guys. Also, I’d be an expensive Mouthpiece for them to grab, because I do pretty well for myself and only whore my soul out for extortionate sums.

Second, this will be a TL;DR kind of thread. I will not only laud the writing where I deem fit, but also critique the parts I didn’t particularly like as much (perhaps that’ll cast doubt on any shill claims). But I can comfortably say that the good heavily outweighs the bad. It is very competently written and I will express why I believe that. But it will be a slog of a read, so if you’re not in to that, perhaps this is the point you may want to hit that backspace key.


The premise. This story is a capable display of building upon already standing lore. It did it’s best to touch on already spoken of aspects and built upon themes, while making sure not to completely ossify it’s potential arcs for any future iterations of the series. So kudos to Sam and Danny, because this is better than even I had expected. I had feared that the story would become a repetition of previous themes, and it certainly didn’t turn out to be that.

Borderlands had never intended to be a game with a rich story setting, it was at it’s core a cooperative shooter set in an adventurous and funny environment. In fact, it’s plot didn’t differ too much from many of the old Dungeon Crawlers. There was a clear objective and we were given glimpses in to separate characters by way of exposition and quests, little more above that. Would it make you laugh? Yes, of course, and plenty. It made us giggle mostly by way of gags that ran like an episode of ‘Police Squad!’ It worked rather well for what it was at the time. A game meant to explore cooperative mechanics and world building in a franchise that never expected to be as popular as it became. Some of the constantly recurring characters in the series, like Miss Moxxi, and Athena were actually introduced in DLCs, and not the original. It was around that point, and with the Knoxx DLC that the writers began considering building upon this world.

Borderlands 2 came around and the game had to finally flesh itself out. The writers knew full well that presenting a game that had the same level of depth as the previous installment meant that it would ultimately feel increasingly redundant. Giving you little incentive to go through the world of Pandora other than reaching the next orange item card. They had the workings of a strong foundation. Characters like Roland, Lilith, Mordecai and Brick presented enough individuality in the original where they could take front stage as NPCs, while the previous supporting cast could add a great deal of world depth. The themes of interstellar mysticism, a battle of corporate powers, and adventure had to be present. They needed a new foil, something to capitalize on (pun intended).

Handsome Jack. He forever changed the series because a clever blend of likability and hatefulness meant that you could spend an entire game chasing after him and you’d enjoy the task. Even his jabs at you and his sadistic nature was presented with such great narration, pace, and voice acting that you couldn’t get enough of it. We loved Brick, Lilith, Mordy and Roland, since we were once at least one of them, but we loved to hate Jack. We were presented with an unthinkable future where a charismatic CEO, managed to create a narrative that just seemed to sound better than it ended up being. Throwing slogans around and touting himself as being the only capable of saving us from an unknown enemy.

Pretty radical stuff back in 2012.

Anyway, lets (finally) fast forward to Borderlands 3.

The new plot line had to be anchored within reality. It needed to reflect the world we live in today, because at it’s best, Borderlands has always been a satirical view on the absurdity of futurism if it were to have many of today’s aspects instilled in to it. It says; ‘If we do this nonsense for another millennia, the future will look grim.’

The playable character core was mostly refreshing, but at the very least well balanced. There were now over a dozen character types down if you include, BL, BL2, and BL:TPS. So they needed enough variation where the character felt different from those who came before it, but still felt like something that belonged in Borderlands.

Amara, as many of you may have foreseen, is in my opinion the best stroke of good writing. In the past, Sirens seem to exude a kind of cool calm stoicism, mixed in with a deviousness that is very typical of heroines. And even more typical of those in shooters. Amara is very much not this. She has more characteristics akin to Brick, and seems to be as much of a brute as he is. But this isn’t the only characteristic, and she is set apart. She is delightfully egomaniacal, and has no problem using her feminine aspects to either taunt or as matter of expression. This was the only direction they could’ve gone without creating a clone character due to the constraints the plot may have given them. It was very wise of them to take it.

Zane is a necessary addition in this character comedy, because it wouldn’t be a Borderlands game without the cheeky wit within the party. If all the characters were grizzled veterans, then it would play far too much like modern shooters where there sudden comedic asides are jarring considering the personality they usually display. Some one playful and cunning would fill a role that Zer0 filled in the previous setting, but without all that grim mystery and haiku. He was more lackadaisical and a Jack Sparrow kind of talent.

Fl4k had everything you could ask for from a Beastmaster, but they had their issues as well. The AI that loves animals is not exactly a new theme in literature and has been a bit overdone in the past. Even in BL3, Claptrap gains a love for a pest like creature which reminds him of himself. I think the most unique aspect of Fl4k came from their decision to wear mangled clothes and resemble the lifeforms of Pandora. It seems to show a bit more depth than usually afforded to AI. While it was incredibly controversial, making this character non-binary was a very potent choice from a writer’s view point. It worked to show a disdain for many human practices, while they drew themselves closer to their pet.

Moze, as (incredibly) fun as she is to play, works well when instilled in the plot as a whole but isn’t exactly unique writing in the least bit. She shares enough characteristics with other characters that there are plenty of others who can add what she adds to the plot. This isn’t unique to BL3. As much as we love Axton, there is a reason he didn’t show up in the plot, and that is because he wasn’t a necessity. What truly sets her apart is a playstyle that hasn’t been seen before in a BL game, especially with the mech-anichs allow for mech antics. Writing wise? I’d challenge anyone to tell me what she could add in BL4 plot wise that coudln’t already be presented.

All and all, solid character core. We have plenty of variation, and enough to draw in not only different styles of players, but people who look for a certain something in their character.

Now on to the plot.

Handsome Jack had become a larger than life character in both BL2, BL:TPS, and TFTBL, and they needed to shed that incredibly heavy mantle once and for all. The issue with any foil based episodic game is that it will ultimately always be compared to it’s predecessor, and some themes will be more consumable than others by the public at large.

They couldn’t go with yet another character you desperately hate to love, as they seem to be one step ahead of you most of the time. First and foremost, the message would’ve been redundant. In BL2 you often felt yourself wondering; ‘Wait, am I really the good guy?’ As you traversed between the lawless lands of Pandora and the glistening (albeit fascistic) cities that Hyperion built. It presented an old concept which espoused the virtues of vigilante lawlessness vs. oppressive lawfulness. BL3 could pretty much do anything but that.

So as opposed to presenting you with one villain, they presented you with two. A pair, and endowed them with powers they never truly earned and a legion of fanatical followers. The themes of BL2 were very 1984, and BL3 was very 2019. That is much of the reason why people weren’t fond of Tyreen and Troy. It had to do more with the world as it is today than writing.

Two future-twitterati are endowed with absolute power after they have spent their entire life being coddled by the Pandoran equivalent of a baby-boomer father, and took out their frustrations on everyone but the deserving. Ouuuuch. Did that hit a little too close to home? The demagogues of the future won’t be people like Handsome Jack, who became maniacal in their gritty fight for power against all odds, but rather, the Troys and Tyreens of the world. Petulant debutantes who have been afforded more responsibility than they were ever due.

They’re annoying? Good. They’re grating? Better. You hate them? Very good. Do they remind you of anyone you may know? Oh. Absolutely perfect.

I don’t know why anyone thinks that the writing was attempting to make them anything other than that. That was the point. You were supposed to feel a level of satisfaction in wiping those grins off of their faces that you just couldn’t absolutely feel with Handsome Jack. The only humanizing aspect of their’s came very purposefully in the end of the game where you saw them for the children they were, desperately trying to prove something to dad.

This is not a unique theme, but it is one that desperately needs to be expressed in today’s world. There have been many literary/cinematic eras that emphasized the carelessly entitled nature of so much of the world at the time, and how they would suffer from it.

Also. Read a lot of the detraction on the writing from what we’ll call ‘the more vocal and less constructive’ aspects of twitter/facebook/reddit. You could crop half of the text out and replace it with Troy’s voice and you wouldn’t know the difference.

The plot then follows a rather great arc for a sequel to two previous installments. You start where you originally began and see a glimpse of Pandora as it is today. You’re presented with the current star of the series, and it’s usual comic relief. Not necessarily a ‘strong start’ since it was exactly the one I completely expected, but definitely one that could be built upon. The path follows one which shows the world as it is, as opposed to relying exclusively on annoying exposition. We re-discover Pandora.

Who do we run in to next? Vaughn. Is it because everyone was on pins and needles to see Vaughn? No, it is because the plot called for exactly that kind of character. One who we were introduced to in some iteration of Borderlands, and has been changed, and I stress changed, by life on Pandora.

Then we see the first conflict between the stars and the Calyspos. They lack all of Jack’s cunning. They don’t have the financial power of the corporations we were faced with in BL1. They seem particularly lacking as a threat. What makes them so… ah, there it is. A gimmick. A gimmick and a stream is all you need in the future. They draw the powers out of some one far more potent than them. Now we’re invested. Now we get to hate them for something more than their attitudes.

We planet skip between Promothea and Athena, and are reintroduced to Maya and Rhys. With Ava in her first role in the series, and I assure you not the last.

I’m going to gloss over many of those parts, because if you’ve been patient enough to read this far, I don’t want to begin punishing you.

The battle for Promethea, and the supposed treachery of Zer0 was actually quite fun. I liked seeing Rhys in power showing what he did best in Tales, while being weighed down by the same inefficiencies that plague his character. I do have to say though that Katagawa read a lot like ‘Jack-lite’. They did do a lot to try separate him from Handsome Jack by trying to remove a lot of the likable aspects from him, but that did little to enhance the situation. The one great thing that final bit showed is how it was initially wise of the writers not to create another Jack for the villain.

Now for one of the more controversial aspects.

Ava is exactly the character she is meant to be. That isn’t bad writing, it’s called writing with a purpose. She is hyperactive and a little bothersome, while having some redeeming qualities. She reminds you of those kids who follow you around at a party asking to play with your cellphone. If you play through the story it is because you realize that she is a kid that has been deprived of a childhood. She makes for the perfect antithesis to the likes of Tyreen and Troy. Instead of two coddled brats who were sheltered, she had to face the world at large and came out slightly the worse for wear.

This is an extremely necessary theme, and one that must be presented if you’re going to create anything which acts as the inverse to the game’s villains. You cannot demonize the current generation as nothing more than spoiled brats, you have to create a hint of hope and tell people they can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

This is a recurring theme in literature. If you’ve read many of Dicken’s works, the Aeneid, Huckleberry Finn, you’ll see many characters who are trying to grow in to their breeches.

In more contemporary literature, Sansa Stark is exactly this kind of character. One who may rub the reader the wrong way initially, but ultimately has an arc which gives enough depth to show transformation (moreso bookwise than via the show).

Now I am going to get in to something I found jarring about the writing. Which is; please stop depressing me. As much as I thought this writing was exceptional, I felt like I needed a drink every time I had to take a drop pod. You see, Borderlands 2 only made us mourn for Bloodwing as a foreshadowing to the major death of Roland. I am less than halfway through the game and devastated by the sudden (and the constantly referred to) death of Maya. This doesn’t read like a comedy. It is okay to introduce us with a bit of tragedy while we’re laughing, or a bit of comedy while we’re crying, but constantly instilling one in to the other creates for a confusing experience. Did this game affect me? Absolutely. But of any Borderlands, I laughed least in this one, and thought the most.

Eden-6 is particularly interesting because you could have based the entirety of the plot around Wainright and Alistair and it would’ve been worth it. They operate as a refreshing adventurer romance that plays out as a dynamic duo. The juxtaposition to these two frontiersmen with the foil of Aurelia, who lacks any of their more sturdy attributes, and her willingness to betray anything for the right price was sublime. What I would say about this bit, is that it was a strange point in the game to introduce the B-Team. Did they play out well? Absolutely. Their screen time seemed unnecessary though, and was much more enjoyable in Boom-Town.

I’ll skip all the in between and say that some of the side-quests were tedious, but most were quick and interesting in that they allowed for the plot to create an incentive to get through them. Especially for BL veterans, they presented enough backstory to act like more than fetch quests.

Typhon DeLeon is exactly the hero we needed to see in the Borderlands series. He may not be what you expected to be physically, but he is a far greater adventurer than even his stories gave credit to. He is far more clever, capable, and important than his logs or legends could have given you the ability to suspect. He then ends up being an atrocious father. There is no glossing over of the fact that we always sacrifice something for anything we gain. For immortality in the spoken word, he sacrificed the fates of his children, and he realized that far too late. An excellent balance of good and bad in a character.

I must say that the cut-scenes in BL2 played out better since they made certain to neutralize the ability of the Vault Hunter before making the villain go in to their ‘homicidal maniac’ speech. I was often wondering why Amara wasn’t stopping Tyreen from slaughtering everyone while standing a few feet away. I will forgive that though as more of a circumstantial error, than a writing one. Because it is.

Finally to top it all off. The ending was nothing short of excellent. In fact, it was by far the best part of the entire work and I particularly laud Sam and Danny for that bit. Spot on.

Tyreen is defeated, but the after-effects of her rage and egomania are felt throughout the planet. That is often the case with tyrants. Lilith regains what was deprived of her, she becomes the Firehawk and realizes what she must do.

The Sirens complete their task. One that had the weight of billions of souls upon them, and Lilith, the first Siren we came across, is the one to do it. She isn’t the Goddess from BL2, using silly Bandits to her will the way Tyreen and Troy are actually doing, she actually becomes the fabled Firehawk. Rising in to the sky.

If you think there wasn’t a glimpse of Roland in her, you haven’t been paying attention.

The annoying little youth, is now inspired by act of some one who realizes the value of becoming the person they always claimed to be. Not convincing others of that person, but becoming it.

What song plays? Seconds afterward? This Girl is on Fire.


I understand many people drew from it some sort of political message, and I honestly have no idea where you’re coming from. Politics encompasses the entirety of existence, because those who can do will often impose on those who cannot do. Some one expressing their view of the world cannot be pigeon-holed to some silly contemporary notion of the word. That ending was excellent.


Listen. You can say you didn’t like BL3, and that is all fine and good. You don’t have to like something. I am not a particularly big fan of Austen novels, but I know she is an exceptional writer. A great one in fact. Simply because something wasn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean you should attack it because it didn’t suit your particular need.

That has never been what fiction is about.

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Writing is hard and you covered most of the story very elocuently. No one was going to top Handsome Jack, so giving us two villians (3 if you count social media) was a smart way to avoid the comparisons.

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Thank you Giu. I needed to read that today. All of the folks dropping deuce after deuce on the writing were making me doubt how much I enjoyed it. I knew you’d say what I was thinking, but better. Cheers mate. Next round is on me. :beers:

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This was actually really reassuring to read; I genuinely enjoyed what we got and I was starting to think I had too low of standards.

Yeah, there were definitely problems. But overall I thought the writing and characters were well done. Glad to see I’m not alone on that.

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I TL:DR but i think the writing is absofuckinglutely fantastic. Never has a game made me show so many emotions.

I cried, i felt excitement, laughed, and thoroughly enjoyed almost every single bit of it. The villains made me hate them more than any villain. I wouldn’t even kill myself for tyreen in that one sidemission

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It feels wrong I have little to say in return after such a well thought out thread opener. But I have to say that I personally am enjoying the writing in BL3 more than I ever did in BL2, to the point I even like the Twins.

Maya’s death is one of the few issues I do have with the writing, it felt needless to me. I have yet to even see the ending (Im not far after defeating A9K), but I have yet to even like Ava.

And this, this game genuinly managed to make me laugh at a fair few occasions. And it’s a rare thing to happen in the previous games.

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Didn’t even consider that, and that is an exceptionally clever read.

If it is that barley wine, I will read this aloud in a Shakespearean accent if I can get another bottle.

I must admit, for a moment I did to. Then I noticed something.

I often saw people express that they didn’t like the writing, without saying why they didn’t like it. Naming a scene and decrying it isn’t a critique, it is at best a Yelp review devoid of context.

Glad you brought that up. Because I absolutely couldn’t bring myself to do it either. What is a couple of bucks to a goods gun, right? Everything when you hear that snarky voice. Elisa played that role exactly how it needed to be played. That little song at the end made me see what the producers saw.

Yeah, have to agree with this. The timing was bad. It seemed like they were building to it, and it was acting to give more weight to Ava, before establishing Ava herself. It’s probably the only bit in the entire story that made me go; “Really? Yeahhh. Nah.” Other than that I was very pleased with the writing.

It was massive work though, so I don’t blame them for it in any way. Dickens was famous for leaving things to circumstance, and Hugo was known for overexposition, and they are Gods of the literary world. Every writer has something they need to rely on, because they’re human. That may have been it.

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This is the perfect summation of how all the griping threads sounded to me, but far more polite and eloquent than how I screamed it in my head.

That can be arranged.

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Oh money had nothing to do with it. Tyreen didn’t deserve the satisfaction of watching me kill myself. It’s 1 red text weapon i will never get for myself

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I should mention though, despite what I think about her death, it has been an emotional scene that did had me in tears. I never had that “click” with her as a playable vaulthunter, but I did like her quite well.

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There is a lot of writing by i like about bl3. There are characters love like Clay and BALEX. It’s fuggin Mr T. Nuf said

The story execution not so much.

They rehashed plot elements of 2 but failed. Killing off characters needlessly.

I love flak and Zane. Amara is cool but some of her lines are nothing but cliche. Don’t call me baby is bs.

You simply crush their wind pipe without comment, leaving them to die on their own vomit and blood. EOC

Saying don’t call me baby is already a loss.

Moze is the same. Maybe I have to kill you? Gotta be the dumbest cliche military type line imaginable. Waste line. Other than that i love her physical design

Then there is Ava, the brat who should be shot and spaced.

Troy has glimmers of conflict with his sister that they simply dropped on the floor. The scenes should have been edited for consistent solidarity or they should have run with the double threat. Nothing was done with it. Had they the creativity they could have run with it.

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If I didn’t know better I’d have said you were sent that well written essay by someone at Gearbox to justify the criticisms we’ve been giving it since launch.

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… So positive opinions on this game seem staged?

Wow, I can’t believe I’m a fraud. I even tricked myself.

Not meant to be derogatory sarcasm, I mostly speak in jest.

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Have to agree with most of what you wrote especially in regards to the story being different and not the same recycled go here do this plot having to take out troy then go to a new planet and then back to pandora to take out tyreen was probably my favourite part because when you were saying goodbye to everyone that’s usually it in borderlands games but they faked out the ending which I was really happy about the first time I finished it

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Samesies

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The only piece of writing I had issue with is how Maya’s death was handled. The villains were great in my opinion. I absolutely loathe them. I was completely satisfied with killing them in the story line. The writers and voice actors/actresses did a great job making me want to absolutely annihilate them. Maya’s death on the other hand was different. No qualms with Maya shuffling off this mortal coil to drive my firey hatred for the Calypsos. I just couldn’t get over Ava’s role in it. Like, why did everything pause for Maya to scold Ava at that particular moment. Granted, I am a parent, but in that situation, my first thought would be to vacate the premises as quickly as possible, as this small impressionable child is in harms way whether she understands it or not. Whereas, Maya sat there, scolding Ava. It just left me asking why. But other than that individual scene, I enjoyed the story arc quite a bit.

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Very well written. As far as our new 4 VH’s, I’m enjoying them all. I’ve already completed a first run through with Moze and Zane (Who’s side dialogue had me laughing multiple times) . Im now playing Amara, and I also started up Fl4k as well. It’s the first bl game I’ve played that I really want to play all 4 characters.

As far as baddies, I actually really loved (to hate) the Calypsos. They really get under your skin, and at the whole “social-media-ish” cult was a nice twist.

I do think a lot of people have some good points when it comes to writing. But, with so many characters and events that have happened since bl1, its going to be hard to include everything in just one game while at the same time creating a new universal threat and story. So, I kinda just rolled with it. While I felt the absence of some of my favorite characters from previous games, I do think this one can really set up some really interesting dlc content on both new and established worlds that hopefully we can see them in
(Like Dr Zed, Sal, and Axton, just to name a few)

Oh, and I also got to say I loved so much of the fan service that was put in the game. I played bl1 when it first came out and downloaded it on my ps3. I still played it from time to time even after bl2 came out. So that opening scene when Marcus pulled up in the bus was awesome! I’m already on my third character and I’m still really loving the game play. (And of course all those funky awesome gunzzzz) :grin:

As far as character deaths, Maya to be specific. I remember the first time Bloodwing died in bl2, I was so shocked they did that I could barely even hear Jack’s jokes as I was leaving the area. Then Roland was an even bigger shock. I think it was thanks to the dlc content like Tiny Tinas in particular that I felt like they were memorialized properly. So I am hoping that we might get to see something similar with Maya. Not necessarily a game within a game type thing. But, this is by far a game breaker plot point for me. Even though I was thinking someone was going to die. I really wanted to see a lot more of her, at least. We really got to know Lilith in bl2 and all the dlcs, I was hoping to see more of that back story with at least all 4 of the main vhs from bl2.

In the end, I think the good does outweigh the bad points. I mean, I’m still playing so… yeah. :blush: As far as other reviews on plot and story, I’ve read quite a few that were very respectfully written that have some very good points. So, there is some stuff that I would like them to consider in future content. What’s been great with all the Borderlands games is that I believe they do try and include a lot of fan input.

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There also matter of the first vault hunter and Marcus. Marcus says his father told him story of the VH but he around same age as Tyron.

How is the destroyer not dead from the first game? Jack uses it eye to create the eye of Helios

How did we kill the twins easily when they destroy Lilith and Maya?

Why did Maya disappear instead becoming a husk with crystal growing out of her.

Why is Ava the new leader?

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I totally agree with the first post. I would just like to add a couple tidbits regarding the Calypsos and Ava.

Ava is written like an actual modern pre teen to a T! If people find her annoying, this may be the reason without most people realizing. I have several sisters who were half my age growing up. From ages 11-15, they were pretty much Ava. Dialogue, temper, and thinking they are sneaker than they actually are. Is Ava one my characters? Not by a long shot. But her writing is probably some of the best character writing in game. We’re supposed to disagree with an angry teen that won’t listen.

As for Troy and Tyreen, two kids stranded on a planet all their lives with no other human interaction besides their parents. So yea, they’re home schooled kids who were denied any kind of socialization until they found the echo net to build a “family”. I imagine it’s how a lot of younger gamers feel these days with there only real “escape” being the internet. Confusing what they see celebrities/influencers doing with how people actually interact with one another.

And don’t get me started on Typhon. We all know that guy in our lives lol.

I call all that brilliant writing. …but I also agree the Maya situation wasn’t handled great. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be there. It just needed more time to marinate before we lost the character I mailed since the release of BL2. Especially with how hard they promoted her new look with the toys that came out and the cosplay guides. But admittedly, I’m a little biased because Imwas hoping to see more of Maya. :nerd_face:

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