Set on the fictional planet of Pandora, Gearbox’s Borderlands franchise has made a name for itself for its unique characters, its distinct art style and loot. Lots and lots of loot.
Introduction to Borderlands
The Borderlands games – not counting the spin-offs and the ‘Tales’ series – are first person role-playing shooters. This in itself is a rather unique genre. Unlike say, a game like Mass Effect, which is an RPG that has shooter elements, Borderlands is a shooter with RPG elements. Also, there’s the fact that it’s in first person instead of an over-the-shoulder third person, which some found quite annoying about the Mass Effect series.
All Borderlands games take place on Pandora for the most part, save Borderlands Pre-Sequel. Pandora was thought to be home to vast mineral resources and decrepit alien ruins. So, of course, the planet attracted a lot of colonists. Turns out though, Pandora is not a friendly place. Oh and those vast mineral resources? Non-existent. Meaning the only thing worth looking for on the planet are the alien ruins, which later come to be known as vaults. These vaults are said to contain vast reserves of alien technology. The kind of technology that would make its finders rich and powerful beyond all imagination. However, like we just mentioned, Pandora is not a friendly place. Turns out it was winter on Pandora all this while and spring was about to begin. And with spring came a host of terrifying monsters that were in hibernation until now.
Now that it had been established that the planet is just a death trap, those that could leave, got the f*ck off, asap. The ones who couldn’t, were left struggling to survive on the harsh planet.
However, the lure of treasure can be quite powerful and those vaults aren’t going to find themselves. Which is where the vault hunters come in.
The events of Borderlands 2 happen five years after the first game in the series and features Hyperion Corporation’s very own Handsome Jack. Arguably one of the best worst villains of all time. You’re still after the vault but this time it’s Hyperion who’s luring vault hunters to Pandora by advertising the vault. Of course, the idea is to kill them all so that Jack
can keep the contents of the vault to himself.
Borderlands the Pre-Sequel takes place between 1 and 2 and gives us some backstory about Handsome Jack and some other characters from Borderlands 2.
The Vault Hunters
The Vault Hunters or the characters in most Borderlands games usually each represent a class and a different playstyle. Despite being a shooter at its base, the franchise does a great job of making each class feel unique.
In the first Borderlands, we’re introduced to four Vault Hunters (with some great music playing in the background mind you).
We have Roland, a support character who could heal allies and summon a shield turret.
Mordecai is a sniper. His special skill allowed him to attack enemies with his pet bird Bloodwing (R.I.P Bloodwing, damn you, Jack!).
Lilith is a Siren, one of six in the Galaxy. They’re apparently really OP. She can turn invisible and kill people with her phase abilities.
The last hunter from the first game is Brick, as himself.
Borderlands 2 initially had 4 character classes to choose from as well (again introduced with great music), which was later increased to 6.
We have Axton, the Commando. Who also has a turret. But his turret(s) can rotate 360 degrees.
A personal favourite of many in the Skoar! team, is Zer0 – a haiku speaking robotic ninja who is lethal with his katana and a stealthy sniper to boot. He can create holograms of himself and go invisible to perform assassinations.
Salvador, the Gunzerker, can dual-wield rocket launchers (any gun really) with infinite ammo. Yeaap.
Finally, we have Maya, another Siren. Who also has phasing abilities like Lilith which can be further augmented to do more stuff.
Gaige the Mechromancer could summon her pet(?) robot, Deathtrap, into combat. She could also infinitely scale her bullet damage and rewarded both accurate shooting and newer players depending on how you skilled her.
Lastly, you have Krieg the Psycho. Yes, the Psycho. One of those nutty bandits you normally keep killing. Krieg makes use of a high-risk high-reward playstyle, rewarding players with more damage the closer you are to death.
In Borderlands the Pre-Sequel, the 4 playable characters aren’t Vault Hunters and you’re not on Pandora, but on its moon, Elpis.
You can play as Athena the Gladiator, who you may recognise from the “The Secret Armory of General Knoxx” DLC for Borderlands.
Then there’s Wilhelm the Enforcer and Nisha the Lawbringer, both of who we end up killing in boss battles in Borderlands 2.
The game is a shooter. There’s no damage stat, or dice-rolling, or accuracy stat that comes into play. Well, okay weapons have those stats but what we mean is it’s a good old point-and-click shooter. There’s co-op as well, allowing for upto 4 people to team-up and explore Pandora together. It made use of a drop-in drop-out system that seamless added and removed players and adjusted enemy levels on the fly. This was further improved in Borderlands 2.
Characters level up as you kill stuff and complete quests. Borderlands 1 and 2 initially had a level cap of 50. For Borderlands 1 it was later increased to 69, and for Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel it’s 72. Starting level 5, at which point each character unlocks their special skill, each level grants players a skill point to spend on skills. Each character has three skill trees to choose from, which further helped the characters own unique playstyle in some way or the other.
In terms of just gameplay, Borderlands 2 isn’t too different from Borderlands. But it was a major improvement, pretty much making just about everything from the first game better. Borderlands also introduced “Badass Ranks” to the game, which the player achieved whenever they completed in-game achievements. These achievements reset over every new playthrough but the badass rank itself carried across all characters. The token you earned through them could be used to increase various stats by a small amount (like 0.1%), but you gained them infinitely so eventually they added up to quite a significant boost. Gearbox added the option to turn off the badass rank in-case things got too easy.
So much loot. There’s loot in just about everything. The monster feces has loot in it. You’ve got guns, mods, guns, shields, guns, artifacts, guns, grenades, and did we mention guns? Borderlands 2 fleshed out the loot system even more, improved on the rarity ratings and overall just made the entire loot system so much better. The guns in Borderlands are procedurally generated based on a set rules specific to each gun manufacturer. A good example of this would be Torgue guns, which all have explosive ammunition, regardless of gun type.
Interplanetary Ninja Assassin CL4P-TP
We felt like the poor general purpose robot deserved a special mention here because nobody attended his birthday party.
The Borderlands franchise is still young, there are only 3 main titles out so far and they’ve all been good, especially Borderlands 2. From what we’ve heard, a Borderlands 3 is in the works and we can’t wait to sink hours of our life into that as well. So to summarize: Tons of loot, millions of guns, great story, great characters, great gameplay, loads of humour, pop culture references, unique art style, good soundtrack, and Claptrap. What’s not to love?