Borderlands (series)

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Genre(s)Action role-playing, first-person shooter
Developer(s)Gearbox Software
2K Australia
Telltale Games
Publisher(s)2K Games
Telltale Games
Platform(s)PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360, OS X, PlayStation Vita, iOS, Linux, Android, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
First releaseBorderlands
October 20, 2009
Latest releaseBorderlands: The Handsome Collection
March 24, 2015

Borderlands is a series of action role-playing first-person shooter video games in a space western science fantasy setting, created by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games for multiple platforms.

The series consists of three games, each with multiple downloadable content packs: Borderlands (2009), Borderlands 2 (2012) and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (by 2K Australia, 2014). A future Borderlands game was announced in January 2015 with no published release date. A spin-off has also been released, titled Tales from the Borderlands, an episodic graphic adventure game by Telltale Games.

The series has received critical acclaim and commercial success for its loot-driven multiplayer co-op gameplay and its sense of humor. As of August 2015, more than 26 million copies of Borderlands games had been shipped, 13 million of which are of Borderlands 2.[1] A film adaptation of the series is in development by Lionsgate.


The three main games in Borderlands are first-person shooters, set in an open world, with some role-playing game elements. Players select one of the available characters, representing Vault Hunters that have traveled to the planet Pandora to try to seek its fabled Vault. Each Vault Hunter has a different skill tree and one or more unique abilities. Players then work on completing quests and exploring Pandora while dealing with the violent Pandora wildlife, crazed scavengers that have been stranded on the planet, and various military groups that attempt to stop them. Completing quests and defeating foes earns in-game money and experience, which is used for expanding the player's skill tree. If the player loses their health or falls into bottomless chasms, they respawn at the most recent checkpoint and lose some of their money. The games are divided into several maps, and once players have reached a waypoint station on the map, they can teleport to any other previously visited map. Otherwise, players must reach certain points on the edges of the map to move into a different area. Some maps allow the player to spawn an armed vehicle to help traverse large maps or to deal with more powerful enemies.

A core feature of Borderlands is the loot system, which generates a variety of guns (such as pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers), shield generators, grenade modifications, and class modifications. This equipment is randomly dropped by foes, found in containers around Pandora, or obtained as rewards for completing quests. The statistics of the equipment, such as the amount of damage and accuracy for a gun and special elemental attacks, are procedurally generated, and use a loot color-coding system similar to games like World of Warcraft to indicate rarity, ranging from white (most common), to purple and orange (most rare and powerful). The first Borderlands is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records to have over 17 million different possible guns that could be generated, while the latter games expand further on this.[2] Other facets of the game use a similar procedural system: foes may have unique attributes and more powerful variants, such as creatures that can spit corrosive acid or flame, or scavengers with higher amounts of health and armor. Weapons and other equipment can be sold and bought at various vending machines scattered about the maps; nearly all vending machines include a rare piece of loot that is only available for a limited amount of in-game time, after which the machine's inventory is rotated for a new set of equipment. Both Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel! include the use of "SHIFT codes", which the player can obtain through social media or other promotions, and give players "golden keys" that can be used once to obtain an item of exceptional quality appropriate for the player's level.

As the player levels, the loot drops will become more powerful; at the same time, the enemies that the player faces on the map will increase in level as well. All three games feature a New Game Plus-type replay mode, where they can start with the same character at the same level they completed the game with, and continue to level up the character through the replay up through a fixed level, making the game more difficult. All three games support co-operative play for up to four people; the difficulty of the enemies as well as the quality of the loot drops scales with the number of players.

In Borderlands 2 and in the Pre-Sequel, a "Badass Rank" system was added. By completing certain challenges, such as killing a number of enemies with a specific weapon type, the player would be awarded with Badass points; for every 100 points, they can then redeem these for one of several small buffs to the player's attributes such as gun damage or shield capacity. Selecting the same buff repeatedly on redemption while using a given character would provide less beneficial rewards. However, these Badass buffs are shared by all characters that the player has, so that if the player starts a new character, they will retain all the existing buffs, and new buffs when the points are redeemed will be more beneficial.

All the games in the series are rendered using a comic book-like cel-shaded approach.



The games in Borderlands take place on the planet Pandora in the 29th century. Pandora is believed to be rich with mineral wealth leading several megacorporations to send colony ships there to capitalize on it, but once they arrive, they find little of value outside of undecipherable alien artifacts from a race known as the Eridians, and numerous native lifeforms make it too dangerous. Many of the corporations abandon the planet, leaving behind their workforce, former prisoners coerced into employment, who take over much of the planet as bandits and raiders. However, study of the alien artifacts lead to the discovery of mythical Vaults filled with untold treasure and wealth. Corporations and military forces return to the planet, along with a number of Vault Hunters who seek to find the vaults themselves.


Several characters appear in multiple Borderlands games. The little yellow robot Claptrap (voiced by David Eddings), the de facto mascot for the franchise, has appeared in all games as a non-player character (NPC) and in the Pre-Sequel as a playable character. The megalomaniacal CEO of the Hyperion Corporation, Handsome Jack (Dameon Clarke) is first encountered as the principal antagonist of Borderlands 2, while the Pre-Sequel features him as a NPC whose rise to power is assisted by the player. After his death at the end of Borderlands 2, Jack reappears in Tales from the Borderlands as an AI personality. The enigmatic "Angel" who guides the players through Borderlands (voiced by Jennifer Green, portrayed in video by Brittani Johnson) is in the sequel revealed to be Jack's daughter.

Also appearing across multiple games are several NPCs who act as vendors and quest-givers. They include the erratic researcher Patricia Tannis (Colleen Clinkenbeard), the garage owner and mechanic Scooter (Michael Neumann), the bartender and entrepreneur Mad Moxxi (Brina Palencia), the 13-year-old demolitions expert Tiny Tina (Ashly Burch), the gun company founder Mr. Torgue High-Five Flexington (Chris Rager), the gentleman hunter Sir Alistair Hammerlock (J. Michael Tatum), the junk dealer Janey Springs (Catherine Moore), the shady surgeon Dr. Zed (Ric Spiegel) and the gun merchant Marcus Kincaid (Bruce DuBose), who also narrates the opening cinematics.

In each of the three main games, the player chooses one of several player characters – "Vault Hunters" drawn to Pandora by the prospect of alien riches – but as the games support up to four-player co-op gameplay, their continuity presents these characters as having witnessed the events of each game together. The player characters of the first Borderlands appear as NPCs in the later games. They are Roland, a stoic soldier (voiced by Oliver Tull in Borderlands and Markus Lloyd in Borderlands 2), Lilith, a "Siren" with psychic powers (Colleen Clinkenbeard), Mordecai, a hunter and sniper with a pet bird-of-prey (Julio Cedillo / Jason Liebrecht), and Brick, a strongman brawler (Marcus Mauldlin).

The main protagonists of Borderlands 2 are Axton, a renegade soldier (Robert McCollum), Maya, another Siren (Martha Harms), Salvador (John Swasey), a short-statured and short-tempered "gunzerker", and Zer0, an enigmatic masked assassin (Michael Turner). Through DLC, two additional characters were added: Gaige, the "Mechromancer" (Cherami Leigh), a young girl with a flying killer robot, and Krieg (Jason Douglas), a deranged berserker with a split personality.

All but two of the player characters of the Pre-Sequel appeared in earlier games as NPCs. Athena is a renegade assassin formerly employed by Atlas, and was encountered in a DLC campaign in Borderlands. Nisha Kadam (Stephanie Young), a bounty hunter and eventually Jack's girlfriend, goes on to be killed by the players in Borderlands 2 – as does Wilhelm (Bryan Massey), a cyborg mercenary obsessed with transhumanism. The other two player characters of the Pre-Sequel, available through DLC, are Timothy (Dameon Clarke), a body double of Handsome Jack, and Lady Aurelia Hammerlock (Kenneisha Thompson), Alistair's sister and skilled big game hunter.

Tales from the Borderlands, set at the latest point in the games' continuity, introduces two protagonists: the Hyperion company man Rhys (Troy Baker), and the con artist Fiona (Laura Bailey).


Shortly after the corporation Dahl leaves the planet at the start of Borderlands, four Vault Hunters arrive to seek out the Vault. They are guided by a mysterious entity, the Guardian Angel, that lives within the planet's communication EchoNet system, to collect pieces of the Vault Key, but warned that the Vault can only be accessed every 200 years, and that time is soon approaching, urging them onward. They eventually complete the Key and locate the Vault, but on opening, it releases a giant monster. They fight off the monster and push it back into the Vault, which then closes, leaving Pandora safe.

In the Pre-Sequel, Jack, a low-level programmer for Hyperion, discovers another Vault on Pandora's moon, Elpis, and hires four more Vault Hunters, including Athena, to seek it in the wake of the first Vault's closure. With the Vault Hunters' help, Jack is able to seize control of Helios, the Hyperion space station in orbit between Pandora and Elpis, and uses its resources to secure the Vault with the help of the Hunters. Inside, there is only a strange artifact in the shape of the Vault symbol, but when Jack touches it, he experiences visions of "the Warrior"'s eminent release. Jack starts to go mad with power, and Lilith punches the artifact into his face, disfiguring him forever. Jack assumes his mask, becoming Handsome Jack, and takes over Hyperion as he swear vengeance on the Vault Hunters.

Within Borderlands 2, four new Hunters have arrived to find a new Vault that has been discovered on Pandora, but Handsome Jack uses his vast array of Hyperion resources to try to stop them. The new Hunters are further guided by the Guardian Angel, who is revealed to be Jack's daughter, having dying from excessive psychic powers that she had. Jack had used the Angel to trick the first Vault Hunters to opening the Vault on Pandora to gain access to eridium, a material with untold properties, and these Vault Hunters, now aware of Jack's involvement, also come to the new Hunters' aid. While they find the Vault, Jack arrives and joins them as they open it, and he summons forth the Warrior, another gigantic creature, which he wants to use to control Pandora and beyond. The Vault Hunters defeat the Warrior and leave Jack to his death before the Vault closes up again.

Some time after these events, in Tales of the Borderlands, the absence of Jack's control leaves a power void on both Panadora and Hyperion. A Hyperion lackey, Rhys, and a con artist Fiona get caught up in events over the sale of a fake vault key to Rhys' superior for ten million dollars. They discover that there is another vault, the Vault of the Traveler, controlled by a robot named Gortys. As they collect the scattered parts of Gortys, Rhys inadvertently downloads a copy of Handsome Jack's personality into his cybernetic mind, and once back on Helios, Jack takes over the entire station. Rhys and Fiona stop Jack, and cause the station to crash into Pandora, wiping out Jack's personality for good. They then help defeat the Traveler, another giant monster, freeing Gortys and leaving the Vault to be explored.

Main series[edit]

Timeline of release years
2012Borderlands 2
Borderlands Legends
2014Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!
Tales from the Borderlands
2015Borderlands: The Handsome Collection


Borderlands was released in 2009, and combines traditional first-person shooter gameplay with character-building elements found in role-playing games, leading Gearbox to call the game a "role-playing shooter". Players choose to play as one of four characters: Lilith the Siren, Mordecai the Hunter, Brick the Berserker, and Roland the Soldier. The game awards experience points for enemies killed and objectives completed, as well as encouraging skillful gameplay by granting bonuses to more difficult actions such as headshots. Earned experience builds toward the threshold of the next level. Leveling up provides the player with additional "skill points", which are used to select various skills that allow character specialization.

In addition to various melee weaponry, the character can wield an array of firearms, grenades, and specialized weaponry, which are procedurally generated to provide a rich variety of loot. The game supports solo play as well as a cooperative mode for up to four players. A New Game Plus mode allows players to replay the game with the same character at a higher difficulty level.

The game is set on the planet Pandora, contested by bandits, mercenaries of interstellar corporations, dangerous wildlife and, eventually, eldritch alien abominations. As a "Vault Hunter", guided by the mysterious "Guardian Angel", the player is searching for a fabled vault full of alien loot. Borderlands is characterized by its offbeat humor and a cartoonish, cel-shaded art style.

About 4.5 million copies of the game had been sold worldwide by 2011, an unexpected success for Gearbox. Borderlands received positive reviews, with an aggregate Metacritic score of 81 to 86, depending on the platform. It was complemented by four DLC packs: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, and Claptrap's New Robot Revolution.

Borderlands 2[edit]

The sequel to Borderlands, released in 2012, picked up the setting and gameplay mechanics of its predecessor. Again, players control one of four (or, with DLC, six) Vault Hunters, while the four player characters of the original game re-appear as non-player characters. The story, written by Anthony Burch, focuses on the players' struggle with Handsome Jack, the megalomaniacal CEO of the Hyperion corporation, who seeks control of Pandora's mineral riches and alien artifacts.

Gearbox released four DLC campaigns that continue the main game's story (Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty, Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage, Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt and Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep). In addition, several DLC packs introducing two new player characters, more character development possibilities and quests have been released.

Even more so than the first game, Borderlands 2 was an unexpected critical and commercial success. It was one of the best-selling games of 2012, and has become the best-selling game in the history of its publisher 2K Games, with 8.5 million copies sold by February 2014.[3] The game received aggregate Metacritic scores of 89 to 91, depending on the platform.

A port of Borderlands 2 for the PlayStation Vita handheld was released in 2014, offering the full game and some of its DLC,[4] but limited to two-person multiplayer.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel![edit]

Announced in April 2014, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! was developed by 2K Australia and released for PS3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC in October 2014, as well as for Mac OS later in 2014. It is set on Elpis, the moon of Pandora, and its story – occurring between the events of the first two games – covers the rise of Handsome Jack to power. The game features four of Jack's henchmen as playable characters: Athena the Gladiator, Wilhelm the Enforcer, Nisha the Lawbringer and the robot Claptrap, "the Fragtrap". Jack's body double Timothy Lawrence and Sir Hammerlock's sister Aurelia were added later as DLC player characters. New game mechanics include the use of oxygen tanks and a boost jump.

The game was re-released in 2015 as part of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, a compilation and port of Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel! for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.[5]

Future Borderlands game[edit]

In February 2014, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford stated that the studio was not yet working on a third installment in the franchise, stating that it would have to be "massive", but "we don't know what that is yet. We can imagine what it must achieve, but we don't know what it is yet."[6] However, at a panel during PAX South in January 2015, Pitchford announced that the studio was preparing to begin work on a new Borderlands game—which he described as "the big one", and began to offer a number of new staff openings related to the game. The game will be developed specifically for eighth-generation consoles such as Xbox One and PlayStation 4.[7][8] Pitchford confirmed at the April 2016 PAX East convention that a Borderlands sequel will be Gearbox's next game after Battleborn, though are not sure if this will be called Borderlands 3. Battleborn's art director Scott Kester will be doing the same for this title, with a story written by Mikey Neumann (who provides the voice of Scooter), and directed by Randy Varnell.[9]

In April 2015, the creator and franchise director of the Borderlands series, Matt Armstrong, left Gearbox Software.[10]

During the 2017 Game Developers Conference, Pitchford presented a Borderlands 3 tech demo based on Unreal Engine 4.[11]

Spin-off games[edit]

Borderlands Legends[edit]

To coincide with the release of Borderlands 2, the iOS spin-off game Borderlands Legends was released on 31 October 2012 for iOS devices. It is more of a strategy game than a RPG and is played from a top-down perspective with players controlling all four Vault hunters from Borderlands.[12] The game received mixed reviews and an aggregate Metacritic score of 52 out of 100. IGN gave the game a review score of 6.5/10 saying that the game was "a good idea dragged down by its inconsistent execution and lack of content."[13]

Tales from the Borderlands[edit]

Tales from the Borderlands is a more narrative- and character-driven,[14] episodic game developed by Telltale Games with collaboration from Gearbox Software, featuring returning and new characters from the Borderlands games. Its five episodes were published between November 2014[15] to October 2015 for multiple platforms.

The game follows two protagonists, the con artist Fiona and the Hyperion company man Rhys, as they somewhat questionably recount the plot of the game. Telltale Games aimed to incorporate two characteristics of the Borderlands series, gunplay and offbeat humor, into Tales from the Borderlands.[16]

Borderlands Online[edit]

Borderlands Online was to be a China-exclusive online shooter game for PC and mobile devices, developed by 2K China and Gearbox Software, and published and operated by Shanda Games. It was slated to be released in 2015,[17][18] but was cancelled in November 2015 when 2K China was closed because of profitability concerns.[19]

Other media[edit]


The soundtrack for Borderlands, written by Jesper Kyd, Raison Varner, Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan (Sonic Mayhem), was published as Borderlands: Original Soundtrack in 2009, featuring 27 tracks.

The soundtrack for the sequel, by the same composers, was published as Borderlands 2: Original Soundtrack in 2012, featuring 23 tracks. Soundtrack albums for several DLC campaigns were released separately.

Comic series[edit]

Four issues of a comic miniseries, Borderlands: Origins, were published in print and digitally in November 2012. The series was written by Mikey Neumann and the artist Agustin Padilla, published by IDW. It tells the story of how the original four Vault Hunters came to be together at the beginning of Borderlands, filling in their backstory and setting up the events of both games.[20] Those are the titles:

  • Borderlands: Origins Roland
  • Borderlands: Origins Lilith
  • Borderlands: Origins Mordecai
  • Borderlands: Origins Brick
  • Borderlands: Origins Collected Edition

A second series, Borderlands: Fall of Fyrestone, also by Neumann and Padilla, was published in eight issues between July 2014 and April 2015. It followed the events of the first Borderlands game.[citation needed]

  • Borderlands: Fall of Fyrestone #1 (July 2014)
  • Borderlands: Fall of Fyrestone #2 (August 2014)
  • Borderlands: Fall of Fyrestone #3 (October 2014)
  • Borderlands: Fall of Fyrestone #4 (November 2014)
  • Borderlands: Fall of Fyrestone #5 Tannis & The Vault Part 1 (December 2014)
  • Borderlands: Fall of Fyrestone #6 Tannis & The Vault Part 2 (January 2015)
  • Borderlands: Fall of Fyrestone #7 Tannis & The Vault Part 3 (March 2015)
  • Borderlands: Fall of Fyrestone #8 Tannis & The Vault Part 4 (April 2015)

A video game art book, The Art of Borderlands 2, is available.


Pocket Books published three Borderlands novels by John Shirley, covering Roland and Mordecai's origins and their adventures after the events of Borderlands:[21]

  • Borderlands: The Fallen (22 November 2011), ISBN 978-1439198476
  • Borderlands: Unconquered (25 September 2012), ISBN 978-1439198483
  • Borderlands: Gunsight (1 October 2013), ISBN 978-1439198490


A film adaptation of Borderlands is being developed as a tentpole movie by Lionsgate as of April 2016, with Avi and Ari Arad producing.[22] A May 2015 media report summarized the premise of the film as follows: "When a nearby star's gravitational pull unearths horrifying alien creatures hidden deep below the surface, the surviving colonists retreat to a vault rumored to contain advanced alien technology".[23] The screenplay will be written by Aaron Berg, and the film is expected to be R-rated.[24]


  1. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (21 August 2015). "Grand Theft Auto series has shipped over 220m copies". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  2. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (July 16, 2012). "How many weapons are in Borderlands 2?". Eurogamer. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  3. ^ Ronaghan, Neal (3 February 2014). "Borderlands 2 Now Highest-Selling 2K Game Ever". IGN. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  4. ^ "Borderlands 2 Vita Review". IGN. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  5. ^ "Borderlands: The Handsome Collection bundles previous two games for PS4 and Xbox One". GamesRadar. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  6. ^ Crecente, Brian (14 February 2014). "Borderlands 3 isn't being made, but two new Gearbox IP are". Polygon. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  7. ^ Maiberg, Emmanuel (25 January 2015). "Gearbox Is Ready to Start the Next Borderlands Game". GameSpot. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  8. ^ Makuch, Eddie (3 February 2015). "New Borderlands Being Made "Specifically For Next-Gen"". Gamespot. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  9. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (April 22, 2016). "Gearbox confirms that Borderlands 3 will be its next game". Eurogamer. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  10. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (2015-04-20). "Borderlands creator departs from Gearbox". Retrieved 2015-06-25.
  11. ^ Macy, Seth G. (2017-03-01). "Borderlands 3 Early Tech Demo Shows Off Unreal Engine 4 Progress So Far". IGN. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
  12. ^ "Borderlands Legends Mobile Game Now Available on iOS". October 31, 2012.
  13. ^ "Borderlands Legends". Metacritic. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  14. ^ Corriea, Alexa Ray (23 December 2013). "How Telltale teamed up with 'Game of Thrones' and Borderlands". Polygon. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  15. ^ Farokhmanesh, Megan (7 December 2013). "Telltale teaming up with Gearbox for Tales from the Borderlands". Polygon. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  16. ^ McElroy, Griffin (8 March 2014). "Tales from the Borderlands stars two lying, greedy Pandorians". Polygon. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  17. ^ Jou, Eric (8 December 2014). "Borderlands Online Lands In China in 2015". Kotaku. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  18. ^ "Borderlands Online official website (in Chinese)". Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  19. ^ Weber, Rachel (6 November 2015). "Take-Two Interactive closes 2K China". Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  20. ^ "Borderlands: Origins #1 Preview". IGN. 2012-11-12. Retrieved 2012-11-19.
  21. ^ Owen Good (November 19, 2011), "Borderlands Hits Shelves Tuesday — as a Novel", Kotaku, retrieved December 3, 2012
  22. ^ McNary, Dave (August 28, 2015). "'Borderlands' Videogame Movie in Works at Lionsgate". Variety.
  23. ^ "'Saw' and 'Insidious' Co-Creator Leigh Whannell In Talks To Make 'Borderlands' Movie". Omega Underground. 18 May 2015. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  24. ^ Ford, Rebecca (April 25, 2016). "'Borderlands' Movie Taps 'Section 6' Writer to Pen Script (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 25, 2016.