Borderlands (video game series)

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Playable characters from Borderlands
Type Role-Playing, First-Person Shooter
Launch Date October 20, 2009
Status Active
Product Line Borderlands, Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Tales from the Borderlands
Platform Xbox 360/One, PlayStation 3/4/Vita, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
is an action role-playing, first-person shooter video game series created by Gearbox Software. This series is primarily comprised of three main series games: Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Due to the success of the original series, Telltale Games created an episodic adventure standalone game only based off the world of Borderlands, known now as Tales From the Borderlands[1]. These games center around gaining different items (loot) in the form of weapons, armor, and other gear in order to better defeat a plethora of enemies, including bandits, bosses, and alien life forms on the fictitious planet of Pandora in pursuit of additional hordes of treasure within 'vaults'.


Gearbox Software logo

Borderlands was developed by Gearbox Software, published by 2K Games, and released on October 20, 2009 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC[2]. Following the game's release, four expansions were released to add additional story content to the base game. These included The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned on November 24, 2009[3], Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot on December 29, 2009[4], The Secret Armory of General Knoxx on February 23, 2010[5], and Claptrap's New Robot Revolution on September 28, 2010[6].

2K Games publishing studio logo

A sequel to the Borderlands, titled Borderlands 2, was released on September 18, 2012, and was again developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games[7]. Borderlands 2 saw the release of more downloadable content than its predecessor, Borderlands. Borderlands 2 had four main expansions much like its predecessor: 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's Keep. In addition to these primary expansions, two additional playable characters were added with Gaige the Mechromancer and Krieg the Psycho. Moreover, small mini-campaign expansions were released in the form of four "headhunter" packs: TK Baha's Harvest, The Horrible Hunger of the Ravenous Wattle Gobbler, How Marcus Saved Mercenary Day, and Sir Hammerlock and the Son of Crawmerax. Further downloadable content was released in the form of 30 character customization item packs, two level cap increases which also added new items, and several other pieces of content[8].

A prequel to Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, was released on October 14, 2014 and was developed by 2K Australia with permission from Gearbox Software[9]. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel had comparable amounts of additional content releases to the first title in the series, Borderlands. The Pre-Sequel released two additional playable characters, the Handsome Jack Doppelganger and Lady Hammerlock the Baroness; one campaign expansion, the Claptastic Voyage; and a battle arena, the Shock Drop Slaughter Pit[10].



Borderlands game promotional image

Borderlands begins on the fictitious alien planet of Pandora where bandits, aliens, and corporations are constantly murdering one other for a variety of reasons which the player can discover through game play and side quests. Immediately the four playable protagonists are introduced: the soldier Roland, the hunter Mordecai, the berserker Brick, and the siren Lilith. These characters are introduced as Vault Hunters, a classification for individuals who are in search of a Vault. Vault are rumored to contain immense amounts of incredibly powerful and valuable weaponry. Our four Vault Hunters are guided by an artificial intelligence of unknown origin, Angel, whose purpose is to help them open the Vault. Along the way, the Vault Hunters also help many locals with various issues they have generally solved by murdering bandits and aliens or by collecting items from corpses. Completing these missions to help locals have rewards in the form of experience to level up a character as well as interesting weapon options for gameplay.

As the story progresses, several alien artifacts are collected by the Vault Hunters by defeating and taking them from bandit leaders they've killed. These artifacts together form the Vault Key which is necessary to open the Vault and complete their overarching mission. As the Vault Hunters are out finding the fourth piece to the Vault Key, it is revealed that only three pieces exist and that the Dahl Corporation is responsible for tricking the Vault Hunters into searching for a non-existent piece. The Dahl Corporation, at this time, also reveals that they have cut off the network allowing for communication with Angel and taken and imprisoned the scientist, Tannis, who has been working on repairing the Vault Key for the Vault Hunters. The Vault Hunters must rescue Tannis and restore the connection to Angel before attempting to reach the Vault and stop the Dahl Corporation lead by commander Steele from opening the Vault. Arriving just too late, the now open Vault is revealed not to contain a horde of loot but rather a giant monster, the Destroyer, which has just murdered commander Steele and many of his subordinates. The Vault Hunters slay the Destroyer, but are unable to receive the loot behind its doors, and the vault is locked for another two-hundred years[11].

Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2 takes place after the story of Borderlands. In the new installment, the opening of the first Vault revealed the location of a second vault. Once again the player is on the planet of Pandora, with a new cast of playable Vault Hunters: the siren Maya, the assassin Zer0, the soldier Axton, the gunzerker Salvador, the mechromancer Gaige, and the psycho Krieg. The main antagonist and leader of the Hyperion corporation, Handsome Jack, is introduced and blows up the train the Vault Hunters are on, leaving them stranded. The Vault Hunters scavenge and fight their way to Sanctuary, a refuge founded by Roland the soldier from the first game, guided by Angel who guided the Vault Hunters in the first game.

Borderlands 2 game promotional image

Roland, however, has been captured and a lead points to the Firehawk. The firehawk turns out to be Lilith the siren who returns to Sanctuary to help the player. The Vault Hunters find out that Roland has been captured by bandits and is being held prisoner. After the Vault Hunters rescue him, Roland informs the Vault Hunters that Handsome Jack plans on opening the new Vault and controlling the power that lurks inside. Roland then instructs them to rendezvous with Mordecai who has been gathering information on Handsome Jack.

After meeting with Mordecai, the Vault Hunter is informed that Handsome Jack is currently transporting the Vault Key on a nearby train. The Vault Hunters set out to intercept the train and retrieve the key. It turns out that the train was a setup, and Handsome Jack's strongest cybernetic soldier, Wilhelm, was guarding the empty train waiting for the Vault Hunters to take the bait so that he may kill them. After defeating Wilhelm, the Vault Hunters receive Wilhelm's power core which contains enough energy to power the city of Sanctuary indefinitely.

Upon installing the power core, Sanctuary's shields are disabled. At this point Handsome Jack reveals that he had poisoned Wilhelm so that he would be killed by the Vault Hunters in hopes that they would take the power core which he set up to bring down Sanctuary. This causes the city to enter a defensive measure where it begins to fly.

Next, the Vault Hunters seek to recover various pieces to get to where Handsome Jack is keeping the Vault Key so that it may be destroyed including recruiting Brick who was playable in the first game. Upon arriving, it is revealed that Angel who has been guiding the player is not an artificial intelligence but is instead a Siren and Handsome Jack's daughter who has been forced to charge the Vault Key. She asks the Vault Hunters to destroy the pumps which are supplying her with Eridium which is keeping her alive and enhancing her Siren powers so that she will no longer have to help Handsome Jack. Upon fulfilling her request, Angel dies. Handsome Jack shows up furious, murders Roland, and captures Lilith the siren so that she may finish charging the key.

The Vault Hunters then steal a map from Handsome Jack's Hyperion data center in order to find the location of the Vault and stop Handsome Jack before he opens the Vault and rescue Lilith. Upon making it through the Hero's Pass, the Vault Hunters arrive at the Vault only to watch as the Vault Key finishes charging. Handsome Jack proceeds to open the Vault and awaken the monster inside, the Warrior, who Handsome Jack now controls. After defeating the Warrior, the Vault Hunters kill Handsome Jack and rescue Lilith preventing the destruction of Pandora at Handsome Jack's hands.[12]

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel game promotional image

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was released as a prequel to Borderlands 2, the sequel to Borderlands. As a result, its story takes place between the story of Borderlands and Borderlands 2. The story begins on Pandora's moon, Helios, with a programmer for the Hyperion corporation named Jack who has assembled a team of Vault Hunters: the gladiator Athena, the enforcer Wilhelm, the fragtrap Claptrap, the lawbringer Nisha, a Jack doppelganger, and the baroness Aurelia. While aboard the Hyperion moon base, the Dahl corporation, lead by Colonel Zarpedon, begins an assault to which the Vault Hunters along with Jack attempt to use the defense systems to defend against the attack only to find out that there is something on the moon's surface jamming the system. The Vault Hunters are sent to the surface to search for and destroy the source of the jamming signal. The jamming signal is found to be coming from Concordia, a large city run by the Meriff who is both the mayor and sheriff. After the signal is disabled and Jack kills the Meriff, the Vault Hunters along with Jack seek a Dahl artificial intelligence which Jack wants to use to create a robot army. Upon doing so, Jack gains access to a robot army at his disposal.

Jack, the Vault Hunters, and the robot army then begin to try and take a Dahl super weapon, the Eye of Helios, by force. The group reaches the core only to have the weapon destroyed by false information fed to them by Moxxi who Jack believed to be helping him. Moxxi, fearing what would happen if Jack gained control of the weapon, caused its destruction rather than the takeover. During this time, it is revealed by Colonel Zarpedon with her dying breath that the Vault on the surface of the moon has already been opened.

Jack and the Vault Hunters fight their way past many alien-like creatures guarding the Vault until they reach its center where the Sentinel awaits. Upon defeating the Sentinel, a symbol begins floating in the air which shows Jack visions of opening a Vault on Pandora and controlling the Warrior which dwells within. Lilith suddenly shows up and punches the symbol into Jack's face destroying it and brandishing the Hyperion employee who has ascended to the corporation's president. Jack, who would become Handsome Jack after donning a handsome mask to hide the wound inflicted by Lilith, then swears vengeance and begins plotting to control the Warrior as he does in Borderlands 2.

Tales from the Borderlands

Tales from the Borderlands game promotional image

Tales from the Borderlands was released in November of 2014 as a spin-off from the original Borderlands series and was developed by Telltale Games. It differs from other games in the Borderlands Series in that it is an episodic point-and-click video game. The player can move their character within certain parts of the world's environment and interact with certain objects and characters. The gameplay is determined from the start, feature complex conversation trees and the opportunity to change elements of the story through choices made by the player. This iteration of the series takes place in the Borderlands universe on the planet Pandora when it is discovered that multiple Vaults exist throughout the universe after the conclusion of Borderlands 2. The story follows two protagonists - Rhys, a Hyperion employee and Fiona, a con artist. The story focuses on their journey as they hunt for a Vault once its key is discovered on Pandora. The game was released in five episodes over the course of approximately a year:

  1. Zer0 Sum - The game starts in the middle of the story, when a stranger kidnaps Rhys and Fiona and forces them under gunpoint to recount their experience with the Gortys Project. Rhys and his best friend Vaughn overhear that Hugo Vasquez is buying a Vault key from sellers on Pandora. They decide to steal a briefcase of Hyperion's money to buy it first as a way to antagonize Vasquez after Rhys' demotion at the company. However, the key is a fake created by Fiona and her family. The money is stolen, and the group (Rhys, Sasha, Fiona, Vaughn, and Loader Bot) starts on a quest to recover it in fear of being killed for having stole it. Rhys installs an upgrade to his cybernetics containing an artificial intelligence version the old CEO of Hyperion, Handsome Jack.
  2. Atlas Mugged - Following leads from Handsome Jack, they discover the Gortys project and set off to find the real key and open the Vault. They collect the parts required to build the Gortys project. Vasquez repeatedly tracks down Rhys and Vaughn, and attempts to get back the stolen money and Gortys parts, but escape from his grasp.
  3. Catch a Ride - Vasquez is killed by a vault hunter named Molly. The group meets Athena, who was hired to protect Fiona and her sister Sasha. It is discovered that Gortys was created by Atlas to locate the teleporting Vault of the Traveler. Atlas was unable to be completed because Athena killed all of their employees. The group completes Gortys' assembly, save for the final upgrade, in preparation for her activation in a later episode.
  4. Escape Plan Bravo - Athena, and Vaughn are rescued. The final upgrade is secured from Handsome Jack's office. Handsome Jack reveals his true motives, offering Rhys a corporate takeover of Hyperion in exchange for betraying his friends. Rhys refuses, depending on the player's choices.
  5. The Vault of the Traveler - Jack tries to take over Rhys' body by grafting it into a robotic endoskeleton. Fiona and Sasha activate Gortys, which is used to defeat the guardian of the Vault. Handsome Jack is defeated. Rhys and Fiona open the Vault, enter it, and are teleported to an unknown location.

Ethical Issues


Violent gameplay from Borderlands series

This game series is very violent, with the first game in the series having the most gore. Borderlands revolves around killing people in missions that are required to complete and win the game. There are no options available to refuse. The combat depicts limbs being blown off, intestines, blood splattering, flesh being corroded by acid, burned to death, or, in the case of the first game, skulls exploding leaving brains exposed and eyes popping as the result of electrocution. It is often debated whether or not violent video games cause violent tendencies[13] or not[14]. As a result, violent video games are often the subject to controversy. However, arguments have also been made that illustrate that violent video games are not much different than movies or TV shows containing similar levels of violence and gore[15]. Debates continue to revolve around the idea that controlling a character who commits violent acts may be more detrimental to children compared to seeing these acts committed second-hand.

The original counter to critics regarding the violence in video games like Borderlands resides in Penn & Teller's "Smoke and Mirrors" mini-game, Desert Bus. A Sega game in which players drive a bus from Tuscon to Las Vegas in real time at 45mph. The game takes eight hours to complete the trip and showcases how bland and monotonous a game without thoughtful choice is. The purpose was to create a game that was as inoffensive and realistic as possible as an alternative to "violent games". The game was never truly adopted and only gained popularity as a cult classic rather than something gamers would willingly want to play[16].


Borderlands has various glitches and third-party tools which can be used to bypass certain aspects of the game and gain advantages which are not otherwise obtainable such as using a program called Gibbed to generate any gun in the game or even create powerful guns that do not exist[17], duplicating weapons with other players [18], or bypassing game boundaries to access in accessible locations[19]. As described by philosopher Mia Consalvo, "there are many groups of people that define the implications of cheating differently"[20]. Whether abusing glitches hurts another player's experience or not is definitely possible through some of these games (as a player can create a completely single-player experience) but can cause no lasting issues. Thus, cheating in the Borderlands series is possible but the moral implications are subject to personal opinion.

A notable example of cheating in the Borderlands series arose in Borderlands 2. The cheat involved players using modified hardware on the Xbox 360 to cause any character that dies in the game to permanently die and subsequently deleted the save file for a player's game. This bug was dubbed the 'graveyard bug' by fans due to characters permanently dying rather than respawning as they normally would. A player's save file could be infected with the graveyard bug if they joined a player using the modified hardware[21]. A player with modified hardware could leave the game lobby open and wait while other players would randomly be placed in their game. This would cause all of those players to lose that character on death. This bug allows players a sense of control over other players in a manner which hinders the enjoyment of the game for those affected in a direct act of indecency[22].


Following the release of Borderlands 2, players drew issues with a young white character named Tiny Tina who spoke in a manner of a common racial stereotype for African-Americans. Despite the writers intending this character to be a quirky child, some described the character as "verbal blackface." Anthony Burch, Borderland 2's lead writer, confirmed that in future iterations of the game, Tina's dialogue would be altered with this feedback, although changing Tina's current dialogue is not feasible.[23]


Within the series of Borderlands, many characters are canonically portrayed as being either bisexual or homosexual. This has caused certain fans to question why such a high proportion of characters of varying sexualities are present within the game, reasoning that this branding on a character makes the trait feel tacky and forced rather than progressive and important[24]. Others, however, find comfort in finding their sexual preferences represented in mainstream media[25]. More controversy in regards to the innate nature of the game and the values of its developers came with one of the first DLC (Downloadable Content) patches for Borderlands 2 which included a new character archetype known as the "Mechromancer." The controversy surrounding this character was sparked after a remark by lead game designer John Hemingway that one of the skill trees (one of the routes a player my follow when upgrading their character's abilities) could be considered "girlfriend mode." [26] This statement was made in reference to how the skill tree in question made the combat-based content in the game extremely easy to overcome, hence making the game playable even for the female counterparts of the main core male demographic. This statement has given rise to backlash from communities of gamers upset with the continued support for the stereotype that females are worse at videogames (particularly those involving mechanical skill or concentration) than males.

See Also


  2. Borderlands
  3. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, Borderlands DLC
  4. Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, Borderlands DLC
  5. The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, Borderlands DLC
  6. Claptrap's New Robot Revolution, Borderlands DLC
  7. Borderlands 2
  8. Borderlands 2 DLC
  9. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
  10. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel DLC
  11. Perton, Brandon. "Borderlands STORY Is Good Enough and That’s All It Has to Be."
  12. Borderlands 2 Story Missions
  13. Anderson, Craig A, and Brad J Bushman. “Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior, Aggressive Cognition, Aggressive Affect, Physiological Arousal, and Prosocial Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature.” Sage Journals, Psychological Science, 1 Sept. 2001.
  14. Jerabeck, Jessica M, and Christopher J Ferguson. “The Influence of Solitary and Cooperative Violent Video Game Play on Aggressive and Prosocial Behavior.” Computers in Human Behavior, Pergamon, 14 July 2013
  17. Gibbed, Borderlands Save Editor
  18. Borderlands Cheats
  19. Amini, Tina. “The Worst Thing Players Did in Borderlands Made It Better.” Kotaku,, 4 Apr. 2012
  20. Consalvo, Mia. (2007). Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  21. Major bug deletes player characters in Borderlands 2 for Xbox 360. BBC News. Oct. 31, 2012.
  22. Consalvo, Mia. (2007). Cheating: The Cheaters. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  23. Savage, Phil. “Borderlands 2's Tiny Tina Accused of Conveying Racism, Writer Says He May Change Her in Future.” PC Gamer, PC Gamer THE GLOBAL AUTHORITY ON PC GAMES, 4 Feb. 2013
  24. Why are there so many homosexual characters in Borderlands?
  25. W, Nico. “Borderlands & Asexual Representation: How I Discovered My Sexuality While Playing a First-Person Shooter.” The Mary Sue, The Mary Sue, 3 Nov. 2015
  26. Borderlands 2: Gearbox reveals the Mechromancer's "girlfriend mode" [1]
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