Video Game: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!

Take a ride on the Black Dragon...

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! is the third Space Western/FPS/Action RPG game in the Borderlands series, released on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, Mac, and Linux. Set as an Interquel between Borderlands and Borderlands 2, the game opens with future villain Handsome Jack desperate to escape and reclaim the Hyperion moon-base he was banished to. Hiring a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to act as his henchmen, the player characters this time include two villains and two NPCs who appeared in previous instalments:

  • Athena the Gladiator: A former Crimson Lance assassin first introduced in The Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC of the first game. Effectively the only morally decent protagonist as well as the game's narrator, her trees are built around her specialist equipment: she carries a Xiphos and a Kinetic Aspis (energy sword and energy shield respectively), the latter of which allows for absorbing and reflecting damage by throwing attacks. Other key abilities cover: elemental, shield, and ally-buffs; a "pinball ricochet" ability; and a tethering power.
  • Wilhelm the Enforcer: A cyborg mercenary, who would go on to become Jack's right-hand man, and later act as the mecha boss in Borderlands 2 mission "A Train to Catch." His Action Skill lets him deploy Wolf and Saint, two drones that assault enemies and defend allies respectively. Notably, purchasing upgrades for Wilhelm's central tree results in his voice becoming synthesized and mechanical augmentations replacing body parts.
  • Nisha the Lawbringer: A sociopathic gunslinger who would eventually become the Sheriff of Lynchwood and Jack's significant other, as well as an optional boss of the "Showdown" mission in the second game. Her Action Skill, titled "Showdown", makes the screen fade to sepia while buffing her stats and automatically locking onto enemies. Notable upgrades involve building "Order" and "Wanted" stacks to boost stats, dual-wielding pistols, as well as being able to turn her enemies into bombs.
  • Claptrap the Fragtrap: The series mascot himself, now playable for the first time and capable of climbing stairs now. He was re-purposed as a combat unit forced to follow Jack's orders because his programming says so. His Action Skill effectively rolls a random number to determine which ability (of several) happens, which can go either way; pressing could make him "Funzerk" like Salvador, force all players to toss out grenades uncontrollably, or trigger uncontrollable dancing. In a nutshell, his perk trees involve specializing in explosive damage, buffing his allies in hopes of getting them to like him and completely randomized stat boosts.
  • "Jack" the Doppelganger: The first DLC character, released on November 11th, 2014: A body double of the man himself. His Action Skill allows him to spawn two digistructed duplicates of himself to attack his enemies, with another stepping in its place if one falls. His skill trees are focused on strengthening his Digi-Jacks, strengthening himself by letting his allies die in his place and buffs based on equipment management.
  • Aurelia the Baroness: The second DLC character. The aristocratic sister of Sir Hammerlock, she came to Pandora on vacation only to be wrangled up with Jack and his entourage. Her Action Skill involves throwing her Frost Diadem Charm at enemies, which automatically homes in on enemies and can freeze them solid. She specializes in the Cryo element and sniping, having skills that increase her damage if she misses with a shot, or does more damage the further the distance away from the target she is. She also has an entire tree dedicated to a Master-Servant relationship with other players, giving both benefits and buffs in exchange for them taking damage in her stead.

Seeing locations set in space, players are forced to act on Handsome Jack's behalf. This starts with good intentions, as Handsome Jack claims to be saving the moon, and will descend into the ethically questionable; surprisingly, it doesn't work out well. It is mainly being developed by 2K Australia this time around, with series creator Gearbox Software providing collaboration and support. Borderlands 2 lead writer Anthony Burch worked with 2K Australia's writers for the game.

The Season Pass is set to cover all DLC released for the game. The DLC includes:

  • Handsome Jack Doppelganger Pack: Unlocks the Doppelganger character as a playable class.
  • The Holodome Onslaught: Adds an arena as well as a set of new weapons and bumps the level cap up by 10.
  • Lady Hammerlock the Baroness: Adds the Baroness as a playable class.
  • Claptastic Voyage: The only campaign DLC of the game, in which the Vault Hunters must enter the mind of Claptrap in search of Hyperion secrets. Bumps the level cap by an additional 10 levels.

Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel! were re-released with all DLC included in March 2015 for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as part of The Handsome Collection.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! contains examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Roland and Lilith are met early on; when Jack and the gang try to recruit their assistance, they state that they're officially retired after the whole giant tentacled blob debacle. They get involved anyway pretty quickly.
  • 20% More Awesome: At Janey's Moon Zoomie digistruct stations, she's sometimes say "Moon Zoomies. 20% less.. explody.... than other.. uhmm... vehicles. Whatever that means."
  • Action Prologue: The game opens with the Vault Hunters crash-landing on Helios in the middle of an attack by Dahl's Lost Legion. This is a gradual increase in action-orientation. By contrast, the first game had the group getting to the first town on a bus, and the second was an attempt to survive in a frozen wasteland until the hunters could find shelter. The difference from the first game is even lampshaded.
    Mordecai: Our story just started with us getting off a bus. This is all explodey and stuff.
  • Adorkable: The future Handsome Jack is a lovable wannabe hero now. Or so it seems.
  • The Alcoholic: Moxxi's bartending Claptrap B4R-BOT is more interested in drinking alcohol than serving it.
    • Peepot, who gives you a sidequest, is so drunk that he can't remember if his best friend is a man or a woman (his friend's name is The Jolly Swagman), and when you return to him after finishing the quest, he can't remember meeting you the first time. Also, his reaction to finding out that Swagman is dead is one of disappointment, because Swagman still owed him a drink.
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: Nurse Nina is a Husky Russkie who wants a strong husband. So she orders you to try and kill her prospective suitors.
  • An Adventurer Is You: Like the previous games, each character has 3 different archetypes to pick from, or mix and match.
    • Athena:
      • The Tank: The "Aspis" skill tree focuses on use of Athena's kinetic shield, and using it to soak up damage, reflect bullets or heal allies.
      • The Scrapper: The "Xiphos" skill tree focuses on using guns with bayonets or Athena's Xiphos shield to seriously damage enemies at close range.
      • The Debuffer: The "Ceraunic Storm" skill tree focuses on boosting Athena's use of the various forms of elemental damage in the game.
    • Nisha:
      • The Mitigation Tank: "Law and Order" focuses on increasing Nisha's survivability and regaining health for dealing out pain or receiving it.
      • The Scrapper: "Fan the Hammer: focuses on dual-wielding revolvers or repeaters to deal out huge amounts of damage at close to medium range.
      • The Archer: "Riflewoman" focuses on the use of assault rifles or long-range lasers, giving bonuses to hip-firing and reducing recoil.
    • Wilhelm:
      • The Beastmaster: The "Hunter-Killer" tree upgrades Wilhelm's personal attack drone, Wolf, while increasing Wilhelm's damage with elemental weapons.
      • The Jack: The "Cyber Commando" tree focuses on giving Wilhelm cybernetic upgrades to aid himself in combat and general situations, as well as giving some to Wolf.
      • The Healer: The "Dreadnought" tree increases the healing powers of Wilhelm's medic drone, Saint, as well as increasing Wilhelm's survivability.
    • Claptrap:
      • The Nuker: "Boomtrap" focuses on use of applying explosive effects to weapons and the use of assault rifles with Torgue barrels, Torgue guns, Tediore guns and rocket launchers.
      • The Healer: "I LOVE YOU GUYS!" makes Claptrap into a dedicated medic and support class.
      • The Jack (sort of): "Fragmented Fragtrap" focuses on switching weapons and various subroutines randomly to help (or hinder) Claptrap in various situations.
    • Jack:
      • The Beastmaster: "Hero of this Story" upgrades the power of the Digi-Jacks and gives Timothy some upgrades.
      • The Avoidance Tank: "The Greater Good" lets other characters take damage instead of Timothy.
      • The Jack (No pun intended): "Free Enterprise" upgrades Jack's gun damage and gives bonuses to different manufacturers and reloading.
    • Aurelia:
      • The Archer: "The Huntress" increases Aurelia's use of sniper rifles and gives bonuses to all gun types.
      • The Debuffer: "Cold Money" focuses on Aurelia's action skill and upgrading her Cryo damage.
      • The Avoidance Tank: "Contractual Aristocracy" gives Aurelia a Master-Servant relationship with the other players, giving bonuses to them in exchange for them taking damage instead of her.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Enemy grenades are now highlighted and emit high-pitched beeping.
  • Apologetic Attacker:
    • Colonel Zarpedon explains, very calmly, that it's necessary for everyone on Elpis to die.
    • Boganella, of all things. Everything she says is so foul it would make a hardened sailor blush in embarrassment. Except for one line. Every once in a while, she'll say "My apologies for the inconvenience!" in a very feminine and lady-like manner when you kill someone with her.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • When you first reach Concordia, the CUSTM-TP will issue you a ticket for "Morally Verbal Abuse" (AKA swearing and insulting others). Looking at the ticket slapped on the broken down weapon vendor, other criminal offenses include "Temporal Causalities" and "Conservation of Energy (Second Law)".
    • A Wanted Poster for Pickle cites him for "Theft, Fraud, Larceny, Piracy, and Noise Violations".
  • Asshole Victim: Tassiter is such a snobby jerk that you can't really feel too bad about Jack murdering him.
  • Asteroids Monster: Kraggons split up into mini versions when you kill them. If a midget happens to be riding one, this will somehow result in two Kraggon-riding midgets.
  • Bad Boss: Harold Tassiter treats Jack with nothing but utter contempt and takes practically any opportunity to yell at him. As the game goes on, Jack goes from cowering before him to simply ignoring him and eventually blowing up at him, inevitably ending with him just outright murdering Tassiter.
    • And it's not just Jack he's a bad boss to, either. There's a random PA message that can play when on Helios that goes "Harold Tassiter would like to remind you that the Helios project is a waste of time and that he hates you."
  • Badass Grandma: Hyperion co-founder Alma Harren was a mercenary sniper with hundreds of kills to her name well into her golden years.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Averted. With the exception of Claptrap, players have to watch their oxygen supply in areas that are devoid of atmosphere. It ticks down at about 1 point per second, and can only be recharged by finding O2 canisters or running into oxygenated bubbles and areas of the map. Likewise, fire weapons don't work without oxygen; enemies won't ignite, but just take the initial bullet damage just the same as any other gun. The bandits need O2 as well and will go running towards these areas if a fight draws out too long or if you pop their helmets. Fortunately, oxygen canisters are common drops in outdoor areas, so you'll never be too far away from a refill spot.
  • Berserk Button: Jack does not react well to betrayal.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: The Claptraps in Jack's Office typing and banging on their computers making first-person Echo sims (ala Gearbox and 2K Australia). Talk to them and get gems like:
    Invalid - I've just decided that's a feature!
    Won't fix, won't fix, won't fix - gosh, this is easy!
    Hmm...what do I name THIS file? Ah, screw it...nobody's gonna see it anyway!
    That may LOOK great, but it'll never work on the client.
    F*** - ship it!
    More like Memelands 2. More like Memelands, the Pre-Memequel. More like Bordermemes. More like meme meme meme meme meme meme
  • Black and Gray Morality: The Lost Legion are your enemies in this game, but considering that Jack, Wilhelm, and Nisha become bad guys in Borderlands 2, who's to say you're not the bad guys yourself?
    • Grey and Gray Morality: With a couple spots of black with bandits and Nisha. As pointed out by MISTER TORGUE above, it's hard to decide who the "bad guy" really is here. At first, anyway... Is Zarpedon a villain for trying to destroy the moon and Pandora, killing thousands of people but saving the universe? Her soldiers all believe in her enough to die for her and she's never anything but sombre, regretful, dignified and determined. Is Jack the hero, a sociopath-in-waiting who's nonetheless trying to save both those planets while resorting to incredibly questionable acts such as Mind Raping an AI, venting helpless scientists into space and killing people surrendering to him? He'd definitely say so, but that's what he's always said. And what does that make you for helping him?
  • Booze-Based Buff: Moxxi's bar offers Moxxtails that give you a thirty-minute buff to a specific stat. Only one buff can be active at any time.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: One of Deadlift's men wonders what's inside a package you have him sign for.
    Be you a small kitten? Or a knife? Or a small kitten holding a knife?
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: This turns out to be Jack's role in Hyperion as he's risen through the ranks from being a lowly code monkey to the man running Helios and head of Hyperion's R&D Division on Pandora (which may be based on said station). This is part of the reason Tassiter hates Jack - he continuously goes beyond his appointed tasks and does ridiculous, crazy things on hunches with flippant or zero explanations, blowing Hyperion's resources on personal projects that make no sense to Tassiter. However, Jack proves to be a man of many talents - engineer, administrator, and computer programmer (handling the creation of the Fragtrap as well as the programming for EXP and GUN Loaders), but also a Badass Normal who joins you in the final fight against Colonel Zarpedon.
  • But He Sounds Handsome: Inverted. B4R-BOT pretends to be a different robot who coincidentally looks exactly like B4R-BOT so that he can slack off work and drink all day. Part of his airtight deception involves him complaining about how that lazy, good-for-nothing B4R-BOT is nowhere to be found.
  • Call Back: Moxxi mentions having to get Scooter to bury you alive in a shallow grave, which is exactly what he did in General Knoxx to Lucky, which is also mentioned in 2 during the Zaford/Hodunk feud.
  • Call Forward: Janey briefly flirts with Nisha before apologizing and saying Nisha isn't really her type. Nisha responds "That's okay. I like 'em handsome, anyway." Nisha, of course, is Handsome Jack's girlfriend in Borderlands 2.
    • After a particularly annoying moment with one, Jack swears that getting rid of the Claptraps will be his first action as president of Hyperion. Said and done.
    • A sidequest introduced via an update on the same day of the Holodome DLC deals with Nakayama creating the Jack AI that would go on to plague the protagonists of Tales from the Borderlands. During the sidequest, one of the questions that the players ask Jack is "How would you like to die?", to which he answers "Somewhere warm with a sexy chick nearby". Sure enough, he inevitably meets his fate in the Vault of the Warrior with Lilith right next to him.
  • Calvinball: The Don is playing a match of "Snick-It", which he admits is very ill-defined and doesn't make sense. He asks you to go fetch the ball that he just hit literally halfway across the map. As you travel and go find it, he prattles off nonsensical updates about how the "game" is going. If you manage to return the ball within the 4 minutes you have to find it, he mentions how your contributions helped him to win the game... or lose, or draw... or tie... he's not sure. He says the sport would be a smash hit with the locals on Elpis and Pandora if the rules made just a bit less sense.
  • Camp Gay: The Mega Interplanetary Ninja Assassin Claptrap returns in "Claptastic Voyage" as a bad memory that Claptrap has blocked out because he is ashamed of starting the Robolution and trying to take over Pandora. He speaks in a very flamboyant voice and asks you to turn him into a good memory so that Claptrap can remember him again. Specifically, he wants you to paint him a blinding shade of hot pink and replace his turret with a bubble blower.
  • Central Theme: Muddying the line between hero and villain.
  • Cluster Bleep Bomb/Cluster F-Bomb: The charm of Boganella, a shotgun that contains a really foul-mouthed and aggressively crude female AI. Every time you shoot, expect her to drop an F bomb. You'll be hearing a lot of bleeps the middle of a gun fight.
    F*** you in the c**t and ***, and the f***in' s**m p***e!
    Yeah, I'm getting a f***ing lady boner!
  • Combat Sadomasochist: Nisha, and it's reflected in her Law and Order tree, which is focused on getting buffs from giving and receiving damage.
  • Comically Missing the Point: A teaser has Handsome Jack reciting his own version of Ozymandias with himself in the place of the title character. He's brought up short in confusion by the line "Nothing beside remains," and changes the rest of the poem to a hymn praising his own awesomeness (and handsomeness) because if he'd taken the time to think about the poem's actual theme he wouldn't be Jack.
  • Consummate Professional: All of the Vault Hunters seem to have this as a quality (except Claptrap) with none of them believing it's time to abandon the job when an army takes over their employer's space-station.
    • Janey Springs is an odd example as she is a junk dealer and runs a print-shop as a side-business. She insists giving the bandits the posters they've ordered, even as they shoot at you.
  • Continuity Nod: In Borderlands 2, damn near everyone made a Running Gag by saying "Did Moxxi say anything about me?" In Concordia, a conversation between Janey and Crazy Earl has her puzzled. "And... she didn't mention me at all?" A female scientist up in the Hyperion Moonbase also says the line. Moxxi really gets around.
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: Usually averted, but woe be unto you if your quest giver is a Claptrap.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Falling in lava will fry you, but jumping over it is A-OK.
  • Corporate Warfare: Central to the plot: Hyperion vs. Dahl's Lost Legion. Also mentioned in backstory as common amongst the conglomerates.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Of course Jack turns into one during the course of the game, but special mention goes to Maxim Turner. Holy shit, Maxim Turner. Co-founder of Hyperion, he was a war profiteer of the highest order, and even incited the Last Corporate War, a war in which the conglomerates destroyed the central ruling government of the 6 galaxies, leading to the conglomerates' ascension into actual political powers.
  • Country Matters: The Boganella drops the c-bomb quite liberally, though like everything it says it's bleeped out.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Lilith, Roland and Moxxi inadvertently create Handsome Jack through their betrayal and eventual scarring of him. They betrayed him because they had suspicions he was deluding himself with all his talk of "heroism", and that he was actually a psychopath and a sadist. They were right. But he proved smart enough to survive the betrayal...
    • Conversely, Echo Logs near the Vault indicate that Zarpedon and her Lost Legion were content to stand vigil over the Vault, and had done so without incident for four years. It's only when she learned that Jack was searching for the Vault that she resorted to her "kill everybody" plan to stop anyone from entering the Vault.
  • Cry for the Devil: Invoked as the premise — prior to his being a deranged dictator, the game provides a mildly sympathetic Perspective Flip to explore why Jack ends up as the Big Bad. And he does wind up bad, but after a series of betrayals and traumatic experiences. It's even lampshaded by Brick, Lilith, Mordecai and Tina, who hate how the story starts off by making Jack sympathetic.
  • Cyber Punk: Possibly having the most elements in the franchise, the Pre-Sequel has actual lasers, very futuristic buildings, a massive Space Station and a ton of moral ambiguity. Also, it's less of a Space Western as it's set in a more classic SF environment.
  • Cycle of Revenge: One way to read the fight between the original Vault Hunters and Jack.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Lampshaded by the characters when Jack tells them that he plans to have a "talk" with the Meriff. Subverted however when Jack tells them that he really does mean he just wants to talk with him.
  • Death World: Elpis post-Crackening, despite only being a moon, is just as bad as, if not worse than, the planet it orbits. Because even if you put aside the lakes of liquid methane, the canyon-sized veins of lava, the wolf-lizards made of minerals, the horrid insectoid swarms, the laser-totting scavengers, the deranged paramilitary groups, the cephalopod titans that can spew acid and energy beams at you, at the very least you can BREATHE easily enough on Pandora. Not that there isn't any oxygen on Elpis. Just enough to make your asphyxiation harrowingly slow and explosions possible. On top of that, there's even less safe habitation on Elpis than Pandora, as the Crackening rendered ridiculous amounts of infrastructure on the planet unusable, and the only other safe place is a corporate fascistic space station.
  • Disc One Nuke: The E-Gun is incredibly powerful, especially against large, slower-moving targets. It can bring down even major bosses incredibly fast. However, it is something of a hidden weapon as the side-quest where you get it is never announced, and doesn't appear until long after you no longer have any reason to visit the NPC who gives it to you. You also only get the weapon if you take the "moral" option at the end of the quest instead of simply following the quest-giver's instructions. A similar weapon can be obtained from Moxxi's toybox just before storming Helios. It's not quite as strong as the E-Gun, but still very powerful.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The game reveals why Jack scrapped the Claptrap line of bots: they annoyed him. You would have thought there was a bigger, more story-driven reason for it, but no. He just doesn't like them.
  • Ditto Fighter: Fitting considering that he's the series' mascot, Claptrap's special ability allows him to randomly take on a skill, some of which are those used by the Vault Hunters of the previous game.
  • Downer Ending: On two levels. Obviously, Jack turns into the Big Bad of Borderlands 2, taking over Hyperion and becoming a vengeful, iron-fisted dictator lunatic in the pursuit of fame, power, and his delusion of "heroism"; the Hyperion Vault Hunters all survive to meet their various grim ends in the next game. In terms of the plot, they achieve what they set out to do - reclaim Helios and find the Vault on Elpis - but neither of those things turn out as advertised and many things (and lives) are lost. Enough to make you wonder whether it was worth the effort.
  • Dramatic Irony: Jack and the Pre-Sequel Vault Hunters (which include Wilhelm) betray Felicity, only for them to get betrayed by Moxxi, Roland, and Lilith, only for Jack to later betray Wilhelm via poisoning to get at them, only to get betrayed by his daughter Angel. Double points for Angel betraying the Vault Hunters of the first game.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty:
    • The Dahl Reconstruction System talks like this, in contrast to the female voice that the Hyperion New-U system uses. It isn't really all that nasty though. Less passive-aggressively insulting than the Hyperion ones, at least.
      Medivac: Dyin's good fer ya! Puts hair on yer chest.
    • The Dahl training instructor in the Training Arena for the Shock Pit of Slaughter plays the trope straight, yelling at you with all manner of euphemisms and weird army slang that makes no sense even in context.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Jack is treated like an uppity idiot by Hyperion's CEO despite being head of the Helios project and the Eridium bonanza he discovered. Subverted, later, when the Board of Directors is so impressed with Jack turning the situation around they give him their support and allow him to override Tassiter's authority. Nice Job Breaking It, Stockholders.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The army that Jack and his thugs are fighting against are threatening to destroy Elpis (and maybe Pandora after that) by way of Kill Sat through a Wave Motion Gun.
  • Earworm: In-universe, one of the sidequests of the Claptastic Voyage DLC has you fight a literal Ear Worm, which takes the form of a Thresher with subwoofers on the sides of its head and trumpets on its tentacles that keeps blaring a catchy song until you kill it. Unused dialog even has the Vault Hunters singing along to the song, showing this trope in effect.
  • Elemental Baggage: Slam neither requires ammunition nor has a cooldown. All you need is an Oz Kit, even a depleted one will do.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Colonel Zarpadon reveals her first name is actually Tungsteena, to Jack's delight.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: Inside Janey's old camp is a teddy bear torn in half.
  • Energy Weapon: Lasers are a new class of weapon in the game, and they're not just E-Tech. Jack's Twitter account gives a Hand Wave as to why they aren't in Borderlands 2, despite that game taking place later: the cryo weapons rely on liquid methane, which tends to evaporate outside of Elpis, and the laser guns are too flimsy and crumple in Pandora's atmospheric pressure.
    • A loading screen tip also explains that the reason laser weapons were never brought to Pandora had to do with an accident involving Marcus, a laser weapon, and a straw.
    • All throughout the game, you find Mr. Torgue expressing his hatred of lasers and his want of seeking the destruction of all laser weapons.
  • Evolving Credits: The character select screen gains various new decorations and events as you complete them in the game. A moon buggy shows up after you unlock them early in the game. The Eye of Helios will sometimes charge up and fire, but only after you see it activate for the first time upon entering Triton Flats. It also stops once you take care of it. There's also a blue flag planted in the name of King Greg after helping an explorer raise his king's flag to help claim Elpis in his name. Twice.
  • Exact Words: Jack bemoans the Lost Legion's invasion of Helios, stating how unfair it is due to the station not having a military. He neglects to mention that it's not wanting for super weapons though.
  • Excuse Plot: In-universe, The Holodome DLC is just a standard arena pack DLC, but it's narrated by Athena telling an abridged version of the story to Axton and Gaige. Other than a few boss enemies showing up when Athena mentions them, the gameplay has absolutely nothing to do with the story, and no attempt is made to connect the two.
  • Excited Show Title!: Rather than just "Pre-Sequel", the game's title is given an exclamation mark.
  • Exposed to the Elements: None of the characters are bothered by Elpis' hostile atmosphere and temperature extremes.
  • Expy:
    • Lawrence De Quidt, co-founder of Hyperion, is an expy of Steve Jobs, right down to his death occurring while he was still developing products for his company.
    • Moonstone serves as a replacement for the Eridium bars in Borderlands 2, being a pretty rock that serve essentially the same purpose (buying upgrades from Crazy Earl and other "premium" items, and much like in Assault on Dragon Keep, unlocking special chests).
  • Face-Heel Turn: Although Jack was never exactly a Face (he had already built a giant death ray before the beginning of the game, and at this point Angel's already stuck in her pod, for starters), The Pre-Sequel shows he had redeeming qualities, was rational, and wasn't particularly more villainous than most supporting characters in the setting. The game shows his slide into full-on lunatic supervillainy.
  • Fatal Family Photo: In "Science and Violence", Dr. Langois asks to get a photo of his mentally disabled 19 year-old son. This is given a Lampshade Hanging in True Vault Hunter Mode.
    Tiny Tina: I bet he dies, doesn't he?
    Athena: Yes, he does.
  • A Father to His Men: Colonel Zarpedon is depicted as beloved by her men and going out of her way to show how much she cares for and respects them. This is implied to be the reason they're still following her despite being abandoned by Dahl.
  • Five-Bad Band: Jack and his Vault Hunters more or less become this:
    • The Big Bad: Jack, who also serves as the Evil Genius.
    • The Dragon: Athena, who more or less serves as the de-facto leader of the ground forces.
    • The Brute: Wilhelm, who aside from being the physically largest party member also has a direct and no-nonsense personality.
    • The Dark Chick: Nisha and Timothy, though in decidedly different ways (Nisha being openly sadistic while Timothy is decent if somewhat cowardly).
    • The Team Pet: Claptrap, who takes a more proactive role this time around.
    • Sixth Ranger: Aurelia, who (at least in her eyes) isn't working for Jack so much as just tagging along as part of her vacation.
  • Flawed Prototype: Claptraps are an entire line of them, as contradictory as that sounds. Lawrence De Quidt, one of Hyperion's founders, created the Claptraps and designed their A.I. subroutines, but he died before he was able to perfect their A.I., and so Claptraps are left with their annoying, bizarre, counter-productive and unpredictable early programming. Including a baffling habit of breaking into dance for no reason. Even Fragtrap finds them to be insufferably annoying, and he's one of them.
  • Foregone Conclusion: As a prequel, it is already known what happens to the four player characters and to their boss. Claptrap becomes the Last of His Kind after Jack destroys his product line. Jack goes on to become the president of Hyperion with Wilhelm and Nisha continuing to be his chief minions, and Nisha and Jack start a relationship while Athena is guaranteed to survive past Borderlands 2 so that she can tell her story to Lilith. Timothy's exact fate is unknown as he isn't the body double killed in Opportunity in BL2 while Aurelia is mentioned in the Holodome DLC as having been Vault Hunting since the events of Elpis. Most importantly, Jack, Wilhelm, and Nisha are all dead by the end of Borderlands 2's campaign.
  • For Science!: Dr. Spara's idea of "science" is to send the Vault Hunters to kill random things for their body parts to build a rocket, all the while screaming "SCIENCE!" at the top of her lungs. She succeeds in blowing up her house, which she still considers a success.
  • Framing Device: The game is set up as Athena recounting the events of Elpis to Lilith and the Crimson Raiders after the events of Borderlands 2. The New Game+ is her retelling the story to Tiny Tina, who tells her to make it "more difficult" while also adding in her own commentary on the story. The Holodome DLC is her retelling the story once again, this time to Axton and Gaige who specifically want an abridged version of the story. By that point, Athena seems really annoyed at having to tell the story again.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Lasers are a new class of weapon introduced to the series. Almost all laser weaponry deal elemental damage and come in one of four forms: Splitters are functionally laser shotguns, Blasters fire regular lasers, Beams which fire in a constant stream and Railguns that fire a single accurate blast.
  • Game Breaker: In-Universe - According to Brick, one should only fight a raid boss solo if they want to die... Or they "found a broken-ass combination of loot and want to show off on the ECHOnet." Doubles as Self-Deprecation, considering how often that happened in Borderlands 2.
  • Giant Mook/Heavily Armored Mook: Outlaws and especially Armored Outlaws; they're huge Scavs wearing armored spacesuits, equipped with either laser weapons or rocket launchers. They're essentially the game's equivalent of the Nomads and Bruisers from Borderlands 2. Badass Lost Legion Marines are also huge and tough, and are also Lightning Bruisers.
  • Good Bad Bugs: Invoked with Claptrap's VaultHunter.exe skill, which is considered malware in-universe. Due to it being buggy software, its abilities are unpredictable, whether this be increased fire rate/reload speed, tossing out grenades uncontrollably or even giving everyone floatation devices so that they bounce uncontrollably around the field. It's even crazier with "Fragmented Fragtrap" skills, where you randomly become really good with certain weapons but bad at others, necessitating switching from your favorite weapon constantly.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Jack's dialogue is a bit more of this trope in this game because of his lower position in Hyperion and increased naïveté at the start of the game. He notably calls Zarpedon a "chick" a few times, when he clearly intones it to read as "bitch"; and his moment of Angrish when Moxxy, Roland and Lilith betray him doesn't involve any curse words, opting for terms like "morons".
  • Gotta Catch Them All: In-universe. During the side mission "Guardian Hunter" you have to capture four different elemental wraiths. Description on the container with captured wraith is: "A trapped Fire/Corrosive/Shock/Cryo Wraith. Collect all four!"
  • Gravity Screw: Due to the game taking place on the moon, gravity is lower than usual, allowing for higher jumps and greater air time.
  • Ground Pound: One of the abilities introduced. Done by crouching in midair, explained in-universe as a function of your jetpack/oxygen tank.
  • Healing Shiv: One of Athena's upgrades turns her Aspis into this — throwing it at an ally who is in Fight For Your Life mode will revive them.
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: After the Eye of Helios is destroyed, Jack will give a sidequest to take the remaining pieces of the Destroyer's eye and try to put them back together, ignoring the Vault Hunters' insistence that it cannot be saved until its stitched-together remains explode during a test fire.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Inverted with Nurse Nina and her eventual boyfriend, a midget scav.
  • Hypocrite: It's made very clear that much of Jack's madness stems from bloodlust and a totally disproportionate desire for vengeance against not only anyone who wronged him, but people who might wrong him, including employees, loved ones and bystanders who bear him no ill will. After hearing Athena's story and knowing in detail how much she came to despise Jack, Lilith - angry over everything Jack did with no other target on which to vent her emotions - orders Athena's death. Brick and Mordecai call her out, and it's only due to a Big Damn Heroes moment from the alien that Athena lives.
  • Ice Breaker: Frozen enemies take 250% melee damage, 210% explosive damage, and 110% extra critical hit damage.
  • Instant Ice, Just Add Cold: Everything you freeze gets covered with a thick layer of ice.
  • Interface Screw:
    • You can see your character's breath fogging up the outer corners of the screen when you're in a vacuum.
    • When going through the brain worm-infested areas of Helios, you'll start seeing red spots and a sickly green outline on your screen from the exposure. At an especially low point, the enemy's designations become phrases related to food and meat, suggesting the player character is having cannibalistic urges.
  • Interquel: As the title indicates, the game takes place between the first and second games.
  • Invisible Wall: The map of Tycho's Ribs is primarily a large, empty cylinder. To stop players from abusing the low-gravity mechanics and bypassing most of the dungeon, numerous invisible walls are put up at choke points between almost-connected areas. If you manage to bypass them anyways, several other areas employ instant kill zones.
  • Item Crafting: The Grinder lets you make a brand new gun by feeding it three different guns. You can spend Moonstone to imbue a Luneshine effect on the finished product, giving it a unique property.
  • It's All About Me: After strangling President Tassiter and taking over the company, Handsome Jack replaces all the posters of the Hyperion founders on Helios with posters of himself.
  • It's Personal: After being betrayed by Moxxi, Lilith and Roland, Jack, Wilhelm, Nisha, Aurelia and Athena more or less swear bloody vengeance on them. Wilhelm admits that he'd be willing to kill them for free if Jack wasn't already paying him, and even Athena makes it clear that while her job's the only reason she's still around, she plans on getting even with them. In the case of Claptrap and Timothy, they're just too miserable to care at that point (though the former gets over it once he realizes that Janey Springs at least cares enough to call him up).
  • I'll Kill You!: We get to see the very point Jack decided he wanted to strangle Tassiter.
    Jack: You say one more word to me, and I will make your death slow.
    Tassiter: What are you—
    Jack: That was three. I'll be seeing you soon.
  • Jerkass Ball: Some say that Jack was handed this when he, with his heavily implied Freudian Excuse, jumped off the slope into the story of Borderlands 2, where his vengeance is applied to just about everyone around him and the entire planet of Pandora.
  • Jet Pack: The players come equipped with oxygen-powered jet packs that let them perform double jumps as well as a ground pound when in air.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: The whole game acts as one for Jack, going from a somewhat sociopathic but well-meaning hero-in-training to a horrific, hypocritical monster. The actual moment of "jumping" is when Moxxi reveals that she, Lilith, and Roland betrayed him to destroy the Eye of Helios. After that moment, Jack turns into who he is in Borderlands 2.
    • The ending also has Lilith, still grieving Roland's death and bitter from the torture she suffered, demanding the execution of Athena over her teammates' protests.
  • Karmic Death: Moxxi wanted to arrange one for Jack but he managed to dodge it due to an unrelated concern.
  • Kick the Dog: Jack has you execute a surrendering Lost Legion Marine after the destruction of the Eye of Helios, showing that he's well past the Moral Event Horizon.
    • Jack has a lot of these during the game: memory-wiping Felicity, killing the scientists, and revealing that he has created a Lovecraftian doomsday weapon. His strangulation of Tassiter is more like Kick the Son of a Bitch, though.
  • Kick Them While They're Down: Used as a skill for Claptrap. Called "Kick Him While He's Down", Claptrap will cause all enemies to move toward him and then start hitting him with melee attacks when he's in Fight For Your Life. Another skill on the same tree is called "Kick Him While He's Up", where he gains a damage buff immediately after recovering.
  • Kill It with Ice: A new element introduced to the series is Cryo, which can freeze enemies solid.
  • Knight Templar: Jack and Zarpedon will do anything in order to save the world. The former rejects that he's Not So Different from the Colonel, though.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: During one of the story missions in Concordia.
    Jack: Get back to Moxxi, she has secret exits everywhere! ...Heh, heh, classic.
  • Land Down Under: In contrast to Pandora being filled with space rednecks, Elpis is essentially space Australia, full of space bogans (fitting, then, that this game was put together by an Australian developer). They call 02 kits "OZ" kits (technically due to a poor choice of advertising fonts), minor questgiver Peepot is one long riff on the song "Waltzing Matilda", most of the NPCs have Australian accents (varied and authentic), there's a "First Fleet" (which actually wasn't the first fleet to arrive, just like the First Fleet in reality), frequent mentions of beer, "Red Belly", "Captain Chef", and so many other similar jokes and references to the degree that you may have to actually be Australian or very familiar with Australian pop culture to understand them all. And on top of everything else, Elpis is referred to as the Land Up Over.
  • Large Ham: The Doppleganger can get like this during battle.
    When you see this face, RUN!
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Keeping in tradition with the first two games, there are the Vault Hunter introductions.
    • Athena as The Gladiator
    • Wilhelm as The Enforcer
    • Nisha as The Lawbringer
    • Claptrap as A Mistake
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: There are quite a few jokes that deal with the production of the video game itself. From the "Voice Over" mission:
    Hyperion: "Some Lost Legion have control of my voice request terminal and they're making me say stupid crap. […] 'Booty salads.' I'm a grown woman who had to say 'booty salads' because some jackass wrote those words."
    [after completing the mission]
    Hyperion: "[Those books look] great. Now send that to me so I can finally show off my range as a voice actress."
  • Let the Bully Win: The quest "Pop Racing" shows what happens when you don't. Your opponent whines to his dad, who shows up trying to kill you. You then proceed to kill your opponent's father in front of him as punishment. And he respawns so you can do it multiple times!
  • Literally Shattered Lives: The result of killing a frozen enemy. There's even a badass challenge for killing enemies by the fall damage they receive when frozen. Pretty satisfying against flying enemies.
  • Lost Forever: Certain location-based Badass Challenges become locked out if you don't complete them right as they come along in the story. For example, the "Treasure of ECHO Madre" sidequest has a challenge to kill Rabid Adams, but NOT harm his pet tork during the fight. Killing him is a step in the quest, so once you kill him, the quest finishes and he never respawns again. In Pity's Fall, the Bosun announces that he's sending an Elite Mook after you. There's a challenge to kill him before the Skipper shuts the door and crushes him. You have roughly 1 second to kill him before he gets crushed, and he never respawns again after your game saves after that point. These challenges only provide 5-10 points each, so it's not a huge loss to not complete them.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: What the Eye of Helios turns out to be.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The Missile Pod on the Moon Zoomies fires off a rapid swarm of homing missiles. They're very fast, and very powerful. You just have to aim in the general direction of an enemy to target it.
  • Mainlining the Monster: The Eye of Helios. It's actually the Eye of the Destroyer, powered by Eridium slag created to make the station into a Kill Sat.
  • Meaningful Name: The moon Elpis is named after the Greek goddess of hope. The legend of Pandora's box says that after all the evils of the world were released following its opening, the only thing remaining in the box was hope.
  • Meaningful Rename: The Lost Legion, from their previous assignment, because they had been abandoned by Dahl command during the Crackening, and for all intents and purposes are no longer working for Dahl.
  • Mission Pack Sequel: The game is essentially a stand-alone expansion campaign for Borderlands 2, using the exact same engine and gameplay. Most of the weapons are identical to how they appeared in the second game, though some Legendaries and Uniques have been renamed and tweaked. Many enemies are also very similar to those seen in Borderlands 2, though almost none of them are straight palette-swaps, with most of them having new, unique moves, animations, and tweaked A.I.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • After the first Vault Hunters express surprise over hearing that Moxxi attempted to kill Jack, they string off a number of boob jokes.
    • A lot of the time whenever Claptrap responds to what just happened in the main plot. Regardless of how serious things are right then, you can be sure his response will be humorously pathetic.
  • Money for Nothing: Downplayed - while it's still easy to amass a comically large collection of money, vending machines offer expensive but oh-so-nice Items Of The Day to tempt you to dip into those savings, especially if you're lucky enough to see a Legendary on offer. However, in the past two games, vending machines would be level locked with the area they were found in. These ones stay equal to your level all throughout the game, so you can never buy slightly cheaper, lower level gear (which, if Legendary, may be more powerful than what you have anyway).
    • That said, it does make it more practical to farm the machines for decent, level-appropriate weapons and equipment.
    • If there are multiple players in the game at different levels, some of the machines may randomly offer weapons and items leveled to the other players, even if (or especially if) their levels are very different from the host's.
  • Mook Medic: The Lost Legion has field medics among their soldiers, able to heal others in their vicinity.
  • Moral Myopia: Discussed in-game where Zarpedon points out she and Jack are Not So Different in their willingness to use extreme measures to achieve their aims. Jack claims the main difference is that he's not crazy.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Nurse Nina will only marry a strong husband. Which she demands you test using elemental weapons.
  • Necessarily Evil: Colonel Zarpedon believes herself to be this. She's trying to destroy the moon in order to prevent something worse from happening.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: While it was heavily implied in the games before it, The Pre-Sequel! confirms that the closest thing to "lawful government" on planets and satellites like Pandora and Elpis is whichever corporation got there first. They control enough manpower, technology and resources to dictate the law wherever there's no one to stop them. Hyperion, Dahl and Atlas all held absolute power over Pandora at one point or another. Concordia, closest thing to a major settlement on Elpis, was run by a former Hyperion employee who was still loyal (until it's revealed that he had betrayed them to Dahl), most of Elpis was formerly under control of Dahl, and Sanctuary used to be a mobile mining platform also owned and operated by Dahl. When they withdrew and Atlas collapsed, Hyperion's army rolled in to take over. You even hear about the Last Corporate War, an armed conflict between Hyperion and other conglomerates that collapsed the central government of the galaxy.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Your actions throughout the game lead to Jack becoming Handsome Jack and rising to power.
    • Zarpedon's last words and the Sequel Hook ending seem to indicate that whatever the Vault Hunter's did at the end of Borderlands 2 by triggering the Vault Map, it's going to cause some sort of galactic event so terrible that the destruction of Pandora and Elpis would have been a small price to pay averting it.
    • Sir Hammerlock is actually responsible for the existence of Threshers on Pandora after he got the Pre-Sequel Vault Hunters to send him some samples and they escaped. He even goes so far as to cheerfully say that they shouldn't be a problem because they're so small. One is almost certainly Terramorphus the Invincible. The other is likely Old Slappy, the thresher who cost Hammerlock An Arm and a Leg.
    • Moxxi, Lilith, and Roland attempt to kill Jack because they fear he's going to become an evil megalomaniac. His anger at their betrayal is the main reason he targets them when he attains Hyperion's power.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted. This focuses on the Big Bad of the sequel and some of his minions.
  • Nominal Hero: Jack takes it upon himself to "save" the citizens who live on the moon from an "evil army."
    • He's even willing to pull a likely Heroic Sacrifice to do so. At least, early on.
  • Not as You Know Them:
    • Jack starts off the game much less the asshole we know him as in Borderlands 2, and more like an overexcited adrenaline junkie with cool Arm Cannons.
    • Moxxie has a side to her that we never saw before here: a closet Hodunk Wrench Wench, like her daughter Ellie.
  • Not So Different: Athena hits Lilith with this while describing the motivations of Jack's crew - they were just a bunch of mercs with a mission, out for cash and their own fairly prosaic goals. Lilith threatens to kill her if she ever does it again. Also, like Jack, Lilith ultimately chooses Revenge Before Reason.
    • Zarpedon tries to pull this on Jack. Jack doesn't listen.
  • Obviously Evil: It's clear, even before you find out what they did, that the Founders of Hyperion are, in fact, evil. Especially Maxim Turner... that downright terrifying grin...
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: The game could have been called "Borderlands 1.5", but to keep with the humor of the series, they decided on "The Pre-Sequel" instead. In the teaser trailer, Jack claims to be the one who came up with the word Pre-Sequel.
  • Off Model: The cowering FIX Loaders in the tutorial missions have some...pretty jarring animation issues.
  • Old Save Bonus: By having one or both of the previous games' saves, you can get one or two blue rarity weapons off the bat after creating your character as well as upwards of 30 moonstones (which function like Eridium from Borderlands 2) to play with later in the game. Having both saves also grants you 500 Badass rank to boot, giving you 12 Badass tokens to put into account-wide bonuses, like Borderlands 2. Having one save from either game gives you a lesser bonus of one blue weapon and 10 Moonstones.
  • The Plague: The unlucky Hyperion workers in Helios Central Maintenance are suffering from a bad case of Mind Worms. It's as awful, disgusting, and nightmarish as you would expect it to be.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The Eye of Helios is powered by the Destroyer's eye.
  • Power Fist: One of Wilhelm's skills gives him one.
  • Private Military Contractors: Dahl's Space Marine army is one, and they come equipped with high-quality pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, powersuits, turrets and even jetfighters, plus proper military uniforms.
    • Wilhelm is outright stated to have been the best mercenary in the galaxy, until he messed up on an important job.
  • Promoted to Playable: Wilhelm, Nisha, Claptrap and Athena went from bosses and quest givers to playable characters. In the case of Nisha, she's even given an actual name whereas in Borderlands 2 she was known only as the Sheriff of Lynchwood.
  • Punch Clock Villain: All the protagonists save for Aurelia (who is already wealthy and is simply doing this for fun) all fill this role by the end. Wilhelm, however, seems to be the one who seems the most interested in evil for money.
  • Psycho for Hire: Nisha. Wilhelm may or may not be this.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Like the previous two Borderlands. This time it was Black Dragon by the Vines.
  • Department of Redundancy: The Dahl Reconstruction station mentions that dying is a crime punishable by death.
    • Pickle constantly translates his cockney rhyming slang. So when Pickle calls Tassiter a 'bottle-and-glass arse,' he's calling him an 'arse arse.'
  • Refuge in Vulgarity: Pickle's sister, Eliza, provides the Vault Hunter with a gun that uses... colourful language with shot or used. It's both hilarious and disturbing hearing what new way it can offend while mowing down lunatics.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Jack spares the Meriff's life like it comes naturally to him, and gets shot in the back for his trouble. From that point on he just straight up kills all his enemies, and even people he suspects might become enemies. Likewise, Lilith chooses to execute Athena despite her lack of culpability in Handsome Jack's later actions over Brick and Mordecai's protests.
  • The Reveal: The Eye of Helios is the Eye of the Destroyer.
  • Saving the World: Your main goal for the 90% of the game.
  • Saving The World With Art: At the end of the "To Arms!" side mission, you're called to Concordia to "Witness the revolution." The leader of the People's Liberation Army reveals his plan for the fifty common-quality weapons you've gathered for him: a flower sculpture made out of guns.
  • Say My Name: At one point Jack screams out Zarpedon's name Wrath of Khan-style (complete with extra-long emphasis on the end vowel), then immediately breaks out into laughter at how silly the name is. He notes that it's good for yelling that way, though.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Athena has this reaction at the end. It's not enough to keep Lilith from wanting to shoot her, though.
  • Self-Deprecation: Several trailers have mentioned the lack of "internet memes" in the game as a selling point. Said point was made sarcastically, as there are just as many if not more memes in Pre-Sequel! than the previous game. Going further than that, one of the NPC Claptraps talks about how the series should be called "Bordermemes" or "Memelands 2" or even "Memelands: The Pre-Memequel", itself taken from a twitter post that Anthony Burch made about accusations of the meme references in the second game.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:
    • Colonel Zarpedon tries to blow up Elpis and Pandora to prevent the events of Borderlands 2, specifically the activation of the Vault network. Instead, her actions set Jack on the path to becoming Handsome Jack and doing just that.
    • Moxxi blows up the Eye in order to kill Jack because she believes he's inevitably going to turn into a sociopathic lunatic megalomaniac. Jack survives and his rage at the betrayal makes him turn into a full blown sociopathic lunatic megalomaniac.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of Athena's questioning, when Lilith orders her men to shoot Athena, the strange Alien with orange colouring from the very first encounter with Zarpedon on Helios reappears and stops the bullets much like in its first appearance. Then it proclaims that a war is coming, and they'll need all the Vault Hunters they can get their hands on. During New Game+, Brick says they have time to retell the whole thing again since Lilith is talking to the Alien about what it said in the ending.
  • Serial Escalation:
    • At the character select screen in Borderlands 2, Claptrap would sometimes say "I gotta pee." At the character select screen, the CL4P-TP wandering around will sometimes say "I gotta pee." He then rushes into the portable outhouse and closes the door, where it promptly launches him into space.
    • The first game's intro sequence was essentially the playable characters riding a bus and stepping off at their destination. The second game stepped things up with an epic fight aboard a moving train that exploded. This one begins with an army of bandits leaping onto a rocket ship during takeoff, getting into an epic fight with the playable characters inside, and crashing the thing into the Hyperion satellite. Brick and Mordecai lampshade this, with Brick commenting that he prefers Athena's version.
  • Shout-Out: In fine Borderlands tradition, it has its own page.
  • Silicon-Based Life: Kraggons are beasts that are made out of the lava or frozen methane that they live in.
  • Sliding Scale of Gameplay and Story Integration:
    • The game gives explanations for why ice and laser weapons weren't in Borderlands 2. Pandora's warmer climate evaporates the frozen methane in ice weapons, while laser weapons are so fragile that they simply break under Pandora's atmospheric pressure. Alternatively, an accident with Marcus, a laser and a straw.
    • During a sidequest for him, Pickle says doing it will mean he'll "never nick anything out of your pockets again." It seems like a throwaway line, but you actually lose a good bit of cash every time you talk to him. And, as any good thief would ensure, there's no obvious indication he's robbed you unless you keep track of your funds.
    • The Doppelganger's 'Greater Good' skill tree encourages the player to roleplay a cowardly, selfish jerk. For instance, the Commitment skill gives you bonus fire rate and reload speed when one of your allies goes into Fight For Your Life mode and takes it away when they exit that mode... thus encouraging you to keep them from recovering, as the buff will last longer if they have to bleed out. Another skill, Integrity, gives you bonus damage on weakened enemies... and more bonus damage if it wasn't you that weakened them.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Wilhelm and Nisha are this. Nisha is more a Heroic Comedic Sociopath, however.
    • Moxxi is implied to believe Jack is this. That all of his more pleasant qualities are hiding something dark and disturbed. Which is saying something given how people on Pandora normally behave.
  • Sound Effects Bleep: Aside from Mister Torgue, every time a heavy curse is used in this game it's bleeped out. Presumably every human, robot and talking gun in the galaxy has voice-censors. Or possibly Narrator!Athena is simply leaving out the actual profanity.
    • Claptrap's self-censoring programming is still in effect. When he shouts "YEAH! SCIENCE, BITCH!", "bitch" is bleeped out, but isn't censored in the subtitles.
  • Space Is Noisy: It seems that being in space does not negate sounds from either your gun or your enemies. One of the first explosive weapons you can obtain even has a tagline "In space, you won't need to hear them scream." Justified in the moon's surface, as Elpis does have an atmosphere, it's just not a breathable one. But having sound be heard while spacewalking in Helios, well, MST3K Mantra that.
  • Space Marine: Lost Legion enemies look the part. The heavier class Lost Legion are even called Lost Legion Marines.
  • Space Western: Well, although there's a lot more Cyber Punk, the game keeps up the theme of a lawless Death World filled with ramshackle towns, massive bandit armies and hostile wildlife. Also, you get to play as Nisha.
  • Spoof Aesop: During a mission where you have to locate and destroy the "Meriff"'s audio diaries, Jack comes out with this gem of wisdom;
    ...It's not OK to be an asshole. Unless you're funny with it. Then it's kinda totally OK.
  • Stalker Shrine: The 'Meriff has a figurine of Moxxi along with some partially melted candles hidden away inside a safe in his office library.
  • Start of Darkness: The game tells the story of how Handsome Jack went from a well-intentioned code monkey to the megalomaniacal Big Bad of the second game. The same goes for Wilhelm to some extent, showing how he went from a galaxy-renowned mercenary to the cybernetic monstrosity that defeated the original Vault Hunters. In the case of Nisha, who was already pretty nasty before she met Jack, the game has ECHO Logs detailing her horrific childhood that made her into the monster that she is.
    • Unlike most classic version of this trope however, Handsome Jack isn't at all "good" at the start of the game - by this point in his history he's at the very least engineered the events of the first game, and also has been experimenting on his daughter for years for the express purpose of unlocking the Vaults. However, he is rational, sane and very friendly - a far cry from who he becomes.
    • Specifically, being shot harmlessly in the back by the Meriff after Jack had decided to spare his life seems to mark the point at which Jack begins his steepest descent into villainy. He shoots the Meriff four times in an outburst of fury, even though he himself was physically unhurt, then says it felt...oddly invigorating. He makes several references to that moment later on to justify his increasingly extreme actions. Him airlocking all the Hyperion scientists because one of them might have been a spy for Zarpedon marks the point at which he's definitely gone over the edge, prompting Roland and Lilith to turn against him.
  • Stepford Smiler: While the Vault Hunters initially think the Hyperion Voice herself is an AI, she claims she's a full grown woman sitting in a dark room, reading whatever is asked of her. When she asks you to kill Dahl soldiers and put a stop to whoever is forcing her to say "Titty Volcanoes" and "Booty Salad", she never once loses her cheerful disposition.
    Hyperion Voice: I'm a grown woman who had to say "booty salads" because some jerkbag wrote those words.
    Vault Hunters can suck it. Booyah thug life hashtag YOLO.
    Vault Hunters' faces look like wee wees. God, I hate this.
  • Superpowered Mooks: Lost Legion Eternals are Lost Legion troops who have been given Eridian/Siren-like powers due to prolonged Eridium exposure. Upon taking enough damage, they will "ascend", regaining full health and start using a variety of special powers including levitation, homing energy balls, phase-walking, melee berserking, etc. They're only encountered in the climactic boss fight against Zarpedon as well as the final level.
  • Storming the Castle: Twice. First, you have to retake Helios space station to stop colonel Zarpedon from destroying the Elpis, second, you have to assault unknown Eridian structure to gain access to the Vault.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: Jack will give a side quest to launch a Rocket with the Meriff's statue's head attached to a Dubstep remix of his last confession.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Compared to the previous player characters of the series, who only spoke during combat and were finally given interactive dialogue with Tiny Tina's DLC, the playable characters of this game openly comment on the plot at hand and even have unique interactions with certain NPCs and each other.
    Claptrap: I'm programmed to be foolishly optimistic in situations such as these.
    Athena: Why am I not surprised?
  • Supporting Protagonist: While the Vault Hunters do have character arcs of their own to an extent, Jack is the primary protagonist of the game and the player characters only serve to help him progress in his goals.
  • Sword In The Stone: Excalibastard, which is a legendary gun stuck on a stone that requires the player to have 2500 Badass Ranks to successfully pull out.
  • Take That: Tassiter's brain-dead nephew's favorite show is the The Big Explosion Hypothesis.
    • According to Aurelia's contract, referring to her as "m'lady" will forever doom you to wear the Perpetual Thorned Fedora of Menoctius.
  • Take Your Time: As usual, you don't have to rush unless the game explicitly tells you to. Nevermind that giant laser, it won't destroy anything.
  • Talking Weapon: The Boganella is a shotgun that talks like a bogan and is constantly screaming out censored curses. The Claptastic Voyage DLC introduces an SMG that's always shrieking "KILL!" as it's being fired, a shield that talks like Robin Williams, and the Heartful Splodger, a laser voiced by Pickle.
  • That Man Is Dead: After Jack uses the artifact in the Vault, has it punched into his face by Lilith, and makes plans to awaken the Warrior, Narrator!Athena pinpoints this as the moment when the heroic man who had hired her to find a Vault had died.
  • The Stinger: The post credits scene shows Jack strangling Tassiter to death, and informing the secretary he's in charge now before re-introducing him, mask and all, as Handsome Jack.
  • Throwing Your Shield Always Works: When Athena's Kinetic Aspis skill runs out, she throws it. It releases the energy it absorbed during its duration against its target before returning. Her Phalanx skill tree increases the Aspis's functionality; the final skill in the tree allows it to pinball between targets.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Dr. Minle in the Research Lab up on the Hyperion base claims to have a mission for you, but before he tells you any details, he thinks that it's a bit stuffy in the room and opens a window. He is immediately vented into space. Dr. Spara decides to pay you since she thinks it's awesome.
  • Two Words: Obvious Trope: Debriefing for "New direction": "Two words: Robot. Army. Two more: heck yeah!"
  • Underground Monkey: One of the enemy types are moon drifters — they look like regular drifters, except blue and crater-y.
  • Understatement: One of the loading screen tips is "Once there was a man named Jack who wanted to find a Vault and become a hero. Things kind of escalated from there."
  • Villain Episode: The game's playable characters include two villains from the second game with Handsome Jack leading all four player-characters. The Doppelganger DLC even lets you play as Jack to an extent (thought the Doppelganger himself is clearly a character of his own).
  • Villain Protagonist: At the very least, played straight for Jack, Wilhelm and Nisha. Claptrap, Timothy, Aurelia, and Athena are more antiheroes, the first two being too afraid to disobey Jack while the others are moral enough to voice their objections at his increasingly questionable actions (though Aurelia's case is more of Everyone Has Standards).
  • Villainous Breakdown: Courtesy of Jack after the Eye of Helios is destroyed and Tassiter calls to grief him about it:
    Jack: SHUT THE HELL UP, TASSITER! SHUT. THE HELL. UP! My ex-girlfriend and her two BFFs just tried to kill me, and the LAST thing I need right now is your senile ass WHINING IN MY EAR! If I get ONE more message from you that isn't, "Attaboy Jack", or, "I'm sending you a big bag of money", I'm gonna reach through my ECHO and GOUGE YOUR EYES OUT WITH MY PINKIES! ARE WE CLEAR?!
  • Villainous Valour: It doesn't matter that they've lost their commander and all means to fulfill their mission, The Lost Legion will not quit. It irritates Jack to no end.
  • Visual Innuendo: Miss Moxxi's side purse shows two planets side by side while a rocket ship blasts off between them. "TAKING YOU DEEP... INTO SPACE."
  • Wave Motion Gun: The Eye of Helios.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Elpis has at least two different "Liberation" movements and they spend way too much time fighting each other to actually liberate Concordia from corporate masters, corruption, or scavs.
  • Weird Moon: The game takes place primarily on Elpis, the moon of Pandora. Helios, the floating Hyperion Space Base in orbit acts as the moon to the players (except now it's seen from the back, unlike in the previous game).
  • Welcome to Corneria: The citizens of Condordia repeat themselves pretty frequently, but their repeated lines at least change at major plot milestones. Commenting on the giant laser, the death of the Meriff, the absence of the giant laser, the Dahl presence, the Hyperion presence, and so on.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Jack is portrayed as this at the start, planning to use the resources of Hyperion to turn Pandora into a civilized society. Including using the Eye of the Destroyer to power a death ray to eradicate all bandits on the planet.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Jack pulls one on Moxxi, Roland and Lilith when they betray him after you defeat Colonel Zarpedon.
    • Everyone pulls one on Lilith when she tries to execute Athena. She's, fortunately, stopped by an outside party.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: At one point, Moxxi's B4R-BOT attempts an Australian accent that gets stuck in Brooklyn. Either Claptraps are as bad at accents as they are at almost everything else, or B4R-BOT thinks it's a great disguise. (Or David Eddings, for all his many talents, cannot do an Australian accent to save his life.)
    • The echo recordings in Stanton's Liver are also spoken with a distinct Brooklyn accent.
  • Whip It Good: Nisha's melee attack. One loading tip even lampshades the implied kinkiness.
  • Worthy Opponent: Jack becomes this for Colonel Zarpedon once she realizes he's willing to do anything to win. Jack, somewhat humorously, rejects this and constantly dismisses anything she says to him as crazy.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Oz Kits are called as such due to a poor choice in fonts, leading to the person who ordered them complaining how the 2 looked like a Z. Also, just like the bandits on Pandora, Scavs don't know how to spell correctly. They think "Danger" is spelled "DANJUR". Although at least they manage to spell their weapon names properly most of the time, unlike the bandits.