Borderlands is a series of Space Western Hero Shooters with RPG Elements (or Action RPGs with FPS elements) for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, and OS X developed by Gearbox Software — creators of the Brothers in Arms series and the three expansion packs for the original Half-Life.
Each game follows a party of adventurers who arrive on the desert planet of Pandora in search of an alien vault said to contain vast stores of untold wealth, power and alien technology. The only problem is no one seems to know where these Vaults are, and finding them won't be easy — Pandora is a backwater world where no one wants to live, filled with mutated monsters and violent convicts left over from a Mega-Corp's previous mining operations. Aided by an extremely complex Randomly Generated Loot system that creates every weapon, shield and accessory you find, resulting in about Eleventy Zillion combinations, and some of the funniest and most irreverent writing in the history of video games, the player sets out to find the Vault and become a legend.
Borderlands franchise media:
Video games (shooter)
Video games (adventure)
- Tales from the Borderlands (2014-2015)
Video games (spin-offs)
- The Border Lands (2012), a web-based top-down shooter "demake" that was a promotion for Borderlands 2.
- Borderlands Legends (2012), a real-time strategy game for iOS devices.
- Poker Night 2 (2013), a Telltale game featuring several Borderlands characters with exclusive Borderlands 2 loot unlockable in-game.
- Borderlands Online (2014), a cancelled MMO shooter game intended for exclusive release in China. 2015)
- Borderlands: Tiny Tina's Robot Tea Party (2019), a card game about players competing to build a Claptrap.
- Bunkers & Badasses (2021), a role-playing game based on the "Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep" DLC for Borderlands 2.
- Borderlands: Origins (2012-2013)
- Borderlands: Fall of Fyrestone (2014)
- Borderlands: Tannis & The Vault (2014-2015)
- Borderlands: The Fallen (2011)
- Borderlands: Unconquered (2012)
- Borderlands: Gunsight (2013)
Borderlands universe timeline:
- Borderlands 1 and its DLC in the released order.
- Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! and its DLC.
- Borderlands 2 and its DLC in the released order up to Sir Hammerlock Vs. the Son of Crawmerax.
- Tales from the Borderlands episodes 1 through 3.
- Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!: The prologue and epilogue.
- Tales from the Borderlands episodes 4 and 5.
- Borderlands 2 DLC Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary.
- Borderlands 3 and its DLC
Tropes used in multiple entries in the franchise:
- Absent Aliens: Other than The Precursors in the form of the long extinct Eridians, it doesn't appear as though humanity has ever encountered any alien civilizations despite having colonized a huge chunk of the galaxy (though there's plenty of alien wildlife, most of it extremely hostile). However, the question of whether or not there is other intelligent life in the Borderlands universe is highly unclear... the Jabbers of Eden-6, for example, are clearly intelligent (able to build huts and use stolen tools including firearms), though the fact they haven't progressed past the caveman stage of development prevents humans from considering them an alien race.
- Acceptable Targets: In-universe, the bandits seem to be this, as even nice characters have no qualms about killing boatloads of them, and torturing them is often depicted as completely acceptable just because they're bandits. There are many instances across the franchise where the prospect of having to kill bandits is viewed at best as only in terms of the danger to the killer's life, as bandits often make up their lack of individual strength with large amounts of people and are thus still capable of posing a serious threat, and at worst as just an inconvenience to the goal at hand since the life of said bandit is rarely something to think twice about. Even when bandits as a whole are taken more seriously on Borderlands 3 on account of having formed the closest thing to an organized society they could make, as individuals they are still not taken seriously in the least bit.
- Bandits themselves also have their own acceptable target: midgets; they are looked down upon by all of them, and using them as human shields is acceptable, normal and widespread.
- Action Bomb: Suicide Psychos and EXP loaders rush at you with the intent of blowing up. With psychos, you can shoot the grenade out of their hand and make them drop it, but EXP loaders will still blow up when destroyed either way.
- An Adventurer Is You: Every class in every game has 3 different skill trees that specializes in different play styles like dealing more damage with specific weapons, health regeneration, damage mitigation, etc.
- Black-and-Grey Morality: Played very straight. Most of the "heroes" are Bounty Hunter types who love shooting stuff, and even the nicer supporting NPCs, such as Zed or Moxxi, are kind of psycho as well. They still are a hell of a lot more likeable than the various evil factions (e.g Bandits, Crimson Lance, Hyperion.) There are a handful of straight up good characters (such as Roland or Maya), however.
- Black Comedy: 95 percent of the humor in the games is like this.
- Body Uploading: Used in two of its games, through some use of "digistruct" technology, where, normally, scanned things disintegrate and can be reconstructed elsewhere. Word of God describes "digistruct" as basically Black Box, Precursor technology: "it's mostly unknown - derived from Eridian tech discovered by Atlas corp. It's like harnessing fire before understanding it":
- Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!: The Claptastic Voyage DLC, basically "Fantastic Voyage" Plot, but with a robot, with a process created by Handsome Jack.
- Borderlands 3: Used on the Player Character for one quest. Described as basically a type of Destructive Teleportation, involving deconstructing the subject molecule by molecule. The possibility of cloning people through copies of their digital data form if they are convertible into data is used, for Vic, Vaughn's second in command, who, by quest's end has two copies of them, one with a regular human body, and the other a head in a jar living on some kind of nutrition / preservative fluid.
- Cargo Cult: The bandits of Pandora seem like they'll worship anything at the drop of a hat. One fairly long chain of sidequests in the first game revolves around them forming a cult around a (surprisingly unremarkable) Scythid bug, in the second game bandit cults form around worshipping Lilith, Handsome Jack, and even Marcus as gods, and the main plot of the third game revolves around the bandits uniting to worship a psychopathic livestreamer (who, admittedly, is a Siren) and her producer brother.
- Diegetic Interface: The HUD elements of the first person shooter games are features of the ECHOnet technology that the players receive very early on. Most of the HUD elements would have a booting sequence, making them appear for the first time after meeting certain conditions or finding new equipment. In some games, the device itself projects the in-game menus, with the characters directly interacting with the screens.
- Full Health Bonus: Introduced in Borderlands 2, Amp Shields provide a large boost to damage when your shield energy is full, but also deplete a significant amount of that energy when the boost activates, meaning you only get one shot and have to wait for your shields to recharge before using it again.
- Gender-Restricted Ability: In the universe of Borderlands, there exist six women with mystical and unique powers known as Sirens. These powers are unique to each user: Lilith can Phasewalk between dimensions and reappear with an explosion; Maya can telekinetically Phaselock enemies in place, as well as firing orbs of slag; Amara can summon massive psionic arms with a variety of uses; Angel's power, Phaseshifting, is capable of creating digital simulations of reality; and Tyreen Calypso can leech the energy from any living thing, even being able to take a Siren's powers if she drains one. Women are the only ones who can inherit these abilities, and only six Sirens can exist in the universe at any given time, with a new Siren being created should one die or lose her powers.
- Gathering Steam: All playable character classes have certain skills that provide stacking bonuses passively or by completing certain conditions repeatedly. Naturally, such stacking bonuses also decay after a given time, or when the conditions get broken.
- Giant Mook: Badass Psychos, Goliaths, Outlaws, WAR Loaders and badass variants, and a few other enemies are pretty huge compared to even the tallest playable characters.
- Heroic Second Wind: Used a game mechanic. Anytime you run out of health, you get knocked down and enter into "Fight for Life" mode. You have a limited amount of time to kill an enemy in order to get back on your feet with a Second Wind.
- Humans Are Warriors: Practically all the major characters are Blood Knights to some degree, even the civilians (although most of them don't do any actual fighting.)
- Level-Locked Loot: All gear have a level cap, although it's hard to find an item above your level outside of the early game if you're not in an area you're not supposed to go to yet. You can share the stuff you can't use yet with your multiplayer pals, and you can challenge them for a duel in case they find it too awesome to give it back to you.
- Ludicrous Gibs: Killing an enemy by dealing much more damage than its remaining HP will make it explode in a fountain of blood and gore.
- N.G.O. Superpower: The Pre-Sequel reveals that the Mega Corporations toppled the central government that ruled the six galaxies. This left much of the six galaxies in a state of anarchy. At most, a planet might have a planetary government, such as the Order of the Impending Storm that rules over Athenas. With nobody to properly regulate them, the corporations have enough sheer firepower to force anyone to do what they want.
- The Dahl corporation places profits over safety of their employees. When they realized that Pandora wasn't worth the effort, they up and left while leaving their workers for dead. Dr. Tannis explains that almost every bandit on Pandora used to be a relatively sane Dahl worker.
- The Vladof corporation was able to wipe out an entire continent of Tediore forces in a matter of days thanks to their Ursa Corps with their Iron Bear mechs.
- Hyperion has a fair share of soldiers, but their forces mainly consist of mass-produced loader bots, at least following Jack's Klingon Promotion to CEO.
- Meaningful Name:
- The Borderlands series takes place on the planet of Pandora, named after the human made by Greek gods Hephaestus and Athena, and part of the legend of a box that contained all of the world's evils. Much like how the opening of Pandora's Box released these evils unto the world, the opening of the Vault caused the release of the element Eridium throughout the planet, which lead to the events of Borderlands 2.
- In addition, the setting of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! is the moon of Elpis, named after the Greek goddess of hope. When Pandora's box was opened, the last thing remaining inside of it was hope.
- The Hyperion corporation is named after one of the original Titans in reference to its titanic size and wealth.
- The Helios station, which was built by Hyperion, was named after one of Hyperion's sons, and is high in the sky just like the Sun.
- The Atlas corporation is named after the Titan who was sentenced to hold the heavens on his shoulders forever.
- Naked Nutter: Pandoran Psychos never wear shirts except for the females of Borderlands 3 who wear midriff-baring tank tops or sarashi.
- Named After First Installment: The series does Numbered Sequels, with the first game being called Borderlands, with the 1 needed for the site to differentiate. The series is so named because it takes place on the borderlands of galactic exploration.
- Non-Combat EXP: A Borderlands series-wide mechanic where you get additional EXP by turning in completed quests, which help in leveling and catching up. This trope in question applies to some quests which won't even require you to fight anything, such as by simply talking to some key NPCs (Or in the case of Borderlands 2's Digistruct Peak DLC's first quest — opening a door) and turning them in to the quest-giver.
- Non-Malicious Monster: Most of the alien creatures on Pandora and Elpis are little more than alien animals. Even the creatures you meet guarding the Vaults are basically just Guardian Entities and don't seem to have any ill will to the protagonists.
- Noodle Incident: Moxxi's history with the Hodunk clan is never fully fleshed out. At one point Ellie says "they'll regret not killing me as a baby", suggesting them almost doing so was part of why they left, but Moxxi does explain that threatening to turn Ellie into the clan wife was the final straw that made her leave the clan.
- Pinball Projectile:
- In Borderlands 2: With multiple classes:
- Sirens have a skill that causes enemy bullets to do this, reflecting them back at other enemies. Another one of her skills also allows her Phaselock orb to pinball between targets.
- Mechromancers have two skills that cause bullet ricochet, one of her trees even encouraging this practice.
- Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!: Multiple weapons can do this:
- In Borderlands 2: With multiple classes:
- Randomly Generated Loot: Borderlands 1 helped popularize the "Loot Shooter" genre. Every game has a unique system of generating guns by giving various parts like the barrel or stocks different properties.
- Reference Overdosed: Gearbox sure loves to throw in a lot of pop-culture and media references in this series. Just look at how thick each of the Shout-Out pages become!
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: Probably intentional, but one of Marcus's stock lines when buying from his vending machines is "Why loot from the dead, when you can buy from me?", apparently the obvious answer "because you don't have to pay to loot people" didn't even occur to him.
- Running Gag:
- There's always a Skag in every game's intro cutscenes, and most of the time, they die from being rammed or blindsided by a vehicle. But the only games where the skag doesn't die in the intro happen in The Pre-Sequel (since the real vehicle is the rocket anyway, the skag got left behind in the bandit car) and in Borderlands 3 (since the one that got rammed is the psycho, also the skag is an ally pet of the new Vault Hunter FL4K).
- Every major installment of the series has had a different manufacturer fill the role of "high damage, high capacity, low rate of fire, long reload". In release order, they are: S&S Munitions, Bandits, Scavs and Children of the Vault.
- Sniper Scope Sway: Sniper rifles in the Borderlands games have different amounts of sway as a hidden attribute of sorts: it can be reduced by crouching and certain class skills.
- Sturgeon's Law: As the weapons and other gear are randomly generated, the majority of them are total junk.
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: In a more specific Running Gag that occurs in all shooter games (that also takes on the And Zoidberg pattern), the cinematic intros of the playable characters will always have the last introduced character as the odd-one-out, by having a less-badass subtitle than the other three who are appropriately introduced with their respective classes:
- Roland as The Soldier, Mordecai as The Hunter, Lilith as The Siren, and Brick as Himself
- Axton as The Commando, Maya as The Siren, Salvador as The Gunzerker, and Zer0 as a Number
- Athena as The Gladiator, Wilhelm as The Enforcer, Nisha as The Lawbringer, and Claptrap as a Mistake
- FL4K as The Beastmaster, Moze as The Gunner, Amara as The Siren, and Zane Flynt as Himselves
"Later, Vault Hunter!"