Analysis of Vault Hunter Gameplay Hooks (+A few requests for BL3)

There will be a couple of character-related spoilers in this thread, drawn from Borderlands 2, TPS, and TftB. Hopefully you’re all caught up by now. Also, this thread is still a WIP. I apologize for any formatting and typographical errors, as well as for any skills or items I’ve mislabeled.

Table of Contents:

  1. Borderlands, Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, and Tales from the Borderlands character discussion
  2. Requests for consideration in Borderlands 3 development

Borderlands (1)

Note that Borderlands had an Eridian Artifact system that would apply elemental modifiers to action skills, which has not been seen since. If these characters were to be brought into a future game as playable characters, this aspect would need to be revised.

BrickBerzerk

  • Action skill makes him unable to fire weapons, gains 2 different punch attacks tied to LMB/RMB, doesn’t appeal to a gun build
  • Melee damage boost, relic applies to punches (can get explosive damage on punch)
  • Talent into an Execute-style dash on punching, only gives horizontal mobility, no vertical

LilithPhasewalk

  • Invulnerability, invisibility, and increased movement speed while active
  • AoE damage around player when entering or leaving phasewalk
  • Talented heavy percent self-heal over duration (this + invis allows her to “reset fight,” reposition)
  • SMG and elemental focus, boosting firerate and dealing fire damage around her

MordecaiBloodwing

  • Bloodwing flies out and attacks one enemy for a large amount of damage, then returns (talent into multiple attacks but can only hit each target once per throw)
  • CD refund if no targets available, similar to Phasewalk or Cold as Ice
  • Talented health restore for each target struck when Bloodwing returns
  • Trespass gives shots a chance to ignore shields
  • Gun Crazy begins the trend of 1 character in each game that has a double-fire mechanic, each one working a bit differently than the others; Zer0’s is Tw0 Fang, and Nisha’s is Hell’s Comin’ With Me!

RolandScorpio Turret (dead by the time of Borderlands 3)

  • Healing zone around turret, restores ammo to nearby players (auras)

Borderlands 2

AxtonSabre Turret

  • Personal damage support and distraction (shoots enemies with mounted gun); talented personal damage buffs (Double Up applies slag to targets, Battlefront increases damage output while turret is active); defensively and control-oriented (Mag-Lock, Nuke, Longbow Turret, Gemini, and Phalanx Shield all provide fine control over where and how you engage enemies)
  • Lots of grenade damage in skill tree, bonuses apply to both grenades and a large number of weapons that deal splash damage
  • Obvious soldier thematic with themed skills like Duty Calls, Ready, Willing, Able, etc.
  • Shield tanking through Quick Charge, interesting because most tanking styles revolve around health regen

MayaPhaselock

  • Heavy control focus (Converge, Thoughtlock,
  • AoE and elemental damage (Chain Reaction, Flicker,
  • Heavy group support (Ruin, Converge, Res, Scorn, Elated, Sweet Release)

SalvadorGunzerking

  • Fully offensive, with dual wielded weapons and very large bonuses for spamming bullets everywhere
  • Brawn tree gives very strong health regen, allows for a full tank meatshield build

Zer0Decepti0n

  • Focus on positioning and OSK playstyle through shotguns, snipers, or melee (gun build not well supported, with weaker bonus for automatic weapons than other characters)
  • Mark priority kill targets with Death Blossom, boosts personal and group damage by up to 80% on specific targets
  • Minor throwback to Lilith’s Phasewalk with Unf0reseen dealing AoE damage around decoy when exiting Decepti0n, potential for similar playstyle
  • Execute mechanics in the form of Killing Bl0w, Death Mark, C0unter Strike, B0re, Backstab, Many Must Fall, and One Sh0t One Kill
  • High damage per-trigger-pull weapons get a lot of bonuses (Decepti0n, One Sh0t One Kill, Critical Ascension, Tw0 Fang, Ambush)

GaigeDeathtrap

  • Mobile turret play, the precursor to Wilhelm

KriegBuzz Axe Rampage

  • Action skill is similar to Brick, replaces gunplay with dedicated melee for the duration, likewise useless for a gun build

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

AthenaKinetic Aspis

  • Purely defensive action skill, preventing incoming damage that strikes her character model within a frontal cone, relies heavily on positioning

ClaptrapVaultHunter.exe (“dead” by the time of Borderlands 3, but could have new programming installed by Gaige)

  • Randomized action skill that draws on a few abilties from prior playable characters, eg. Blight Phoenix, Decepti0n, Buzz Axe Rampage, Sabre Turret, and Deathtrap, as well as inspiration from other random things, such as pirate ships, rubber ducks, the medic from TF2, literal disco inferno, and Gandalf
  • Overall focus on randomness and adaptability, as well as explosives and group support

NishaShowdown (dead by the time of Borderlands 3, also a villain)

  • Aimbot for a few seconds, and several powerful gun-related damage bonuses

WilhelmWolf and Saint (dead by the time of Borderlands 3, also a villain)

  • The second attempt at mobile turret play, and the most successful pet class so far
  • Bonuses for you, your drones, and your team, making him very well-rounded; he can choose to go heavy on solo dps, or boost Wolf’s damage through the roof
  • Laser Guided is a similar bonus to Deathmark and also provides action skill duration management

Timothy (Handsome Jack’s Doppelganger)Expendable Assets

  • Mobile pet class build, or stationary pet class build; both center around exploiting the digistructed Jack clones
  • The clones act as a damage-dealing tool, survivability, or a distraction
  • Stationary build involves the “Badass” clones staying alive for as long as possible, dealing tremendous amounts of damage for the player; mobile build involves running around causing the clones to “die” when they despawn, proccing kill skills due to Leadership and boosting personal damage significantly
  • Lots of thematic bonuses around business (Money is Power offers a large sum of additive gun damage as you pick up money, Sponsored By… confers a specific bonus to his current gun based on the manufacturer of the gun he swapped from such as bonus explosive damage on each shot for swapping from Torgue)
  • Kill skills have permanent uptime while his action skill is running due to the interaction between clone despawn counting as death and Leadership proccing kill skills when one of your clones dies (I feel like this is a design oversight, perhaps not intended, but it is how Timothy has worked since his release)

AureliaCold as Ice

  • Similar to Phaselock, control-heavy with a roaming cryo dispensor setting off Singularity pulls when it attaches to an enemy; similar to Bloodwing with a non-pet roaming action skill that supplements damage and survivability; superior implementation to both due to AI improvements and a more comfortable usage paradigm (it doesn’t struggle to reach the next enemy unlike Subsequence and Bloodwing, and it stays out until the timer is depleted or there are no more valid targets). You still get the feel of it not being completely under your control, but you gain the QoL and power of being able to direct it where you want it to go
  • Similarly to Maya, she gets some bonuses for keeping her action skill out but she avoids being completely relient on it to enable her damage output (it boosts her cryo damage on the target, with cryo-heavy builds being opt-in, and it can be applied to bosses, which Phaselock is not capable of)
  • Heavy duration management available (Short Summer reduces its cooldown, Cold Advance extends the duration every time you deal critical damage)

Tales from the Borderlands

FionaUnknown (I am listing her because it is probably canon that she’s looking to become a vault hunter, and between her and Rhys, she is the only one who actually participates directly in combat. This whole section will be speculation, so you may ignore it if that doesn’t interest you.)

  • Espionage/con-woman motif, she could have diguise abilities or trick enemies into fighting for her
  • She has a hidden pistol given to her by Felix, this may play into her skill tree in some way (possibly proccing 1 shot of her hidden pistol per reload of her held weapon, dealing a greater amount of damage under certain circumstances like proximity to enemy, amount of bullets fired before reloading, or something else that gives the feel of “last-ditch effort”), it could have a strong chance to apply an elemental effect or give her a unique buff if she crits with that shot
  • Maybe some abilities to “talk her way out of trouble,” giving some RP dialogue when your shield is depleted and causing enemies to be stunned for a couple seconds or something

Requests:

(Please…)

  1. Bring back all of the (still living) playable vault hunters. Even if it isn’t as playable characters (Though that would be my preference, in addition to the standard 6 brand new vault hunters. I would love love love if you took all the remaining vault hunters from the previous games, updated them for the new gameplay, reworked/retuned any garbage skills or ideas that didn’t work out the first time, fixed any bugs they previously had, and put them back in as playable for BL3. They could show growth in their abilities or change in personality through the subtle ways that their skill trees changed, like Axton becoming more of a soldier and medic to fill the gap left in Roland’s absence, or Mordecai coddling Talon and teaching him how to hunt like Bloodwing. They could even be implemented as DLC, I would buy the hell out of that!), it would be nice to have all of the vault hunters at least grounded in the universe. I want quests to go assassinate some dudes with Zer0 and Athena, hunt a rare beast with Aurelia and Mordecai, investigate Eridian ruins with Maya and Lilith, get in a bar-brawl with Salvador and Brick, build a robot with Claptrap and Gaige, steal resources/important documents from a Dahl headquarters with Fiona and Krieg (I’m imagining some pretty whacky dialogue for these potential con missions), or do business-related things with Timothy and Rhys. Imagine helping run Atlas, inspiring workers, coming up with some newfangled weapons technology entirely by accident. That would be amazing. One of the things that stood out to me the most in BL2 was how you got to fight side-by-side with Brick, Mordecai, Lilith, and Roland. Now granted, the combat itself wasn’t anything special, and it would be nice if these sequences could be more interactive and less fighting over kills with dumb ai, but the premise was very novel, and I would love to see more of that. (Even if they were added as playable characters you could still implement quests like these, just have a hub where you meet up with the vault hunters, and if any of the original characters are currently being played by someone in the party, either replace them with a generic vault hunter to fill that slot or remove that npc from the quest and have the dialogue play out between the player and the remaining npcs: if quest with Zer0 + Athena and Zer0 is in party, then quest is with only Athena and she talks to player Zer0 as if he is NPC)
  1. Remove Roid shields. As long as they exist melee will continue to be useless to most characters (Melee axton build where? I want to smack people in the face with a hatchet, for Pete’s sake!), while pigeonholing melee builds into a shield that does nothing for you defensively. If you could take a useful defensive shield, a Grog Nozzle/Probe wouldn’t be so appealing. They also break builds when forced shield regen comes into play; Nisha is just not as proficient with her whip as Athena is with her sword (and not for my lack of trying) simply because she has to take shield regen abilities to pick up any meaningful +% melee damage. With all the cryo flying around in TPS, is it very difficult to get enemies to break your shield and then keep it broken, even with the extended delay offered by legendary roid shields in that game. Finally, they’re not interesting! They slow combat to a crawl as you have to walk up to an enemy and get it to knock your shield down so you can actually do any damage. In my mind, melee should be a fast, frenetic playstyle of sprinting from one baddy to the next, knocking their teeth in with gusto. There is no justifiable reason why you should have to work around your shield’s delay just so you are allowed to deal damage in your chosen playstyle, and there is no justifiable reason why you should have to give up all the defensive benefit of your shield and shield skills just so you are allowed to deal damage in your chosen playstyle. In fact, melee combatants tend to wear more armor than ranged because of the added danger of standing in range of someone holding a sword, if anything purposely tanking your shield in order to boost your damage should be relegated to ranged players (Not that I’m asking for that. I would much prefer damage boosts that rely on low health/shields to be removed, I don’t think they are healthy for the game).
  1. Allow us to skip cutscenes. All cutscenes, please. There is no compelling reason why the player should be forced to watch the same cinematic 18+ times on their journey to level capping their stable of characters.
  1. Remove knockback from enemy melee attacks that come from the front. Krieg doesn’t have to deal with this because of his additional mass, but everyone else gets knocked around like a ragdoll when trying to run a melee build. This is just unnecessary frustration, I don’t feel it adds anything to the gameplay.
  1. Playtest the everloving crap out of abilities that deal non-gear-scaling damage (things like Blight Phoenix from Borderlands 2, or Hyperion Punch in TPS). I mean, playtest everything please (Good god Hyperion Punch, I feel so bad for you. You could have been so beautiful), but there has been a semi-consistent problem with level-scaling abilities underperforming once you get to max level. TPS seems to be much better about this overall, but there are still a number of problem skills that don’t see much/any use because they just don’t bring the pain. I would say Start With a Bang is an example of such a skill done right, and Merger is an example of a skill that needed another look. Players want to feel good about including such skills in their builds, but often it is safer to just stick to the standard damage bonuses. Something that would go a long way is including the numbers for these abilities directly in the tooltips somewhere. That would probably require a UI revamp to work in, but I always like knowing exactly what I’m getting for my skill points in RPGs. This ties into the next ask…
  1. Add Verbose/Advanced tooltips. When a skill says “This skill has diminishing returns,” I want to know exactly what that means. Theorycrafting is one of the greatest things (IMO) about RPGs, and every theorycrafter ever wants to know how things work under the hood. It (usually) isn’t enough that a skill looks cool, I want to know how it works so I can min-max the crap out of it. Give me the splash damage coeeficient for that Torgue pistol! Tell me how much the radius of my slam is going to increase! I want to know! I recognise that isn’t everyones’ cup of tea, so a menu toggle would be the best way to implement something like this, but such a feature would add so much to the build system and would make it much easier for the community to put together interesting new builds that take advantage of neat little mechanics tucked away in the skill trees. It would also make it easier to file bug reports if something is not working as intended.
  1. Stop adding damage bonuses that rely on low health. How are you even supposed to use these? Everyone knows Borderlands scaling becomes very steep as your level goes up, to the point where health gating becomes a common tool for burst mitigation, rather than an effect that only occasionally triggers in normal play. Having low health at any given time is completely out of your control, and also commonly indicates poor/ineffecient play. You should be rewarding players for managing their health properly, not for the 1-2 seconds they spend at low health before getting downed after taking a huge rocket barrage from an RPG Loader. As much as I dislike effects that rely on having no shields, at least you can stack some health regen or damage resistance and allow yourself to take a couple hits to keep your shields low (or pick up a Rough Rider), there is no way to intentionally sit around 5% health meaning you never see these bonuses until you are scrambling for cover and are completely incapable of taking advantage of them.
  1. Add a “Build Locker.” I would love a system where you can store a preset build, and then click a button to equip everything at once, pulling from your inventory as well as your bank to get you set up in one go.
  1. Make the inventory and bank ui more pc-friendly. It is really tedious to scan through your bags for specific items, I would love an option for a grid style inventory so I can quickly throw on the things I want without having to touch my scroll wheel. I honestly think this would work better for console as well, but at the very least please make it an option for pc.
  1. Improve melee support. I know I already talked about roid shields, but I feel this is a seperate issue. With gun builds you have all kinds of customization at your disposal: Do I want a defensive or offensive shield? What class of gun? What manufacturer? What stats do I want to prioritize (gun damage, fire rate, crit damage, accuracy, and reload speed are all major stats that affect the performance of your weapons)? What Oz Kit/Relic? Do I want the explosive damage COM or the shotgun COM? You have so many options for gun builds, but with melee there is no real choice in the weapon you use (Is it good at slagging/cryo? Does it have a blade?), the type of shield you use (always roid), or the COM you use (highest melee damage available, and usually there is only one melee COM for your class anyway). Your choices for talents are heavily diminished as well, as your main goal will be first and foremost to pump as much +%melee damage into your build as possible, since without the damage your utility and tankiness loses a lot of value in solo play. Your only real choices are in your FFYL weapon and the type of grenade mod you prefer. I don’t profess to know the best solution for this problem, but I am definitely interested in the idea of “kinetic capacitors” that would function as a mod for your melee attacks, much like grenade mods. They don’t necessarily have to be weapons, they could just be items similar to Relics that would give your melee an additional effect. Each manufacturer could have their own melee gimmick. If you really wanted to add melee weapons, though, there is a lot of potential for interesting designs that would fit with the pre-existing thematics for the current weapon manufacturers. Maliwan could have energy sabers that apply DoTs to targets you strike. Torgue could have Ullapool Cabers that deal explosive splash damage in an AoE like the Love Thumper, with the benefit that grenade damage would then be a modifier for your melee damage. Jakobs could have Rapiers (or some other traditional, ornamental sword like you’d expect to see for a military serviceman) that would open up additional crit spots on the target and apply a bleed if you land a melee crit. Bandit could have heavy clubs that daze the target like in Borderlands classic (apply a slow, cause targets to miss shots). Tediore could have throwing weapons that deal explosive damage from range, scaling with your grenade damage and allowing you to work melee into a mid-range gun build (this would need to be fleshed out more, grenade damage scaling might not be appropriate here). Hyperion could have electrified batons that have a cooldown but are able to deal a large burst of melee damage every few seconds, at the cost of reduced dps per unboosted swing (to fit into a Be Like Water playstyle). The reason I like the idea of a kinetic capacitor is that you would still be able to see your default melee animation. At any rate, this way every build would be able to make use of melee in some capacity, you wouldn’t have to spec fully into melee just to make your melee not terrible. Your roid bonus could come from this slot, freeing up your shield slot for customization and preference.
  1. Add more repeatable arenas and gauntlets. I like the Holodome Badass Round and Digistruct Peak, but they get a bit stale being the only end game progression mobbing. It would also be nice if each new story DLC came with a new endgame mobbing arena/gauntlet; mobbing in the normal questing maps is fine but the pacing isn’t quite right. It’s more fun to have a map that’s specifically designed to challenge you in your mobbing ability. Also, it would be nice to have different types of arenas. The Holodome is fine for gunplay but melee builds are really slow there since the platforms are all at different heights and the room is a massive cylinder. Not saying the arenas should cater only to melee, but it would be nice to have a couple different layouts so both melee and gun builds can flourish.
  1. Add endgame questing. Once you hit level cap and finish the story, the only things remaining are raid boss kills, farming drops, and running arenas/gauntlets. Those are all great, but they don’t have the RPG feel of going out, doing something interesting for someone, and handing in the quest for an interesting reward. I want to be able to feel grounded in the world even at end game, not feel like I’ve done everything there is to do.
  1. Add gear crafting. The grinder was a good trial run to see how the community would take to a mechanic for targeting specific gear using other farmed items, I think BL3 is the time to take it that next step further and add actual crafting. No comment on how this would be implemented, but it is something I want to see. The only thing I will say is I don’t want the cost to be prohibitive. It doesn’t need to cost you 20 hours of playtime to afford the sight for the gun you want, but it shouldn’t be too cheap either, lest players lose the drive to go out and play the game. It might be difficult to balance costs, but I would probably prefer it be slightly too expensive than too cheap so it doesn’t ruin the farming aspect of Borderlands we’ve all come to love. I also don’t want my inventory to fill up with random gun parts, please don’t add a bunch of inventory management to the game in the process of creating a crafting system.
  1. Don’t make anything co-op only. I exclusively play Borderlands solo, and I would be extremely disappointed if you added gameplay that I will never be able to experience due to my preference in playing alone. I’m ultimately ok with some things being harder if you don’t have a group, such as raid bosses, but I don’t want any “You must have 4 players to enter” zones to appear in my beloved Borderlands.
  1. Continue to patch the game with bugfixes and balance changes after launch. Commitment to your product and your players is very important to me, I want to see you invest your time and attention in making the game the best it can be. If you do, you can be sure I will invest my money in supporting your work.
  1. Don’t bring back as many legendaries as TPS did. New unique items are fun, there is a rush of discovery when you get them to drop for the first time. Old legendaries are honestly a bit of a letdown. I was so disappointed to see the Cradle appear in TPS, but there are no words for how irritated I was to see that it didn’t even receive any changes, it was still every bit as garbage as its BL2 incarnation. Just changing the name of an old legendary isn’t enough either, I want new toys to play with. The only legendary I particularly want to stick around is the Bitch since it’s so iconic, but only if it doesn’t take the place of a new legendary SMG. There were some great new legendaries in TPS; I really loved the Absolute Zero and the 3DD1.E, and I’m hoping that kind of ingenuity continues going forward.
  1. Bring back Pearlescents. But please introduce them right from the start to set expectations. The new pearls in BL2 were largely pretty lackluster, considering the difficulty in collecting them compared to legendaries. I think if they hadn’t come at the cost of new legendaries in the level cap DLCs, their initial reception wouldn’t have been so poor. Not every pearl has to be best in slot, the biggest thing for me is the varied acquisition, having multiple different sources of end-game loot makes it more fun to plan out your build checklist.
  1. Add more visual customization options (not just heads and skins). I loved how Claptrap’s “heads” modified his whole body, it made hunting for cosmetics more exciting. Maybe you could add an outfit slot to go along with heads, so we can customize appearances that much more. This isn’t a huge priority for me, I wouldn’t want it to come at the cost of maps or systems improvements, but if an art team could work on these without impacting the rest of the game’s development, that would be awesome.
  1. Add 3rd-person mode. It doesn’t need to be heavily fleshed out, I don’t mind 1st-person being optimal for combat. I just want the option of seeing the characters move through the world, and being able to enjoy my hard-earned cosmetics while I’m running between maps.
  1. Expand the pool of manufacturer weapons. There are a lot of interesting potential weapons, from Maliwan shotguns to Torgue snipers.
  1. Speed up Torgue projectiles.
  1. Rebalance the Bandit gimmick.
  1. Give railgun lasers actual crosshairs (assuming they stick around). Why does the Longest Yard have a big empty circle for its crosshairs? Railguns are much harder to use for sniping for those of us with poor coordination/spatial awareness because of this, especially at longer ranges.
  1. Allow players to toggle spawning all non-boss enemies into the map when it is loaded (or at the very least extend the range for enemies to spawn). Solo sniping builds don’t actually play like snipers because you have to get pretty darn close to the enemies’ spawns before they’ll appear for you to shoot at. It isn’t as bad in co-op since one player can run forward and spawn everything in while the other hangs back and takes potshots, but if you’re by yourself you rarely ever get to make use of the full magnification of your scope, and you don’t often have to account for bullet speed either.
  1. Find a way to make non-elemental weapons more desirable. I know this one is vague, but I don’t quite know how to summarize the issue. Some non-elemental guns see a lot of play, and some are rarely touched because they just can’t overcome health and gear scaling like elemental type-matching can. It would be nice to have a use for non-elemental Dahl pistols and ARs; I love their firing and reload animations, but sadly they are usually outclassed.
  1. Try your darndest to balance DoT builds.
2 Likes

This took a LOT of time, I can tell. Good job

2 Likes

I have a lot of time on my hands, hehe. Still working on it though!

1 Like

Solid write up! I agree with everything. Melee builds that make sense. For some reason I want to see more creatures. I love how bullymongs and other creatures were added. I hope they keep this up! Borderlands has the potential to be such a cool story. I’ve always played more FPS games but I really get into the world of pandora and how detailed it is. Great analysis!

2 Likes

RE: point 22.

As someone who loves S&S, I rather seem them replace Bandit. Atleast they can do more than tickle the common mook!
That said, I rather see just a new batch of playable characters, instead of old ones returning as playable. But they definetly need to return as NPC’s.

You forgot the one thing Claptrap repeatedly references about Lilith – stairs. While Lilith can go up blatant steps, she gets stopped by some things in Jakobs’ Cove that she would otherwise have no problem with.