Vault Hunting 102: Pre-Sequel Basics for New Players Part 1
Your spoiler-free guide to characters, gear, loot, quests, and skills for your first play-through, covering Helios Station through Serenity’s Waste to Concordia.
Hello, fellow Vault Hunter! If you’ve just picked up The Pre-Sequel for the first time, and especially if you’ve never played any of the other Borderlands games, then this guide is for you. I’ll be taking a couple of brand new characters through the first play-through, known as Normal Vault Hunter Mode (NVHM) as I write this. Hopefully, it will answer many of the questions you have as go through the game with me.
- Beginning the Story
- Helios Station
- Serenity’s Waste (1)
- Regolith Range
- Serenity’s Waste (2)
- Part 2: Concordia through Triton Flats to Crisis Scar
- Part 3: Triton Flats and Stanton’s Liver to Outlands Canyon and Outlands Spur
- Part 4: Pity’s Fall through Titan Industrial Facility to Titan Robot Production Plant
- Part 5: Hyperion Hub of Heroism through Jack’s Office, Research and Development, The Veins of Helios and the Lunar Launching Station to The Eye of Helios
- Part 6: Vorago Solitude through Outfall Pumping Station and Tyhco’s Ribs to Eleseer
Beginning the Story
When you start the game up, the New Game prompt asks you to select a character. Which one you choose at this point is immaterial, since you’ll be able to change it shortly.
The game starts in the post-Borderlands 2 world, with the main title sequence introducing the game as a flashback narration that explains how events unfolded between the original Borderlands and Borderlands 2 as a flashback narration. It’s worth watching at least once, since not only does it introduce the main vault hunters, but gives some insight into their relationships and sets the stage for the game environment.
After the intro cut-scene, you get a chance to confirm your initial character selection or switch to one of the others. Note that there really are no bad choices here: some will likely fit your preferred play-style better than others, but they are all well-balanced, well-rounded characters with diverse and interesting skill trees. Once you’ve decided on a character, make sure you give it a unique name (so you don’t accidentally overwrite any previous save) and jump right in to the game. The choices in the vanilla game are:
Athena has a badass shield with a sword for melee, and a mix of elemental, melee, and weapon skills. She is a solid first-time choice for any player, whether solo or co-op. You can learn more about Athena by (1) playing the Borderlands 1 Knoxx DLC Knoxx DLC and (2) finding the lost echoes in the first half of Regolith Range.
Skill tree: https://borderlandsthegame.com/skilltrees/athena.html (needs Flash)
Wilhelm can deploy two drones that provide attack (Wolf) and healing (Saint). A good weapon/soldier class with cyber upgrades if you want to go that route. Wilhelm is also encountered (somewhat briefly) as a boss in Borderlands 2. You can learn more about Wilhelm from the lost echoes in Triton Flats. Note that one skill allows you to “paint” priority targets by tapping the action skill key/button; holding down the key/button will cancel the action skill (useful for reduced cooldown if everything’s already dead).
Skill tree: https://borderlandsthegame.com/skilltrees/wilhelm.html (needs Flash)
Nisha is a bull-whip-wielding gun-slinger, who can slow time and auto-aim during her action skill. Something of a glass cannon, she can be built into an insanely powerful character. Nisha also appears briefly as a boss in Borderlands 2. If you like fast and furious action, Nisha is for you. You can find her lost echoes in Outlands Canyon. Nisha’s action skill allows you to quickly target multiple enemies with boosted damage etc.; one of her capstone skills also lets you dual-wield pistols.
Skill tree: https://borderlandsthegame.com/skilltrees/nisha.html (needs Flash)
It’s Claptrap, so you know he’s going to be weird. He honestly has to be experienced to be understood. He can be a solid explosives character but also has a very quirky skill tree and a most unusual action skill. While this puts some off (along with him being Claptrap), he is the funniest vault hunter to play as, and still makes me laugh out loud. Claptrap also has skill tree options that make him an interesting choice for co-op (ask @Hattie and @FunkJunkie about that, or watch some of their game play). Claptrap’s lost echoes are scattered through the second half of Regolith Range
Skill tree: https://borderlandsthegame.com/skilltrees/claptrap.html (needs flash)
Two additional characters were added as DLC, but are included with the Handsome Collection for PS4/XB1.
Not actually Jack but, if you’ve played Borderlands 2 you already know some of the skills to expect. Exploit corporate power and digital weaponized holographic decoys to wreak havoc on lesser mortals. Once understood, this is one powerful vault hunter. You can’t quite call in moonshots to obliterate whole areas, but you can get pretty close! Another excellent co-op choice. There are related lost echoes in Jack’s Office. Like Wilhelm, Jack’s action skill can be cancelled by holding down the key/button, reducing cooldown.
Skill tree: https://borderlandsthegame.com/skilltrees/jack.html (needs Flash)
She will freeze you to death! An elemental sniper class with out-standing co-op opportunities. The voice actor’s accent is a bit off but, if you can stand that, she’s a killer queen with a cryo laser beam. She also has an interesting melee… Like Claptrap she also has skill options that boost performance specifically in co-op play (providing your partner co-operates!)
Skill tree: https://borderlandsthegame.com/skilltrees/aurelia.html (needs Flash)
- Welcome to Helios (level 1)
- Lost Legion Invasion (level 1)
The action starts on the Helios space station. You will be met by a guide who will nag you to follow them as rapidly as possible. Take your time though - there’s no actual need to hurry, and the initial area does have some Hyperion ammo and loot crates for you to open. Plus, you can only access this map at the start of the game.
Note that you can pick these items up individually, or use the on-screen prompt to “pick up all”. It’s best to open all the crates in one area first and then pick up, as this maximizes your chance of getting more ammo for the weapons that you need it for most.
Check your gear in your inventory as soon as possible - different characters get slightly different starting equipment, although none of them will have a shield in first play-through (normal vault hunter mode or NVHM).
There will also be a personal log giving you a bit of character back-story. I strongly recommend that you wait until the background dialogue has stopped before you select it, and then stay put until it’s finished playing. Note that the audio will not play immediately on selection in your inventory, but only when you leave it.
Your guide will lead you into the Supply Station, and your first combat. Clear the area of enemies and loot all the crates before heading to the mission objective and advancing the story.
Your guide will take you through to Moonshot Control, where there will be an even bigger fight. Make sure you pick up any weapons dropped by your opponents when you kill them - the ammo from such weapons is automatically added to your inventory, plus you can either use or sell them later. Again, clear all the enemies on the map and then thoroughly explore before heading to the mission marker and advancing the story.
In addition to the usual loot and ammo crates, there is also one large weapon chest in a corner. The contents will be limited in your first play-through (since there is a minimum level requirement for each category of weapon or equipment), and may also be one level higher than your character. Don’t worry though: you’ll probably level up as soon as you turn the current mission in, and there’s going to be way more loot before you’re done! Also, take some time to just look at the awesome art design
You are now going to follow Jack around for a bit. One thing you’ll appreciate if you’ve already played Borderlands 2:
- Each vault hunter has specific character dialogue that plays when they interact with the key NPCs in game. So, your conversation at this point in the game will be different depending on who you picked to play.
- You’ll also hear occasional “flashback narration” as the story unfolds, so take your time and don’t rush from one area to another. There are also differences in this dialogue between your first and second play-throughs
Now on to the Moonshot Ordinance Observation, with a few more pauses for dialogue and a cut-scene that introduces your principal protagonist and hints at what is to come. Your initial path forward is blocked, so you need to head elsewhere. Follow your guide to a platform on the outside of the station and marvel that this one has an atmosphere and gravity! More troops are dropped on you by Fighter Jets, which you can also shoot down for extra XP if you’re quick and have good aim. More forces land while you’re in the external area, and you’ll probably hit level 3 unlocking your first skill point.
Continuing the main story, follow your guide through Thermal Transfer, triggering a save point along the way. There’s another weapon crate in this area, so a second chance for an upgrade to your current weapon. Dropping down into the next area will trigger a cut-scene and the first boss fight.
This boss fight has two distinct stages, and you’ll have additional enemies drop in for the second stage. There is a one-in-ten chance that the boss will drop a legendary item. Once the area is clear and you’ve looted to your heart’s content, follow your guide to advance the game script. At this point you’ll have to make a second detour, which will take you past an ammo vending machine. You shouldn’t really need the ammo, but you can at least sell off all the stuff you don’t want.
Follow the instructions from your guide, and work your way through the story. There’s one more room with a red Hyperion Chest in it for more loot, so do explore before you hitch a ride out of Helios. (Also make sure you hit the Health and Weapon vending machines conveniently located in the gift shop before the ext!). Eventually, the Map Transition to Serenity’s Waste will become available to you; activate it to trigger the next cut-scene and get the heck out of Helios.
- Tales from Elpis (level 3) - shock sniper
Land Among the Stars (level 3) - Oz Kit which unlocks:
- Follow Your Heart (level 3) - pistol/rifle
- Three vault symbols
- One other challenge
After the cut-scene and successfully exiting your container, you have a new guide to follow. You are also now on the moon in a low-gravity air-less environment. The oxygen thing will be taken care of momentarily; for now, experience the joy of just how high/far you can jump!
Follow your guide to the Oxygen Dome Generator - an odd pylon looking thing that emits a constant beeping noise that gets louder as you get closer. (If you check your minimap you’ll see that it’s marked with a greeny-blue diamond, as are the oxygen vents that scatter the moon’s surface. This is important information, so note it well!). There’s a pad on the pylon to toggle the Oxygen Generator on and off; they can also be activated by a shock weapon.
Keep following your guide to their building at Ozless Harbor and head inside. Once inside, you’ll be able to breathe and talk to your guide to advance the story script. Also, if you need to save and quit, moving further into the building will trigger the auto-save at the Fast Travel Station. There are also numerous chests and a couple of vending machines, so make yourself at home.
Once you’re ready, head back outside through the upper door of the building and point yourself in the direction of the mission marker (the white diamond. There are a series of oxygen vents along the way, and an Oxygen Dome right outside your destination. You’ll want to activate this straight away, since you’re about to be attacked by the first of Elpis’ many homicidal native species.
Deal with the beasties, follow the instructions, and grab the mission objective item. At this point, you should wait for your guide to join you so you can turn the mission in and get your first ever Oz Kit. This also ends the first phase of the story (Lost Legion Invasion) and starts the second (Marooned). It also makes the first side quests available to you, both of which you should probably take.
Note that the weapon from Tales from Elpis can be very helpful in completing the boss fight ahead in the main story line. The Land Among the Stars side quest teaches you how to use an Oz Kit, and gives you a choice of a couple of blue unique ones that will also be very helpful. Finally, Follow Your Heart can be done alongside the main story quest; you can either double-back and turn it in before continuing with the main story (so you get the XP and rewards first), or wait until you complete Marooned. I recommend doing all three during your first play-through, at least.
As you’re running through the open areas of Australia Elpis smashing rock piles, you’ll occasionally find items called Moonstones. These are a secondary in-game currency that function in pretty much the same way as eridium in Borderlands 2, although they actually have more uses. These will simply accumulate in your inventory for now; you’ll find out what to do with them once you’ve completed Marooned
Onwards with the main quest: Work your way from the main location (Spring’s Garage, past the building where you found the Oz Kit and on towards the mission marker. There are actually two exits from Serenity’s Waste to Regolith Range, although the nearer one won’t appear until it’s been unlocked from the other side.
If you get lost:
Follow the line of oxygen vents due east of the second building (with the sun and Pandora in the sky directly in front of you) until you come to a more open area, then veer south, passing around the east side of the lava pool. The exit should be at the southern-most tip of the map, with an Oxygen Dome over the gate. If you see a vehicle station, you haven’t gone far enough east.
Activate the Map Transition and pass through to Regolith Range.
Discoverable side quest:
- Last Requests (level 4) - skin and access to a hidden loot chest. Look for the ! marker on your map/minimap.
- Three vault symbols
- One missable challenge (story mission related)
- Four other challenges
You arrive at Dead Drop beside a couple of vending machines. Note that, as a secondary map Regolith Range has NO [color=lightblueFast Travel Station[/color] - if you save and quit, you’ll respawn at the nearest map transition when you resume your game.
If you’re doing Follow Your Heart you’ll want to head forward and then to the right. Otherwise, just press on down the left side of the map towards the mission marker. Things will get intense either way as you fight through a whole bunch of Scavs (the equivalent of Bandits from Borderlands 2).
After some back and forth, it’s on to your second boss battle. This time, it’s a spacesuit-wearing, jump-pad-using Scav by the name of Deadlift. This fight has given many players problems: it is in a multi-level environment, the boss has a pretty massive shield, his homing ranged attack can hit pretty hard, and every so often he electrifies a whole section of floor.
That said, if you got the shock sniper rifle earlier from one of the side quests, you can demolish the boss pretty quickly. Again, use the terrain to your advantage: there are a couple of spots you can duck out of the way for a respite if your’re having problems. Note that if you back out of the building too far, the fight will reset and the boss will get all his health and shields back. When you finally defeat this guy, you’ll get your first laser weapon.
You’ll need to continue through the “lair” to the second part of Regolith Range through Kraggon Pass to the Dahl Waystation, where you can complete both the main quest and the Last Requests side mission. Eventually, you’ll reach Moon Zoomy Run and be able to unlock a vehicle and head back to Serenity’s Waste.
To get to the map transition, you’ll need to jump a gap across a lava river. Drive up to the edge slowly first to take a look at the layout: you want to boost your vehicle (LB on console) from the highest point on the near side to the lowest point on the far side. Once you’ve figured out the alignment back up a way - maybe 3 to 5 vehicle lengths - then push forward and boost to jump your way across the gap. Note that you need to boost before you get to the edge, since there’s a short delay while the acceleration kicks in.
Once you’re safely back in Serenity’s Waste, head straight back to Ozless Harbor to hand in Marooned and start Systems Jammed. Janey will also have two new side quests for you, both of which take place in Serenity’s Waste and Regolith Range.
It’s up to you whether or not you do them. Since the rewards are level-locked in NVHM, though, there’s no point in saving them for the end of your play-through. Note that the first of the side quests requires you to boost back across the lava: use the same strategy by first figuring out exactly where to line up so you jump from high to low point; I usually take the jump on the left side (heading away from Serenity’s Waste)
- Nova? No Problem! (level 4): moonstones and a keepable unique shield as mission item
- Torgue-o! Torgue-o! (level 4): unique shotgun or laser plus a temporary mission item
Otherwise, grab a vehicle and boost yourself across the broken bridge to the north side of the map, enter the building, and proceed to Concordia, “Mightiest of Space Ports” (on Elpis, at any rate).
Main story: Systems Jammed (level 6) - class mod
Once you’ve entered Concordia you’ll need to get through customs and decontamination. No real issues with any of this stuff, although if you follow Nurse Nina’s instruction carefully you’ll be waiting a very long time for anything to happen. Move already!. Once inside, you’ll have a series of searches to run that serve the purpose of introducing you to the key locations for all your looting needs:
- The Bank - store spare gear here (for example, items you’ve out-levelled but want to keep to pass down to another character later)
- The Stash - you can store up to four items here so that you can transfer them between your own saves
- The Black Market - yep, Crazy Randy Earl is back, and will give you additional bank, backpack, and ammo storage upgrades in exchange for moonstones
A few other features in Concordia worth knowing about are:
- Janey Spring’s Grinder - instead of selling unwanted gear, why not grind it into something useful? Requires unlocking through a side quest in NVHM For more detail on the grinder, see part 3
- Shifty Sheldon’s - an in-game location to enter SHiFT codes and make Golden Keys available for use
- The Golden Chest - where you redeem unlocked Golden Keys for a chance at purple rarity loot that is guaranteed to be at your level
- Multiple vending machines - these are worth checking regularly since the Item of the Day has a chance of being unique or legendary
- The Bounty Board, where you can occasionally pick up extra side quests
- The Quick Change station - check out those skins and heads as you collect them, rename your save, or respec your skill points.
Once you’ve finished running around following the story mission, you’ll finally get your chance to go talk to the most famous NPC in the entire Borderlands universe (and no, it is NOT Claptrap!). This leads to a parkour-style mission across the roofs of Concordia; before you start jumping around, however, check the list of challenges for this map. That’s right - there’s a missable challenge associated with this section of the story mission. So you may want to thoroughly explore all the rooftops before you complete any of the mission objectives.
If you need help:
Use the jump pad in front of the main fast travel station to jump onto the roof above the elevator entrance on the opposite side of the central “square”. Go left across the top of the elevator entrance to the next roof, and around to the side of the structure on it. Find a spot to jump up (remember to use your Oz kit to double-jump!) and look around. There should be a conspicuous switch with a wire leading from it across the next level of the roof system. Kill that switch, then track down the site of the electric fence it was operating.
There’s quite a lot of jumping from one roof to another, and you’ll need to watch out for some turrets at one point. Eventually, though, you’ll know that your next destination is Crisis Scar. You’ll need to get out of Dodge Concordia first though, and the doors are locked. Fortunately, the famous NPC knows the way. Finding her unlocks one of the funniest cut-scenes - take your time (and discover just how much of a Borderlands lore nut you are based on whether you knew this secret side to our NPC).
And that’s it for Part 1: next up, Concordia through Triton Flats to Crisis Scar.