The Unyielding Desire for Pearlescents - What is Rarity?

For better or worse the Borderlands series is the first video game series where I dealt with item rarity being associated with labels and colors. Item grading for me was a scale of poor to excellent. The item stats reflected this. My approach to gear choices reflected this when I started playing these games. I ignored rarity in favor of stats, and of course the game design defied this logic many a time to reward me.

Having said that , what is rarity?

Is it fair to say it’s a combination of drop rate, item stats/ features, and drop source?
  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

Let’s call the combination of the above factors Functional Rarity

Having said that,

Is the attachment to Rarity Labels and Colors Sentimental?
  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

And finally,

Does Functional Rarity lose value to you if the items are not given a unique label and color?
  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

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Didn’t vote on the last question because my answer is “it’s complicated”.

In BL3 specifically I like how Legendaries (as the highest tier) are highlighted on the minimap. I love the intensity of the beam effect and the sound as one drops. That, to me, is a part of the “value”. It’s sentimental, but it’s value.

This therefore affects the functional rarity, because unless I’m going to really deep-dive into the item to figure out how useful it is to me, the item stats and features remain opaque to me.

It’d be hilarious to me if the ECHO-2 was one of the best grenade mods in the game. It isn’t (I mean, it’s not weak, but it’s nowhere near my radar when it comes to builds). So I guess my answer possibly leans towards “no”? But it still has red text, so.

In a completely new game, I’d say “no”. But in Borderlands, “red text” means “unique” and there are tiers of quality on top / accompanying that. You could do away with one, and have a particular item still have value. But you couldn’t do away with both.

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Gear rarity in Borderlands is contaminated with red text effects, which randomly buff/nerf weapons regardless of rarity, which breaks the rarity/quality association that people expect. That this contamination only increases with rarity with very few White specimens, a few more Green until you get to Orange and higher where every single piece is contaminated. This is what I believe leads to so much vexation from players wondering why the once-in-a-lifetime Pearlescent thing actually stinks in combat. It should be one of the best pieces in the game according to a quality/rarity association, but the red text effect is an extra dice roll that might break it entirely (or make a Blue rarity thing one of the most powerful).

Note: I’m here for this contamination - rarity’s just a pretty color.


@Gorbles & @Adabiviak I’d be lying if I didn’t say I tested out the Echo-2 and Fakob’s Rifle based on their lore in the game and the accompanying Red Text. And like the Big Succ, I learned my lesson all over again. Meme rarity is a thing in Borderlands. In Ultraviolet light the color is fecal brown.

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The way I view the rarity system in borderland games is that there are two categories - standard and red text.
Standard gear has a rarity colour system to tell you both how likely it is to drop and also how powerful it is. A purple item will drop less than a green and be more powerful, for example, but the parts system does allow some overlap, where a great blue could be better than a bad purpl e. It’s also important to note that as you level up more, you level slower so higher rarity is more crucial and worth hunting for, because you won’t be replacing them as often, and some of the games seem to adjust drop rates accordingly.
Red text gear behaves differently, both in how you use it and in how the colour system functions. All red text items have colours that tell you roughly how they are gained. For example, blues are usually mission rewards and guaranteed boss drops, oranges are world drops and dedicated boss drops, and later colours are for other means of obtained gear, like pearlescent gear coming from raid bosses, seraph gear being pink and coming from set vendors or glitch gear coming from Claptrap’s mind. In BL3, some gear should be pearlescent, since it only drops from endgame or raid bosses and should be a different colour to show that. Gear like the monarch and DNA, which also happen to be more powerful variations of other red text items in the orange tier, and colouring them differently would separate them better.
EDIT: I’m saying that on a red text item, the colour won’t always tell you how powerful an item is, so it can be misleading to try and use the standard colour system as a guide with regard to red text gear. You can get a blue that’s better than an orange, even though most orange tier gear will be better than blue, so if it has red text you should judge it based on stats (and usefulness of the red text effects) instead.


i have genuinly no interest in color schemes or stats only uniqueness.

the lob is a reason why i play bl games

redline is just bangstick with high fire rate

i play bl to see sci fi shooter and more unique each manufacturer is and the more usefuel and unique red text effect on gear is the better. i could not care less if some gun has million damage and glows light blue and all it does is shoot one hitscan bullet that does billion dmg.


this was just a mistake made in bl2 and tps which mostly comes from devs not really playing the game. neither most oranges were better than blues then and i don think they should ever be better than legendaries (assuming leggos drop rare) neither ladyfist nor sandhawk or p1mpernel were made to be meta guns they just so happened to become ones due to bee and lady fist x2 crit buff ( the idea behind those guns was that p1mp would actually be cc sniper was not supposed to hit priamry target 7 times and hawk was supposedly hard to use due to bullet velocity but turned out great ). while i agree that red text should be not easily judgable by stats only it should not be pearl in disguise being blue it is actually horrible for progression as you get them through playthrough.

Color marking is just a convention, a practical one which is why multiplying colors is counterproductive imo, 4 colors is ideal (like in poe for instance) 5 colors is ok, 6 is starting to be bs cluttering.

As mentioned, when it comes to non uniques rarity works, mainly because the rarity of an item gives a functional boost to the items stats before any item parts, red text is where things get whacky.
People want pearlecents because having something ultra rare in this game would be amazing since its something thats really lacking, and because the game is actively being worked on pearls can at least be made to be really good and worth the effort to get unlike bl2 where they were mostly meh

GBX could make up artificial rarity tiers based on a simple formula:

  • Legendary with perfect parts: pearlescent
  • Legendary with top 5 anointment: seraph
  • Legendary with both the above: rainbow

Problem solved. Mayhem ensues.


Color schemed rarity is a bit hard to define in Borderlands. For the most part if it’s got red text, it’s got a farmable source. Whether the gun or it’s red text effect is any good varies from case to case but being able to farm what you want makes specific legendaries less rare than specific purples . Never saw a single CMT grenade or a maximum bullet Bangstick while playing this game, meanwhile I can choose a legendary of my choice and go farm for it, at least to the degree that BL3 parts and annoinment system allows you to get anything you want.

Of course it is. You could change all the colors to show the same and it wouldn’t change how the guns perform. I personally preferred it when besides legendaries there were also seraphs and pearls (and E-tech, I guess). It gives red text gear a bit more personality beyond what it does when you shoot it when its color has some representation to where it came from. It doesn’t REALLY matter but it’s a touch that I personally do fancy.

No but it would definitely make it harder to talk about gear and it would make me have to stare at each and every drop to determine if it’s decent or not. Which would make looting a lot less functionable even though the rare things would be just as rare.

As for your original comment about ignoring rarity in favor of stats when starting out, that’s just a smart thing to do in general. A crappy gun is a crappy gun, legendary or not. I most definitely did not change my nice blue Jakobs revolver into a Superball on my first playthrough.

This is my problem with Diablo and Borderlands rarity: They aren’t actually rare.

Getting to the endgame and literally having a Legendary item drop and being “oh, another trash item. Inventory full. Better head back and sell before more farming”? Good/high rarity items should be just that. They should be good and rare. I’m not huge on the time-gate of Destiny, but Destiny’s system works fairly well. Legendary items are huge when they drop. Even if they aren’t that great or don’t work for your build, they are worth hanging on to.

There is a clear difference in the games due to the number of legendries which exist and the fact that random modifiers exist, but the point still remains the same. Having the endgame be nothing except constant rush runs to collect Legendaries in the hopes one will be worth your time isn’t fun (for most people). Having a Legendary truly be Legendary when it comes to rarity and usefulness… we need more of that. Legendaries shouldn’t just be another tier. They should be items that strike awe and get you excited when you get them.

Borderlands needs to rethink how it approaches high tier gear. I personally feel there is value in reducing the number of guns and items and focusing on having Rare and Epic be the “good stuff” that things are based around. I want to focus on playing the game and playing the content I want to play. I don’t want to focus on farming a single boss until I get the exact gun with the exact bonuses and the exact anointment… which bring up another problem: a good game doesn’t need to rely on gear farming to keep people playing. If the game is good and fun to play with compelling characters and story then people will play and stay.


That is insultingly presumptuous. I, and many others, were glad to see BL3 move away from Legendaries being a spiteful tease, to something you could actually construct multiple builds with.

Totally subjective.

Then literally don’t. The option being there doesn’t mean you have to. Your way shouldn’t have to be the only way for you to enjoy it.
BL3 Old man yells at guns


This right here, that is Borderlands in a nutshell for many of us, be that now, or our future.