What makes Borderlands, Borderlands?

Okay. Big Questions for you here:

What makes Borderlands so unique? What is it that keeps you coming back? What’s the most Borderlandsy thing about the game, what could you find in another game (a mechanic, a thematic device, whatever) that would make you think ‘oooh, that’s a bit Borderlands’? What, if it were to be left out of a possible future release, would you most miss?

I know my own answers to these questions, but how about you?
(This is research. All replies are welcome, and much appreciated. I may be working on a secret thing…)


The biggest thing for me, is the unique and amazing loot. You know when you find a red text weapon there will be something special about it. And that’s one of the big reasons i keep coming back. Another big reason is the sheer variety, almost unlimited builds, and ways to play the game. Top it all off with amazing, beautiful environments. Smart and unique enemies. You find something new everytime.


This may sound a little too simple, but in a word : replayability.

Despite having over 2000 hours into this game ( plus many hundreds in the others ), I’ve never really considered myself a guy who plays video games - to quote @Handsome_Dad : “I don’t play video games, I play Borderlands”.
I’ve played many others, but I’m always disappointed when I’ve finished and have no reason to go back. Only 3 others stick out in my mind, but they’re all pretty pedestrian by comparison. I’m coming at this from a solo perspective - co-op changes things.

Right this moment I’m playing a new Maya build using skills and gear I’ve never used before and loving every second of it. There are countless projects I have in mind still.

I’m actually afraid of BL3 hitting as I’ve got a lot more I want to do.


The look of it is a huge stand out for me. In the age of 1080p 4k graphics borderlands uses “cartoon” graphics and it just feels right.

The characters are another huge factor. Ive never played another game with that many classes and customization for said classes. Technically diablo, but it just doesn’t have the same feel.

The gear, so many unique, epic, and wacky weapons. So many ways to play the game, min/max, try to make everything work, and plenty of hybrid ways to play.

Replayability, goes back to the gear and classes. 6 characters per game, bl2 and tps. 3 skill trees each, 6 or 7 weapon “classes” (pistol, smg, etc.), and the extras(shields, class mods, relic, etc). It’s so hard to replay some games, but not borderlands.

The story is great in my eyes. Wacky, but still has a main plot. Amazing npcs and tons of stuff to do.

I can’t speak highly enough of the series. It’s my favorite ever. Bl2 is my favorite game ever.

Confirmed bl3 dev


Lol. If only…


Uniqueness - the wacky stuff. Almost all of the mechanics are pretty normal, found in many other RPGs, so it’s the weirdness and humor that sets Borderlands apart.

A lot of that is story/dialogue/NPCs/writing in general. A bit is present in game mechanics, specifically the oddball nonsensical bullet patterns like the Lascaux, Heartbreaker, Moonface, Pimpernel, Sandhawk, etc. I could go on. But I won’t. But I could! Or super-accurate bullet ricochets like Close Enough + Fibber. Anything that makes the player start laughing while saying “That is freaking ridiculous!!” :laughing: the first time they encounter it.

This is also my answer to questions 3 & 4. If BL3 were some sort of gritty serious game, that would not be Borderlands to me.

Keeps coming back (a bit ironic since I’m playing other games lately, just checking the forums… :stuck_out_tongue: ) - to me that’s a somewhat different question. I’d say it’s more a matter of the game being a well-constructed package. In addition to the unique wackiness, the character design, equipment, and other game mechanics are well done. When the biggest criticism I have for a game is “Sawtooth Cauldron is set at the wrong level in TVHM” (or possibly “The game takes three playthroughs to reach max level”), it’s a very well-done game. :slight_smile: The fact that all of the characters are very distinct and well-designed (OK, that part’s arguable for Gaige… :stuck_out_tongue: ) also helps the longevity. Bethesda’s RPGs are also very well done, but they’re “play once and I’m done” products. Free-form character design is great but it also means that if the player builds their character well they can do everything there is to do in a single playthrough. Whereas in BL2 getting to 72 as Maya is an entirely different experience from getting to 72 as Krieg. So I guess I’m saying that while I’d be fine with BL3 having a Bethesda-style character build system, it would cut the game’s longevity by at least a factor of six compared to the current Borderlands standard. And keeping the Borderlands characters very distinct is important. The other comparable franchise that I’ve played is Mass Effect, and though I did play ME1 three times, I only took Soldier-Shepard through ME2 and 3. Adept-Shepard and Engineer-Shepard are different, but they weren’t that different to the point of justifying tripling my time spent again.

Sorry for the wall-o-text there…


You mean, you don’t want to move to Texas?!

For me, a mixture of the story, the look, the loot, and the fact that I can solo, couch co-op, or on-line co-op, but I’m never forced into any of that. And I never have to worry about competitive play, either!


This! So much this!


The Lore is a big part of it for me. The way the games all fit together, and you get pieces of this grand design, like Randy has just been laughing at us this whole time, laughing and waiting, while the 1812 Overture just builds to a crescendo behind him. I like the story, and the characters. Though I wish the NPC had vastly higher levels of AI and not just scripts.


To me the loot, humour, characters(npc and pc) and world are what keep me coming back.

The weapon system is probably the biggest. I can’t find a gun that functions like the Pimpernel anywhere else. Weapons such as the Pimpernel, Bekah and Butcher will be the reason I boot up a game for the first time in weeks. The mechanics they offer from irregular aiming, keeping optimal spacing and just the pure craziness of a sub machine shotgun all keep me playing. I repeat maps I’ve beaten hundreds of times just so I can enjoy the combat loop of Maya and a Bekah.


The characters and story are mint, and even to date keep me laughing and humoured. I love the story missions, has a great feel and flow. I also love the gun play and weapons, and hunting Legendaries from unique bosses in all locations. Jack, Tiny Tina, Loot Midgets, hidden bosses, super awesome weapons with crazy damage, and the maps aren’t too restrictive. Having different Vault Hunters with so many skills to choose and weapons etc. to go with that setup (similar to Diablo).



The style, humor and loot hunting. GBX created a universe that is enjoyable to hang out in. They took the Diablo style of loot hunting and transformed it perfectly into a shooter, which was brilliant.


The psychotic barren wasteland full of unique enemies with differing levels of craziness. And sploding heads and bodies with equipment whether it be shields grenades weapons of quantity and quality. The kind of game that I can always come back to. Just to dump another couple hundred hours trying new things.


It’s a combination of these things for me:

  1. Art style. Other games may do this, but this particular flavor is still fairly unique, I think.

  2. Viable vertical combat options. By this I mean a combination of a) no fall damage, b) a jump height that makes jumping strategically useful, c) maps with high places to go, d) functional grenade jumping. I’m not even sure this was a conscious design decision, but I miss this in other games (except TPS, where they added variable gravity and oxygen jumps to enhance this, but that is a Borderlands franchise). It really adds a third dimension to the combat.

  3. Good difficulty options. BAR can be turned on or off. You have two play modes to choose from (Normal and True). If you pay for UVHM, you get a third (with some actual difficulty). If you pay for UVHM2, you get the OP levels, which add 8 additional difficulty levels that can be selected on the fly (if you manage to surpass them all at least once). I don’t know how many other players actually use these to fine-tune the difficulty to where they see fit, but it is easily the best system I’ve ever heard of. When I go play other games, there are either no options, or maybe “easy, medium, hard”, often without the ability to switch between them on the fly.

  4. I’ll second replayability. Most of my games involve either starting over from scratch, or loading a banked save point. In Borderlands, I can always run out into the field and combat is ready to go. While the spawn points are largely the same, and Skags (for example) will always be in known areas, there’s enough variety in the spawn types that it’s still interesting to me. Part of replayability is variety, and this game has the most that I’m aware of (environment types, weapon types, combat types, enemy types…).

  5. It’s funny. To this day, the things the characters say and do make me laugh. It’s one of the reasons why TF2 is a regular for me. I don’t have an expectation that FPS games be funny, but BL2’s humor is a) well done, and b) unique in its tongue-in-cheek sarcasm.

  6. The legions of game mechanics that provide viable combat strategies. There are so many ways to dispatch enemies that I think anyone should be able to find at least one that they like. I get the impression that a lot of players are pressed up against the wall 'o difficulty that is OP8, but if you back away from there far enough that all the game mechanics and weapons become lethal again, really think about all the different build/weapon/gear combinations that are available to bring to bear in combat. When I play other games, I’m like, “ooh, they have two whole shotguns and one action skill.” :roll_eyes:

  7. High enemy counts. This is a big one for me. In other games, especially ones with progressive skill/combat mechanic options, if you don’t have a mob/enemy to sink those big 'ol fangs into… what’s the point? It’s nice to have not only a variety of great, game-mechanic-rich combat strategies that you can bring to bear, but you also have a large variety of enemies with enough volume that you can really take your build out for a spin.

  8. PhysX. Other games feel so… flat without it. I love watching the various singularity sources pull tarps, liquids, enemies, loose particles, and whatever else around. I love watching the purple, green, and maybe red goop from an intense battle slowly trickling through surfaces after having been sprayed around chaotically during combat. It’s not the same as a good particle system… Borderlands has particles. I get to play with the PhysX bits. It’s seriously a thing for me.


Borderlands at first seemed like one of the most generic FPS’ I had ever played. Then I realised that

  1. The loot and skill combinations are amazing and the game took a lot of risks in these areas.
    I’m going to bang on a favourite drum of mine, but one of the less talked about issues with the Loot Box infection of AAA gaming is that games won’t take risks anymore because they want to make sure they can keep enough players around for a moderate amount of time and sell enough loot boxes. Think about it yourself, what was the last big title to do anything significantly different than any franchise before it?

  2. The combat is really intense and doesn’t come up enough when people talk about BL2. They mainly just focus on the loot and skill combos. Just playing the game on OP8 is hard, let alone playing the game content that’s designed to be hard. Even for experienced players, we can go down real easy in any area on OP8.

  3. The enemy variety is amazing. I’m currently playing D2, which I like obviously, but the enemy variety is laughable, as there basically isn’t any. BL2 didn’t just reskin enemies for DLC’s, they gave them different abilities and weapons (Whalers instead of Goliaths) and even added in lots of new and interesting enemy types. Very few games have this level of loot variety, skill variety, and enemy variety.

  4. The chaotic, fast nature of the combat is really fun for me. Chaotic is an understatement in 4 player BL2 combat. Everything is coming at you from all directions, the visual effects shatter the game to the point where PS4 and Xbox can barely handle it. You are fully engaged in a heavy BL2 firefight. This was a big letdown when I tried Battleborn PvE, everything was like moving through molasses after BL2.

  5. The sheer volume of content in BL2. Let’s put in crazy BAR challenges everywhere, why not put a raid boss in a small headhunter DLC, let’s put a hidden raid boss in one DLC to go along with the announced raid boss. Let’s create a massive, interesting, nuanced underground level that you don’t even have to go to as part of the main story and, hey, let’s toss in an Easter egg with unique loot in that area… BL2 is overflowing with content to the point that many of the most hardcore players here (myself included) have not done everything in the game. This was a game that the devs wanted to be a fun experience for their players, not their publisher or shareholders.

There’s lots of little things as well, like the amazing community around this game, but those 5 are what have kept me in Pandora for a long time and why, when I’m tired of the game I’m currently on, I usually default back to BL2.


Point 5. I’ve never seen so many easter eggs in my life. Which goes back to the lore i was talking about, the depths and lengths they go to. One of my favorites was in TPS, the captain cook mission. The nuance, the historical accuracy. Beautiful. It’s more nuanced and intricate than south park, futurama, and MCU combined.


THIS!!! The insane characters, the weird creatures and the absolutely priceless dialogue. Best dialogue ever!


From what I would consider least to most important:

The gameplay itself:
It’s just a lot of fun. Whether I’m going commando with Roland, riding meat bicycles with Krieg or annoying the ■■■■ out of my friends in real life with Claptrap. There’s lots of little mechanics that eventually build up to give each character a unique playstyle and each weapon a specific use, many unorthodox combinations that are such a joy to make work, the combat flows nicely and the promise of treasure somewhere, sometime, always keeps you on the lookout to spice things up with a shiny new toy. It discourages complacency and rewards adaptation, which I value greatly in every game since I’m naturally a very complacent person.

The characters and writing:
I don’t know what exactly makes it so, but I’ve always had a soft spot for some characters in the games. It’s just nice to have a shooter where NPCs are not categorised into “gruff shooty dude” “naive young shooty dude” and “obligatory girl”, maybe with “brainy guy that gets made fun of”, where every semblance of personality is relayed through bad one-liners. Not that we don’t have that here (I’m looking at you, BL2 Roland…), but it’s a huge step. Even some minor NPCs you hear for one mission show a lot of potential.
Special mention has got to go to Krieg, my forever favorite VH whom I relate to probably a little bit too much and it breaks my heart every time I watch A Meat Bicycle Made for Two or hear him scream “I CAN’T TAKE IT!” when activating Release the Beast, all the time I’m running and gunning I’m reminded that the man on the inside just wants to get out, to get away, and this kind of execution is a much better spin on a mentally troubled protag then “generic whiny teenage/young adult disillusioned with life for no good reason”. Krieg’s seen ■■■■, he’s done even worse but he’s not brooding - he’s so completely off the edge he just keeps going forward doing his best to survive while fighting himself from the inside, hoping things will get better for him even though he himself likely never will.
Smaller special mentions: Patricia Tannis, for similar reasons to Krieg, but she hates music so I will never love her as much (who the fuck hates music?), and because the audio logs in BL1 really contributed to that game’s atmosphere; Brick, for being the manliest man to ever cry over the loss of his puppy and general awesomeness; TK Baha, for being the first NPC in my gaming experience whose death really upset me, the poor, jolly old man; Handsome Jack, an amazing villain, 'nuff said but please just let him die already, m’kay? 3 games are too much; Claptrap, for being an unexpectedly tragic character that still makes me laugh despite his (or because of? I’m a bad person) shortcomings; Zarpedon for actually getting my respect to the point I didn’t really want to kill her, and also the one speech in Don’t Shoot the Messenger that made me tear up a bit; probably a lot more that I’m forgetting, but I’ve already spent a lot of time on this list

The atmosphere of BL1
I could rant a lot, but I think I’ll just plug an old post of mine that explains everything in true broody teenager fashion
Tl;dr the art design combined with gameplay and writing creates an amazing story from the very second you hear the guitar in the Arid Badlands background music. The game just oozes climate, and it will always be my place to go not just when I want to play an amazing game, but when I need some emotional space, I know the wasteland will be there for me to admire and contemplate; a feeling irreplicable by any game, including other BL games. The creative team had a concept for a game that was their own, unhindered by expectations, and did what they felt was right, said what they wanted to say. And damn if I wasn’t enthralled the entire time.
Tl;dr tl;dr is good game

I love Pandora. All of it. I always will.


Thanks, everyone!


I too vote for the in game loot…
…but no! Not the loot that I have stashed in my backpack… but the loot that still eludes me to this very day.
Dam you borderlands :smiling_imp: (love you really):wink: