When development on Borderlands began, there was a “religious war” among the team as to whether the game would be an RPG or an FPS at heartAgain, my source for this is the Gearbox talk at GDC 2010.. Sure, this was supposed to be a fusion of the two gameplay styles, but you can imagine all the different possible games that could arise out of that simple idea. It’s not like this is the only game you could make with the elevator pitch of “FPS+RPG”.
In fact, that idea had already been done, eleven years before work began on Borderlands. System Shock came out in 1994, and it was basically a mashup of Ultima Underworld and Doom. But that was just one game out of dozens you could conceive of, and the Gearbox team needed to figure out how their particular take on this genre blend was going to work.
For example, you could imagine this shooter gameplay in something more Fallout-ish, where you’ve got dialog trees and stats for influencing people. You can imagine something more like KOTOR where you’ve got a morality meter and lots of binary player choice. You can imagine something more like Elder Scrolls, where the player wanders an open world, looking for dungeons and questsIt’s a good thing they never made this, since I probably would have played it until I died.. You can imagine something like Dragon Age, where the player character plays a particular role and gets caught up in a bunch of political intrigue. Or maybe something like Deus Ex or Dishonored where you could employ stealth and diplomacy to vary between lethal and nonlethal playstyles.
But in the end the “RPG” we got was more the Diablo style of RPG where the character-building stuff all feeds directly into combat. There’s no dialog wheel, no factions, and no moral choices. Every NPC gives you the exact same dialog regardless of character class and behavior.
Gearbox even stuck with the Diablo II approach to character classes, where “character” and “class” are the same thing. Once you pick a class you’re going to be playing a particular character with a specific appearance, nameYou can rename your character, but this isn’t really for the sake of “customization”. The NPCs will never acknowledge your chosen name and other players will never see it. The character name feature is really just an interface convenience so you can tell your saves apart., and voice actor. These four characters became so important to the look and feel of Borderlands that they were each given their own stylized introduction at the start of the game.
You can tell they were still messing with this class close to release. Morty’s intro movie shows him flipping a sword around like a ninja, but once you get into the game you find out he’s designed around sniper rifles, revolvers, and his pet bird, none of which appear in his little vignette.
His action skill is built around his pet bird Bloodwing. You hit the button and suddenly Bloodwing appears and begins pecking your enemies to death. She’s active for a few seconds and then vanishes again. Bloodwing can deal massive damage and I don’t think enemies can hurt her. She’s also a bit glitchy. Sometimes you’ll call on Bloodwing to help you out while you cower behind cover and wait for your shields to recharge, only to discover her AI got stuck and she’s flying in circles, not attacking any of the dudes trying to murder you.This glitchy behavior was jokingly referenced in Borderlands 2, where the cast of the first game get together and talk about “that one time” Bloodwing flew around in circles.
Bloodwing was a cool action skill, although she sort of ruined player vs. player duels. A Mordecai player could always hit their action skill to one-shot their opponent. Lilith could avoid getting pecked if she phasewalked at the same time, which means Lilith and Mordecai could sort of have a normal duel once her action skill canceled out his, but it doesn’t change the fact that he could one-shot any other player without even needing to aim. This isn’t a big deal. Duels weren’t a core part of the game. They were mostly a way for bored players to goof around and waste time while their teammates turned in quests or visited the vendors.
Lilith is a Siren. In this universe, Sirens are woman with strange supernatural powers and body-covering blue tattoos. They’re allegedly ultra-rare. In Borderlands 2 Handsome Jack believes that only 6 can exist in the universe at any time. Not sure where he got that or if we’re supposed to believe it. In any case, they don’t seem particularly rare here on Pandora.
Let’s count up the Sirens so far: This game has Lilith. The next game has the playable Siren Maya, plus Jack’s daughter. There’s also Commandant Steele in this game (the closest thing we have to a bad guy) who has Siren tattoos but is never depicted using any powers. It’s not clear if she’s supposed to be a Siren or if Steele is just using Lilith’s art assets with a head swap. If authorial intent is your jam, then Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford “considers” her a Siren. Of the Sirens depicted in the Borderlands series so far, no two have the same powers. If the universe really is limited to 6 Sirens, that means 2/3 of all Sirens have come to this one planet.
Lilith’s action ability lets her phase “into another dimension” (she turns transparent and glowy) where she can’t attack or be attacked. It gives her a chance to escape, move to a more advantageous position, or just wait for her shields to recharge. Her powers are mostly based around elemental damage.
The guns in Borderlands can shoot electricity, fire, acid, or explosionsIn Borderlands 2 they added “slag”, which makes the target take extra damage from other sources, and in the Pre-Sequel they had ice as an elemental attack.. In Borderlands 1 Lilith was all about boosting these elemental damage types, which means Lilith players would need to hunt specifically for elemental weapons. Elemental damage has a random chance to happen with each bullet, so Lilith’s best bet was usuallyThe random nature of the guns means there are exceptions to everything. to favor to fast-firing guns like SMGs that would give you lots of chances for the bonus elemental damage to kick in.
I like that they allowed anyone to use any weapons they like, but each character has a couple they specialize in. This helps mitigate situations where everyone in the party wants the same rare gun.
Roland the Soldier was paradoxically criticized for being the “most boring” class, while at the same time being the most popular. My friends told me stories about starting the game as Roland, then going online to join a random game and finding themselves in a party with 3 other Rolands. His skill tree lets him focus on shotguns and assault rifles.
His action skill is that he summons a turret with a shield shaped like a low wall. If you’re a new player you’ll look at that wall and assume you’re supposed to crouch behind it. Indeed, a few of Roland’s skills seem to be designed around the idea that players will do this, since the turret can emit a healing aura and spew out ammo. The problem is that this doesn’t actually work very well in practice. Melee foes will run around the turret to engage you, and the turret can’t swivel around to hit people standing behind the shield.
The player’s first experience with the turret will probably be something like this: They throw down the turret and crouch behind the shield, thinking the turret will mow down their foes while their personal shields recharge. Instead the melee attackers swarm around the turret and begin beating the crap out of them. At this point the player is pinned between their enemies and the shield that was supposed to be protecting them. After some panicked hopping they’ll get over the low wall and find themselves standing in front of their own turret. Meanwhile, all of their foes are nice and safe behind the shield, which is now giving them a little cover. The shield was slightly curved and the AI was pretty wonky, which means foes would sometimes get stuck in this position, unable to untangle themselves and run out in front of the turret.
Since the vast majority of fights are against a mix of melee and ranged attackers, hiding behind the turret wall was never really all that useful. Eventually players would learn to run around in front of the turret. It felt kind of goofy, but it worked.
Roland is also a good example of how the move to a more cartoonish and outlandish style led to lots of absurd but fun abilities. If you spend points in his medic skills you can heal your teammates by shooting them. The healing is based on the damage output of the gun you’re using, so a good medic would get a powerful shotgun and blast his friends at point-blank range to refill their health. It’s silly, but amazingly fun and satisfying. It’s also something that wouldn’t really have worked if the team had stuck with the original “grit and realism” design style.
Brick’s action skill is that he puts up his dukes and goes all-melee, dealing massive damage and somehow healing himself in the process. It’s great fun, although it’s also a little situational. It’s actually useless if you’re getting shot at from medium range, since you have to run face-first into the bullets before you can go to work. Also, a lot of the bosses in the game hit really hard if you get too close, and can even obliterate sturdy Brick if he decides to fight them Marquess of Queensberry style.
His skill tree lets him focus on shotguns or rocket launchers, and the latter was mostly a massive waste of points. When the game launched, rockets would only connect with scenery, not foes. They would fly right through your enemies and detonate in the distance behind them. You could kill them with splash damage, but that was completely line-of-sight based between the impact point and the target. That means that a guy standing behind a shin-high wall was effectively immune to rocket damage. The wall would shield him from the ground blast while he shot you in the face with impunity. It was silly, but it was fixed at some point in a later patchI don’t know how long it took, but it was fixed when I returned to the game to do this write-up..
The characters might not have been balanced and there were certainly a few bugs. They weren’t really fleshed out and while their personalities were vibrant, not enough of that vibrancy showed up during gameplay. But they had it where it counts. Their powers were fun, varied, and easy to understand. Their designs were striking, memorable, and easy to tell apart from each other and your foes on the battlefield.
 Again, my source for this is the Gearbox talk at GDC 2010.
 It’s a good thing they never made this, since I probably would have played it until I died.
 You can rename your character, but this isn’t really for the sake of “customization”. The NPCs will never acknowledge your chosen name and other players will never see it. The character name feature is really just an interface convenience so you can tell your saves apart.
 In Borderlands 2 they added “slag”, which makes the target take extra damage from other sources, and in the Pre-Sequel they had ice as an elemental attack.
 The random nature of the guns means there are exceptions to everything.
 I don’t know how long it took, but it was fixed when I returned to the game to do this write-up.
Another PC Golden Age?
Is it real? Is PC gaming returning to its former glory? Sort of. It's complicated.
A stream-of-gameplay review of Dead Island. This game is a cavalcade of bugs and bad design choices.
The Gradient of Plot Holes
Most stories have plot holes. The failure isn't that they exist, it's when you notice them while immersed in the story.
The Mistakes DOOM Didn't Make
How did this game avoid all the usual stupidity that ruins remakes of classic titles?
The product of fandom run unchecked, this novel began as a short story and grew into something of a cult hit.
56 thoughts on “Borderlands Part 3: Cast of Character Classes”
“as to weather the game would be an RPG” -> “as to wether the game would be an RPG”
“deul” -> “duel”
wether -> whether
crap, I even looked it up to make sure it’s “whether”, and then I mistyped it anyway :(
Actually: “whether the game would be an RPG”
“wether” still means something very different
Edit: Ninja’d by Matt. I’ll still leave this here. I believe you made the same mistake more than once lately, Shamus.
Huh, did not know wether was actually a word. Guess I don’t spend enough time around sheep.
We are woman, hear us roar!
It’s actually spelled, “Marquess of Queensberry”. :)
Roland turned me off of Borderlands, even playing through the campaign co-op with friends. Shoot to heal is not a good enough reward for 20 hours of dropping a tiny, irrelevant turret.
Axton’s turret in 2 is so much better in every possible way it’s not even funny.
That part where you rescue Roland and have a big fight alongside him shows just how lame it is.
He drops it with basically all available upgrades, including ammo regen and a healing aura, and it’s still better to just hide outside the arena’s doorway if things get rough, on any difficulty.
It’s weird to think that having Roland as my first ever borderlands character made me like his turret enough that it was my main reason for choosing Axton as my first B2 character, when in hindsight Roland’s turret was so bad.
Roland’s turret is a life-saver in solo play. It takes aggro and has tons of HP. Later on, it replenishes ammo. Incredibly useful skill.
I’m not sure why you’re comparing it based on a fight in BL2 where Roland is an NPC but eh. Turret is super good in my experience. Axton’s by comparison didn’t seem to have enough hp.
It was useful, but in very passive ways that don’t really seem to fit a ‘turret’. I liken it more to a banner you could put up that could be a temporary ammo/health/aggro dispenser, because its actual damage wasn’t worth mentioning.
Compare it to Axton’s, which may not have been as durable but more than made up for it in potential firepower. Upgraded to full, it could ruin enemies through the entire game (provided they didn’t die, of course) which seems to me like a more sensible use for a turret – actually shooting things to death.
And yet, when I played D&D 3.5 as an elven cleric, I talked the DM into letting me introduce a prestige class that did that (with arrows) so I could shoot my companions in the back. Twas great fun, and I killed a lich by accident! (Fumble, hit the lich not our fighter, and a critical heal was enough to put him down)
“Canon” healing arrows were introduced in Races of the Wild as well if I recall… Or possibly the Book of Exalted Deeds. Or Complete Priest. Or some other splatbook.
Point is, if you didn’t have the imagination to come up with that sort of stuff on your own at some point, Wizards eventually had you covered.
Roland’s turret was basically useless as an actual turret outside of the very early game. I think by the time I got halfway through all I did was use it as a health/ammo supply, because the auras it had for those were actually pretty useful. But it was attached to a literal peashooter.
Really liked the turret(s) in the second game, though.
I’m sorry? Really? That seems like quite a major oversight in a game where the primary form of gameplay is shooting enemies.
I remember I tried to play this game single-player with Mordecai. That did not go so well – he was fine outdoors, but when the game forced you into a dungeon you found yourself trying to snipe enemies 10 feet away. Ouch.
That’s why you switch to pistol in those situations ;p
A lot of his abilities are also good with revolvers.
Yeah, set Mordecai up with the prestige class for revolvers and get a Pestilent Defiler and Burning Justice. It made you almost as good as Lilith, who was basically godmode.
Because of the way elemental weapons worked in Borderlands 1, and the amount of damage elemental dots did compared to shooting things, elemental revolvers were one of the best weapons in the game. Basically, weapons had a hidden ammo pool that regenerated over time and went down when the elemental effect procced proportional to the proc strength, which was what the x2/x3/x4 business was about, but revolvers got their basic x2 proc for free so they always applied the elemental dot. The best weapon in the game was the Firehawk, which was an SMG that used the revolver proc rules so it utterly melted everything by combining massive elemental damage and high rate of fire.
Rockets used to be useful for Roland to carry once you unlocked the shoot to heal skill since splash damage would also heal, letting you quickly self heal to full health. But that was patched so that splash damage always hurt yourself even with the skill.
People seemed really focused on Roland’s healing aspect, which I suspect is why they consider him boring; if everyone uses the same build, of course he will seem bland. I never played much online, but one time I did with my offensive-specced Roland and found the other players shocked by his power.
Personally, I loved my healer Roland. Had a grand time with my turret and it’s healing aura, the turret’s ability to launch packs filled with ammo and grenades to my team mates and my self every few seconds (yes really) and my ability to shoot people for healing. Even better, with my class mod, everyone got almost a double magazine size as well as great ammo regen. My friends and I almost never died and we NEVER ran out of bullets.
Mordecai is my go-to in Borderlands, although I think that Zero was a far better version of the “critical hit oriented assassin” class they were going for. The bird always felt way too unreliable to me, while Mordecai is all about precision and making every shot and move count. One of the things that I really like about the Borderlands series is just how versatile the assassin classes are. I generally hate automatic weapons in most shooters and would always try to use some sort of hard hitting revolver or rifle (maybe that’s a side effect of being a western fan, who knows), and Borderlands makes these kinds of weapons feel REALLY good. I don’t think I ever once used an SMG in Borderlands.
Reason #1 for using an SMG: Tediore reloads.
Pretty much it.
Nah, when it comes to Tediore, I prefer their shotguns. Following up a few shotgun blasts with and explosive reload never gets old and is reliable way of getting second wind.
Eh, fair point, I just prefer SMGs because the damage is directly based on how many rounds are left in the magazine. So a high capacity SMG with a single round shot = doomsday weapon :)
SMGs with Lilith were amazing. They were my go to weapon. Get one with decent accuracy and a good element (explosion was a favourite) and you’re set.
Honestly if you were sniper-spec the bird was kinda some pointless thing you threw out for variety more than anything else.
Wouldn’t agree with that at all. You actually focus on upgrading Bloodwing, and she becomes a tiny murder tornado that bounces all around the room for massive damage.
Heck, I distinctly remember that on my original Mordecai, I barely used grenades after a while, because my bird recharged so fast and killed things so well that the actual ammo for grenades just felt like far too much of a bottleneck.
Yeah, but if you specced for anything else, his damage just didn’t scale into the endgame.
Maybe that was intentional, but it always seemed like an oversight to me.
By “If you were sniper-spec” I meant “if you put most of your points in the talent tree specialized for snipers, which is obviously different from the Bloodwing talent tree”.
Bloodwing was OP if you specced for it, especially on NG+. If you went for snipers, it was kinda bad.
I didn’t play much of BL1 or 2, but my experience with it was that the “any player can use any weapon” element was as useful as it was frustrating.
The positive side of this: Focusing on one weapon exclusively was a pretty easy way to burn through your ammo. Being able to swap weapons would mean you wouldn’t be forced into a single tactic at all times, e.g. if you’re a shotgun user, you have to always charge in to close range. It also meant that you could make use of those rare, good guns you found even if they weren’t based on your class. It’d be frustrating to see a super-awesome sniper rifle drop but be completely unable to do anything with it.
The negative side: Both of those things above swing back on themselves. Your class and skills push you towards using one or two particular weapons; having the mechanics discourage you from their use can be pretty disatisfying, whether that’s because you have some other weapon that’s just so much better or because it’s so easy to burn through the ammo for your preferred weapon(s).
Because I didn’t play through the games too far, it’s possible I just didn’t get a good enough experience with it. Maybe perks or other advances mitigate all of these elements as the game goes on.
I think BL2 had skills that did a better job of allowing you to pick and choose guns. i.e. I think the skills like “boosts damage with shotguns” were rather rare, and more general skills like “halves reload time” (would apply equally to revolvers, shotguns, and sniper rifles, but not SMGs or big-clip assault rifles) were much more common.
In all three games, there are characters who with the right class mods can regenerate ammo. If you find yourself running short, try playing as Roland/Salvatore/Claptrap.
Any player can use any weapon, but BL1 severely disincentivized you from using any weapon whenever.
Weapon skills were a thing, and you couldn’t max them out easily. If you used one weapon exclusively throughout the game, you’d end up with a max weapon skill around the end of the last DLC. On new game+.
So yeah… unless you didn’t particularly care for stat boosts (in a game where stat boosts are, like, the point) you were gonna use a certain weapon.
BL2 is different, much easier on the weapon use, and somehow that was worse.
There are times in BL2 when NPCs refer to Bloodwing as male. But Mordecai says she’s female, and he would know.
Also, Shamus, I’m glad you’re doing a Borderlands series. All the others have been interesting, but the Borderlands games are ones I’ve played a whole lot. It’s quite pleasant to be in on the ground floor for once.
Bloodwing isn’t actually a bird but a bird-like alien; it’s not clear if Mordecai calling his companion female in BL2 is a retcon or just bizarre alien biology in action.
I think, and don’t quote me on this, that one of the DLCs straightened the record after the devs noticed the disrecepancy. Bloodwing’s species is hermaphroditic and can change sex during their lifetimes. Bloodwing was biologically male when Mordechai got ‘him’.
I guess that most strangers just default to calling Bloodwing male without actually knowing her gender. Maybe it’s the viciousness that confuses them, I dunno.
For the fact that 2/3 of the Sirens end up on Pandora, that’s a plot point (in BL2, Jack says he’s trying to lure them there).
Also, the Sirens seem to gain their powers through alien artifacts, so Vault Hunters will probably be over represented among their ranks.
It sounds like Brick was the precursor to 2016’s DOOM; charge into battle, keep moving, and heal by killing enemies. I’ve never played Borderlands, but is this about right?
More or less. When he uses his action skill he’s invulnerable to all damage, meaning he can get in close and batter everything with fists until the skill runs out.
Not invulnerable – just has high Hp Regen. Will still get shot full of holes and die to ranged enemies.
Lilith is my favorite (full disclosure: I haven’t tried all others) in this game. I believe it’s one of the most versatile for solo play. I think Roland and Brick are more beneficial if you’re playing co-op
After they nerfed Bloodwing’s Daze skill, Lillith remained the most powerful solo character able to kill even the super-ultra-impossible-to-solo megaboss in the last DLC. Solo.
Before that though you would just activate Bloodwing and watch as your enemies were turned into extremely inaccurate snails.
Lillith’s my favorite too, especially due to the crazy playstyle you get at high levels. Phasewalk, melee a dude to deal +800% damage, explode elementally, and end it, get 70% damage reduction for a few seconds, use that damage reduction to go all out and kill things, each kill shortens your cooldown, before the damage reduction is over phasewalk again. Rinse repeat. So good.
Your experience sounds different from mine. Maybe you played closer to launch.
Bloodwing definitely didn’t atatck more than one enemy by default though. It was a rather mediocre action skill until you got it pumped up via the Bloodwing tree.
Roland was really fun to play at the beginning from a solo perspective, because enemies just took aggro on the turret and it had an insane amount of HP for some reason. So if you needed a tank that couold dish out some damage too you always had your trusty turret.
It’s true that you could barely hide behind it, but you’re describing a particularly silly scenario where you try to take cover against melee enemies…
Reminds me of the Crussader’s Crossbow Medic primary from Team Fortress 2 (though its damage and healing scale with distance from the firer), which something like 95% of Medics use because A) the ability to burst heal and heal at range make you that much more of an asset to your team, and B) it’s SO IMMENSELY SATISFYING to land a long-range shot with the slow projectile across the map and watch a teammate’s health go from “I’m gonna die if someone sneezes on me” to “Yeah, I’m good.” The little angelic chord that plays on a successful heal is just icing on the cake.
I can’t tell if you’re joking or not. Is ESO so bad you refuse to even acknowledge it exists?
I think he means if Borderlands had been made with those kinds of mechanics. I kinda misread it the same way at first (“Wait… isn’t that exactly what you do in ES games already?”)
I gotta admit while I played Borderlands 1 I never completed. I always got bored around the time you complete all the quests in the starter zone and you get a vehicle to drive around.
For me, it was BL2 that got quit. BL1 was less grindy, and I was in college (more free time), so I actually completed it over a summer. BL2 made me sick of it when I was just shooting bullet sponges for half an hour at a time. :C
I didn’t play Blands 2 nearly as much as 1. I didn’t enjoy the loot as much and the story was stupid. Blands 1 was basiacally driving around doing odd jobs for obvious psychos, Blands 2 was far more interested in not being nearly as funny as it thought it was and trying to be “dramatic” which didn’t work for me.
Played several playthroughs of BL1 with my friends or solo. After playing 2 and 1.5 it makes this game weirder by comparison, the action skills in this game don’t really have a lot to do with shooting enemies.
Lilith – by far the most popular character among my friends is favoured for her action skill which gives her the ability to speedrun zones and clear sidequests quickly. Not actually useful in a fight unless you need to avoid death. Also her skills for element buffing means its easier to find a useful weapon without hunting for that one legendary.
Mordecai – His action skill is a grenade that regens but only works on enemies you’re looking at. Picked second most for revolver skills (most common weapon drop for some reason) and the skill to bypass shields to kill Eridians. Then they nerfed Daze :(
Roland – People who were new picked him. Hes fine. Everyone crouches behind the turret until we tell them this game is more like Quake than cover-based. When game launched his shotgun skill actually made the spread worse.
Brick – Garbage tier. Has a skill that heals but you can still die while using. Has a skill that puts your guns away in a gun based game. 3 games in and still no melee weapons beyond bayonets but insists on melee based skills and effects.
Brick’s melee action skill was worse than that because IIRC if you got downed using it you were stuck down with your fists out and weren’t getting back up again.
I only played the first Borderlands once, but I played through it as Lilith and it was awesome. I loved playing around with the elemental effects, the SMGs, and being able to turn invisible and walk away from danger became a lifesaver. Plus, she had this adorable giggle and laugh every time she killed an enemy with a critical hit, which made me fall in love with the class and the character. So glad they brought the original characters back as NPCs in the sequel.
Although I might have liked it to be more focused on being an RPG, we may have ended up with a good result due to their decisions. The RPG aspects of the games are very focused and limited, and they haven’t deviated much in all three games. This means that the skill trees, the skins, and the questing are very well done, as limited in scope as they are. Making an RPG that includes reputations, morality, and the like is extremely difficult. I don’t fault the team for focusing their RPG efforts.
It’s clear that the shooter aspect of the game has always been the team’s main focus and passion. It has improved with every game – drastically between BL1 and BL2, and significantly again to TPS. Slag was a bit of a misstep, and ice damage in TPS was an improvement on that (if still not perfect).
Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>
You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?
You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.
You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!
You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>