Borderlands Part 19: The Vault Hunters

By Shamus Posted Thursday Dec 7, 2017

Filed under: Borderlands 41 comments

Each new game has a new slate of vault hunters. As with Borderlands 2, there are 4 canonical or “core” vault hunters, and two additional ones as DLC.

Let’s meet the new crew…


So when you switched to cybernetic parts did you replace your... you know... Wilhelm?
So when you switched to cybernetic parts did you replace your... you know... Wilhelm?

Wilhelm is a boss in Borderlands 2. He’s Jack’s right-hand man, and Jack basically sacrificed him to make sure that the player would get their hands on the trapped power coreAccording to the wiki, there’s an unused audio log in the game assets where Jack states that he poisoned Wilhelm prior to his fight with the player, which was probably intended to explain why the player was able to defeat him when the combined might of Roland, Mordecai, Brick, and Lilith had failed to damage him at some unspecified point in the past.. Here we’re sort of playing through his origin story where he meets Jack.

In Borderlands 2 he was (or will be, if you see what I mean) 90% robot. Here he looks like a mostly normal guy. He’s addicted to cybernetic implants, and apparently between now and the events of Borderlands 2 he’s going to have an extreme metal makeover. If you spend points in the right skill tree you can kickstart this process yourself, making him half-robot in the process. I love this integration of character and gameplay.


The most fun playable character in the series, although she's also the least funny.
The most fun playable character in the series, although she's also the least funny.

Earlier in this series I said that when I use my special power, I’m doing it because I’m trying to avoid dying or I’m trying to deal out a ton of damage. Athena does both. She’s got this whole gladiator theme going on, with a high-tech sword and shield. Her character answers the question, “What if Wonder Woman used Captain America’s shield?”Yes, Wonder Woman used a shield in the 2017 movie, but she doesn’t use it as a Frisbee boomerang, and I NEED that, okay?

When you activate her power, she raises her shield, which will absorb and harness all damage coming from in front of you. As it gathers, it begins to glow and spin, emitting a rising tone to give you a sense of how much energy it’s absorbed. When you’re ready – or when the five-second timer runs out – you’ll whip the shield at the foe directly in front of you, unleashing all of the captured damage on them. Then the shield bounces back and she catches it, Captain America-style.

I can’t describe how good this feels. It’s satisfying to blast someone with all of that energy, and the meaty slam the shield makes on impact is the best sound in the game. For most characters I like to save the special ability for when I’m in trouble, but Athena’s power is so fun to use I’m always looking to use it the moment it comes off cooldown.

Late in the game she unlocks the ability to have the shield bounce around and hit up to 4 enemiesWith diminishing damage returns for each one. before coming back. It’s not that much more effective at killing dudes, but it’s super effective at making me really happy. She’s my favorite character in the entire series.

Unlike most of the other vault hunters this time, Athena isn’t a villainous jerk. She’s noble and serious. Judging by how she acts in this game, I’d say if she shows up again she’ll likely fit into Roland’s role as the socially awkward stiff.

The entire game is actually a flashback told from her perspective, which makes her kind of the “main” character. Even if you play as (say) Wilhelm, it will still be Athena recounting the events of the story.


I'm sheriff Aimbot, and I'm the law around these parts.
I'm sheriff Aimbot, and I'm the law around these parts.

In Borderlands 2 there was this sprawling town called Lynchwood. It was packed with quests and lore. The town was ruled by the ruthless sheriff and her reluctant helper, Deputy Winger. The sheriff is Handsome Jack’s girlfriend, and the town was evidently a gift from him to her. The amazing thing about this town is that it’s all extra content. The main quest will never send you to this town. It’s packed with named, voiced characters and a variety of quests, yet it’s possible to go through the whole game without even realizing you missed it.

Here in the Pre-Sequel we can play as the up-and-coming sheriff of Lynchwood and future girlfriend of Handsome Jack.

In Borderlands 2, there’s an optional quest where you can kill the sheriffWith a bonus objective to spare the deputy, naturally. which means that – like Wilhelm – Nisha doesn’t survive the events of Borderlands 2.

Her special ability turns her into an aimbot, where the crosshair will automatically snap to the foe closest to the center of the screen. It’s got a short cooldown, so you can do it really often. I haven’t really played her into the mid game, but for the first third of the game she felt ridiculously powerful. Her special ability doesn’t offer much in the way of defense, but her offensive abilities are crazy.


Happy now, fanboy?
Happy now, fanboy?

Sometimes the best way to punish someone is to give them what they want. Some smartasses in the Gearbox forums probably demanded to play as Claptrap, and here we are. Handsome Jack evidently thought it would be a good idea to hotwire a Claptrap so it could engage in combat. The result is the most unique playable character in the series. Also the shortest. Seriously, it’s really strange looking out at the world from Claptrap’s eye level.

It’s cute. His special ability is… random. He runs a program that analyzes the current situation (Playing solo? Low shields? Boss present? Badass around? Lots of foes? Low on ammo?) and chooses from a list of possible actions. They’re all useful but also absurd and unwieldy. For example: One is called “Funzerker” where you’re suddenly holding a weapon in each hand and they’re both firing at some ridiculously accelerated rate, and you can’t. stop. shooting.

Claptrap is an interesting character. He’s annoying, but he’s annoying on purpose. The comedy doesn’t always come from him directly, but from the way everyone else reacts to him. That’s a hard line to walk. You need to make him behave in a way that’s endearing or funny to the player, but plausibly grating to the NPCs.



Ah, I guess we have to have a couple of tacked-on DLC characters again, don’t we?

The Baroness is filthy rich and has powers based around cold elemental damage. Her special ability fires out this thing that creates a zone of cold damage. It does decent damage, but it doesn’t have a lot of visceral punch. She’s just not very interesting to play.

Her personality is grating. I think the idea of a spoiled, rich, shallow, callous jerk who takes up vault hunting as a cure for boredom is a fantastic hook for a character. You can go the Kardashian route and make a character that’s obsessed with image, gossip, and pop-culture trivialities. You can go the Richie Rich / Thurston Howell III route and make a character who is pointlessly decadent with their inexhaustible wealth. But Baroness… They didn’t really go anywhere with Baroness. Yes, she’s shallow, rich, and cruel. But none of that translates into jokes. When she tosses out some dialog, it’s usually just a line talking about being rich, and “is snooty” isn’t a joke. It would be like if Axton’s dialog was just him saying he was a soldier all the time. Also, her languid delivery really doesn’t help the comedy.

No jokes, boring gameplay, and her visual design isn’t anything particularly special or interesting. I think she’s the worst playable character in the series.


Handsome Jackass.
Handsome Jackass.

In Borderlands 2, the story established that Handsome Jack uses body doubles. If you buy this DLC character then you get to be one of those doubles.

I didn’t get this DLC so I can’t comment on it. The trailer looks fun, but it’s a Borderlands trailer. They all look fun.

The one funny detail is that the Doppelganger’s power is to summon two holographic clones. This means that if you get together with three friends, and you all get this DLC, and you get in a game together, and you all gather around the real Handsome Jack, and you all activate your special power at the same time, then you’ll be standing in a room with 13 Handsome Jacks.

I’m not suggesting you do that or anything. I’m just saying it’s possible.



[1] According to the wiki, there’s an unused audio log in the game assets where Jack states that he poisoned Wilhelm prior to his fight with the player, which was probably intended to explain why the player was able to defeat him when the combined might of Roland, Mordecai, Brick, and Lilith had failed to damage him at some unspecified point in the past.

[2] Yes, Wonder Woman used a shield in the 2017 movie, but she doesn’t use it as a Frisbee boomerang, and I NEED that, okay?

[3] With diminishing damage returns for each one.

[4] With a bonus objective to spare the deputy, naturally.

From The Archives:

41 thoughts on “Borderlands Part 19: The Vault Hunters

  1. Mattias42 says:

    The Doppelganger is amazing, and I’d highly recommend nabbing him if anybody reading this ever goes for the main game itself.

    Not only does he have a really fun power with some nifty builds, but his writing and voice-acting is just great. Basically, this almost completely normal intern that was offered a TON of money to become Jack’s body double, and he’s constantly way, way over his head.

    I mean, just such a tiny detail that he’s got a fear of heights. On the moon where you bounce like you’re on a trampoline with every step. Just great stuff.

    1. GargamelLeNoir says:

      Yeah I absolutely love him, he’s my favorite character to play, and his ult absolutely checks the “protect me and inflict damage” box! His personality is interesting, he’s reasonably scared of what’s happening and pleasantly surprised that he’s as badass as he is, but he’s still absolutely terrified of Jack and have trouble standing up to him.

    2. IanTheM1 says:

      Vehemently agreed on both counts.

      *while sorting through inventory* “It’s like trying to choose between the llladies~ …God I hate this guy.”

      1. Francis-Olivier says:

        And I think we can all agree he gets the best reaction if you decide to not blindly obey jack at the end. Too bad he most likely died because of that… I mean sure the cannon says nothing about it in fact he does possibly at least survive for the Claptrap dlc I imagine but I seriously don’t see how jack would let him get away after such rebellion from a nobody.

  2. TakatoGuil says:

    So the Baroness is meant to be played by eight-year old girls being forced to stop watching Frozen for the seventeen millionth time, right?

    1. I’d get my niece right on this, but she’s three and we haven’t even yet mastered “Find the hidden object” games….

    2. Christopher P. Beeler says:

      Yes…I do belive so my friend!She isn’t as Badass as the others,with the exception of CRP-TRP!LOL….

  3. Nick-B says:

    The baroness is kinda boring, but she is the sniper class for this game, and she has an interesting perk where she assigns one team member (you aren’t playing this game ALONE, are you?) as a kind of assistant to her. She gets bonuses based on what the team member does, and gives some in exchange.

    It makes her a great support character, but painful as hell to play as alone.

    1. Michael says:

      Yeah, I always play alone, so I was never able to use that ability at all. Which is a shame, because the class has some real potential.

      1. Fizban says:

        Claptrap also has a whole tree that’s mostly about buffing the group which isn’t very good playing alone. While the ultra-random tree is swingy enough it can really mess you up without a team. So solo Claptrap is basically just the left tree, but at least it’s pretty functional- no restrictions on gun types or damage, just use what you want and get extra explosion.

  4. Matt K says:

    Athena is a pretty fun character in Tales from the Borderlands. Although most of the characters from that series are pretty good. I really should replay that series as it was my first taste of Borderlands and then I played Borderlands 2 so there’s probably a lot of details I missed.

    1. Abnaxis says:


      My prediction is that Athena will be the straight-man “husband” in a lot of “marriage” jokes after what happens in TotB. The jokes practically write themselves given the dynamics.

    2. Christopher P. Beeler says:

      I’m SO SORRY YOU STARTED OUT W/TALES,INSTEAD OF THE WHOLE STORYLINE FROM BORDERLANDS 1,2,and Pre-Sequel!Tales is far too boring comparidly speaking!I hope you can dive into ONE OF THE “BIG 3!”BioShock 1 thru 3 is WAY AWESOME ALSO.

  5. CMaster says:

    Athena is a major character in The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, so she has been used before/again.

    1. Michael says:

      Yeah, she’s recurring. She’s also funnier in Knoxx. But, some of that is because she was used as a straight man in BL’s comedy. You’d get an echo for some male enhancement pill, and then midway through the ad, she’d cut it off with a deadpan status update, or bit of exposition, and then let the ad finish playing when she stopped transmitting.

  6. `Retsam says:

    Typo alert: “Wilhelm is a boss is Borderlands 2″.

  7. Mark says:

    I never got all the affection for Athena as a character — she is just so staggeringly dull and perfect and strait-laced, when she starts talking I fall into a coma. She’s almost as boring as Lilith.

    One of the reasons I keep going on about Nisha is that she is clearly having a great time. Running around and wreaking havoc and hitting on the boss and letting the air out of characters like Moxxi and (the awful) Janey Springs who are way too full of themselves. Everything she said just put a huge smile on my face. If BL3 tries to do a greatest-hits-bring-back-all-the-old-Vault-Hunters thing I’m praying they do some New-U shenanigans to bring her back as well.

    1. Josh says:

      I like Athena because her personality is really well crafted, while not being over the top. She starts out as this canonical, stoic warrior type, but is also somewhat socially repressed and awkward. But she bursts out in maniacal laughter when the combat is fierce. It’s as if they wanted to make another Axton-like character, but interesting, with multiple personality facets and a real range of emotion. Her responses seem to match mine as I’m playing as well. Her disgust at Jack in the end, her excitement when slicing up multiple enemies, and her discomfort at being hit on all ring true.

      Plus, her abilities and mechanics are well-designed. I just wish I could play that character somewhere more interesting than Elpis.

    2. Aevylmar says:

      She’s the straight man. She produces humor without being funny herself.

      Also her great mechanics and the stuff Josh said.

  8. Asdasd says:

    The amazing thing about this town is that it's all extra content. The main quest will never send you to this town. It's packed with named, voiced characters and a variety of quests, yet it's possible to go through the whole game without even realizing you missed it.”


    1. Michael says:

      I’m kinda drawing a blank here as well. I remember Nisha’s town. But, all I remember is the single job board with about five or six quests. Granted, that does have dialog from NPCs when you pick them up, and the thing about Nisha being Jack’s girlfriend comes directly from him. (Though, I was never 100% sure he wasn’t simply being creepy, when he described her that way.)

      Other than that, all I remember are the bandits, and the bank job quest. Also, I could have sworn the main quest did send you through there after Wilhelm. But, it’s been a few years since I last played Borderlands 2.

      1. Binary Toast says:

        For me, the highlight for that area was always the Scag quest, and that was mainly because the end-reward was so memorable. You might recall it, big stonking sniper rifle without a scope?

      2. Exasperation says:

        The main quest doesn’t, but there is a sidequest in Sanctuary that eventually sends you to Lynchwood.

  9. Decius says:

    What do you call it when everyone plays as doppelganger and they have a contest to see which can demonstrate the characteristics of their ‘boss’ most closely?

    I’ll get my coat.

    1. Syal says:

      A…boss… rush.

    2. MichaelGC says:

      -What do a you call a team of doppelgängers?

      -A doppelgäng.

      Could you grab my coat too please?

  10. 4th Dimension says:

    I'd say if she shows up again she'll likely fit into Roland's role as the socially awkward stiff.

    Which is what she is in Tales of the Borderlands, where she is the mentor of Fiona, one of two PCs of the game.
    And the bastard vault hunters TOOK HER FROM US! She is part of OUR team. Get your own!

  11. Abnaxis says:

    I always enjoyed playin Claptrap because I love reacting to the random-ass happenings of vaulthunter.exe, but most people hate playing with me because his special ability can also randomly apply the “buffs” to the team as well which…causes problems for some of the zanier ones (e.g. having your teammate’s legs turn into a rubber duck and bouncing at random all over the place, making it almost impossible to aim with any sort of precision)

    1. Francis-Olivier says:

      Let them go you don’t need their kind. They are weak and you a strong! All the buff can be negated if they’re too feeble to use their might properly. You can keep buttstomping in rubber mode. You can melee to avoid shooting all the time in gunzerking. You can… Ok there’s nothing you can do about gun wizardry so you just have to learn to love emptying your entire clip in one shot.

  12. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    Playing solo? Low shiels? Boss present?

    Tiny typo there.

    Apart from that, I never played the pre-sequel, but I’d love to play as Claptrap (and Athena sounds interesting).

    1. Francis-Olivier says:

      If you are playing as Claptrap I don’t think the game actually check for anything but if you are playing co-op or not even though it says otherwise as there are some power that can’t work if you aren’t. Could be I’m wrong though.

  13. Echo Tango says:

    What if Wonder Woman used Captain America's shield?

    I think this would be a better comparison with Xena, Warrior Princess, not Wonder Woman. I haven’t seen much of either property, but as far as I know, Wonder Woman used a lasso, but Xena had an actual frisbee-like weapon. :)

    1. Fade2Gray says:

      I think the Xena comparison fails somewhat because Athena (and Cap’s shield) balance offence with defense. Xena’s chakram is all offense all the time (when it’s not being used as a magic omni-tool that is).

  14. Galad says:

    I loved playing as Claptrap, his jovial haracter works really well for me, as a counterpoint to all thebleakness in the world. I didn’t find Nisha to be that OP in the early game, maybe I was playing her wrong. Athena was a coolcharacter too.

    One thing that bothered me about Tales, was that over half the characters seemed to be LGBTQ, and the writing went out of its way to rub that fact in your face a few times. Dunno, maybe the gay/lesbian people that played it really enjoyed that.

    1. Aevylmar says:

      Nisha’s overpoweredness is mostly concentrated in her “Law and Order” tree, which gives her the defense she needs to survive while she murders everyone with her unique skill.

  15. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    Pre-Sequel is interesting because your character has a lot more dialogue to react to what’s happening. In 2, it’s mainly combat barks, but a silent non-reaction to the plot. In Pre, the characters are full participants in the story events. I like the latter approach better, Claptrap being his usual idiot self wouldn’t have the same punch if he didn’t also talk too much and annoy the other characters.

    Athena immediately jumped up my list of favorite Vault Hunters thanks to Tales From the Borderlands… which you should not skip, Shamus.

  16. Fade2Gray says:

    For what it’s worth, I really liked the Baroness, but I think I have a soft spot for snarky arrogant characters. And I love snipers.

  17. Joey245 says:

    I played through the Pre-Sequel once, as Athena, and it was a blast! I agree wholeheartedly with Shamus, she is one of the best characters in the franchise.

    I really hope we get to play as her (or a character with a similar powerset) in Borderlands 3.

  18. RCN says:

    IS it me or does the Baroness splash looks like it is trying really hard to be a reference of some sort to King’s Bounty?

    Maybe it is all in my head… but that H is exactly the same H used in Heroes of Might and Magic…

    It… is strange to me.

  19. noahpocalypse says:

    I completely missed Lynchwood my first time through the game.

  20. Groggy says:

    Nothing on the integration of the Baroness’s story and gameplay, in that because she’s a rich bitch, she starts the game with better gear (Two Purple ranked weapons, specically a Jakobs sniper rifle and a Hyperion pistol) and £37,000 in pocket money?

    It’s such a small thing, but it shows she wasn’t just a thowaway DLC character.

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