My column this week is a list of reasons why I think we should be worried about Borderlands 3. If you’re susceptible to clickbait behavior, I’ll tell you ahead of time the article gives five reasons. (Number 4 won’t be surprising at all.)
All of this brings us to the question, “So what would a good sequel look like?”
The series is in a bit of a tough spot. In the Telltale spinoff Tales From the Borderlands, some of the main characters are dead. I like the original vault hunters Brick, Mordecai, Lilith, and Roland, but some of them didn’t survive the events of Borderlands 2 and the rest have completed their various character arcs. These characters are mostly a collection of jokes and callbacks at this point. That’s fine, but we already heard those jokes by now. Several times. I’m not saying these characters need to be dropped, I’m just saying it would be a mistake to try to make them the center of yet another game. They can make cameos, but they should not be the main characters again.
Borderlands 2 demonstrated that what these games need is a solid villain. Handsome Jackass is dead, so we need someone new. The obvious, low-effort route would be to give us another colorful villain with a different gimmick, and have the player characters fight with him over the vaults. The previous gamePrevious in terms of chronology. showed us that there are tons of vaults on many worlds out there, so this game should probably have us hopping from world to world on an adventure.
Let’s talk about how I’d do it…
How I’d Do it
Since the game is leaving Pandora behind, let’s re-frame the setting and say that “Borderlands” is actually the name given to this lawless, nutter-filled region of space. We still have the game involve visiting zones of differing biomes: Snow, desert, jungle, citiesI’m thinking contained areas like the Beatdown in the Campaign of Carnage DLC, not a literal open-world city., lava, shrooms, meadows, and so on. The only difference is that this game presents these locations as belonging to different planets. Rather than having a home city, the player would have a spaceship. Again, this can be functionally identical to how Borderlands 2 worked, it’s just that the fast-travel station is presented as if you’re beaming up to the ship or down to the surface.
The ship can be populated by characters from the previous games. They’re essentially the crew, and are sitting at the helm, repairing the engines, mopping the floor, or whatever else seems funny.
At the start, we’re introduced to the fake-out villain. He’s cartoonishly evil. Black outfit. Booming delivery. Basically the Archon from Mass Effect Andromeda, except in this story we recognize how ridiculous he is. He plans to open a vault, looking for yet another doomsday weapon. He tells everyone his name is something overblown like “Lord Doomsday”, but early on we learn his name is actually Roger or whatever.
I think the Claptrap joke is worn out and I’d suggest letting him fade into the background. But if we’re worried that the fans can’t accept a Borderlands game without this little yellow bastard then I’d make him Roger’s herald. He’d show up, advise you to surrender, and try to hype up Lord Doomsday as much as possible. He’d introduce bosses and promise that no, for real this time, this boss will actually kill you not like the last one. Then you beat the boss and he runs off. He can accidentally reveal his boss’ plans and generally be a huge liability that Roger continues to use for no clear reason.
We’re contacted by yet another character, who is our supposedly good leader. She can be another CEO, or we can make her the president of a planet. She wears white and guides us along the road to defeating Lord Doomsday. The thing is, she’s obviously, clearly, brazenly a villain. She’s a terrible liar and we can tell right away that she plans to betray us. The Pre-Sequel added the idea that our characters can make brief comments during the story, and we could use this to telegraph to the player that their character sees this coming. Each character goes along with it for their own reasons. One of them doesn’t actually care because they just want to fight all the time. Another just wants to get paid. Another has a crush on her. Another is stupid and takes everything she says at face value, creating dramatic irony.
At the end of the first act, we defeat Roger and our villain springs her trap. She tries to kill the party and they escape while she claims the doomsday weapon. The rest of the game is spent trying to stop her from using the weapon. The story culminates in a sequence where we storm her doomsday ship and fight the actual drive core. Her doomsday ship blows up, we make some obvious Star Wars jokes, and roll credits.
That’s what I came up with in half an hour. Let’s see if the real game can do any better.
EDIT: Also! I already suggested this in my Borderlands series, but the next game really does need jetpacks, jump jets, or whatever. The-Sequel had this on the moon, and it was fantastic.
 Previous in terms of chronology.
 I’m thinking contained areas like the Beatdown in the Campaign of Carnage DLC, not a literal open-world city.
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