Borderlands 3 made its first appearance at E3 2019 during the Microsoft press conference on June 9. Along with a new trailer showing the new Vault Hunter characters in action, the release date for the game was finally known. Borderlands 3 will launch on Sept. 13.
On Wednesday, developer Gearbox Software revealed the last of the four Vault Hunters players will use throughout the game. FL4K (pronounced “flak”) is the most mysterious of the bunch, a beastmaster who can recruit dangerous monsters to help them.
When Borderlands came out 10 years ago, the industry and gamers took notice. It became one of the most popular and well-reviewed games of 2009, praised for its slick visuals, its silliness and its array of guns and items you could collect throughout its world.
Borderlands also ushered in a new genre of game by combining a first-person shooter, where you play the game through the eyes of the main character, with role-playing game elements and a heavy focus on obtaining the best weapons. Games that came after it became known as “looter shooters.” They included titles like Ubisoft’s post-apocalyptic survival game Tom Clancy’s The Division, the fantasy game Anthem from Electronic Arts, and the space battle epic Destiny from Bungie.
Like previous games, Borderlands 3 will center around Vaults, legendary tombs filled with treasures and monsters. Players control one of a rag-tag group of hunters who are chasing down a pair of evil twins with their own cult who want the power from these secret caches.
Borderlands fans didn’t have to wait long after the game was announced in March for a good look at it. Gearbox held aon May 1 that explored the first hour of the game. Then in June, E3 2019 was another event where the developer showed off more of the game. On Wednesday, Gearbox revealed FL4K, and more about the planets players will visit.
Here is everything we know about Borderlands 3.
Who are these jokers?
Part of the success of Borderlands is the group of characters, known as Vault Hunters, gamers can play as. The four hunters have their own distinct play style that has both pros and cons. They’re supported by dozens of other memorable nonplayable characters, such as the loudmouth robot Claptrap and Lilith, the leader of the Crimson Raiders, who are chasing down the evil Calypso twins.
BL3 gives players four new Vault Hunters to play as: FL4K, Amara, Moze and Zane. Like in the previous games, each has their own backstory and reason to go on an intergalactic treasure hunt.
FL4K is a beastmaster class who can control four different monsters — a Jabber, a Rakk, a Skag and a Spiderant — each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and three skill trees for each beast. The Hunter skill line gives FL4K a Spiderant Centurion as a pet and the special move called Rakk Attack that lets loose a pair of flying monsters that disappear after attacking. This skill tree focuses on making FL4K’s critical attacks occur more often and do more damage.
The Master skill tree focuses on the pet, which in this case will be Guard Skag. There are multiple moves that will buff the Skag and increase FL4K’s melee attacks. Gamma Burst is an action skill that will transport the pet and quickly revive them in a battle.
FL4K’s Stalker skill tree is all about stealth and evasion. Fade Away is an action skill to close them while increasing their speed and healing. Other special moves let FL4K’s pet — in this case, a Jabber Sidekick — revive and improves health regeneration.
As a Siren, Amara can summon a giant fist to lock down enemies called Phasegrasp, send an astral projection of herself called Phasecast and unleash her power on nearby enemies with a Phaseslam.
Zane is more of a gadget fighter: he can summon a holograph of himself called a Digi-Clone that can attack enemies; he can launch SNTNL drones; and deploy a Barrier for protection.
Moze is all about firepower. Not only can she equip some big weapons on her own, but she also has her own mech called Iron Bear.
Unlike other Vault Hunters, who unlock new abilities via skill trees, Moze unlocks new weapons on her mech, which are called Hardpoints. Demolition Woman will deal extra damage whenever she uses mounted grenade launchers and rocket launchers on Iron Bear. For defense, players can decide to focus on the Shield of Retribution Hardpoint, which gives you a powerful rail gun and the Iron Bear Fist, a powerful melee attack. Then there’s the Bottomless Mags Hardpoint that will allow for regenerating bullets and add a flamethrower to the mech.
Gearbox says it has only four playable characters and no plans for more via downloadable content.
Not only are there new Vault Hunters, but Gearbox also updated the basic functions of the classes. Playable characters in previous games could only have one active ability available, while in this iteration the characters can use three abilities. As players level up, they can decide how to improve a specific active ability, which allows them to power up one over the other to make their character distinctive.
Gearbox also modernized the Vault Hunters by allowing them to mantle and get to higher ground easier, as well as sliding while running to get to cover faster. Shown at E3 2019 were the new Artifacts that will add various effects to player’s movements, such as causing a streak of fire whenever the character slides.
Gearbox added a little old-school fun with multiplayer. Borderlands 3 players can play both online and split-screen multiplayer, meaning you can play alongside your friend sitting next to you on a couch at home.
NPCs that fight alongside you can also be revived as well as revive players. There are also more environmental attacks available, such as oil on the ground that can be set on fire to damage enemies, instead of just exploding barrels all over the maps.
To Pandora and beyond
In the first two Borderlands games, players uncovered the secrets behind the Vaults, legendary caches supposedly filled with riches and powerful alien technology, located on Pandora. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel then had players go to Pandora’s moon, Elpis, to find its Vault.
Now it’s time to explore new worlds for the first time in the series. At E3, the developer showed one of the new planets to explore, Eden-6. The new swampy planet is much different than the rocky, desert wasteland of Pandora. Players will contend with new animal life on the planet such as the Saurians and Jabbers.
Players will make the jump to Eden-6 and other planets via their own spaceship, called Sanctuary III, and it does more than travel across the galaxy. The ship is a home base filled with shops, a personal quarters players can make their own and several characters from previous games such as Lilith, Maya, Hammerlock, Ellie and Mad Moxxi.
Athenas is another planet players can explore. It’s an uninhabited planet except for a sect of monks, the Order of the Impending Storm, who are guarding a secret.
Promethea is the home of the Atlas Corporation and has big, futuristic cities. It’s currently under siege by another weapon manufacturer, Maliwan. Atlas CEO Rhys Strongfork controls the planet and might be in need of some help.
To bridge the gap between Borderlands 2 and 3, downloadable content was made available for free to link the two games. Called Commander Lilith & The Fight for Sanctuary, it’s an expansion available to anyone who owns Borderlands 2 or The Handsome Collection. It was available for free for 30 days from June 9, but now costs $20. You play as any of the characters from the second game in the new original story and you can earn some new rare loot.
Gearbox revealed to The Verge that comedian and will reprise his role of Vaughn from Tales from the Borderlands, an adventure game developed by Telltale Games released in 2014. Hardwick’s character was a friend of Rhys, one of the protagonists of the game. His inclusion means Borderlands 3 could be the first of the mainline games in the franchise to crossover with the Telltale game.
Not-so wonder twins
BL3 focuses on a new pair of bad guys called the Calypso Twins, Troy and Tyrene. The two act similar to YouTubers and have their own cult, the Children of the Vault. They want to find the Vaults and suck up the power of the legendary Vault Monsters.
Lilith, the Siren from Borderlands 1, is out to stop the twins with her Crimson Raiders, a group of Vault Hunters from previous games and other characters who fight for causes worth fighting for. This is where the players come into the story.
Aside from the new bad guys, players will also have to deal with big bosses in the new Vaults that will have multiple phases during the encounters.
A kinder looter-shooter
A big quality-of-life change in BL3 is how the game handles loot. Being a looter-shooter, players have to defeat enemies and complete quests to get the best equipment in the game. In previous games, this means one legendary weapon drops from an enemy and players would have to decide who can pick up the weapon, or in some cases, one person on the team would grab the weapon and log off, better known as being a “loot ninja.”
To address this, Gearbox created loot instancing. This means that when players team up, each will have their own loot drop from enemies that only they can pick up. For fans of the series who want a competitive loot option, they can choose to play on.
Loot instancing also lets characters of different levels fight against enemies of their own levels. A player with a level 10 character can join a level 25 player and the two will experience enemies at a similar difficulty with rewards on par with their levels.
Gearbox will also include a new feature called Dynamic missions. New quests can become available based on the progress of your friends. For example, if a friend finds a rare monster, a mission to track down the beast may become available to you.
Another new feature revealed at E3 2019 was the Guardian Rank. In previous games, players acquired Badass Ranks after completing certain goals, such as defeating a certain number of enemies or finding so many weapons and would be able to improve their stats. With Guardian Rank, players will unlock additional weapons, skins and abilities as they rank up.
Like in previous games, BL3 has a ton of guns for players to find. New this time around is the alternative firing mode. Guns can now go from firing bullets to firing missiles, just with a press of a button. This will dramatically improve the variety of weapons available.
Another big change for weapons is having dual elements. A gun that has fire damage can also have another element like shock or explosive. There’s also a new element called radiation that will cause enemies to explode when they die and irradiate nearby enemies.
The guns will also have other unique properties. A Tediore weapon can be tossed like a grenade or it can be placed on the floor where it will become a turret.
Players will also be able to customize their weapons via skins to give them a more personal touch.
Gearbox has made it clear that BL3 will not have any pay-to-win microtransactions. However, there will be cosmetics available to purchase. There will also be downloadable content in the future that could include new areas and quests, but as previously mentioned, there are currently no plans for additional Vault Hunters.
Originally published May 21.
Updates, June 5: Adds Chris Hardwick addition to cast; June 9: Adds release date and new downloadable content details; Aug. 14: Adds info on FL4K, planets and weapons.