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Borderlands 3's story

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WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

This article may reveal major plot points, especially considering the game had either been released recently or not in specific countries yet.‎

NOTE: The game's other elements are good. This article will focus primarily on its story.

Borderlands 3
Borderlands-3-Box-art.jpg
A good game that's unfortunately harmed by a borderline insanity inducing story.
Protagonist(s):
Vault Hunters (Classes)
Amara
FL4K
Moze
Zane Flynt
Genre(s): First-person shooter
Action role-playing
Platform(s): macOS
Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Stadia
Xbox Series X/S
PlayStation 5
Release: macOS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
September 13, 2019
Stadia
December 17, 2019
Xbox Series X/S
November 10, 2020
PlayStation 5
November 12, 2020
Engine: Unreal Engine 4
Developer(s): Gearbox Software
Publisher(s): 2K Games
Country: United States
Series: Borderlands
Predecessor: Borderlands 2 (chronologically)
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (by release date)


"Alright, hang on. Just wait -- wait up. I'm gonna release, uh... my dragon on you in a sec, just gotta get my... camcorder ready, here we go. Gonna put dubstep on footage of you guys dying and get tons of hits on the Echo Net. It's gonna be awesome!"
Handsome Jack foreshadowing the Calypso twins.

Borderlands 3 is an action role-playing game developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games in 2019. It is the fifth game in the Borderlands franchise, and the fourth main game.

Plot

After the discovery of many other Vaults existing across the galaxy, the Crimson Raiders set out to find these vaults. However, a cult formed from the bandit factions of Pandora known as the "Children of the Vault", led by the deranged twins Troy and Tyreen Calypso, catch wind of these plans and go after the vaults as well, leading to a war between the factions. Four new Vault Hunters are recruited by Lilith to help them wipe the twins and the cult off the map and stop them from gaining access to the Vaults.

Why Its Story Sucks

  1. Most of the plot twists and other important events feel forced, as if they only exist to advance the plot.
  2. Not only that, but most of the twists and revelations are extremely obvious and predictable. Some examples include:
    • During the mission "Atlas, at last", the game tries to make the player believe that Zer0 has betrayed Atlas in favor of Maliwan, but it's extremely obvious that this isn't actually Zer0, but rather Katagawa Jr, the secondary antagonist, who ultimately is exposed when the real Zer0 saves Rhys and later claims to have gone radio silent before.
    • Tannis being a Siren because of her using Siren powers such as contacting the Vault Hunters the way a Siren normally would prior to revealing this plot twist, completely ruining said twist.
    • During the mission "Hammerlocked", Wainwright Jakobs states that he sent a trio of mercenaries to rescue Sir Hammerlock - namely Brick, Tina and Mordecai - all instantly given away by their somewhat obvious codenames.
  3. Most of the characters introduced here are very unlikable and/or annoying, and a bunch of the returning characters are similarly made unlikable and/or obnoxious. The problem with most of them is that they're almost always over-the-top acting, something that was present in only a few characters in the previous games to not make the over-the-top acting overused.
    • The Calypso twins are easily the worst villains in the Borderlands Franchise, and are often compared to the Blazkowicz twins from Wolfenstein: Youngblood. Like the Blazkowicz twins, they are incredibly childish, immature, annoying and try way too hard to be funny, with their attempts at humor falling very flat every single time. Most of their lines are also extremely cringeworthy, such as their quote "Like, follow, and obey."
      • Throughout the game, Troy went through a character arc that was setting him up to be the true main antagonist upon realizing he didn't need to rely on Tyreen. Unfortunately this potentially good arc is completely ruined during the boss fight with him, where he dies and never completes this arc. Meanwhile, Tyreen never goes though any arc, which doesn't help in making her less bland.
    • Ava. No words on this page can describe how terrible she is.
    • Vaughn went from being a very smart, but rather cowardly accountant to a complete nutcase whose lifestyle is almost no better than that of a bandit's.
    • Lilith went from being incredibly powerful to being laughably incompetent and doing nothing aside from giving the Vault Hunters missions. From the very start of the story, Lilith actually claimed that she was so focused on finding the Vault Key that she didn't even notice that Pandora is changing and that the CoV is organizing. Considering how bandits form the overwhelming majority of Pandora's population, this made Lilith look incredibly incompetent.
    • All of the character development Aurelia gets during The Pre-Sequel is thrown out the window in this game. She's now just a generic villain who isn't above killing her own family, for no particular reason either (although The Pre-sequel has implied that Alistar and Aurelia always found each other disagreeable). What's worse is that the game's trailer suggested that she and Hammerlock improved their relationship and now work together.
    • Typhon DeLeon, who are among the few likable NPCs introduced in this game (alongside BALEX, Wainwright Jakobs, the Vault Hunters themselves, and Clay), gets killed shortly after his introduction, which feels like a complete waste of his character.
  4. The endings of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Tales from the Borderlands are completely ignored here, with this game's story doing its own thing while the plot points from said games get left completely unanswered and ditched.
  5. Most of the franchise's major characters are underutilized in favor of Lilith, Tannis, and Ava (with the former two already having enough time to shine in the previous installments). Even fan favorites such as Claptrap, Brick, Mordecai, and Tina hardly appear.
  6. Most of the Vault Hunters from Borderlands 2 and those from Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel who have survived as well as Fiona from Tales from the Borderlands don't even appear in the base game, and are instead regulated to the DLCs (Gaige, Krieg, Timothy Lawrence). It is justified that Nisha and Wilhelm can’t return since these two were killed in Borderlands 2, and probably Athena also can’t return since she is living a life with her wife Janey Springs. Some of them aren't even mentioned once such as Salvador and Axton.
    • This large number of absences rendered the Watcher's statement about the Crimson Raiders needing all the Vault Hunters they can find in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel completely pointless, along with the fact that it took seven years for the Crimson Raiders to find just four Vault Hunters.
    • Axton and Salvador would eventually return in the second season pass but only as hosts for a battle royale.
  7. Maya, one of the most popular characters as well as one of the few voices-of-reason, gets killed off in just about the most anti-climatic and forced way imaginable. She dies because of Ava's disobedience, recklessness, and arrogance, which also makes her death downright infuriating for all the wrong reasons. Worst of all, the writing takes Ava's side and blames Maya's death on Lilith.
    • It isn't even explained how Ava managed to get to Promethea's Vault in the first place owning to her terrible capabilities. And considering that she was supposed to be on the bridge and being watched by Lilith, the fact that she managed to sneak away made Lilith look like an incompetent oaf.
    • Why didn't Maya try to let go of Troy when she found out Troy can steal her powers?
    • Why did the twins have to defeat and weaken Lilith to steal her powers, but not for Maya? Perhaps to demonstrate their dominance?
    • Troy can kill and disintegrate sirens when he steals their powers. This bring up two questions: Why does Troy rely on Tyreen when obtaining siren powers? Why didn't the twins disintegrate and kill Lilith when they drained her powers?
    • As mentioned below, the Vault Hunters are nowhere to be seen during the cutscene. If they had any sort of involvement, Maya would almost certainly still be alive, though this is still somewhat debatable as Nyriad's leech powers they have could technically kill anything.
    • The funeral scene that happens afterwards is completely ruined by the unnecessary need to shove as much unfunny humor in the scene as possible. None of the other characters aside from Lilith, Tannis, and Ava say anything during this scene (including Zer0).
  8. As mentioned above, Tannis is revealed to have been a Siren this whole time, which is just an unnecessary deus ex machina that comes with a fair share of plot holes.
    • Tannis gained Angel's powers before the story even started. So why didn't she ever use her powers to help the Crimson Raiders or the Vault Hunters prior to revealing her powers? She wasn't at the frontlines so there's no risk of the COV reaching her that easily.
    • Since Tannis had technopathic abilities from Angel's powers, she could've easily escaped Carnivoria (a gargantuan machine) by herself instead of having to get rescued by the Vault Hunters, as she would have just manipulated it psychically.
  9. The Destroyer is suddenly alive again, even though Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel made it very clear that it is dead because Handsome Jack revealed that he went into the Vault of the Destroyer to take its eye and use it as Helios' main weapon after the BL1 vault hunters slew it. If the Destroyer was still alive, there would have been no Eye of Helios since nobody was there to weaponize it.
  10. As mentioned before, the playable Vault Hunters barely factor into the story, and suddenly cease to exist when a cutscene happens. A lot of the conflict and problems the Crimson Raiders run into could've easily been resolved had the new Vault Hunters played any role in the cutscenes. The only exception to this is during a cutscene where Troy Phaselocks the Vault Hunters at the Jakobs Estate, where quite literally nothing can be done until Wainwright Jakobs distracted him with a shotgun blast to the stomach.
  11. The lore about the Sirens went from being mysterious to straight up confusing.
    • Neither the Sirens nor any of the Eridians know about the origins of the Sirens or their purpose, making it feel like they now exist for the sake of existing.
    • Siren power succession was never clarified, as in the case of Nyriad and Angel. Maya and Ava imply that when a Siren dies, they pass their powers to a target of choice instead of acquiring some randomly at birth in previous games.
    • Suddenly seven sirens can now exist at the same time instead of 6. It's never explained if Troy Calypso counts as being one of the seven sirens either, though he was born while still attached to Tyreen. Neither is it explained that whether the 7th Siren is Nyriad herself since she has sealed herself away in Nekrotafeyo's Vault.
    • Eridium boosts the powers of Sirens, but some Sirens like Maya and Tyreen are both somehow far more powerful than other sirens without having to use Eridium. Why this is the case is completely unknown.
    • Maya states that the reason why Ava is her apprentice is because Ava is going to be a Siren in the future. This bring up a few questions: How does Maya know that Ava will become a Siren? How does Ava become a Siren? How come Ava has yet to become a Siren even though the previous Sirens became Sirens the second they were born?
      • This plot device is completely pushed to the side when Maya states that she will "talk about it later".
      • Ava eventually does become a Siren by simply touching Troy's body after he's killed. There's no need to explain how nonsensical this is at this point.
    • They now have the ability to open portals to other locations, another power that was never shown nor mentioned.
  12. The Calypso twins reveal that Eridium could've been used to make them more powerful instead of stealing the powers from Vault monsters and other Sirens, making them going after those Vaults (as well as Maya's death) completely pointless.
    • As seen in other games, however, Eridium only temporarily boosts a Siren's powers by a fairly moderate amount, not permanently boosting their powers drastically.
  13. The Crimson Raiders didn't look for the missing Vault Key until they recruited the new Vault Hunters. Why they decided to not look for it during the seven year span is never explained, since they are beyond capable of doing so.
  14. Rhys tells the Crimson Raiders that Atlas (before his takeover) discovered a Vault while building their city on Promethea. Instead of trying to open it, they instead just ignored it and built over it. Why didn't they just try to open that Vault instead of the one they tried to open in the first Borderlands? This renders the Crimson Lance's role in said game completely pointless if Atlas had quick access to another vault (provided they obtain the all the key fragments, though one was beyond their reach on Promethea, and the other got stolen by Maliwan).
  15. It's never explained how the Calypso twins managed to unite every single bandit gang on Pandora, and how the Crimson Raiders didn't find out about this until just now.
    • It also isn't explained how they formed an alliance with Maliwan, or why Maliwan decided to get involved in the COV's plans despite being in a dispute with the Atlas Corporation. This was likely done so the Vault Hunters have to battle against a corporation like in the previous games (which was Atlas in Borderlands, Hyperion in Borderlands 2, and a rogue Dahl detachment in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel), but with the aforementioned problems, their role as an antagonistic faction feels forced.
  16. The COV somehow know about the Vault map despite never acquiring the Vault Key beforehand, and the knowledge about the map being kept a secret to only the Vault Hunters.
    • Speaking of the COV going after the Vault Key, the COV has about 10 billion members, yet none of them managed to find the key for years. Considering the ludicrously high number of members spread all across the planet, it should've taken them no more than a month, if not a mere week to find the key, especially since the key wasn't even hidden, it was just laying in the middle of a desert with what is hinted to be Bandit settlements nearby.
  17. There is a tendency for the characters to tell the players the obvious. One such example is Tannis telling the players that the Calypso Twins are sirens and are going after the Vaults.
  18. Throughout the story, players can find logs about Typhon DeLeon, the first Vault Hunter. The problem here is that these logs are purely optional to find, and are often hidden, which will lead to players who didn't find these logs confused about his sudden intro late in the story.
  19. When Lilith confronts the twins early on in the game, she brings the Vault Key with her instead of leaving it with Tannis, which is just plain stupid because that allows the twins to easily take the key.
  20. As shown in the previous games, Lilith can teleport things close to her (including people) to another location, yet this game shows that she can teleport anything, regardless of distance, to anywhere she wants. This teleportation ability could've solved most of the conflict present in the previous games if she had just used these powers.
    • This same problem also exists with Maya's Phaselocking ability.
    • Considering how insanely overpowered these abilities are now, how come the Calypso twins never used these powers (aside from kidnapping Tannis) to easily kill the Vault Hunters?
  21. The Vaults in this game contain nothing interesting or valuable in them at all unlike the Vaults in the previous games, it's just mostly green (or higher rarity) gear. Since they aren't Eridian, they should not even appear in the first place.
    • There's also apparently locations to other Vaults inside the Vaults themselves, something that wasn't present nor mentioned on the previous games.
    • The monsters that are in the Vaults are said to power the Vaults, but said vaults continue to function even after they are slain.
  22. Very inconsistent pacing. When on Athenas, the pacing is too fast which results in Athenas getting severely underutilized. Eden 6 sufferers the exact opposite problem, where the pacing gets so slow to the point that barely anything related to finding the Vault happens here in favor of nonsensical side-plots that only exist to pad out the story.
  23. In addition to the major moments of illogic that ruin the story, there's also a ton of minor illogical/nonsensical moments throughout the story.
    • When deciding on an official name for their starship, Lilith calls it "Sanctuary" in honor of the town with the same name in Borderlands 2. The problem here is that the real name of the ship just so happens to be "Santuary III", completely ruining Lilith's line.
    • Despite being a Siren herself, Amara was never acknowledged as one throughout the entire story.
    • When first meeting Zer0, Zane mentions that they know each other from the past, yet both of them act like they've never met before aside from that mention.
    • When Katagawa Jr. introduces himself, he essentially acknowledges that the Vault Hunters are Maliwan's and the COV's biggest threat, yet claims to overlook that completely.
    • Katagawa has a laser on Skywell-27 that he will use to destroy Atlas' HQ's defenses, and it is powered by a Vault Key fragment. This is nonsensical because the fragment by itself is powerless, it only has power when the key is fully assembled and charged. Even then, the laser is pointless as he doesn't actually use it to nuke Atlas HQ instantly. It is implied, however, that Katagawa merely wanted to forcibly absorb Atlas and not have it obliterated in the beginning until after Rhys and the Vault Hunters destroyed his yacht Zanara.
    • After Maya's death, the Crimson Raiders try to contact Sir Hammerlock about a Vault on Eden 6, but they find out that the COV have captured Hammerlock and infiltrated the Jakobs corporation and killed their CEO within a matter of mere minutes, which is illogically fast lest their presence were existent some time before the events if the game.
    • Troy's Phaselocking can be used to empower those who got locked, something that didn't exist in the previous games.
    • Montgomery Jakobs, the previous CEO of Jakobs, left a record that gave the locations of the Vault key fragments for Eden 6's Vault, knowing that the COV are coming for the Vault. Considering how impossibly fast the COV arrived and infiltrated the Jakobs Estate, how did Monty produce it at lightspeed? While it made sense that Monty would want his allies (Clay, Wainwright, etc) to learn of it, the COV could have also stolen it considering their prevalence in the mansion.
    • Before fighting Aurelia, she shoots Hammerlock, but after the battle, Wainwright appears to be wounded.
    • The Vault Hunters and Crimson Raiders didn't even bother to check to make sure Tyreen (who was unconscious at the time) was dead after they killed Troy. They didn't even do anything to try and stop her after she revealed herself to still be alive.
    • Tyreen absorbs Troy's Siren powers even though Ava already did so.
    • Typhon DeLeon somehow knows that the Great Vault is going to be opened despite being on a planet very far away from Pandora and Elpis, making it impossible for him to see or hear anything about it. And how does he know that opening the Great Vault will destroy the universe?
    • The Crimson Raiders find Nekrotafeyo because of a beam linking it to Elpis, but what do those two planets have anything to do with each other, and what's the point of this beam?
    • It is mentioned that absolutely no one besides a handful like Typhon DeLeon knows where Nekrotafeyo is, yet when the Vault Hunters arrive on the planet, Maliwan structures are already scattered throughout the place.
    • Tyhpon activates a grenade in Tyreen's face, which doesn't even hurt her. She then Phaselocks the explosion despite having never acquired Phaselocking abilities (since Ava absorbed Troy's Phaselocking power).
    • It's apparently possible to fuse together with the Destroyer, another plot element that is never mentioned once beforehand.
  24. Because of these problems (along with the unlikeable characters), this makes the main story missions not as enjoyable as they should be.
  25. The ending is an insulting cliffhanger. It's never revealed what happened to Lilith, and Ava out of everyone becomes the leader of the Crimson Raiders despite having done nothing but cause trouble for them.
    • Once Tyreen the Destroyer is killed, its dead body suddenly disappears after the cutscene showing its death ends.
    • There was absolutely no build up throughout the story to Lilith sacrificing herself to save Pandora.
    • Even though Pandora was in danger of getting destroyed, none of the characters there attempted to flee to Sanctuary to get to safety.
    • How were the other planets shaking even though they were in no danger? And how did the characters on the other planets see what was happening to Pandora and Elpis?
    • There is absolutely no explanation as to how Lilith was able to stop Elpis from destroying Pandora.
    • The game pretends that the ending is fantastic with how its played out and the music choice in the credits, which obviously isn't the case at all.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Roland's Rest is a nice tribute to the deceased namesake character, and even includes heartwarming messages from others on his memorial statue.
  2. The Director's Cut fixes Maya's death to be much more impactful and even made Ava a lot more tolerable. Sadly, this is locked behind a paywall of $15.
  3. Despite the terrible story, Borderlands 3 is still a good game. For the page about the rest of the game, click here.

Reception

While Borderlands 3 as a whole was met with mostly positive reception, the story was universally panned and is the most criticized aspect of the game. The story is widely considered to be the worst story in the Borderlands franchise, as well as one of the worst video game stories in general.

The story was one of the main factors (alongside poor optimization) for the game getting review bombed on Metacritic.[1][2][3] Many of the reviews on Steam also criticized the story, but the game wasn't review bombed on said platform unlike Metacritic.[4]

Maya's death in particular was one of, if not the most criticized aspect of the story.[5][6][7] There's even as petition on Change.org to bring her back, calling her death "ridiculous".[8]

Videos

References

  1. https://forums.gearboxsoftware.com/t/we-need-to-talk-borderlands-3-writing-is-just-horrible/3773195
  2. https://forums.gearboxsoftware.com/t/story-writing-continuity-story-direction-spoilers/3668810
  3. https://forums.gearboxsoftware.com/t/the-story-and-ending-feel-like-a-slap-into-fans-faces-bl3-review/4484642
  4. https://onlysp.escapistmagazine.com/borderlands-3-story-was-not-worth-the-wait/
  5. https://time.com/5680509/borderlands-3-review/

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