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Borderlands is an ongoing series of first person shooter videogames made by Gearbox Software, best known for their combination of high octane violence, black comedy, and gleeful irreverence: there's no pretense to a deep and gritty story here, players are just here to score kills, loot shit, and get better stuff to kill even more critters. It's the sci-fi murderhobo experience distilled to an art.
The series is set on Pandora, a frontier colony world that was intended to be settled by the Dahl megacorporation, but it turned out to have one of those ridiculously long ecological cycles, and what they thought of as a harsh but manageable environment turned out to be its "Winter" season, with "Spring" occurring once the colonists had settled in. Which was when all the giant monsters and ridiculously lethal flora & fauna woke up. The place was basically abandoned and turned into a giant intergalactic corporate prison for humanity's dregs and refuse... Sort of like Space Australia. None of this matter to the big megacorps, who keep squabbling and fighting using cash, legal threats and merc armies.
None of which matters much to your player, who is one of several different crazy adventurers who has decided they can carve out great wealth on this lawless world, or just needs a place to lie low by finding the elusive "Vault", an mysterious location that supposedly holds a fuckton of riches and loot while thwarting some corporate assholes who's in your way ; a task not easy since 90% of Pandora is made of more-or-less crazed bandits and raiders who want at best to murder you, at worst to make a meat bicycle out of you OR murderous fauna who sees anything as their next brunch. Adding to that is the fact that the Vault is allegedly impossible to find without the guidance of an "Angel" of sorts.
The First Game
After getting off a bus in the little border town of Fyrestone, the player, controlling one of the four different characters, are contacted by the "Angel" mentionned above, who guides them towards the pieces of the Key to the Vault, which turns out to have been built by aliens. Against both bandit lords and later the Crimson Lance (the private army of the Atlas megacorporation) hellbent on finding the Vault themselves, the player shoots his way through while helping the rare non-psychotic inhabitants of the planet such as Dr Zed, who is totally a doctor even without a license or Patricia Tannis, the resident Vault expert as knoledgable as she's crazy. The player eventually finds the Vault, only to realize it was used by anciens aliens as a prison to hold a huge-ass monster made of teeth and tentacles, beating the shit out of it.
While praised for it's Diablo-esque sci-fi murderhobo flavour, Borderlands was criticized for being an indecisive parody of sorts, failing to find a balance between grim seriousness and the balls-to-the-wall humour that would later become a staple of the series. Other criticism involves the world feeling empty with almost no dialog aside from quest givers, the REALLY large number of guns lootable (one of the main selling points of the game) feeling not that different once one realizes most are limited to interchangeable parts randomly assembled, with only the color scheme and small stat variations to differenciate between manufacturers. Also, shit-ass PC optimization. Seriously, above-average computers in 2020 have trouble running this game.
Being the first game, character classes are much more restrictive than in later games, albeit one could still use some degree of variety during gameplay.
Roland, the Soldier, is your typical Jack-of-all-Trades. A former Crimson Lance combat engineer who defected after blamming his asshole superior, Roland favors assault rifles and shotguns. His special ability deploys a fixed turret, providing cover, suppressive fire and various buffs to himself and his allies. His skill trees focus on buffing his gun proficiencies and his turret's, resupplying the team with ammo and health packs or turning full medic.
Lilith, the Siren, is the Mage equivalent. One of the six Sirens (women with magic powers and weird tattoos) in the whole galaxy, Lilith uses pistols and submachine guns. Her special skill has her turning intangible and extremely fast for a few seconds, causing a shockwave once the effect ends. Her skill trees focus on crowd control, elemental damage (especially Fire and Acid) and killing chains to remain buffed.
Mordecai, the Hunter, is the Ranger equivalent. A shooting prodigy who travels the galaxy for cash with his pet bird of prey Bloodwing, Mordecai uses revolvers and sniper rifles. His special skill has him sic Bloodwing on enemies for massive damage. skill trees focus on boosting his sniping abilities, becoming a better gunslinger or letting his bird do almost all the legwork.
Brick, Himself, is your Barbarian/Berserker equivalent. With little to zero character development aside "liking to punch things" and "being fucking angry", Brick favours hand-to-hand combat and rocket launchers. His special skill has him go FULL RAGE and holster his weapons to punch everything to death. His skill trees focus on becoming better at punching, using rockets or simply tanking hits.
The Second Game
Following the opening of the original Vault, massive veins of our magic space rocks du jour, Eridium, popped out all over Pandora. This immediatly attracts the attention of the Hyperion megacorporation and it's massive dickwad of a CEO, Handsome Jack. Jack wants to "pacify" Pandora and loot all the Eridium, using the nigh-infinite army of combat robots and wads of cash of his company to crush anybody who won't kiss his boots, labeling them as "bandits" against him, the "hero" of the story. Jack is opposed by the Crimson Raiders resistance, formed by Roland out of Crimson Lance remnants and volunteers, but said resistance gets slowly but surely crushed by both Hyperion and the still-batfuck crazy bandits. The player, a new Vault Hunter who survived an assassination attempt by Hyperion, joins forces with the Crimson Raiders and eventually turn the tide of war in their favor, culminating in Jack's death.
Gearbox realized the error of their ways and firmly turned up the humour in the second game, even if one could argue it went past the funny mark and landed into lolrandum territory. Guns FINALLY feel different from one manufacturer to another instead of just colours and stats variations, ranging from Bandit-brand scrap-metal shooters with mags bigger than my ass, Dahl-made "tried and true" guns with burst-fire modes or Maliwan-brand sleek plasticky guns that fire anything expect bullets. The world feels more alive and coloured, both in terms of dialog and visuals, with almost every quest being peppered by snippets and snark from NPCs.
Borderlands 2 Classes
Vault Hunters this time around have more diversity in builds but are mostly similar enough to the previous archetypes established.
Axton, the Commando, is basically Roland with a bigger focus on generalization. His backstory was that he used to serve Dahl until his glory hound ways got people killed and his superior officer (who also happened to be his wife) told him to go AWOL if he wanted to live. Like Roland, he tosses out a turret which can have be upgraded to have a full dome shield, rockets and shoot out debuffing bullets. Serviceable for the normal and True Vault Hunter difficulties but starts having trouble in Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode.
Maya, the Siren, like Lilith is the resident elemental damage specialist. She was raised as an enforcer for a cult until she figured out that they were doing bad shit in her name, leading to her killing the leader and seeking her fortune in Pandora. She focuses on Crowd Control and support aside from elemental damage and her special ability is to hold an enemy in place.
Salvador, the Gunzerker, is a more gun-focused Barbarian class. Rather than punching people, his special ability is to roid out and whip out two of his equipped guns at once, which thanks to a combination of weapons synergies and wonky skills at work makes him an indestructible engine of death (particularly if he has the Grog Nozzler and the Unkempt Harold).
Zer0, the Assassin, is a Rogue who specializes in sniping and melee (which thanks to sniping being unfeasible in the endgame means that he'll be focusing on the latter if he gets that far ahead). A parody of annoyingly cryptic and mysterious characters, he speaks in haiku, looks like Snake Eyes and acts like an edgy OC. His special ability has him turn invisible while leaving a decoy, which on paper means that he's supposed to take the time to snipe when in practice it'll probably best be used for his Bloodshed tree to chain backstabs.