History of Borderlands – Impact and Origins

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BY August 14, 2019

Borderlands 3 is one of the most hyped games of the upcoming year. With a release date next month, the game’s anticipation among fans and critics is reaching a fever pitch. The game comes 5 years after the Pre-Sequel, which might sound a bit confusing. With a few spin off games and some out of sorts entries in the series, it’s worth revisiting the history of Borderlands to prep for the new game! We’ll start with the development of the game, as well as all the entries of the series! Let’s start with where it all began. 

History of Borderlands – Game Development

Image Credit: Gearbox
Gearbox CEO and founder Randy Pitchford has two passions in gaming: RPGs and first person shooters. His early work on things like Duke Nukem 3D established in him a taste for the over the top. The RPG elements he enjoyed most were leveling up characters, whereas shooters provided short little missions over the course of a long story. Combining the two wouldn’t be easy; the long, slow boil of an RPG is often incompatible with first person shooters. Nevertheless, Pitchford wanted to fuse the two together. Alas, Borderlands is born. The game attempted to get going, and many industry professionals laughed him off. Rather than make a hybrid game, many told Pitchford to do one or the other; RPG or first person shooter. 30 million copies of Borderlands games later, we’re lucky he didn’t give in.

The idea behind Borderlands was simple. Pitchford wanted to make “Halo meets Diablo.” The main mechanic in the game would be looting dead enemies. Now, considering the popularity of loot shooters, it’s hard to believe people needed convincing of the game’s concept. The ultimate loot in Pitchford’s mind would be the goal, in which he decided Pandora would be a fun play on words for the world of the game.

Visuals and Style of the Borderlands ‘Universe’

Borderlands games look like nothing else on the market. Well, that’s not true anymore. At the time Borderlands launched, cel-shading was not popular. Games like Call of Duty and Battlefield aimed for the ultra-realistic. Pitchford wanted something a bit more artistic, like Gears of War or Mass Effect. The game’s style started getting shown around in 2007, and people were surprised to see a current generation game looking so non-HD. Sure, the game looked modern, but it didn’t push popular styles of lighting and coloring that others did. 

History of Borderlands – Mainline Games

Image Credit: Gearbox

With the style and gameplay all set, the series started and immediately found a following. Let’s start with the first title. 


Borderlands released in 2009, starring four characters. Once the player chooses a character, the adventure begins, with tons of enemies and guns to find and hunt. Something that the game was immediately noted for is the skillfulness of the gameplay. With points being given for difficult actions like headshots or limb hits, it really pays to be precise. 

4.5 million copies of the game sold by 2011, and the fun didn’t stop with the base game. Four DLC packs, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, and Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution extended the game’s life for quite a bit of time. Fans loved the game. Critic reviews were high as well. 

Borderlands 2

In 2012, Borderlands 2 released. The game features much of the same gameplay and mechanics as the original. You can also play as four new characters, while the original game’s characters are NPCs, or non-player characters. The story continues to tell the tales of Pandora, with things like aliens and minerals taking center stage. 

The game also featured DLC, including Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty, Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt and Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep. The DLC brings 2 new characters, as well as more original character development and additional quests. The game was one of the best selling titles of 2012, pushing 8.5 million copies by 2014. With scores from critics in the low to mid 90s overall, Gearbox had done it again.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel launched in 2014. With Pandora’s moon, Elpis, as the setting, the game’s events take place between the story of the first two games. It covers Borderlands 2’s main antagonist, Handsome Jack, and his rise to power. You play as one of Handsome Jack’s four henchmen, and DLC also came with the game.

The game sold well, but not as well as the first two. Likewise, the title seemed to garner less fan and critical acclaim, likely due to its repetition of the patterns and mechanics of the first two titles. 

History of Borderlands – Spin-off Games

Borderlands is more than just its main set of games. Spin-off titles have also taken players into the world of Pandora in unique ways. Here are the spin-off games associated with the history of Borderlands. 

Borderlands Legends

When Borderlands 2 released, a mobile game came with it. Borderlands Legends launched in 2012, with a top down perspective much like Diablo. The style made sense, since top-down RPGs inspired Pitchford in the first place. The game lets players control all four of Borderlands 2 characters at once, and was overall not well received. Thanks to lagging and repetitive gameplay, iOS and Android players abandoned the game quickly. If you love Borderlands, it’s worth a try, but it isn’t amazing.

Tales from the Borderlands

In 2014, popular narrative based game maker Telltale Games brought their point and click decision making style to Borderlands. Tales from the Borderlands released in episodes spanning into 2015, and melded the Borderlands story and art style with Telltale’s dialogue choices and button mashing moments. The game sold well, but did not match the same popularity of the mainline Borderlands games. 

History of Borderlands – Looking Ahead

Image Credit: Gearbox

Borderlands 3 is set to release September 13th for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You should be all set for the game thanks to this brief refresher on the history of Borderlands! If you’re excited for Borderlands 3, then let us know in the comments. For more gaming news, as well as everything comic books, movies and TV, and pop culture, keep reading Comic Years!


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