Being the fifth entry in the Borderlands series, Borderlands 3 has several returning characters that fans will want to know about to get the full picture. For those jumping into the series for the first time with this entry, there are a lot of story points that may be lost without prior knowledge of the series. Borderlands games usually do a decent job at recapping the story so far, but we're here to make sure you get all the important story beats from Borderlands and Borderlands 2 that will be important when diving back into Pandora (and beyond) this week,
Borderlands Backstory: Eridians, The Vaults, and Atlas
To better understand the story for Borderlands 3, a little context is needed regarding the events that take place before the events of the first Borderlands game. Long before the series begins, an ancient race known as Eridians. This ancient alien race possessed technology that far surpassed anything else in the universe, but they were seemingly destroyed long before the games begin. However, before their downfall, the Eridians created Vaults to house their technology. Apparently few Eridians exist now, though they created The Guardians which serve as protectors of the Vaults.
Millions of years after the downfall of the Eridians, the Atlas Corporation stumbled upon one of the Vaults on the planet of Promethea, one of the new planets in Borderlands 3. Atlas used this Vault to create new, high-tech weaponry that allowed them to rise in power and prominence. Following the discovery of the Vault on Promethea, corporations started scavenging worlds in the solar system looking for more, leading them to Pandora. The Dahl Corporation joins the hunt for the Vaults, and begin mining on both Pandora and Pandora's moon, Elpis. During this time, Atlas uses their new-found weaponry to outfit a special military force known as the Crimson Lance.
Unfortunately for Dahl and Atlas, they began their operations on Pandora during the planet's seven-year winter, and soon the planet began to thaw which unleashed the hoards of ravenous fauna that Pandora is now known for. With ravenous creatures roaming Pandora, Dahl quickly stopped their operation, leaving all miners and staff stranded on Pandora, and the criminals that Dahl contracted as miners quickly devolved into the bandits found on the wild wastelands of Pandora today. One staff member, Patricia Tannis, discovered a Vault Key fragment during this time, but it was stolen by bandits.
Borderlands: The Rise of the Vault Hunters
As whispers of the Vault on Pandora began to spread, Vault Hunters began flocking to the wild wasteland planet. Borderlands focuses on Lilith, Mordecai, Brick, and Roland, who seek the Vault for the treasure hidden within. After arriving on Pandora, the Vault Hunters are guided by a mysterious voice in the heads, known as Angel. She gives them directions and ultimately guides them to where they need to go to open the Vault. Along the way, they fight various bandit leaders, including one of the brothers of Zane Flynt, to find the key fragments.
As the Vault Hunters get closer to the Vault, the Crimson Lance begins their march toward the Vault themselves. Tannis actually sides with the Crimson Lance, and gives them the key fragments. The Vault Hunters hunt down Commandant Steele, who is one of the six mysterious Sirens in the Borderlands universe, but arrive at the Vault too late. As the Vault Opens, Steele is impaled by the creature lying within the Vault, The Destroyer. The Vault Hunters are awarded with a disappointing amount of loot, but the real treasure was the eruption of Eridium, an extremely rare material that began sprouting across Pandora. At the end of Borderlands, it is revealed that Angel was not actually an angel, but an AI that was being transmitted to the Vault Hunters from a Hyperion corporation satellite.
Borderlands The Pre-Sequel: The Rise of Handsome Jack
After the events of Borderlands, the Hyperion corporation moves into the Pandoran system, and positioned their Helios space station between Pandora and Elpis. The "Vault Hunters" in The Pre-Sequel are actually hired hands coming to Helios to help Jack stave off an attack from The Lost Legion - a splinter group from the Dahl mining operation on Elips who now serve to protect the Vault on the moon. Lead by Colonel Zarpedon, the Lost Legion is seeking to destroy the moon so that no evil forces can use whatever is hidden away in the Vault. Once the rescue team reaches Elpis, they meet Roland and Lilith, who are visiting the moon as a vacation. Moxxi runs a bar on the moon, and harbors a deep distrust and hatred toward Jack, leading her and the two original Vault Hunters to turn on him and nearly have him killed. Driven mad with power, Jack slowly started descending into madness, turning him into the iconic villain from Borderlands 2.
Now driven mad by anger and his lust for power, Jack and the rescue team push toward the Vault, killing the Lost Legion and Commander Zarpedon. After cutting through the Guardians and defeating The Sentinel who resided within the Vault, Jack discovered a relic which lets him see the future, including a new Vault on Pandora. While entranced by the relic's vision, Lilith phasewalks into the Vault and punches the relic into Jack's face, scarring him and turning him into the Handsome Jack fans know and love. Scarred by the relic and completely overwhelmed by his rage, Jack turns toward Pandora to seek out the Vault of the Warrior.
After the events of The Pre-Sequel, Jack begins hunting down and and all Vault Hunters who try to find the Vault he is looking for, including the Vault Hunters from the first game. Brick, Mordecai, Lilith, and Roland were hiding out in the town of New Haven, but Jack attacked and forced them to evacuate to the city of Sanctuary. Following Jack's oppression, Roland forms and leads the Crimson Raiders, who serve as a resistance to Hyperion and the other evil forces on Pandora.
Borderlands 2: The Fall of Handsome Jack and the Rise of Commander Lilith
As Jack lures new Vault Hunters to their death on Pandora, Roland, Lilith and the Crimson Raiders build a defense against the Hyperion onslaught. Four new Vault Hunters enter the fray: Axton, Maya, Zer0, and Salvador. Jack tries to kill these four, but they survive the attack and meet up with Claptrap who helps them get out of Liar's Berg. Much like Borderlands, the new Vault Hunters are also guided by Angel as they travel. Along the way, the new Vault Hunters meet up with Sir Hammerlock, who tells the Vault Hunters to seek out Sanctuary where the Crimson Raiders are gathering forces. The new Vault Hunters work with the Raiders to reunite the original Vault Hunters to stop Handsome Jack. Roland, Mordecai, Brick, and Lilith all make a return, and Lilith even has a slight redesign as well.
As it turns out, Angel was working for Jack the whole time and tricks the Raiders into using a Hyperion Power core that lowers the shields on Sanctuary, but thanks to Scooter and Lilith's quick thinking, the two turn Sanctuary into a flying city and they fly to safety. After the trick, Angel begs to be forgiven and informs the Raiders that Jack is using her to charge the Vault Key. As the Raiders rush to Angel's location, they find that Angel is actually a Siren and Jack's daughter. The only way to stop Jack is to kill Angel, but in the process Jack appears and shoots Roland through the chest, one of the saddest moments in the Borderlands. In utter shock, Lilith is captured by Jack and he uses her to charge the Vault Key now that Angel is dead.
The Vault Hunters rush to the Vault, but the key is charged by the time they reach it. Jack uses the key to summon The Warrior, which the Vault Hunters work to destroy. After defeating The Warrior and killing Handsome Jack for good, Lilith learns that the Vault Key is actually a map to many other vaults throughout the solar system, and the Vault Hunters vow to find them to make sure they do not fall into the wrong hands.
With the new Commander Lilith Borderlands 2 DLC, we learn a little more about the events leading up to Borderlands 3. A new faction called the New Pandora Army attacks Sanctuary, taking control of the city and stealing the Vault Key. The New Pandora Army leader Hector seizes the Vault Key, and attempts to use its power to infect the planet with his plant virus that will turn Pandora into a "paradise" for those who can resist or coincide with the virus.
The Vault Hunters and the Raiders fight to take back Sanctuary, but ultimately Lilith has to blow up Sanctuary to guarantee that Hector and his virus are gone for good. With Sanctuary gone, the Crimson Raiders spread out across the solar system in search of the Vaults while Lilith stays on Pandora to search for the Vault Key and to recruit new members to the Crimson Raiders. This is where Lilith meets the new Vaulter Hunters in Borderlands 3.
Tales From the Borderlands is the only installment left off this list, and it features some key canonical information. It is a Telltale Game, so some parts of the game differ based on player choice. One key fact that is confirmed in Borderlands 3 is that Rhys Strongfork takes over Atlas after discovering the Vault of the Traveler on Pandora - though it is unknown what he found in the Vault. Rhys returns in Borderlands 3 alongside his Hyperion co-worker Vaughn, who now lives among bandits on Pandora. Beyond that, specific details are harder to pin down without an official plot summary from Gearbox. Thankfully Borderlands 3 will likely give players a decent summary to make sure they are up to speed when the game launches this week.
Borderlands 3 launches September 13 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.