Amidst all the shooting and looting many players may overlook the fact that there is a deep and interesting story playing in the background of the Borderlands series. Each game in the series continues a grand tale that has galaxy-wide consequences with Pandora being the key to the survival or destruction of all life in the galaxy. The player is at the center of it all.
While this is by no means a comprehensive overview of the lore of Borderlands it is a summary of the main events in the timeline. There are also a ton of spoilers for each game in the series including Borderlands 3.
10 The Eridians
The Eridians were a mysterious race that inhabited the galaxy millions of years ago. These hyper-intelligent aliens were able to craft incredible technology that led to the creation of powerful machines and destructive entities.
To combat a great evil threatening to destroy the galaxy they used their technology to imprison this creature at great cost. To preserve their soon-to-be destroyed society following this event they created vaults to house their tech and Guardians to protect the Vaults to avoid a similar catastrophe from occurring to another sentient race in the future.
9 Atlas Company Settles Promethea
The first of these Vaults was discovered by the Atlas company on the planet Promethea. Establishing the company headquarters here Atlas reverse-engineered the technology found in the Vault to create various weapons, starships, and other advanced tech.
It is unknown how other corporations were able to create their own tech, whether it was reverse-engineered from Atlas designs, leaked prototypes, corporate espionage, or the discovery of other Vaults. In any case this sparked a race among the various corporations to find further Vaults for power and profit.
One planet that multiple corporations took an interest in was Pandora. This hostile world was underdeveloped and posed little resistance to corporations looking to set up shop. Atlas arrived first and formed the Crimson Lance to secure its interests on Pandora.
The Dahl corporation took an interest as well and managed to secure a foothold on the planet to conduct their own operations. Mercenaries and Vault hunters poured in from all over the galaxy seeking work, fame, and fortune.
7 Vault Hunters Look For Vault Key
Now we get into the events of the first Borderlands game. Four Vault Hunters begin searching for the Vault Key to open a Vault rumored to be on Pandora. The Crimson Lance, seeking to maintain control and remove opposition, declared martial law and began seizing any and all Eridian artifacts.
The Vault Hunters ally with Patricia Tannis, fight the various bandit lords and the Crimson Lance and manage to gather the pieces of the Vault Key.
6 First Vault Is Opened
Once located the Vault is opened the Guardian inside, known as The Destroyer, is released. The Vault Hunters managed to kill The Destroyer and loot what they found inside. Atlas is left in shambles following the death of its leader. The company abandoned Pandora and dismantled the Crimson Lance.
This power vacuum allowed various bandits to obtain control on the surface and a new corporation, Hyperion, set up shop in the region by creating the moonbase Helios. Research began on the alien tech and the mysterious substance Eridium starts revealing itself all over the planet.
5 Jack’s Takeover
In Borderlands: The Pre-sequel, Jack, a programmer for the Hyperion corporation puts a team of Vault Hunters together to repel an invasion by the Lost Legion to seize control of Helios. They managed to repel the invasion and destroy the laser created from The Destroyer’s Eye that was being used to assault Pandora from orbit.
After Jack killed the mayor, formed an army of robots, and enslaved an A.I. to power massive machines called Constructors the Vault Hunters turned on Jack, who was exploiting them to secure the second vault and take control of Helios for himself.
4 Second Vault Is Opened
Nevertheless, Jack managed to open the second Vault and The Sentinel was released before being destroyed by the Vault Hunters. Jack managed to grab a mysterious object found in the Vault and upon touching it was given a vision of a Vault on Pandora protected by a Guardian known as The Warrior, and the Eridium buried in the planet's mantle.
This vision was cut short when Lilith destroyed the object, causing it to brand Jack with the Vault symbol. Driven insane by what he saw, the betrayal, and lust for power he adopted the persona of Handsome Jack. He seized control of the Hyperion corporation and rebuilt the Helios laser using tech found in the Vault on Elpis.
3 Third Vault Opened
In Borderlands 2 Handsome Jack races against a new team of Vault Hunters allied with the Crimson Raiders to open the Vault on Pandora seen in his vision. The Vault is opened releasing The Warrior which is promptly killed by the Vault Hunters.
Handsome Jack is executed by Lilith. Hyperion leaves Pandora, and Helios crashes into the planet leading to the creation of New Pandora. A map found in The Warrior's Vault reveals the locations of numerous Vaults throughout the galaxy.
2 Children Of The Vault Come to Power
A few years after the New Pandora faction is destroyed the Calypso twins Tyreen and Troy create a cult known as the Children Of The Vault. This group unifies the leaderless and factionless bandits on Pandora in Borderlands 3. They use their media influence and newfound power to ambush Lilith and a new team of Vault Hunters, steal Lilith’s powers, obtain the map found in the Vault of the Warrior, and team up with the corporation Maliwan.
They begin a vicious campaign of death and destruction across the galaxy as they track down and obtain the pieces of the key to the Great Vault.
1 Great Vault Is Opened
The Great Vault is revealed to be the entire planet of Pandora, which was created to imprison The Destroyer, a massive cosmic entity from another dimension capable of destroying the entire galaxy. It was imprisoned after the Eridians sacrificed their entire civilization to generate enough power to keep it contained. Its eye was used to create the laser on Helios.
The twins seek to absorb the creature's powers for their own and use the moon Elpis, which is the Vault Key, to open its prison. The Vault Hunters managed to kill the twins and The Destroyer with Lilith sacrificing herself to stop Elpis from continuing to open the Great Vault. It is currently unknown if Lilith is alive or dead.