It's been seven years since the release of Borderlands 2, but now Borderlands 3 is finally set to launch. Seven years is a long time to wait between releases, and so we couldn't fault anyone for not remembering everything that happened in Borderlands 2 when they start playing Borderlands 3.
Considering this, some Borderlands fans may need a quick refresher course about everything that happened in Borderlands 2. The story featured significant developments for the franchise, including the death of important characters, and the ending directly sets up the events of Borderlands 3, so it's important for fans to know what happened in Borderlands 2 before they pick up the new game.
With that in mind, here is our Borderlands 2 story recap. Please note that this article will have MAJOR SPOILERS for Borderlands 2, so proceed with caution.
1. The Crimson Raiders
Set five years after the events of the first Borderlands game, Borderlands 2 features four new Vault Hunters in the form of Axton the Commando, Maya the Siren, Salvador the Gunzerker, and Zero the Assassin (two more Vault Hunters were later added as DLC - Gaige the Mechromancer and Krieg the Psycho), who are in search of a new Vault hidden somewhere on the desert wasteland planet Pandora. The new Vault Hunters are targeted by Handsome Jack, the head of the Hyperion Corporation who has used the power from the new, volatile mineral Eridium to rule over Pandora. The new Vault Hunters are attacked and left for dead, but are saved by the mysterious "Guardian Angel" from the first game as well as the franchise's obnoxious robot mascot Claptrap.
The Guardian Angel leads the Vault Hunters to the town called Sanctuary, which is where the Crimson Raiders reside. The Crimson Raiders, led by Roland, one of the Vault Hunters from the first Borderlands, are rebelling against Handsome Jack and the Hyperion Corporation. Roland is joined by the Siren Lilith, who is able to use the Eridium to greatly enhance her own abilities, along with a number of other allies.
2. The Guardian Angel's Betrayal
The Vault Hunters and the Crimson Raiders attempt to steal a Vault Key that is apparently in Hyperion's possession with the help of Mordecai (yet another Vault Hunter from the first Borderlands) and the fan-favorite character Tiny Tina. Instead of finding a Vault Key, they end up fighting a Hyperion cyborg named Wilhelm, killing him and taking his power core to power Sanctuary's shields.
Unfortunately for the Vault Hunters and the Crimson Raiders, the Wilhelm's power core actually gives the Guardian Angel direct access to Sanctuary's defenses, and in a shocking twist, she powers them down. Hyperion attacks Sanctuary, but it's revealed that the city was once a spaceship, and so with some help from Lilith's teleportation powers, they blast off and escape Handsome Jack's attack.
3. Assault on Hyperion
The Guardian Angel then makes contact with the Vault Hunters and Crimson Raiders again, and it's revealed that Handsome Jack is actually holding her captive at a Hyperion facility. It's at this point that Handsome Jack's plan is revealed - he hopes to charge the Vault Key using Angel's powers, open the Vault, and use the monster that resides in it, named the Warrior, to completely take over the world.
Teaming up with Brick, the fourth and final original Vault Hunter from the first Borderlands, the Crimson Raiders and Vault Hunters attack the Hyperion facility. They find Angel, who is revealed to be a Siren and Handsome Jack's daughter. Angel asks that the Vault Hunters kill her before Handsome Jack can use her powers to charge the Vault Key. They do so successfully, repelling Jack's forces.
Unfortunately, the assault on Hyperion is not without its casualties. Bloodwing, Mordecai's pet bird, is killed and later warped into an monstrous enemy that players have to fight and kill. And in one of the franchise's most shocking death scenes, Roland is killed by Handsome Jack. In the aftermath of his daughter's death, Jack captures Lilith, devising a new plan to use her to charge the Vault Key.
4. The Vault
The Vault Hunters and the remaining Crimson Raiders are able to discover the location of the Vault by attacking another Hyperion facility. They confront Handsome Jack, but he still succeeds in opening the Vault and summoning the Warrior. After a tough battle, the Warrior is defeated, and Handsome Jack is killed.
With Jack defeated, Lilith tries to destroy the Vault Key, but instead a holographic map materializes, showing the locations of other Vaults all throughout the galaxy.
5. Professor Nakayama
In the Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt DLC, the Vault Hunters come into conflict with a mad scientist named Professor Nakayama. Nakayama is attempting to create Handsome Jack clones, resulting in a variety of horrific monsters that the Vault Hunters have to kill. Nakayama ends up dying by falling down a flight of stairs, and while it would seem that would be the end of that, he plays a role in Tales from the Borderlands. Since Professor Nakayama became an unexpectedly important character in Tales from the Borderlands, we can't rule out the possibility that the events of the Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt DLC will have an impact on Borderlands 3's story as well, so it's important that fans are at least aware of it.
6. Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary
One Borderlands 2 DLC that we know for sure will have an impact on Borderlands 3's story is the Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary expansion. The surviving Crimson Raiders and the Vault Hunters decide to go in search of the new Vaults, but Sanctuary is suddenly attacked by Colonel Hector, who uses a spore to infect people, essentially turning them into mindless plant zombies. Colonel Hector steals the Vault Key/map, and forces everyone to flee Sanctuary.
They take over a bandit camp, run by Vaughn from Telltale's Tales from the Borderlands game, and work on developing an antidote to Hector's spores. Now immune to the spores, the Crimson Raiders and Vault Hunters confront Hector in Sanctuary. However, he absorbs the Vault Key inside himself, greatly expanding his own power. Lilith steps in, using a ton of Eridium to boost her powers and defeat Hector.
The explosion that results destroys Sanctuary and sends the Vault Key flying off into the Pandoran desert. The Crimson Raiders resolve to figure out a way off Pandora so that they can still try hunting for the newly discovered Vaults, and Lilith announces that they need to recruit "new blood" to their cause - aka the new Vault Hunters from Borderlands 3.
While the events of Borderlands 2 and its Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary DLC will no doubt be the most important when it comes to understanding Borderlands 3's story, some may also want to check out Tales from the Borderlands as well. Vaughn from that game was a featured character in Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary, and we already know Rhys from Tales from the Borderlands will play a role in Borderlands 3.
Unfortunately for anyone hoping to replay the entire series, though, Tales from the Borderlands has been delisted since the closure of Telltale Games. 2K Games has said it hopes to acquire the rights to Tales from the Borderlands and get it back for sale as soon as possible, but that hasn't happened yet at the time of this writing. That being said, it's still possible to experience Tales from the Borderlands by picking up a physical copy, and those who owned it digitally prior to its delisting can still re-download the episodes.
Borderlands 3 launches on September 13 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, with a Stadia version also in development.