Welcome to Pandora, kiddos…
There’s a lot going on on Pandora over the course of four games, so it’s understandable if you need a refresher. Here’s the story of Borderlands so far, in as simple terms as we could make it.
Welcome to Pandora:
This lawless planet drew the attention of the mega-corps when they heard tales of an ancient vault full of alien treasure. The hunt for these vaults attracted countless mercenaries, better known as “Vault Hunters” (I bet you can’t guess what their specialty is).
Eventually the hunters Roland, Brick, Mordecai, and Lilith arrive on Pandora, lead by a mysterious A.I. known as Angel. Lilith is what’s known in-world as a Siren, one of six women in the whole galaxy with specialized psychic powers, but that’s not super important… yet.
The Vault Hunters catch the attention of Patrica Tannis, a scientist studying the vaults. She reveals that the vault can only be opened once every two centuries with something known as a vault key. The one for this vault, she says, has unfortunately been broken and its pieces are held by a bunch of bandits all over Pandora.
The four Vault Hunters kill all the bandits, assemble the key and the vault is opened — revealing a giant tentacle monster that had been imprisoned inside called the Destroyer. Of course, the Vault Hunters defeat it, only to discover that the vault’s legendary treasure is nowhere to be found.
Opening the vault triggered the growth of a precious alien element known as Eridium all across Pandora. This attracted the Hyperion corporation, the largest and most powerful mega-corp, along with a humble corporate upstart named Jack, or John as some call him, working aboard their moon base (well, it’s called a moon base, but it’s actually a space station) called Helios. This is where Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel comes in.
Things swiftly go awry for John/Jack when Colonel Zarpedon and her rogue PMC the Lost Legion, seizes control of Helios in order to prevent Hyperion from opening a vault on Elpis, Pandora’s moon, by zapping it with the giant laser. John enlists four new vault hunters – along with Lilith and Roland – to save Elpis from certain doom and open the vault.
From here, a bunch of crazy shit happens: Jack builds a robot army to retake helios, some Borderlands 1 characters show up for fan service, you meet some aliens called Eridians and Zarpedon gets crazy glowy powers from them, she gets defeated and we learn the station’s laser is actually the eye of that giant Destroyer thing from earlier, then Jack reveals that he’s actually a power-mad jerkwad hellbent on corporate dominance, but that’s not really a big surprise, now is it?
Lilith and Roland bail and finally our heroes make their way into the vault. After the hunters kill the giant sentinel guardian inside, Jack finds a floating runestone that shows him a maddening vision of the future along with the locations of dozens of other vaults — including one right there on Pandora. He goes a bit crazy from the vision, but then Jack gets really nuts when Lilith shows up and sucker-punches that big ol’ vault symbol right into his face.
This brings us to Borderlands 2, where the now-president of Hyperion and officially villainous Handsome Jack is luring vault hunters to Pandora — hunters like Salvador, Maya, Axton, and Zero — to kill them and keep anyone else from finding the other vault before he does. Probably not the best plan, but the guy who’s making dummy versions of himself just to mess with people before they explode probably doesn’t care about sound logic that much.
Anyways, the near-dead Vault Hunters are found by the last remaining CL4P-TP unit — there was this whole robot uprising after Borderlands 1 and they all had to get scrapped — and these new adventurers contacted by the same mysterious Angel that had helped the original Vault Hunters. She guides them to Sanctuary, a base of operations for the Crimson Raiders, an anti-Hyperion resistance force led by Roland.
They quickly learn that a vault key is being transported via train, which they derail and rob with the help of explosives-obsessed tween Tiny Tina. Of course, it turns out the key was a ruse and Jack had it the whole time so instead the gang gets to fight the vault-hunter-turned-killer-cyborg Wilhelm. Our heroes manage to use Wilhelm’s robo-power core to shield Sanctuary from Jack’s retaliatory moonstrike, but they quickly get double-crossed by Angel, who it turns out is actually a Siren working for Jack. Also she’s his daughter or something? Though that kinda just feels tacked on to make him extra villain-ey.
Lilith uses her super-duper siren powers to teleport Sanctuary to the other side of the planet for safekeeping, and the Vault Hunters learn that Jack is syphoning Angel’s power to charge his key and open the vault. They serve her a hearty plate of mercy-killing, but Jack kills Roland in retaliation and captures Lilith to charge the key in Angel’s place, and the Vault of the Warrior is opened. The vault hunters kill the giant lava monster inside, then off Jack and rescue Lilith. When she attempts to destroy the vault key, she activates another a map revealing vaults on different worlds scattered throughout the galaxy just like Jack saw earlier.
A year later, Hyperion begins searching for a new vault. A handsome jack fan named Ryhs heads to Pandora to buy a Vault Key, but while trying to purchase the key from local con artist and thief Fiona, bandits steal the payment and the key turns out to be fake, because Fiona’s a con artist. And a thief. After failing to retrieve the stolen money, Rhys and Fiona stumble upon an old Atlas vault hunting project and accidently installs an AI that zaps a copy of the very dead Handsome Jack’s personality right into Rhys’ brain.
Ryhs partners up with Fiona to pursue the project, codenamed Gortys [gortis], which turns out to be a robot designed to locate the roaming Vault of the Traveler. AI Jack leads Rhys and Fiona to Jack’s old office on Helios to get an upgrade for Gortys. Jack-dos 95 tricks Rhys into uploading his A.I. into Helios’ systems so he could take control of Hyperion once again, but Rhys disrupts the station’s power core and sends it crashing onto the surface of Pandora instead.
Meanwhile, a fully upgraded Gortys summons the Vault and the Traveler. Rhys, Fiona,Gortys and a small army of survivors from the Helios crash unite to take down the Traveler. After its defeat, the vault is opened. Fiona and Rhys enter the Vault and disappear, never to be seen again — at least until Rhys shows up in the trailer for Borderlands 3.
Brian Malkiewicz is a video producer for IGN, and he likes Borderlands way too much. If you’re looking for someone to nerd out about Borderlands with, follow him on Twitter.