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Borderlands 3 release date, trailer, characters and skill trees

Borderlands 3 is finally upon us, Vault Hunters. Since the cliffhanger endings of Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, it has been quite easy for fans to wonder if they were ever going to get to see the massive conflict those games seemed to be teeing up. Between the rumors that Borderlands 3 would take the form of a battle royale game in the vein of Fortnite or Apex Legends and the cancellation of Borderlands Online, there was a bit of confusion about what kind of game Borderlands 3 would even be, let alone if it was finally happening.

All of that changed at PAX East 2019, when Gearbox took the stage to unveil the first trailer for Borderlands 3. Though this trailer was more of a tease of wackiness to come, fans were treated to glimpses of the combat they know and love, the characters they've come to enjoy, and most importantly, lots and lots of guns.

But there's much more to this game than that first teaser. Let's take a look at the new characters, some of the exciting changes to gameplay, and more! Hold onto your ECHO devices, because MAYHEM IS COMING.

Borderlands 3 release date and pre-order bonuses

Borderlands 3 is so close, you can almost smell the skag piles and feel the heat of the explosions. The game will be released in stores and digitally Sept. 13, 2019, and there will be plenty of cool bonuses for those brave enough to pre-order the mayhem. Pre-orders for the standard edition will simply come with a starter pack of gold weapons, while the special editions get significantly wilder.

The Deluxe Edition, at $79.99, comes with multiple cosmetic packs (including a wonderful-sounding "Retro Pack") and weapon mods, while the Super Deluxe Edition, at $99.99, includes all of that plus four campaign DLCs and a Butt Stallion Cosmetic Pack (seemingly named after Handsome Jack's infamous "diamond pony").

If you're in the mood for some cool toys to go with your game and bonuses, you can pre-order the Diamond Loot Chest Collector's Edition. This version comes in a replica of the loot chest from the games, which is packed with ten action figures, a model of Sanctuary 3, a a map of the galaxy, and more. Basically, there's a special edition of Borderlands 3 for all Children of the Vault.

The trailer for Borderlands 3

Though fans had gotten a tantalizing taste of Borderlands 3 from that first teaser, a full trailer unveiled at E3 2019 gave us our latest and best look at the mayhem. Starting with the major revelation that Lilith is no longer a Siren, we are thrust right into the violent world of the game. 

We get our first good look at the new Vault Hunters on the scene, including Moze in her mech suit, Fl4k appearing to conjure up creatures to attack enemies, Zane using holograms to sneak around, and Amara absolutely wrecking her surroundings. More than that, we get a look at some of the wacky weapons we'll be able to use in the new game, including a gun that literally shoots loot, finally embracing the term "looter shooter" to its fullest extent. 

We get our first real look at the game's stakes as well, as we see the Calypso Twins lording over their many followers in a massive arena. The trailer ends with our heroes attacking the Children of the Vault's headquarters. It's going to get messy, but it looks like it's also going to be a ridiculous amount of fun.

Borderlands 3's gameplay is wilder than expected

Have you ever been in a dogfight with a bunch of bandits and wished you could just blast through whatever wall they're using as cover? Of course you have. Well, the addition of degradable cover means that now, no one is safe in the badlands. 

This was just one of the things shown off by Gearbox during an impressive gameplay demo, which made it clear just how much combat has evolved in Borderlands 3. Other exciting additions to the Borderlands bag of tricks include a sliding ability to help cover more ground during firefights and maneuver under obstacles, as well as the ability to mantle up onto ledges (reducing the somewhat groan-inducing platforming of previous entries) and to use your melee attack to launch formerly stationary explosive barrels at your enemies. These tweaks should allow players to play more strategically, rather than rushing in with guns blazing.

However, if you're still the guns-blazing type, then good news: many guns now have alternate shooting modes, with the option of switching to regular bullets to other, more destructive ammunition. If that strategy doesn't work out for you, no sweat: NPCs can now revive you and vice-versa.

The story up to Borderlands 3

The story of Borderlands is a winding and wacky one. Following a mysterious "Guardian Angel," a band of Vault Hunters arrive on the frontier planet of Pandora, seeking the mysterious Vault, meant to hold untold riches and power. Following a battle with the otherworldly Guardians (the Vault's protectors), the Vault is revealed to be a prison for a beast called the Destroyer, which the Vault Hunters slay.

After an adventure on Pandora's moon of Elpis, a man known as Handsome Jack takes control over the mega-corporation Hyperion, planning to use its resources to open a new Vault and harness its power. To do so, he needs to capture Syrens, powerful beings which include the Vault Hunter Lilith. Though there are major losses on both sides, Jack is finally defeated and the Vault Hunters come into the possession of a star chart showing the location of dozens of Vaults, all ripe for the picking. 

Afterwards, Jack (now an angry AI with Jack's memories) struggles to return to life in a new body. Meanwhile, the Vault Hunters are visited by the Guardian known as the Watcher, who warns them all that "war is coming."

Commander Lilith & The Fight for Sanctuary DLC

For the Children of the Vault to have risen to power and for the Vault Hunters and their pals to take to the stars, a lot must have happened between the ending of Borderlands 2 and Borderlands 3, right? Well, you no longer have to speculate, as there is officially a new DLC for Borderlands 2 that bridges the gap between it and the next installment, called Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary

The DLC, which takes place after the end of the story missions in Borderlands 2, will allow you to continue on from where you left off with your Borderlands 2 Vault Hunter of choice. It's recommended that you don't attempt this DLC unless your character is at level 30 or higher. Luckily for players who haven't gotten there yet, the game will allow them to create a character automatically leveled up to 30 so they can jump right into the action, which is a great option for players who want to get caught up on the story in time for Borderlands 3 without having to grind their way there.

Borderlands 3 plot details

This game will see the Vault Hunters traveling to different planets in search of new Vaults. In their quest, they'll also run afoul of a new group of villains called the Children of the Vault, a cult whose motto is "Like, follow, and obey." As explained by the game's co-writer, David Homan, these new villains are inspired by livestreaming culture, whipping their fanatical followers into a frenzy with such brutal events as "Lifescreams and Let's Flays." The leaders of this cult are the Calypso Twins, Tyreen and Troy, who seem to enjoy filling the power vacuum left behind by the fall of Hyperion.

To make matters worse, it appears that the Calypso Twins have possession of the map to several of the Vaults on other planets, which leads to Lilith recruiting the Vault Hunters of the new game to help take down the Children of the Vault. While the Calypso Twins seem to be the central villains of Borderlands 3's story, the Vault Hunters will naturally still have to contend with all kinds of bosses in the wasteland, like the bandit leader called Mouthpiece

New and returning voice cast

The presence of new Vault Hunters obviously means new voice actors, and this game has made some really fun additions to the cast. Some of the newcomers include Young Justice and Apex Legends voice actress Zehra Fazal as the new Siren character, Amara, as well as SungWon Cho (better known by his YouTube handle, ProZD) as the mysterious Vault Hunter named Fl4k.

Rounding out the cast are a bunch of familiar voices, including Colleen Clinkenbeard as both Lilith and Patrica Tannis, Marcus Mauldin as Brick, and Ashley Burch reprising her role as Tiny Tina, albeit an older and somewhat wiser version. 

There have been a few shakeups in the voice cast, as characters like Claptrap and Rhys have new voice actors. While Claptrap sounds pretty close to his old self, Rhys sounds and acts completely different from how he was portrayed in Tales from the Borderlands. However, there are theories that Rhys' recasting and new personality may have something to do with that wily Handsome Jack AI trying to assert itself again.

Meet Amara, the Siren

As the latest Siren character to be introduced to the Borderlands universe, it's natural to be excited to see how Amara's abilities will manifest in this game. It looks like Amara's different skill trees will incorporate aspects of Siren abilities we've seen from Lilith and Maya in previous games. 

The Mystical Assault skill tree is easily the most fiery of the three. Her Action Skills (rechargeable special moves) allow her to send forth a devastating astral projection of herself, while the other skills here involve boosting critical hit damage and elemental effects from weaponry and her astral form. The Fist of the Elements tree grants her the ability to conjure fists made of energy that roots her enemies in place, as well as several other tiers that increase her other stats, including weapon accuracy. Finally, the Brawl tree turns Amara into a bit of a tank, with an aerial slam attack and different elemental perks, as well as boosts for her maximum health and shield regeneration rate. Amara may just be the most well-rounded of the new Vault Hunters, as her different skill trees will allow players to customize her powers to their favorite gameplay style.

Meet Zane, the Operative

Zane seems to play somewhat similar to the Soldier and Commando classes from previous games. As such, running and gunning is the name of the game when it comes to Zane's skill trees. Unlike other characters, he's capable of equipping two Action Skills at once, giving him double the chances to wreck large swaths of enemies at once. 

While he's briefly seen in the E3 trailer using a hologram to sneak up on enemies, there's actually a lot more to Zane's "Digi-Clone" than we previously knew. His Action Skill on the Double Agent skill tree allows Zane to teleport and swap places with the Clone, which will continue firing at enemies. This should make it extra difficult for the baddies to figure out which Zane is the real threat. With the Hitman skill tree, Zane can deploy a drone that flies over the battlefield, dealing out hot lead to the opposition. Finally, theres the Under Cover skill tree, which is much more focused on defense. This tree's Action Skill allows Zane to send out an energy barrier to guard from gunfire, as well as different upgrades to his shields and health.

Meet Moze, the Gunner

Moze controls a badass mech called the Iron Bear. As if that weren't enough incentive to make you want to play as her immediately, she also has three impressive skill trees, all of which grant her additional firepower. Her Demolition Woman skill tree grants her an Action Skill wherein she whips out an automatic grenade launcher that is upgradable with multiple different effects, including health regeneration and singularity grenades. Later levels will give her an equally impressive rocket launcher for her Action Skill.

The Shield of Retribution skill tree gives Iron Bear a railgun and a supercharged fist for laying the smackdown on bandits, as well as increases to shield capacity and recharge rates. Finally, Moze's Bottomless Mags skill tree does just what it says on the package by increasing Moze's ammo capacity and granting her a flamethrower with infinite ammo called the Salamander, because some Vault Hunters just want to watch the world burn.

Meet Fl4k, the Beastmaster

Unlike the other three new Vault Hunters, Fl4k is a real enigma. We don't quite know anything about its backstory or its abilities, aside from brief glimpses at it sending out armored Skags and Spirants into battle. Of the mystery surrounding Fl4k, Destructoid notes, "One of the only real confirmations we've gotten from Gearbox regarding FL4K is that their story is mostly a mystery to be revealed within the confines of the game." It's unclear if this means that Fl4k's history and motivations will be a major part of the game's story campaign. 

It could be that, much like the Lost ECHOs found in Borderlands 2, Fl4k's past could be revealed slowly through ECHO Recorders littered around the galaxy. Whatever the case, the lack of concrete info on Fl4k and Gearbox's reluctance to spill the beans basically guarantees that the hype surrounding the new Beastmaster class Vault Hunter will have reached a fever pitch by the time Borderlands 3 finally drops. Stay tuned.

Welcome to Sanctuary 3

In Borderlands 2, the floating city of Sanctuary was a safe haven for Vault Hunters and rebels against Handsome Jack's regime. It looks like Pandora is no longer the safest place to park, as Borderlands 3 will see players taking to the stars in the starship known as Sanctuary 3. This ship is now home to many of the characters we've come to know and love (and occasionally fear) throughout the Borderlands series, including Sir Hammerlock, Mad Moxxi, Patricia Tannis, and Crazy Earl.

Beyond the many familiar faces, Sanctuary 3 will serve as a hub for players to meet up with friends in co-op play. In addition, players can customize their own living quarters for those long rides between planets in the search for the Vaults. That's right, you can officially own property in Borderlands 3 — but feel free to keep looting everything in sight anyway. Oh, and if you lose any loot (off a cliff or what have you), here's the best part: Sanctuary 3 has a "lost and found" section for the loot that got away.

How long is the game's story?

In maybe the most pleasantly surprising and exciting news regarding Borderlands 3's story, the campaign's length is apparently much longer than in previous installments. In an interview with Borderlands 3 creative director Paul Sage, he explained, "The length of the game being 35 hours, if you just go through the main story — that's not including doing too many side missions."

This is exciting for several reasons. One of the biggest gripes about the original Borderlands is that its story was, as Giant Bomb put it, "paper-thin," with most of the gameplay time taken up with side missions and fetch quests. While the following games' stories had considerably more meat on their bones, this dedication to making a longer main story for Borderlands 3 hopefully shows that Gearbox is trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible. With story threads still dangling from the ends of Borderlands 2, the Pre-Sequel, and Tales from the Borderlands, they'll definitely need all the real estate they can get when it comes to wrapping things up neatly.

Only four Vault Hunters?

In news that comes as a bit of a surprise, it appears as though Gearbox isn't planning on adding additional Vault Hunters after the game launches. As Gearbox's Randy Pitchfork said on Twitter, "We are focused on the main game for now, but my feelings are that it might be better for us to put our time into expanding what the existing vault hunters can do and how interesting their future growth is instead of adding new ones to start over with."

If Borderlands 3 really sticks to this idea of simply improving and expanding on the core four Vault Hunters, then this is an interesting "all-in" approach that separates it from the last few games. Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel! featured post-launch DLC characters like Gaige the Mechromancer and Handsome Jack's Doppelgänger, who each brought with them new methods of gameplay. 

While these four may be the only Vault Hunters we get in Borderlands 3, there will be options to spice things up and customize them through purchasable cosmetic packs that will allow players to change the look of their characters and weaponry.

Introducing: Guardian Ranks

The madness doesn't end when the story campaign is over. After finishing the main story mode, the new Guardian Rank system will unlock. These appear to work similarly to the Badass Rank/Badass Token system from Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel!, which have been referred to as "an infinite progression system" with "skills and different skins that you can unlock as [players earn Ranks]." These new perks that are unlocked through Guardian Ranks are applied to all characters that you have on your account.

There appear to be three different categories of Guardians Ranks: Enforcer, Survivor, and Hunter. Enforcer seems to mainly be focused on damage boosts for weaponry and melee attacks. Survivor boosts your shields, health, and recovery time. Hunter is all about accuracy and reload speed. Basically, regardless of your preferred style of play, there's a Guardian Rank to make you even deadlier at it.

Influence your favorite stream with ECHOcast

As part of its thematic embrace of livestreaming culture, Borderlands 3 will also feature an interesting Twitch extension called ECHOcast. This extension will not only allow viewers to check out their favorite streamers' inventories and skill trees, but also reap some of the benefits of that streamers' hard work. During special events, it will be possible to snag some of the rare loot found during a Twitch stream, effectively allowing Vault Hunters everywhere to share in the wealth. The Calypso Twins would be proud.

The viewer/streamer interaction won't just be limited to looting, however. In possibly the wildest aspect of ECHOcast, certain events will allow viewers to impact the game while it's being played by during a stream. For example, during "Badass Viewer Events," viewers will be able to spawn tougher enemies in a streamer's game, as well as pick different stat increases or debuffs for the streamer or their enemies. This level of control over someone else's game not only ties into the story themes of Borderlands 3, but it also embraces the kind of unpredictable wackiness the series is famous for.