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Borderlands 3 Gameplay Stream Reveals Co-Op Features, Plot, and More

The Borderlands 3 gameplay stream showed off a number of features, from skill trees to alternate gun modes. And there might not be microtransactions?
This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information

Gearbox Entertainment showcased the first gameplay for Borderlands 3 today during an hour-long livestream. It introduced several features from the game, including weapons, weapon modes, Red Chests, skill trees, and a swanky new space ship.

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The showcase also detailed parts of the game’s story, its loot system, and its economy, namely that it won’t have microtransactions. Well, sort of. But you’ll need to read on to find out what that means. 

Of course, there’s still time before the game’s official launch this fall. Between now and then, there’s sure to be plenty more revealed. However, here’s what we know so far. 

The Borderlands 3 Story

Borderlands 3 centers around the Crimson Raiders, who first appeared in Borderlands 2. When we first meet them in Borderlands 3, they’re busy investigating a mysterious bandit cult that goes by the name The Children of the Vault.

Both are trying to access Vaults hidden away on other planets. This, of course, puts the Raiders in conflict with the cult’s goons as well as its twin leaders: Tyreen Calypso, the God-Queen, and her brother, Troy Calypso.

To keep Tyreen from draining the energy from every Vault and every living thing, players take the role of a new Raider recruit summoned by Lilith. 

Guns, Guns, Guns

While we already know that Borderlands 3 will allegedly feature over 1 billion guns, we now know that every gun will also have alternative firing modes.

For demonstration purposes, a pistol was used in the tutorial. It normally fires bullets, of course, but its alternate mode shoots missiles. Other guns can switch between ice and fire bullets, and some might act as a chain gun shooting grenades.

According to the development team, maximizing all firing modes almost doubles the number of guns available in the game. What’s more, winning a boss fight will immediately give that boss’ weapon to the player, and the team said Borderlands 3 will have more boss fights than ever before.

Red Chests, Instancing, and Reviving

The raid on a propaganda center also showcased one of Borderlands 3‘s other features: Red Chests. These contain new weapons and offer players a choice, for instance, of choosing accuracy or brute force. However, it was pointed out that they can usually choose both anyway because it’s Borderlands.

The Red Chests are part of another new feature Gearbox was eager to discuss: Instancing. Instancing is an option in Borderlands 3‘s co-op mode that synchronizes weapons in chests for both players.

In the stream, Amara the Siren was Level 5 and had the choice of a blue or purple weapon, both of which were Level 5 as well. However, the second player, playing as Zane, was Level 25; the same weapons were available for Zane but were at level 25.

Additionally, enemy levels also scale depending on the player’s level. However, accidents still happen; should a character fall in battle, they can now be revived by NPCs. Conversely, players can revive NPCs, should the need arise.

Climb That Skill Tree

Skill trees got a bit of attention during the stream as well. All three action skills are available from the start, and players just need to equip the one they’ve chosen to use it. From there, skills can be augmented in several different ways; if players choose the same character, their builds will probably be completely different.

Sanctuary 3

One big feature the stream focused on is big indeed: the game’s scope and size. Borderlands 3 will be the biggest Borderlands game yet. Not only will players explore Pandora, but not too long after the game begins, they’ll gain access to a spaceship, Sanctuary 3.

Sanctuary 3 will take players to several other worlds and systems, all with their unique themes. But it also acts as a sort of central hub.

Among the many features available in Sanctuary 3 is the character’s quarters. These start out being decorated in a style that suits whatever character the player chose. However, the quarters can be customized with items found during the adventure.

There is a trophy hall as well, and the usual shop, which needs in-game cash to upgrade. One of the new quality of life additions is the loot recovery system. Should players miss picking up some loot during the heat of a fight, it gets sent to Sanctuary 3, where it can be reclaimed at any time.


After showing off a new trailer, Pitchford took the opportunity to reassure fans that Borderlands 3 will not have microtransactions and that the game preserves everything fans love about the series. He said the team has had more time to polish and perfect the game than any other game in the series.

However, not long after the stream, Pitchford took to Twitter in an attempt to clarify his previous statements. Responding to GameInformer, he said that he was “talking about premium currency and loot boxes kind of stuff NOT being in our game.” 

While the true nature of microtransactions in Borderlands 3 remains to be seen, today’s livestream shed a good deal of light on the highly-anticipated game. Now fans have a better idea of what to expect when the game launches on September 13 for PS4, XB1, and PC via the Epic Games Store.

Those interested in securing a copy of the game now can head over to our Borderlands 3 pre-order guide to see the various editions currently available.

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Josh Broadwell
Josh Broadwell started gaming in the early '90s. But it wasn't until 2017 he started writing about them, after finishing two history degrees and deciding a career in academia just wasn't the best way forward. You'll usually find him playing RPGs, strategy games, or platformers, but he's up for almost anything that seems interesting.