The Borderlands series was one of the surprise successes of 2009 from Gearbox software starting with Borderlands (referred to here as Borderlands 1), which spawned many successful games. So do you need to play Borderlands 1 to play Borderlands 2?
You can skip playing Borderlands 1 and play Borderlands 2. You won’t get everything out of the story as there are recurring references, but it doesn’t make that big a difference. However it is worth playing Borderlands 2 before playing Borderlands 3.
Let’s explore the Borderlands series, talk about its pros and cons and consider whether you need to play them in order. We’ll also look at the differences between the games, so join me as I bring you the story.
Will You Understand Borderlands 2 Without Playing Borderlands 1?
Borderlands 2 is understandable without playing Borderlands 1, but there are many references, storylines and subtle things that you won’t realize if you skip the first.
You interact with many of the same characters between the games, and for many players, a game like Borderlands that has an in-depth story, universe and lore, if you don’t know these things, the experience of the game won’t be anywhere near as exciting.
If you approach games without wanting to listen to the story or read about the background and just want to kill bad guys and take down the boss, then Borderlands 2 has enough fun in that regard that you don’t need to go through Borderlands 1.
The gameplay is quite different as the mechanics are very different, so its not like you learn many things in the first game that can be transferred over to the others. The maps and locations are very different between the two.
However, you do revisit some locations in Borderlands 2, but knowing their layout or similar doesn’t really help as this is quite a small part of commonality.
Some reviews also claim that Borderlands 2 is just recycling the plot from Borderlands 1 but making it bigger and better. Having logged a few hours in both games myself, I’m not in much agreement with this view, but I can see how people think that.
Is Borderlands 1 Connected to Borderlands 2?
The games are connected as they occur in the same universe, and are in chronological order with Borderlands 2 occuring five years after the first. Borderlands 2 sees many characters from the first appearing again but you play a different character than the first.
The main concept is similar between the two, with the goal being to access a vault supposedly containing alien technology. You play a character from a group of Vault Hunters where you can choose them based on the skills and proficiencies with weapons.
Borderlands 2 is much more refined, both graphically and gameplay-wise, than Borderlands 1. One common criticism is that the field of view is quite restrictive in the first game, and can cause a bit of motion sickness.
Borderlands 1 was a casual shooter based on a well-balanced shooter combined with a very addicting loot system. It is full of subtle dark humor and realism, featuring mainly a text-based story.
Borderlands 2 is designed for more dedicated players, including a farming system for gear and a massive skill tree. The focus is on making the ultimate build, and the environment is a very cartoony world, combined with loud, mainstream humor.
In Borderlands 1, the gameplay and exploration is linear in its progression. This is quite different from Borderlands 2 whereas your build starts to scale, the game follows much more of an exponential arc.
At the beginning, both games feel quite similar and every weapon is viable but does diverge quite drastically.
The loot system was much more in favor of the player in Borderlands 1, whereas Borderlands 2 requires more dedicated and targeted farming to get what you want.
Maps are bigger in Borderlands 2, so your main source of equipment, vending machines, are therefore further apart. This also results in full inventories and requires backtracking to sell unneeded things.
Borderlands 2 goes a bit overboard in terms of gun design, with a common criticism being that it is too goofy, often beyond the point of recognition. Borderlands 1 is much more realistic on this front.
Borderlands 2 has a wider variety of enemies, with them having a lot more health and dealing more damage than you.
The AI is also a lot better, but annoyingly so, as they have insanely precise ranged attacks, very aggressive movement and dodging mechanics.
The constant battle in Borderlands 2 also means you don’t have as much time to admire the scenery, which was not the case in Borderlands 1.
The bigger maps also mean that Borderlands 2 respawn stations are very spread out, meaning you’ll do a lot of backtracking, and if you’re unlucky, the enemies have already respawned on the way.
Borderlands 2 also introduced a debuff called slag, which you need to use on all enemies in the True Vault Hunter Mode and Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode because they are so tough.
Do You Have to Play Borderlands 1 and 2 Before 3?
The games are not completely dependent on playing through all three. Many players have reviewed the game and stated that they only played the third one and still enjoyed it, or had vague memories of the first two and still got a lot out of Borderlands 3.
However, the connection between Borderlands 1 and Borderlands 2, versus the connection between Borderlands 2 and Borderlands 3 is quite different. Borderlands 3 is a direct sequel to Borderlands 2, so it is worth playing Borderlands 2 first if you’ve got Borderlands 3.
Borderlands 1 does not have as strong a story, so that’s why many advise skipping it and just going straight to Borderlands 2.
Generally, if you’re keen to get the full experience, you can play Borderlands 1, then all the DLC content, then Borderlands: Presequel and DLC, then play Borderlands 2 and its DLC, then Tales from the Borderlands and finally finish on Borderlands 3.