Gaming

You’re not prepared for Borderlands 3’s sadistic influencer villains and how they’re part of its strangely relatable world

It isn’t easy to be Handsome Jack. He was a charismatic douche who carried Borderlands 2 players along, somehow managing to cross that thin line between us all, thinking, “oh my God, he’s such an ass,” and still being able to wait until the next time he spoke. Borderlands3’s main villains, Tyreen and Troy the Calypso Twins, may not be as annoyingly charming as Handsome Jack but are not meant to. These two are based on some of the most annoying influencers you could imagine. They have hordes upon followers who like seeing that you kill. All that bloody carnage goes down damn well on their stream. Borderlands 3’s world is more real than ever because of the two-headed monster. It’s not something you are ready for. Trust me.

Like, comment, and obey!

Sam Winkler, Borderlands 3’s Co-Writer, was kind enough to talk with me about making villains that aren’t ape Handsome Jack. He said that the game’s focus is on who the bad guy is. Borderlands 2’s Handsome Jack is an authoritarian tyrant that says, “you’re going do what I say because you’ll kill me otherwise.” This is reflected in the gameplay. You have the robots to defeat you and the omnipresent H. In Borderlands 3, the bandits are now one large group called the Children of the Vault. We looked at this and asked what is happening in social media and what people are trying to grab onto. Then we thought, “What if a social media celebrity with 10 million followers said, “Hey, kill that guy!” It would be done! The Calypso twins are at the core of this story.

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Tyreen asks everyone who watches their stream to “like,” follow, and obey him when you fly off to face Mouthpiece. It’s a familiar refrain, and it sent chills down my spine. Winkler is correct: Influencers have incredible power, and it’s not hard to imagine a world in which some might use this kind of influence to get people doing seriously terrible things for them.

You and Tyreen have a sick relationship. She loves to see you kill her followers. You kill more than you can handle, and she streams more content, which means that more people will watch her streams and then follow her to fight you. You feel like you are part of the Twins’ evil plan to have Tyreen absorb the power of the Vault guardians. Shudder. Winkler says that the Twins don’t always predict things. The Twins’ literal cult-of-personality makes it difficult to see the less performative side. You are the Vault Hunter. It is a painful reminder that nearly all of us are distorted versions of ourselves online.

Just the beginning

All this may make you start to worry about your social media accounts. You might spend too much time wondering what would happen if Markiplier or Beyonce went the way the Calypso Twins. But there’s another side to this relatable trend that runs through Borderlands 3. It’s not hard to imagine the bad guys in Borderlands 3, but it isn’t difficult. The story is now more focused on you and your Vault Hunter, with a few minor tweaks that make a big difference.

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Borderlands was an odd game because, despite your increasing fame, there wasn’t enough evidence scattered throughout Pandora to show that you had any effect on the civilians and inhabitants. Borderlands 2 didn’t give you much in return for your efforts to save lives. Borderlands 1 had posters advertising ‘Wanted’ with your character’s name on them. Borderlands 3 gives you more love than ever because you now have your quarters in your spaceship Homebase at Sanctuary 3. Customizable quarters are now available. Guns can be mounted to the walls (don’t lie, you feel weirdly attached too). The decor also changes depending on what Vault Hunter you are. Amara’s room has a beat-up punching bag and purple bedcover to match her outfit.

You can customize your appearance even further: in addition to changing your hair color and skin color, you have the option of having an Echo theme and a variety of emotes. There are many other options to make Borderlands feel more personal. Sir Hammerlock’s Sanctuary 3 room has empty plaques. If you kill enough animals during your travels, their heads will be mounted on these magnificent mahogany displays. Or, if vehicles are more your style, you can customize the color and weapons of your preferred mode of transport.

These may seem like minor cosmetic changes, but they are far more. You can make your Vault Hunter feel like you own them. There was a limit to how many Gaiges could be in previous Borderlands games. The gearbox is essentially saying that Borderlands 3 is ours. It could be that Troy and Tyreen remind us of YouTubers or that there is a 1 in a million chance someone will have the same build as us, but I feel Borderlands 3 settling into my heart. It will be out on September 13th. I’m sure you will, too.

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