If you didn't play the first two games, and needed to know the background lore of the series, I made this for you. Warning, spoilers ahead.
Borderlands. This universe can be best described as a space western directed by Quentin Tarantino. Imagine Tatooine combined with Fallout and RAGE, and you should quickly get the idea. Vast wilderness to explore where almost everything will try to kill you. “Borderlands” refers either the planet itself, being a wild frontier, or the belt of planets along a supposed “border”, making these planets the “borderlands”. It’s never properly explained.
It’s the planet where the series takes place. It’s like Earth, but imagine we just discovered Earth. And imagine the wildlife is a lot more violent and man-eating. Pandora was settled by the Atlas Corporation (In this universe, corporations are like super powers) who had found alien ruins on a border world called Promethea. They reverse engineered the tech, but then wanted to find more of it, so they investigated other planets on the “frontier”, Pandora being one of them. After landing an setting up a colony, settlers began to arrive with the prospects of reaping Atlas’ rewards. Unfortunately, Atlas didn’t find any valuable ruins like they thought they would. But the word of there being an immense cache of alien technology quickly became a legend on Pandora that spread off world. Mercenaries and fortune seekers who were unaligned from Atlas arrived on the planet to try and find it themselves.
What went wrong?
So glad you asked. See, what Atlas, or anyone else for that matter, knew about Pandora was that it has very long seasons of summer and winter. When Atlas arrived, the planet was in a winter period and the wildlife was asleep in hibernation. When summer arrived, the locals were met with a very violent horde of angry creatures. They retreated back into fortified settlements to escape the new dangers, which had made operating on Pandora a lot more expensive for Atlas. Then the Crimson Lance arrived. They were basically Atlas Corporations private army. The Lance weren't gentle with the population, but their firepower and training were helpful in protecting civilians against native predators or criminal elements. But Pandora was now quickly being considered a failed venture. Atlas began to withdraw, leaving the locals to fend for themselves, despite maintaining a token force on the planet to mark it as an Atlas planet.
So that was the end of it?
Oh, no. Enter Dahl Corporation. This other Super Corp is just dying to pick up where Atlas has left off. They land with their mining ship, Sanctuary, and begin harvesting the planet for valuable minerals. This was a boon to the local populace as it meant a sudden, prolonged influx of supplies, products, and materials for expansion. With the material came a new wave of trained, educated specialists, managers and planners. A new city, dubbed "Haven", was founded close to the Headstone iridium mines, well away from Atlas interference.
Well, that sounds better, right?
It’s never better, sorry. Dahl brought convicts to Pandora as cheap labour which you can tell would backfire later. Not to mention, they eventually found a piece of the Vault Key in a dig, found by Patricia Tannis who (was) a scientists working for Dahl. She’s gone insane since then. When the Crimson Lance caught on, Dahl was faced with attack from Atlas. They fled before their mining ventures were threatened. Once again, the people on Pandora were left poor and lawless, to face the wilds alone.
An alien artefact that is believed to open the mythical Vault, giving the opener treasures and riches beyond belief. The locals consider it, and the Vault, a legendary tale, but others think there is truth to it. The plot of Borderlands 1, is you playing as one of four Vault Hunters, who attempt to locate all the pieces of the vault Key so that you can open the Vault.
So what was in the Vault?
PLOT TWIST. It turns out that the Vault IS real, but it isn’t what you thought it was. It’s actually not a treasure trove, but an ancient alien prison housing a monstrous creature known as the Destroyer. You and the Vault Hunters managed to defeat the monster when it crosses into our dimension and becomes mortal. Yeah… it wasn’t the best ending ever.
Okay, the Vault Hunters saved the day.
I did say it wasn’t over. Another corporation named Hyperion led by a man named Handsome Jack came to Pandora after the Vault opened; it released vast amounts of a priceless alien element called Eridium. They mined the element, and indiscrimanently attacked the locals. This happened for five years, and led to Borderlands 2, but this would become a very long thread if I relayed the entire plot to you. Check the Wiki.
There was only one Vault?
The opening of the original 'main vault' revealed the existence of several other Vaults on Pandora, though only two others were actually found: the Vault of the Warrior and the Vault in the centre of the Badass Crater of Badassitude.
The Vault of the Warrior became known to Hyperion who, after conquering Pandora, were excavating the original Vault's location. The found evidence of "an even greater vault" and Handsome Jack vows to find it and harness its power, to tame and civilise the Borderlands. The Vault actually contains an ancient living Eridian superweapon; the Warrior, which obeys the individual who opens its Vault first. At the conclusion of Borderlands 2, the Vault is opened by Jack and the Warrior released, though the Vault Hunters (against all odds) defeat and kill the Warrior.
The fate of the Warrior and its Vault may be referenced in Tales, which follows in straight from this event.
What is a Siren?
There are six Sirens in the universe at any one time, no more and no less. They are human women who have blue tattoos down one side of their body, which grants them some form of special powers involving passing through another dimension. They are born, not made. When one dies, it is supposed that either another random woman suddenly becomes a siren, or a newborn baby becomes one, though no one actually knows.
Sirens are still very mysterious, and little is known about why they have 'superpowers' or how they have them. The ongoing theory about Sirens is that they are some form of remnant of the long-gone aliens, as they are capable of charging the Vault Key, and have a connection to Eridium; the element enhances their powers dramatically. Known Sirens are:
Lilith was a Vault Hunter in the first game. She can "phasewalk" through another dimension. Essentially she becomes invisible for a period of time. After the Vault opens and Eridium starts appearing, her powers are dramatically amplified. She can blast bandits around, and teleport people... and cities. Flying cities (oh wow). Taking up residence in New Haven after the first game, the town was attacked by Hyperion and she was believed to be dead. Instead, she went into hiding in the arctic region, where she accidently inspired a bandit cult devoted to her, the Children of the Firehawk. Lilith was second in command of the Crimson Raiders, and after Roland's death, she gains control of the group as their leader.
It is highly likely that she would appear in at least one of the episodes of Tales, given her central role in the stories.
Maya was brought up by the ruling Order of the Impending Storm (warrior monks) on the planet Athenas. They really just wanted to use her to instill fear in the local population, since the ability to lock people down in another dimension is pretty ballin' and intimidating. When Maya realised she had been used for 27 years, she killed her mentor and left for Pandora, where she intended to discover more about her siren 'lineage' by hunting for the lost Vault. See BL2 for what happened after that with her.
Like Lilith, it's pretty likely that Maya will appear. Already, Zer0 is confirmed via a screenshot. It seems that it would make sense for more of the Vault Hunters to follow on from that.
- Angel (Major BL2 Spoilers)
The Guardian Angel was the mysterious AI guide for the players in BL1. Only the player characters saw and heard from her via their HUDs, as she tried to guide the Vault Hunters to find the Vault Key and open the Vault. She knew about the Destroyer that lay within; she needed the Vault Hunters to be there to defeat it, else it would have been released by the Crimson Lance anyway, and quickly would have started a galactic onslaught. In the end sequence of Borderlands, a Hyperion satellite with "4N631" branded on its edge.
The mysterious nature of the Guardian Angel in the first game, was cleared up in the second. Once again appearing to the new Vault Hunters to guide them in finding the Vault Key, she betrays them and is revealed as working for Jack. Contacting the players soon after this betrayal, she says that she is tired of manipulating people for Jack, and apparantly fully commits to helping them take him down. The Vault Key is in her central core, and upon gaining access to it, the players find out that she isn't an AI, but rather a Siren, and Handsome Jack's daughter. Jack has been pumping her full of Eridium to charge the Vault Key, which only can be used to unlock a Vault every 200 years. Tired of being a tool, Angel asks the Vault Hunters to kill her so that they can stop Jack from waking the Warrior. She is now deceased.
- Commandant Steele
Steele is the Russian-accented commander of the Crimson Lance during Borderlands. She is never actually acknowledged as a Siren until an issue of the Borderlands comic series, though her blue Siren tattoos are seen clearly covering her body. Racing against the Vault Hunters to reach the Vault first and claim its contents for the Atlas Corporation, she spends too much time goading and taunting the Vault hunters after activating the Vault key. The Destroyer's tentacle impales her from behind and she is eaten.
Two have died, we know about another two. That means there are potentially four Sirens we have not met yet, or at least two, as the new two may be infants.
It is fair to expect that a Siren will appear in Tales. We just don't know which one it will be.
Who are these Aliens?
They are known as Eridians. They are long gone, but the ruins of their civilisations remains on planets like Pandora. Little is known about them.
Rhys works for Hyperion, who are they?
Hyperion is the third mega corporation to conquer Pandora. They were led by Handsome Jack until the end of Borderlands 2. They have legions of robots to do their bidding. They came to Pandora to establish a monopoly on Eridium, which was an alien element appearing after the opening of the first Vault.
If you look up in the sky, you will see the Hyperion Moonbase, where Handsome Jack controls his forces and operates Hyperion’s goals on the planet. It remains in the sky in the Tales from the Borderlands screenshots, suggesting that Hyperion still somewhat controls the planet, despite their plans being thwarted in Borderlands 2.
Who are the good guys?
For anyone entering the series in Tales, which takes place after Borderlands 2, the Good Guys are the citizens of Sanctuary. This is a flying city made out of an old Dahl Corporation Mining Ship. They are protected by the Crimson Raiders; they were formed from the remnants of the Crimson Lance after Hyperion attacked Pandora. The Raiders are led by Lilith, a Siren, and one of the Vault Hunters from the first game. Also in charge are Mordecai (a hunter with a bird), and Brick (who also rules his own bandit clan). None of these characters are confirmed to appear in the game as of yet, but they are the ones in charge of the “good guys”.
Corporations huh? They seem important. Who are they?
Pandora has no government, and is not a "nation state". It is similar to Tatooine from Star Wars; ramshackle towns of settlers, bandit camps, mining stations, all out in the wilderness. Except less sand, more ice and plants, you get the idea. Out on the frontier, wealthy corporations rule supreme. They have money (billions upon billions of dollars), equipment, private armies and fleets, and can more or less do whatever they like. Most corporations in Borderlands are pretty dark and shady, with a few exceptions.
The major corporations in Borderlands are primarily weapon manufacturers, among other things. (For example, many of them are mining corporations and also build a vast number of products, as well as investing in scientific ventures.)
Here are the major ones to be aware of, which may crop up in Tales from the Borderlands.
The Hyperion corporation and its CEO, a manipulative, charismatic sociopath named Handsome Jack, are the main antagonists of Borderlands 2. They came to Pandora on a large space station called "Helios", more commonly known as the Hyperion Moonbase. This moonbase is a focal point of the story and gameplay of Borderlands 2, as it fires "Moonshot" which can deliver Loaders and mortar bombardments anywhere on the planet. Hyperion has extensive interests all across Pandora, and has set up huge facilities to mass-produce Loaders (multiple purpose robots, they try to kill you a lot) and harvest valuable Eridium ore. At the start of the second game, they have completely removed Atlas and their Crimson Lance (who join the locals in forming the Crimson Raiders) and have seized control of the planet with an iron fist. Hyperion also built the CL4P-TP (Claptrap) robots. Hyperion produce weapons that are very accurate, and they like the colour yellow.
Atlas make the best guns in the galaxy and were the first corporation to take control of Pandora. Atlas has a large large private military, made up of humans rather than Hyperion's armies of robots, known as the Crimson Lance. Atlas and the Lance impose a dictatorial rule over the settlers and rule them aggressively (though not on the level as Hyperion's policy of "Bomb Savages First, Ask Questions Later"). The corporation as a whole largely pulled out of Pandora 70 years before Borderlands 1, though the Crimson Lance remained to enforce their rule. They were weakened after the events of BL1, and when Hyperion invaded, the Lance was more or less destroyed. The survivors joined the Vault Hunters and locals to form the Crimson Raiders to fight back against Hyperion. Atlas has more or less completely disappeared from Pandora by the time of Tales, so it is unlikely they will appear. Their legacy lives on in the Crimson Raiders, who probably WILL appear. They liked the colour Red.
The Dahl Corporation arrived on Pandora after Atlas had largely left the planet and had left only the Crimson Lance behind, a decade before the events of the first game. They have arguably left the largest impact on Pandora, prior to Hyperion's Invasion. Dahl came to Pandora to mine minerals (which Atlas had largely ignored so that they could look for alien technology and the Vault) with their mining ships, like Sanctuary. Dahl were rather ruthless when it came to the local fauna, and exploited creatures like the crystalisks, who had valuable crystals growing on them. Most of the industrial facilities in BL1 belong to Dahl. The Corporation's mining led them to further evidence of the Vault and they employed a team of scientists led by the now-insane Patricia Tannis to find the Vault and open it. However, costs on Pandora were mounting, and the Crimson Lance were taking an aggressive interest in Dahl's presence on the planet. Dahl told the scientists to leave, but Tannis refused, now obsessed with finding the Vault. Dahl left the planet, leaving much of what they brought in the temporary gold rush behind, such as Sanctuary, their factories, and the convict labour they employed (who became bandits). Dahl also had its own military, unseen in the game, but playable Vault Hunter in BL2, Axton, is a deserter from their army. It is possible Axton will appear in Tales. Dahl like dark greens and browns, and make pretty average weapons that burst fire.
Tediore are the Wal-Mart of gun-makers. All of their products are ultra cheap at the cost of being slightly worse than all other competitors. They are so cheap that they look like they are held together by tin cans rolled flat, in fact they are so cheap, you dont even reload the gun, since Tediore guns are disposable. Throw them at the enemy when empty, another one will be 3D printed in your hand in the blink of an eye. Tediore have not fully appeared in Borderlands outside of the guns they produce and little else is known about them.
Mr. Torgue has one question for you, and one question only.
Torgue is a weapons corporation led by pro-wrestler-lookalike Mr Torgue Flexington (Mr Torgue is his first name). All Torgue guns fire explosives. Mr Torgue was introduced in BL2 DLC. He is the owner of the "Baddass Crater of Badassitude" where fighters are sponsored by people, or whatever, then murder each other because "reasons". Mr Torgue has had a much bigger presence in the series, and it is possible he will appear in Tales.
Sometimes we can only wonder how many people have died in the "Badass Crater of Badassitude" for no reason....
Like Tediore, there are other corporations that only appear in the games in the form of weapon types. These include Jakobs (Imagine a Wild West Revolver maker on a galactic scale), Vladof (Russian-style company that makes guns with big ammo counts and fast fire rates) and Maliwan (who make guns that fire bullets with elemental effects, like setting people on fire, covering them in acid, or electrocuting them.
It is possible that the role of these more unknown corporations will be expanded upon in Tales.
Bandits, Bandits and more Bandits.
'Bandit' is probably the most thrown around word in the Borderlands universe, so let's break down who bandits actually are.
1. Origins of Bandits and Baron Flynt
Let's look back at what we've covered so far, namely how Pandora was first settled, and how things were mostly peaceful at first. After Atlas didn't find the alien tech they were looking for on the first colonisation effort, they left, leaving many people stranded to survive or perish. Then Dahl came, returning the planet to a relatively civilised planet for a brief time, before they in turn also abandoned the planet, but not before leaving a convict workforce behind to fend for themselves.
When Dahl left, the convicts were being kept in prisons near mines, where they were put to work. The Wardens were also left behind, including one named Flynt.
Flynt was not stupid, and realised it was just him, his fellow wardens, and thousands upon thousands of convicted felons here. Everyone other person on the planet was under the harsh rule of the Crimson Lance, who were aggressively pursuing the Vault.
Flynt made a deal; he would free the prisoners and they would join him in forming a clan, out on the dried up Salt Flats of the east coast of Pandora. Naturally, the clan quickly turned to reaving and pillaging, and soon Flynt was in charge of his own empire of outlaws. The convicts he freed didn't consider him royalty, so he couldn't call himself King Flynt, and he wasn't exactly "Warden Flynt" anymore since the convicts were free. In the end, his followers attributed both "Baron Flynt" and "Big Cheese" to him. However: '... when the people who preferred "Big Cheese" began to disappear, "Baron Flynt" became quickly unanimously popular.' Flynt took control over much of the area called the Dahl Headlands, putting former wardens (such as one named Krom) up as lieutenants to enforce his bandit law. In doing so, he blocked off the residents of the town of New Haven from the town of Sanctuary, which gave him even more power.
Baron Flynt's outlaws was just the first of many bandit tribes to come on Pandora, however.
2. Psychos and Sledge
Being stuck on an alien planet where everything is trying to kill you, tends to turn you mad. You're driven by the reason you went there in the first place; a mythical cache of immense power and wealth somewhere hidden on the planet. Obsession turns you insane with finding the Vault.
Psychos are former convicts-turned-bandits that have been driven to insanity by obsession with the vault. Bare chested, and wearing masks with the Vault symbol branded on the face, psychos relentlessly charge at anyone not on their side with zero regard for their own safety.
Psychos were driven to this point of madness by some untold discovery while mining for Dahl, which was quickly covered up: it was certainly Eridian related, as Doctor Patricia Tannis was soon brought in with her archeology team in a renewed interest in finding the Vault. But whatever was found began to change those convicts dramatically. Some were rendered as stunted "midgets" while others were grossly enlarged into lumbering brutes.
One such brute was the bandit lord Sledge, who took many of the afflicted into his own quasi-feudal kingdom outside the territory of Baron Flynt.
Bandits under Hyperion
During the events of Borderlands 1, the Vault Hunters Roland, Lilith, Mordecai and Brick take down many of the Bandit Lords on the East Coast of Pandora, as most of them are hoarding fragments of the Vault Key needed to open the Vault. Sledge is killed, and so is Baron Flynt and his lieutenants, such as Krom. The Crimson Lance attacks the strongest bandit clans as they are weakened by their leaders deaths, in their effort to kidnap Tannis and the completed Vault Key. By the end of the game, the Lance and the Destroyer are defeated, and the Vault Hunters return to New Haven to settle in.
Not soon afterwards, Hyperion arrives with strangely accurate timing, as the alien element Eridium begins to appear across the planet. Hyperion takes control of the planet by force. Handsome Jack, Hyperions President, considers all inhabitants of Pandora as "bandits" and seeks to wipe them all out so he can bring proper 'civilisation' to the world in the form of modern clean cities, and new settlers, all protected by Hyperion with their army of robot loaders.
Survivors from the Crimson Lance, several bandit clans, and the peaceful settlers from New Haven, are united under the Crimson Raiders. Several bandit clans still survive in strong numbers outside Sanctuary, however, including the Bloodshot Clan, and Sawteeth Clan. many bandits taking refuge in Sanctuary are kicked out for being too clingy to their overly extreme methods, including The Slabs, led by Brick who was kicked out of Sanctuary for being too brutal.
Many of the bandit clans in Borderlands 2 were also decimated by the Vault Hunters during the game, so in Tales, while there certainly will be bandit enemies making up the primary "bad guys", we will not know the nature of the clans until release, probably.
Who was the cyber ninja in that one screenshot?
That was Zer0. He/She/It was one of the four playable Vault Hunters in Borderlands 2. I can't really tell you much about Zer0, since nobody really knows much about them either. Zer0 carries a sword around with them, and fights others based on the higher challenge that they offer him. It's helmet displays emoticons in various situations, for example, when reviving a friend, a <3 is displayed, and when out of ammo, a :( appears.
What about the creepy dude with the giant shotgun, bad teeth and big sunhat?
That was Shade. He lives in a town called Oasis in a dried up sea, where pirates on sand skiffs rule supreme. Oasis' population has entirely been wiped out by dehydration, except for Shade, who has just become insane because of the same affliction. He has rigged up the dead townsfolk around Oasis, and when someone talks to them, Shade impersonates them via loudspeaker. He has deluded himself into believing that nothing has gone wrong, and has a side quest in Borderlands 2 where he asks one dead woman to marry him (he turns himself down, via the woman). Shade's appearance in the screenshot makes me think that we'll be going to Oasis, since Shade never leaves the town.
Who is Claptrap? And why do I get the feeling whatever it is will be either funny or annoying?
CL4P-TP General Purpose Robots are small and squat robots created by the Hyperion Corporation. They're supposed to be friendly and helpful, for presumably a wide variety of PR purposes. Unfortunately, they tend to have the opposite effect. Their programmers have given them a default tone of voice that is overly cheerful and whiney, they are generally over excited or obsessive of small and insignificant things, and "try too hard". Their locally designated name on Pandora is "Claptrap" robots.
Claptraps are common on Pandora, as they are largely left over from Dahl's withdrawal. They are widely abused by bandits. After Hyperion came to Pandora after the opening of the Vault, they systematically hunted down all Claptraps (for some reason or other), until only one remained. This Claptrap is a main character in the series.
This was a ramshackle guide. If there are any lingering questions, or things that you need cleared up so you don’t have to play the first two games as a Telltale fan, feel free to ask.