Well over a year ago I was out in LA at a crowded creator event back when those still existed. I was playing Borderlands 3 for the first time, having fun, and getting to interview those making the game.
One question that came up many times that day was whether the future content plans for the game would include DLC Vault Hunters like the previous games before it. There was no mincing words, this time, they said, for Borderlands 3 there wouldn’t be DLC Vault Hunters, and they were planning on building out the existing classes instead.
This was surprising, given how iconic many DLC Vault Hunters had become in the series from Krieg to Gaige to Timothy Lawrence to Aurelia.
Their reason given was that what they saw from the data of the game was that most people picked their one Vault Hunter and stuck to them, and not as many people played DLC Vault Hunters, so they weren’t worth the work.
While I can see that, I thought it was a mistake at the time, and now, a full year later, I still think it was. But now more than ever it seems like there’s a new reason that Borderlands 3 isn’t going to get any DLC Vault Hunters.
Randy Pitchford was soliciting ideas for Year 2 DLC on Twitter, and while my request was indeed, DLC Vault Hunters, that’s not going to happen. Why? Because what I think is going on now is that Gearbox is already starting work on Borderlands 4, and needs to save work on any new Vault Hunter designs for that game.
My guess is that Gearbox has learned their lesson. After Borderlands 2, they worked on a quasi-entry, the Pre-Sequel, which was not as well received as the mainline games, and on Battleborne, trying to chase MOBA/hero shooter trends in a way that went rather disastrously for them. And when they finally just focused on Borderlands 3, that came out and was a huge hit.
So, you start making Borderlands 4 for next-gen, and you almost guarantee yourself another hit without fussing around with other games (please don’t try to make a battle royale, Gearbox). Stick with what you know, and do it well, and I think that’s the plan going forward, so we will not have to wait the better part of a decade for another full Borderlands installment.
As such, DLC Vault Hunters cannot be made for Borderlands 3 because those ideas need to be funneled into Borderlands 4. I do maintain that BL3 should have stuck with DLC Vault Hunters from the beginning. Despite talk about “attach rates” and such, it’s clear those characters became very important to fans of the series, and the most dedicated players absolutely played with all the Vault Hunters they could. Gaige and Timothy Lawrence have been key characters in DLC. Aurelia Hammerlock was a miniboss in the main game. Krieg is now getting a DLC entirely to himself. These characters are important, and not creating new ones was a bad move.
It was also bad because the alternative didn’t pan out either. If there was supposed to be more focus put on the existing four Vault Hunters from launch, we haven’t seen it. While recently there have finally been leaks implying a fourth skill tree for each class is coming, that is not even going to arrive with this fourth Krieg DLC coming out in two weeks and still appears to be a ways off. Instead, Gearbox has simply been balancing and re-balancing existing class skills and handing more skill points for the last year. If the trees have “evolved” it’s only because something gets buffed enough to be useful after being pointless for the last eight months (usually at the cost of something else being nerfed).
I do think Gearbox did a great job with the existing four Vault Hunters, but they didn’t expand them over time, and the game did suffer from having no DLC heroes. I do think Borderlands 4 will be here sooner rather than later though, so no, no secret backtracking of plans to give us those new characters after all, and we’ll have to wait for an entirely new game instead.