How Roland’s Death Changed the Borderlands Series

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Borderlands is a franchise known for many things. In terms of gameplay, Borderlands claims fame because of the overabundance of weapons, the likes of which are used by both heroes and villains. He is known for his crude and sometimes outdated humor based on internet memes and pop culture references. But most of all Borderlands is known for its wide range of characters, each of which comes from different backgrounds.

What Borderlands is not famous for is its depiction of serious topics. Before Borderlands 2, topics like death and depression were written off with one-off lines for comedic relief, even if they sometimes missed the mark. Although the franchise did not shy away from them, its work with heavy objects was far from ideal. Everything changed with Roland’s death.

Fallen Former Vault Hunter

Roland was one of the first Borderlands playable characters. A former soldier of the Crimson Spear, Roland traded his military life for the life of a Vault Hunter. Armed with his trusty Scorpion turret, he will help his comrades Lilith, Mordecai and Brick in their search for an elusive Refuge on the desert planet Pandora. In the end, Roland gives up his search for Refuge and assumes the mantle of leader of the Crimson Raiders, a gang consisting of former Crimson Spear soldiers and adventurers dedicated to fighting Handsome Jack.

Along with a new set of Vault Hunters that players can control, Roland and his allies are doing everything in their power to prevent Jack from opening the second Pandoran Vault. They disrupt his operations, kill some of his highest-ranking minions, and even destroy one of his Hyperion ships: BNK3R. BNK3R also protects Jack’s daughter, the siren angel. Just as Roland and the players are about to free Angel from Jack’s prison, Jack appears behind them and kills Roland in cold blood.

Death in the proper sense

Unlike most deaths in the Borderlands franchise, Roland’s death is not humorously executed. The scene is devoid of music and filled with sorrow. Lilith, Roland’s girlfriend and ex-girlfriend, cries over his corpse and tries to attack Jack, who in response puts an inhibitor collar on her. After that, Brick, Mordecai and other characters express regret over the death of their friend, and you can see how they deal with it in different ways. Tiny Tina deserves a special mention, as her DLC, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, is an adventure tabletop role-playing game that tells how she comes to terms with the death of Roland.

Growing up and moving forward

Some might argue that the death of Bloodwing, Mordecai’s poultry, was the beginning of the franchise’s growth, but Bloodwing wasn’t that important to anyone but Mordecai. Roland’s death in Borderlands 2 was more shocking because players were able to control him in the last game and fell in love with his character. This showed that the franchise is not afraid to seriously engage in heavy topics, even if it means killing off some of its favorite characters.

Borderlands became bolder after Roland’s death. Among other things, he started talking about sensitive topics such as gender identity, depression and fear of rejection. Although not all of them were treated with the same serious tone, they were at least given due attention. An example can be found in Mr. Torg’s comments on gender equality, where he states that “there is nothing cooler than treating a woman with respect.” Although it may seem a bit oppressive, the way this line is pronounced with such gusto shows that the game has something to say on this topic.

Some players still hate Roland’s death to this day, but the fact that they are worried about his death shows that it was significant. It shows that the character was convincing and that their death meant something to the fans. Roland’s death forced his friends to grow up and take on challenges after his passing. It’s not always easy, but as in real life, change breeds character.

Borderlands 2 is already available on PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Switch, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

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