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Borderlands 1 strategy guide and advice

Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game


Playing Borderlands

The first Borderlands game, released in 2009 and 2010, has some peculiarities that may make the beginning of the game frustrating.

So if you play it — perhaps after getting it on sale — here are a few quick but important pointers :

  • On PC it is easy to get motion sickness, since the field of view is too constrained. It is necessary to edit the .ini files if you feel queasy. One page explaining this is on the BL wiki , search for “field of view”. I’d suggest going for 101 on most screens.
    The Enhanced version instead has a much-needed FoV slider.
  • On PC you have to use the PageUp and PageDown keys to scroll the quest texts. No, really. Likewise the level requirement for gear is easy to miss in the interface.


Earliest stages of the game

  • Borderlands isn’t quite a shooter, in the sense that it doesn’t solely rely on your FPS  skills. Creatures have a level, and if this level is higher than yours they get very resistant to your attacks.
    This is particularly true when you begin, since your gun will be a weak one. Higher-level creatures may be unkillable even with your entire store of ammunition.
  • Thus, do not roam – follow the quests closely, and get a sense of creature levels by aiming at them. If you’re none too good at the game, loitering a bit in the early areas to kill respawning skags and bandits to gain experience may be best before taking on the first boss. Even a one- or two-level difference can make a fight significantly easier.
  • Also note how quests have levels. Doing them in this order is usually best.

Roland progressing with a machine gun

  • Your starting gun is terrible. Upgrading it is a priority. Save money and harvest guns – do not hesitate to scour the starting area *before* entering Fyrestone  (one cabin has a guns box on its roof), within Fyrestone and around Fyrestone, perhaps waiting for a respawn of the loot if you’re not happy with it.
  • (The Enhanced version issues you with markedly better starting weapons to solve this issue.)
  • Most things with a green glow can be looted (including the toilets). But in some cases the green glow is very small – this is the case for the mailboxes and the cash boxes (the latter being about the size of a large shoebox).
  • Some personal shields have a health regeneration function. You could keep a fast one handy to top off your health between fights.
  • Focusing on two weapon types plus a back-up pays off as their associated skill provides significant bonuses as it increases. But do not overfocus – most weapon types come in handy in certain situations, such as shotgun for close-range self-defense or certain rocket launchers as an opening salvo.

Frex, Lilith could go SMG and Sniper as mains, plus pistols as backup. Though sniper fire becomes harder once she has the Phoenix skill. Roland could go shotgun/scoped assault assault rifle, plus repeater. A melee brick can go shotgun/light machineguns, plus a scoped revolver. Mordecai can usually go sniper/revolver, plus SMG as backup.


Building up momentum

  • The first boss (Nine-Toes ) and his skags might still be over-levelled for you even if you’re methodical. Your grenades should help a lot in this case (particularly if you found a mod – these make grenades far more powerful).
    Note that you can jump out of the “arena” if you need more space to manoeuvre.
  • The second boss (Bone Head ) will almost certainly be over-levelled for you. A suicide run to knock down his life bar and/or part of his gang, then coming back to finish the job, may be the most expedient strategy if you’re not doing well.
  • Doing side-quests is necessary not to be outmatched early on by the level differentials, but as the game goes on doing all side-quests may cause you to… become too tough as you outlevel the creatures. Side quests can be considered as a sort of game difficulty regulation mechanism.
    Borderlands doesn’t handle challenge progression well by itself.
  • Co-op greatly increases the difficulty, so you may want to level up solo at first until you and your character are ready for co-op.
  • Weapon characteristics are quite complex, but learning what’s behind some weapon titles (such as a “Matador” shotgun or a “Cobra” rifle) from the Wiki is worth it. Also, an elemental proc does a lot of damage, assuming a non-resistant target, and a good shotgun is king of close-range battle.
  • Looting money can help at first. But it gradually becomes unimportant. So if you have pack rat tendencies, ignore low-value loot and keep moving. It’s not worth the time.

Roland and Lilith face the Destroyer

Roland and Lilith fighting the Destroyer .

Suggested flow for your game

  • Do every quest in the first zone. Note that more quests pop up once Sledge  is dead.
  • Once you hit Dahl Headlands it’s best to start skipping side missions not to become too high-level for the game, unless it’s kicking your arse. Being level 25-ish when you meet Patricia Tannis  for the first time is a good point to aim for, and concluding the game circa level 33 to 35 should be fine for most players. Do not do any DLC during this playthrough, they’ll put you over the desired level. Except for…
  • The one exception is going to the underdome to do Moxxi ’s quest at the board. You will earn very little xp during all this mayhew, but it’ll give you a skill point (and guns).
  • After the final boss is dead, you’ll get the option to go through the game again (“playthrough 2”) when you select the character. The entire game will be available as before, but the earliest enemies will now be level 33.
  • This time you want to defeat the final boss circa level 53. This again implies skipping quests, and fights, and all DLCs save Moxxi’s so you don’t overshoot. You probably don’t want to kill King Wee Wee  (he’ll never respawn, so you want to kill him as late as possible for loot). Also note that the claptrap rescue missions will now only give you a SDU if your inventory is full (the fuller, the less likely you are to get the grenade mod consolation prize).
  • Once the final boss has been defeated a second time, everything everywhere on playthrough 2 will scale to your level, so there’s no reason to be on an experience diet anymore… except for the General Knoxx DLC, which always starts at level 51. If you’re 53 or so the challenge should be right, so start with this DLC.
  • Once you have killed the final boss twice, and finally romped through all the DLCs you’ve been keeping aside for so long… you could farm General Knoxx bosses and red chests, but nowadays it’s better to move on to Borderlands 2: Game of the Year Edition, which is significantly more polished (and much less lamentably ported to PC).

IMO General Knoxx is interesting with some weak bits, Ninja Claptrap is adequate with some good bits, and Doctor Zed is meh.

Graphic tweaks

If like me you want high image quality, my approach *as of August 2014* is GeDoSaTo with game-specific settings (explained in the GeDoSaTo setting files), plus various .ini changes (explained on the Borderlands wiki ; note that getting rid of the cell-shading seems to improve performance).

The Enhanced version made the point moot, though you can always Reshade it a bit.