Borderlands three’s new villains are a welcome new addition.
SPOILER WARNING: This text comprises spoilers for Borderlands 2, The Pre-Sequel, and Tales From the Borderlands.
In 2012, Gearbox launched Good-looking Jack, the smarmy, well-coiffed Hyperion President and chief antagonist of Borderlands 2. Jack was a continuing, taunting presence as gamers fought wave after wave of EXP Loaders and Bullymongs, and at this level, the Borderlands trustworthy have witnessed the life, demise, and resurrection of the psychotic CEO.
Admittedly, it’s onerous to maintain a superb villain down. Jack has resurfaced in each recreation since his demise in Borderlands 2 – and it’s simple to know the draw. A personality as humorous and self-referential as Good-looking Jack is definitely a welcome mouthpiece for writers who likewise need to seem humorous and self-referential.
However with this fall’s Borderlands three promising a brand new pair of baddies — the cult leaders Tyreen and Troy Calypso — Gearbox, eventually, has an opportunity to make a clear break from their longtime antagonist and his psycho-cynical antics. The query is: will they take it? And, perhaps, extra importantly, ought to they?
“Good-looking Jack is Lifeless”
Based on Borderlands three’s Managing Story Producer Randy Varnell, the reply to each of these questions seems to be: sure.
“Good-looking Jack was unusually profitable as a villain,” He stated in an interview with Bloody Disgusting. “Good villains are onerous. And I believe your heroes all the time really feel extra heroic after they have a superb villain to oppose them. I believe Good-looking Jack did that so properly for Borderlands,”
“We additionally hearken to our followers quite a bit, and after the three video games you cited it was ‘A lot Jack’ that we truly heard from various followers, ‘You already know what? We’re good for now if you wish to take a bit breath and present us another person who might be unhealthy for a second.’ So, canonically, sure, Good-looking Jack is useless.
That signifies that, with Borderlands three, Gearbox has the chance to discover actually uncharted territory for the primary time since 2009. And, based mostly on what we’ve seen thus far, there are a couple of fascinating ways in which they might fill the hole left by Jack’s demise.
A Worthy Successor
The Borderlands three’s announcement trailer and subsequent gameplay demo reacquainted us with dozens of acquainted faces from all through the franchise. Claptrap danced! Lilith smiled on the digicam! Brick (now with added mustache) performed a wacky sax solo!
However for story-hungry Borderlands followers, one specific inclusion might have stoked extra pleasure than the remainder. Rhys, the Hyperion Assistant-Janitor-Turned-Vault-Hunter from Tales from the Borderlands made a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it look within the trailer (additionally with an added mustache).
Even among the many Good-looking Jack-obsessed denizens of Helios, Rhys had a popularity for being notably enamored together with his larger-than-life boss. Throughout an ill-fated journey to the floor of Pandora, Rhys was injected with an AI model of Jack that arrange store within the hardwiring of Rhys’ cybernetic implants. For the remainder of the sport, our hero argued with a blue, holographic model of Jack, wrestling for management of his physique and in the end purging Jack from his system.
After this week’s Borderlands three gameplay reveal, we now know that Rhys has a much bigger half to play within the new recreation than we might have initially suspected. Because the CEO of the Atlus megacorporation, Rhys makes frequent appearances, asking the participant for assist as he fends off a hostile takeover from the Maliwan company. Rhys even has an admirer in Katagawa, the Maliwan CEO who obsesses over Rhys like Rhys as soon as obsessed over Jack. And, coincidence or not, like Jack in Tales, Rhys primarily seems (not less than in what’s been revealed thus far) as a blue hologram. Heavy-handed visible symbolism or not, Borderlands three seems to be setting Rhys as much as, on the very least, fill a Jack-esque function.
Like Rhys, Jack was as soon as, for all intents and functions, a superb man. In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Athena even calls him a “hero.” Regardless that his major purpose within the recreation is to discover a vault, he nonetheless tries to avoid wasting the individuals of the Pandoran moon of Elpis from being obliterated by Helios’s large area weapons. However, as he pursues this purpose he turns into increasingly ruthless, unconcerned with the welfare of people who he has to step on to perform his ends. He inserts the AI Felicity right into a constructor bot in opposition to her needs, ejects an airlock-full of harmless individuals into area, and even strangles the CEO of Hyperion, taking management of the mega-corporation for himself.
Rhys allegedly walked away from the company life on the finish of Tales from the Borderlands, so to see him comfortably sitting within the function of Atlus’s CEO seems like one thing of a step backward for his character. That stated, Gearbox could also be setting Rhys as much as mirror Jack’s character arc. We noticed in Jack’s story how energy (and the lust for extra of it) corrupts, and seeing Rhys fall sufferer to that corruption might be simply as fascinating as watching him strive to withstand its lure.
The Kids of the Vault
The first antagonists of Borderlands three are the Calypso Twins, Pandora’s equal of Twitch streamers from hell; influencers who’ve reworked a cult of character into, properly, an precise cult. A lot has modified within the media panorama since Borderlands 2 (each when it comes to manufacturing and consumption), and the Calpysos are clearly Gearbox’s avenue to touch upon that. Throughout Gearbox’s gameplay reveal occasion on Could 1st, Pitchford described the Calypso twins as “the type of streamers all people hates. These are just like the douchiest type of streamers of the inconceivable future which you could probably think about.”
The collection has by no means actually been identified for its nuance — keep in mind Buttstallion? — however Borderlands three is taking part in with one thing fascinating right here. With Good-looking Jack, Gearbox explored the traditional, well-trod themes of company greed and megalomania. However with the Calypsos, the group is making an attempt to prod on the fashionable zeitgeist. What’s the relationship between influencers and their followers? How accountable are public figures for the actions of their fanbase, and what occurs when a “cult of character” tackle the traits of a literal cult? Jack impressed hero worship; the Calypsos command worship worship.
Whereas Good-looking Jack was perpetually quipping, the Calypso Twins are decidedly extra earnest. Not severe, actually, however not glib one-liner machines both. The place Jack espoused a cheerful nihilism, these baddies — like Far Cry’s Joseph Seed or Pagan Min — appear to truly consider in one thing, Which is an intriguing new route for the collection. What if the subversive shooter’s final subversion is, in actual fact, sincerity?
After all, there’s all the time the distinct risk that Gearbox’s “Jack is useless” line is a not-so-clever ruse. It wouldn’t be unparalleled to convey him again for a fourth spherical – that is sci-fi, in spite of everything, the place demise is a really malleable idea. Perhaps the Kids have figured our resurrection, or Rhys isn’t actually Rhys and AI-Jack didn’t get deleted as we thought – however that every one appears unlikely. If Hyperion had the flexibility to easily increase Jack from the useless with its current expertise, they would not have gone to all the difficulty of making an AI model of Jack within the first place, and we’d all have a lot greater issues than a “new Jack” if the Twins cracked the resurrection code.
So, realistically, we’re again the place we began. Jack is useless. And, given the fascinating issues that Borderlands three is doing, that looks as if a beautiful, liberating factor for the franchise.
Andrew King is a contract journalist with bylines at IGN, Bloody Disgusting, Kotaku and extra. You possibly can comply with him on Twitter @funnelchest94.