Borderlands 3 and Your First Steps: 9 Essential Tips for Getting Started

Here are some essential tips to keep in mind when you're taking your first steps on Borderland 3's Pandora (and the game's other planets).
Borderlands 3 and Your First Steps: 9 Essential Tips for Getting Started

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Borderlands 3 is finally here! The early reviews are in and the game is doing fairly well. I've had time to spend a few hours with the game, and I must say that I'm quite happy with the game so far.

In fact, I had quite the wishlist for Borderlands 3 before it came out, and the game seems to have met all of them.

While I've played a lot of Borderlands, you might be experiencing Gearbox's looter shooter franchise for the first time after hearing some of the positive hype around the game. And while the game has a solid tutorial that'll help you get started, there's actually a lot more nuance to the game than you might think.

Fear not, because we're here with the tips you need to make the most of your time on Pandora (and on the game's other planets)!

1. Choose Your Character Wisely

Borderlands 3 is a fairly long game. When you factor in the end game that comes along after you beat the story, you're going to spend a lot of time with the character you choose.

There are three different characters to choose from—FL4K, Zane, Moze, and Amara. Each has its own class that plays completely different from the others.

Here's a quick rundown of what to expect from each character:

  • FL4K: The Beastmaster - Summons a beast to fight alongside him. Can go invisible to hide and hit big critical shots.
  • Zane: The Operative - Can use two different action skills. Can drop a shield, drone, or clone.
  • Moze: The Gunner - Gets to hop in a big mech. Straight forward gunner class.
  • Amara: The Siren - Melee-focused magic class. Has a phase-lock ability.

2. Follow a Build

Once you choose a character, you're going to want to learn about some builds for the character you choose. Each character has three different skill trees to level up, and you won't be able to unlock all of the skills as you go. This means you're going to need to choose a build that suits your playstyle. You can just wing it, but you're better off looking to the guidance of more experienced players to help you choose which skills to take (at least at first).

As for finding builds, because the game just came out, there aren't a ton of builds out there. However, there is this Reddit thread that has quite a few for you to try. PC Gamer also has a solid article with some builds to try.

And don't worry if you decide you don't like a build, because Borderlands 3 is very generous with resetting your skills. You just need a little money and you can start from square one!

3. Use the Environment

If you decide to play Borderlands 3 on normal difficulty, it's actually pretty difficult. However, most firefights take place in a carefully-crafted environment with plenty of cover spots you can crouch behind, barrels you can blow up to do large amounts of elemental damage, and destructible cover points that'll force enemies to face you head-on.

If you're just using your guns and action skills without exploiting the environment, you're doing yourself a disservice and making fights take longer than they need to.

4. Don't Equip Two Guns of the Same Type

In Borderlands 3, ammo is based on the type of gun you're using. Pistols use pistol ammo, SMGs use SMG ammo, and so on. So if you're using two SMGs, for example, you're going to run out of ammo. Instead, use weapons of each type to maximize your ammo. Use an SMG, a sniper, a launcher, and a pistol.

Whichever guns you like, just try to mix it up with different types. Experiment and see what works well for you.

5. Take Advantage of Alternate Fire Modes

Most guns in Borderlands 3 have secondary fire modes, and some of them are quite different from the default mode. Sure, in some cases it's just a matter of switching between full and semi-auto, but some guns switch from bullets to rockets (the first pistol you get in the game is a great example of this).

When you're deciding what gun to use, make sure to take the alternate fire modes into consideration, as it could be the ultimate factor that helps you decide.

This tip is important to experienced Borderlands players as well, as this is a new feature in Borderlands 3 and it's one that can be easy to forget as you make your way through the game (old habits die hard).

6. Elemental Damage Matters

You might think that the different types of damage are just for show, but in Borderlands 3, using the right type of damage really speeds up your time to kill, which will get you on the path to more loot sooner!

There are five different elemental types in Borderlands 3, and each serves a specific purpose (all except cryo will do damage-over-time):

  • Incendiary: Best against flesh (red health bars)
  • Shock: Best against shields (blue health bards)
  • Corrosive: Best against armor (yellow health bars)
  • Cryo: Utility damage type (slows, eventually freezes)
  • Radiation: Utility damage type (high damage over time in AOE)

7. Do the Bonus Objectives

This is a tip I actually needed to remind myself of. Far too often I neglect the bonus objectives. Doing them grants you extra experience and can sometimes even net you an exclusive bit of loot that you wouldn't get otherwise. You don't want to miss out on a cool gun just because you were too lazy to do an objective.

Not only are they lucrative in terms of loot and leveling up, but they add a bit more variety to quest objectives and they tend to be quite fun.

8. Use Shift and VIP Codes

Gearbox loves throwing free loot to Borderlands players with Shift codes. Don't neglect them, as the couple seconds it takes to login with a Shift account and type in a code will get you some super rare guns, which is really what we're all looking for in Borderlands 3.

Gearbox usually posts codes on their social media accounts, but there's a handy spreadsheet that features all the working codes (though we can't guarantee that it will stay updated for the long haul).

9. Use the Quality of Life Changes

Buying ammo was a painful process in previous Borderlands games, as you had to purchase ammo for each type of weapon individually. It took way longer than it needed to. Thankfully, Gearbox has rectified the situation with a simple refill ammo button on the vending machines. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but when you're buying ammo hundreds of times, the convenience stacks up!

Another big change is the ability to fast travel from the menu, which means you don't need to run to a travel station in order to get somewhere you've been before.

Another big one is the ability to move during fight for your life, which can be a game-changer when it comes to survival.