Borderlands 3 Guide: 15 Essential Tips for Looting Like a Pro

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Borderlands 3 has finally arrived, which means it’s time to loot and shoot! It also means that there’s a whole new class of Vault Hunters, each with three massive and varied skill trees. And yes, there’s plenty of loot including shields, cash and over a billion guns. Toss in the ability to travel to other planets and it’s easy for even the most grizzled Vault Hunter. Here are tips to make your time in Borderlands 3 more manageable. Happy looting!

Know your class

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Borderlands 3 offers 4 distinct classes. There’s Zane the Operative, Moze the Gunner, Fl4K the Beastmaster and Amara the Siren. Those who have played previous entries in the series will remember the Siren class with all its supernatural attacks. However, Amara and her skill tree is more focused on dealing out elemental melee-based damage balanced with gunplay unlike other Sirens. 

The robot Fl4K gets by with a little help from his friends and the key to mastering this class is balancing skills between Fl4k and his beastly menagerie. Same thing goes for Moze and her tank Iron Bear. The latter can be equipped with two different weapons, which when combined with Moze’s loadout can dole out plenty of devastating damage in close quarters. Zane and his digi-clone keep enemies off-balance. By the time enemies dispatch the clone, you’ll be at another location doling out the kill shot. 

So which class is right for you? Borderlands veterans that have a good grasp of the skill trees will want to check out Amara and Fl4K. While newbies might prefer the defense capabilities of Moze and Zane. But ultimately, any character can be wielded with deadly efficiency depending on your chosen skills and weapons. 

Mix and match skills

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Each class has three skill trees you can pick and choose from, each focusing on different aspects of your character. For example, Amara’s Fist of the Elements branch plays up elemental and gun damage while Mystical Assault focuses heavily on speed for reloads, and weapon swaps as well as accuracy. The Brawl branch, as the name suggests, is all about melee damage as well as improving max health and shield regeneration.

As you get comfortable with your chosen skill tree, pay attention to the different skills such as Action Skills, which are a powerful attack that charges between uses. Action Skill Augments modify Action Skills. For example, I have the Astral Projection set as my Action Skill and Soul Sap as my Augment. That means, when Projection damages an enemy, I get a small health reward. There’s also Kill Skills which activate when you dispatch a bad guy and Passive Abilities, which awards bonuses and abilities during the fight. 

While it’s tempting to just focus on one tree, try to mix things up to make a more well-rounded fighter. Or you can make a powerful glass canon, it’s all up to you. 

Choose your weapons wisely

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Outside of the low-brow humor, the star of any Borderlands game is the guns. The third entry in the series boasts a billion ballistic weapons. And while you’ll probably never touch every weapon the game has to offer, it’s good to understand the basic functionality of your weapons -- starting with the brand. There are 9 different brands in the game (Hyperion, Maliwan, Child of the Vault (COV), Torgue, Atlas, Vladof, Tediore, Dahl and Jakobs), each with their own unique characteristics.

Right now, I’m big on Maliwan guns as they serve up elemental damage, which, paired with my Amara skill tree loadout, scores big damage. Plus elemental attacks damage over time. I also make sure to have an Atlas in my lineup as it has a smart tracker secondary feature that turns your bullets into homing bullets. I’m a fan of Tediore weapons because the gun turns into a throwable explosive during reload. I prefer Jakobs sniper rifles for their high damage potential and ricochet bullets. Want to keep firing without worrying about reload? Get a COV gun, but be careful as they can overheat and break.

Some guns offer alternate fire modes that you absolutely should take advantage of. Maliwan guns switch between elements while I got a Vladof pistol that had a taser as the alt mode. Something else to consider with your guns is the rarity. White and green weapons are more common, while Blue and Purple tend are rarer and more powerful while Orange weapons are Legendary and the rarest of all. 

You also want to be mindful of the level. Throughout your time with Borderlands 3, you’re going to run across all manner of weapons that typically correspond to your current level. But if you’re like me, you easily get lost in all the looting and shooting, only to remember towards the end that you’re level 21 using a level 15 guns. There’s always bigger and better guns out there, don’t be afraid to make room for a new favorite.

Diversify your load out

In the beginning of the game, ammo is kind of sparse. So it just doesn’t pay to have two of the same gun, as you’ll be out of ammo before you know it. Right now, I have a pistol, shotgun, assault rifle and a sniper rifle in my immediate line up with a rocket launcher and SMG (sub-machine gun) as backups in my rotation. That way I can switch up my attacks on the fly and never worry about running out of ammo.

Don’t ignore the side quests

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Yeah, it’s tempting to just blow through the main mission, but trust me, you want to do some of the various side quests. Not only do they help you level up, you can nab special weapons that can’t find anywhere else in the game. So don’t be afraid to veer off the beaten path every now and then. 

Wait to take on Killavolt

Borderlands 3

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Speaking of side quests, you’re going to get one early in the game directing you to eliminate an enemy named Killavolt. And you’re going to run in there guns ablazin’ only to die miserably several times. Take it from me, go grind a few levels above him (at least level 18) and go take him down a bit. And if you’re up for it, take Moxxxi’s advice and shoot him in the nethers.

Pay attention to Class Mods

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Want to boost a particular skill, but don’t have the necessary skill points? Then you, my friend, need to equip a class mod. Each mod adds points to specific skills in your tree, so be sure to take a good look and see exactly what you’re getting. The rarer the mod, the more bonuses it will yield. However, you can’t equip mods off the bat. You need to complete a specific mission fairly early on in the game. Until then, try to stockpile your mods. And since you can pick up mods for different classes, you can either sell them for a tidy profit or send them to friends via the social section. 

Sell often

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During the hustle and bustle of Borderlands 3, you’re going to find a lot of loot. And some of it is definitely better than others. Instead of letting the gear you don’t want to take up precious space in your bank or bookbag, sell it and get something you actually want. It’s a great way to earn cash for some of the rarer items vendors have for sale. 

Invest in SDUs

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When you first set foot on Pandora, your storage capacity is rather limited. However, you can fix this problem by investing in SDUs (Storage Deck Upgrades). Marcus sells SDUs for a number of areas including your backpack, bank and lost loot receptacle. You can also purchase SDUs to expand weapon ammo capacity. But keep in mind that SDUs can get pretty pricey starting at $1,000 and tapping out at $81,000 for some SDUs. So far, I’ve invested in upgrading everything available twice, but I’m going to start focusing on the backpacks and my go to weapon types. 

It’s dangerous to go alone

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Sometimes a boss or area gives you more than you can handle on your own, or you just want to cause mayhem with friends (because you can’t spell slaughter without laughter). In those cases, you just need to go to the Social option in the pause menu and choose your mode. Need help in the actual game? Go for campaign. Want to take on some of the harder enemies in the games in wave after wave of brutal action? Sounds like Circle of Slaughter is for you. There’s also Proving Grounds which serve up unique bosses and dungeons. It’s high risk, high reward as you can get some powerful gear if you manage to survive the encounter.

There are also co-op modes to consider. You and your friends can work as a team in Cooperation mode, which means that everyone on the team gets their own level-appropriate loot. If you want that classic Borderlands feel, go for Coopetition, in which it’s every Vault Hunter for themselves for loot drops. Thankfully, you can change the modes during anytime by changing your Group Mode in the settings menu.  

You’ve got mail

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As you’re cutting a bloody swath of righteous justice through the galaxy, you might notice that you’ve received email. To check out these notes, go to Social in the Pause menu. More often than not, it’ll be a company or a NPC mailing you a gun to use in your fight against the Twins. Be sure to check often as the guns are locked in at the level you completed the task.

Respec yourself

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Not getting the most out of your current Vault Hunter skill build? You can take another bite at the apple by Respecing your skill points at the Quick Change Station on Sanctuary 3. It’s a fairly low cost, which means you can start from scratch without taking too much of a financial hit. And since there’s no limit to how many times you can Respec, you can fiddle to your heart’s content until you have your perfect skill tree build.

Mine that Eridium 

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Eridium, that weird purple crystal is back and being used to buy all manners of aesthetic customizations and high-powered, rare weapons. But while you’ll see the purple crystals littered throughout the galaxy, you can’t actually start mining them until after you open the first vault. From there, you get a tool that can smash the crystals. You can also earn Eridium by completing Circle of Slaughters, Crew Challenges, Anointed Enemies mission rewards and deciphering the Eridian slabs located throughout the game. However, you don’t earn the ability to read them until late in the game.

And while it’s tempting to start spending your hard-earned Eridium at Crazy Earl’s or one of Moxxxi’s slot machines, I would advise holding off until later in the game. There’s a gun called the Eridian Fabricator that uses 10 pieces of Eridium to make 10 random weapons. 

Get those golden keys

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When you board Sanctuary III, there’s a large golden chest that requires a golden key to get access to all the goodies. In order to get your hands on the key, you’ll need a Shift Codes, a 25-character code that’s redeemed in the Social menu. From there, you’ll receive a golden key in your in-game email. You can get Shift Codes from Gearbox’s website as long as you connect your profile to the one you’re using to play Borderlands 3. 

Sherri L. Smith

Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.