The Borderlands franchise is like a fine wine with a fancy cork. You want to rip that ugly cork with your teeth and guzzle it down with no regard to its taste. You want it to spill from the creases of your mouth. You want it to trickle onto your shirt – leaving everlasting stains onto your name-brand sherpa fabric as a cruel reminder of your hard-earned memories.
Okay. Maybe I’m doing the wine thing wrong.
Anyway, while the game uses a tried-and-true formula of adrenaline-pumping action and a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, we’ve all played it by now. A traditional run probably feels stale. You already own four Borderlands titles on nine different platforms, right? Yeah. Me too. First-world problems.
Let’s spice up our next playthrough with the granddaddy of the beloved shlooter genre. So, to sum up this introduction in prose that would make Sir Hammerlock grin in approval:
Let us make haste, my valiant little sewer rat! As creatures bound within the confines of capitalism, we must find it within ourselves to scour the depths of Pandora for the self-inflicted masochistic tendencies that we crave! Alas, we must search for new ways in which to violently brutalize our enemies into a pulp fit for our royal ancestry!
This is a pretty simple challenge to implement into your gameplay. It adds a surprising amount of thrill to your looting at a next-to-nothing cost to your overall gameplay loop.
The trick here is to latch on to the first Jakob’s pistol you can find that buffs to your melee damage. From there the game is smooth sailing!
It might sound simple to run through Borderlands without buying ammo. After all, you can loot plenty of ammo from chests, corpses, and port-a-potties. You’ll be in for a world of hurt once you Leeroy Jenkins straight into a boss battle and hear the clicking of an empty magazine.
Bonus points: you can really crank up that difficulty by tossing your gun on the ground each time you run out of ammo for it!
No skill points. No badass rank. Just pure shooting. No special Siren powers or Commando turrets. No Gunzerker insanity and no Bloodwing.
We don’t condone animal abuse.
Avoiding skill points actually just turns Borderlands into a generic shooter, if you think about it. Still, it can make for a decent challenge run on your hundredth playthrough. Especially if you aren’t willing to jump through hoops to achieve that challenge.
I guess it’s like a challenge mode for the lazy.
Anyway, if you’re playing Borderlands 2, you can easily turn off your badass token ranks in the options menu.
As for not using skill points, I’m sure you can figure that one out on your own.
If you only try one challenge run from this list, I’d recommend this one!
The idea here is that every time you pick up a new weapon you swap out the gun you last used to slay an enemy.
Pick up every weapon you can. If you don’t, the words of your gym coach could echo through your head “You’re only cheating yourself, kid!”
The reason I adore this challenge run is because it amplifies everything great about this franchise. The diversity of weapons in Borderlands makes each new gun you equip feel unique.
If you grow attached to a weapon, you’ll find yourself swapping it out to slay enemies, which is a hit of adrenaline on its own! If that DoT (damage-over-time) elemental damage finishes an opponent off, you’ll lose your bestie for all of eternity!
I’m sure Claptrap will still invite you to his birthday parties, though. I guess you can try taking consolation in that.
Trust me on this one! It’s easily my favorite challenge run on Borderlands. The change in pacing will be refreshing and looting a decent gun will be ten times as rejuvenating. It’s also just difficult enough to make you feel like a boss once you finish your challenge run!
This is similar to the last, but a bit easier to follow to the tee.
In the heat of battle, changing weapons can be difficult to track. Our alternative here remedies that but comes at a pretty hefty cost. Going into battle without a gun can be difficult at times.
That makes this challenge a good deal tougher than the last. Especially right before a boss fight.
The biggest trick to surviving this challenge run is to invest your skill points in cooldown reduction and melee output where possible. Just don’t whip out any “imaginary blindfold” shenanigans. Once that vendor enters your field of vision, you’ll need to clear out that inventory. Completely.
Pick a brand, any brand!
The idea here is to select one fictional weapon company and act as though you’ve been sponsored by Marcus-Munitions to elevate sales for that brand.
The brand itself doesn’t matter. Pick one outside of your comfort zone! Prone to using Tediore weapons? Do a run using exclusively Maliwan! Typically avoid Hyperion weapons to boycott Handsome Jack? Guess what – today you begin mainlining them.
Maybe you want to randomize it and pick the brand that first dropped. Maybe you’ll decide by dice-roll.
The important thing is that you remain consistently loyal to the brand you chose at the start of your run!
Hey, Minion! Who needs guns when you’ve already got a pair equipped named lefty and righty?
This type of run screams YouTube clickbait. Investing 20+ hours into a game known for gun variety without those guns… sounds about as thrilling as going to an amusement park to eat lunch.
Still, it’s entirely possible. You’ll want to invest your skill points into maximizing your melee output and reducing skill cooldowns. Pretty obvious, I know. These words are meant to be encouragement more than anything else.
You can do it. Also, once you do, it is VITAL that you spend a few days exploiting those bragging rights to their fullest extent. You deserve it.
I’m pretty sure Mordecai mains already do this.
Take a shot of whatever you want! Be creative. Maybe there’s a bottle of hot sauce that’s been sitting in your cupboard for years. Maybe you want to drink a ton of milk to strengthen your bones.
The drink doesn’t matter.
What matters is the game instantly becomes more interactive.
If you’re playing the OG Borderlands, I recommend the saying “You never should have come here, now you’re gonna pay!”
For Borderlands 2, I recommend summing up any time Handsome Jack starts trash-talking through the communicator.
Borderlands 1.5 doesn’t hold my interest. You’re on your own there.
If you’re playing Borderlands 3, taking a shot every time someone references social media will do the trick.
The idea here is to stack all 4 equipped weapons as the same type of weapon. Four Shotguns, Four Snipers, Four Rocket Launchers (Not recommended), etc.
This puts a massive strain on your ammo reserves, and makes for a tough run! There will be times this feels like a “No Guns” run without having to suffer through a full 20+ hours committed to it.
You’re permitted to swap weapon types each time you start a new mission. That keeps this challenge run pretty interesting and adds a bit of variety to the pacing.
So simple, yet so effective.
Play however you want. Just keep those nasty shields out of your inventory! I heard a rumor that shields have cooties. Real talk. Dr. Zed himself told me.
A shieldless run will put your skills to the test. Only the most hardcore shooter fanatics can withstand a full run.
Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
Unleash your inner-pew-pew-hellhound, gamer! Crank out missions stealthily, utilize the cover available in the maps. Ping the locations of any unused health vials.
I know you can do it!
Again, we’re giving up one of the best parts of Borderlands by not using the myriad of weapons.
This one will keep you on your toes, though. That starter weapon has a horrendous damage output. You’ll essentially be playing just like you would without a shield.
Ammo won’t take you very far, either.
You also get the added perk of throwing most of your money away into Moxxie’s tip jar. Not that she deserves it. She’ll probably just upload memes to the holonet about your cringe-worthy simping habits.
At least you’ll be famous.
It might seem silly spicing up a game with menial self-imposed challenges. In the Pokemon community, we’ve been doing it for years. We call it a Nuzlocke.
A Nuzlocke is a great way to make a game you love to death more engaging and rewarding – despite the fact you can run circles around the expected skill level.
Think of it this way:
Why gamble on buying a new game to “scratch an itch” when you can just add a little Nuzlocke kick to something tried-and-true? You’ll save a few bucks. You also don’t have to worry if the game coming out sucks.
Anyway, I hope this article stirred up some ideas for your next Borderlands playthrough. Let me know if you come up with any awesome ideas of your own! Or check out my love letter to Lilith’s character design.