Breaking down the Borderlands 3 ending: What it means, where it went wrong, and the questions we still have

(Image credit: 2K Games)
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(Image credit: 2K)

Ranking the best Borderlands games, from Common to Legendary

In what seems to be a habit for the series, the Borderlands 3 ending is proving to be a point of contention for many fans. It closes the books on this Pandora chapter, while still leaving the path open for a number of unresolved story threads. Maybe for DLC, or another Pre-Sequel style spin off. Whatever happens in the future though there's a lot to work through with the Borderlands 3 ending.

This should really go without saying, but this Borderlands 3 ending explanation and analysis goes into full, unfiltered spoilers for the entire game, including its final moments, credits sequence, and the fate of several characters. With that in mind, complete the full Borderlands 3 campaign before reading any of the following questions, at which point you can come back here safe from having anything spoiled for you before seeing it for yourself. Done that? Good. Let's get started, beginning with the most pertinent question of them all...

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1. Is Lilith really dead? 

(Image credit: Gearbox)

Vault Hunts rarely succeed without sacrifice, and the ultimate Vault Hunt in Borderlands 3 required a Siren as powerful as Lilith to give up her own life to stop Pandora (The Great Vault) being ripped apart by its moon, Elpis (The Great Vault Key). It's not exactly clear how Lilith did this, but we see her fly towards Elpis and explode into some sort of Eridium-fuelled supernova of Siren energy, brandish the moon with her Firehawk mark in the process. 

It's pretty messianic stuff, which part of the reason we're not quite sure Lilith is actually dead… yet. Many on Pandora, including Tannis and Ava, are seen in the credits sequence investigating their friend's whereabouts, which suggests she's merely "stuck" somewhere on Elpis or beyond, and there's a chance to bring her back. My best guess is that this thread will be a dominant narrative arc for Borderlands 4 which, let's face it, is as inevitable as a Skag to the slaughterhouse at this point. 

2. What's next for the Crimson Raiders? 

(Image credit: gearbox)

With Lilith gone, Ava has essentially taken over as the new leader of the Crimson Raiders, and Pandora is safe (well, as safe as it can be) once again. So… what happens now? During the post-credits, we see our heroes enjoying some well earned down time, with Hammerlock and Wainwright tying the knot, Tiny Tina and her adoptive parents Brick and Mordecia back to playing Bunkers & Badasses, and our Vault Hunters tucking into a hearty, post-adventure meal at Dynasty Diner, Avengers style. 

Meanwhile, with Ava studying to become a full time Siren, I wouldn't be surprised if she's being poised by Gearbox as one of the next set of playable characters in a future instalment, but it's unclear whether the days of Vault Hunting are behind us now that The Great Vault itself has been dealt with. For now, we're happy to give Pandora some peace and quiet, but this is the Borderlands, and a new threat will surely rear its ugly head soon enough. 

3. What is going on with the Sirens? 

(Image credit: 2K Games)

So Borderlands 3 makes some serious leaps and bounds when it comes to the lore of its Siren mythology. Going into the game, we knew that Sirens were women born with mystical powers that was somehow connected to Eridium, the mystical element left behind by an ancient alien race, and that there could only be six in existence at any one time. 

Borderlands 3 throws a spanner into all that, giving us a male siren with Troy, suggesting that Siren powers can be both siphoned from the living and inherited from the dead, and that Sirens like Maya are capable of much more than just telekinesis, including the power of premonition. Not only that, but the deaths of Troy, Tyreen, Maya, and Lilith (?) leaves a huge vacuum for at least three more Sirens to appear in the future, which makes the future of the Siren-verse as indeducible as ever. Tannis herself – an expert on all things Pandoran – is also now officially known as the Sirentologist, so hopefully she'll be able to explain more in the future. 

4. Where are the rest of the Vault Hunters? 

(Image credit: Gearbox)

This strikes me as a particularly egregious omission on Gearbox's part, and one that I'm hoping future Borderlands 3 expansions can remedy. Seriously, where the hell are the likes of Axton, Salvador, Athena, Gortys, Loader Bot, and Fiona in Borderlands 3? Given that previous games have made a big effort to present former playable protagonists as major NPCs, the fact that only Zero, Maya, and Aurelia show up in person throughout the main story (with passing Easter egg nods for Timothy, Sasha, Gaige, and Krieg) strikes me as odd. 

Granted, Borderlands has an exceptionally large roster of heroes, so not every character can be included as a natural part of the story but, given the fate of the universe is at staked, you'd expect some of these guys to at least make an appearance of sorts. My hope is that Gearbox is merely saving some of its familiar faces for Borderlands 3's incoming story expansions, because the fact that we didn't even get to see Krieg say goodbye to Maya is frankly heretical.

5. What about those Tales and Pre-Sequel cliffhangers?

(Image credit: Gearbox)

Another lingering question for many longtime Borderlands fans, the fact that neither the Watcher's divine intervention at the end of The Pre-Sequel, nor the opening of the vault by Rhys and Fiona in Tales From the Borderlands, were addressed in Borderlands 3 also strikes me as irregular. The former game made a big deal out of The Watcher, an emissary for the Eridians, who prophesied the onset of The Calypsos years before they landed on Pandora's shores, but this seemingly omnipotent, omniscient entity is mentioned only in passing again during the events of the Commander Lilith DLC. 

As for Tales, it's a little disappointing to have spent several hours hunting the Vault of the Traveller as Rhys and Fiona, only to never find out what was inside, where the pair mysteriously teleported to when they opened it, and what happened to Fiona outright. Again, there's room for clarification in future DLCs, but ignoring these cliffhangers means Borderlands 3 doesn't quite close the books on this era of Borderlands as neatly as we'd hoped. 

Check out our full list of Borderlands 3 Shift codes, or watch our Borderlands story recap video to catch up on everything that's happened so far.

Alex Avard

I'm GamesRadar's Features Writer, which makes me responsible for gracing the internet with as many of my words as possible, including reviews, previews, interviews, and more. Lucky internet!