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10 essential Borderlands 3 tips to know before you play

Borderlands 3 tips
(Image credit: Gearbox)

Our Borderlands 3 tips are guaranteed to help you navigate its extensive campaign full of monsters, guns, secrets and more. There's a lot to take from this solar system sized array of explorable planets and its stat heavy characters and weapons. So let our Borderlands 3 tips ease you in and help you through some of the more challenging problems and decisions you might face. 

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With that in mind, these Borderlands 3 tips come straight from the soul of someone who's been putting serious amounts of time in the game over the last few days, and are designed to give you a leg up against all those pesky cultists causing trouble across the galaxy. From revamped Action Skills and Alternate Fire Modes to destructible cover and deduction-based Crew Challenges, these are the best Borderlands 3 tips to help you become a True Vault Hunter in no time at all. 

1. Always check for alternate fire modes

(Image credit: Gearbox)

A new feature for Borderlands 3 is the addition of alternate fire modes for a number of guns across the game's arsenal of loot, but it can be easy to either forget to make the best use of these, or completely miss them altogether. Whenever you equip a new weapon, be sure to check its in-game description from your inventory to find out whether it has any alternate fire modes, and what each one does. 

You'll then be able to switch between the two modes at any time using the D-Pad, but alternate wisely. If a sniper rifle has corrosive and shock damage, for example, be sure to deploy the former against robot enemy types and the latter against any foes with shields, as these different elements work best against their respective materials. Keep an eye, switch wisely and often, and you'll find Borderlands 3's combat to be a lot more manageable.  

2. Do your research for character builds

(Image credit: Gearbox)

As is the custom for Borderlands, each of the four playable Vault Hunters in Borderlands 3 bears a triage of skill trees that can be invested in and customised as you level them up throughout the campaign. Gearbox has already put every Vault Hunter's skill tree online via its website, however, and the Borderlands community has already got to work in finding out the best and coolest builds for each hero, thus compiling them altogether in one mega-thread for your perusal on Reddit

For instance, check out Dual Salamander Moze, which puts full emphasis on the character's damage output for those with a 'shoot first, ask questions later' play style. Alternatively, there's Perma Invisible Crit Fl4K; a build for Borderlands 3's new Hunter class that's all about stealth and subterfuge, ideal for snipers, as it essentially allows players to remain invisible for as long as possible while landing some seriously heavy critical hits. So, before you even jump into Borderlands 3, take a look online (or at our own skill tree guides below), find a build that's right for you, and start investing those perk points properly. 

3. Make use of the destructible environments

(Image credit: Gearbox)

Not that Borderlands has ever been much of a cover shooter anyway, but it's worth bearing in mind that certain objects and environments in Borderlands 3 can be shot through or destroyed completely with bullets and explosives, leaving enemies with fewer places to hide. 

Of course, the inverse of that destructibility is that your Vault Hunter will have less viable spaces for recovery, too, as enemies will be just as good at destroying your cover as you are at theirs. With that in mind, it's best to stay mobile in Borderlands 3, with smart forward-offensive positions often the best strategy for combat, but if a certain cover-obsessed enemy is beginning to wind you up, a simple grenade lob will easily make quick work of their defense. 

4. Spice up co-op with co-opetition mode

(Image credit: Gearbox)

Gearbox has made a big song and dance about the fact that loot instancing is now separated between players during co-op in Borderlands 3, meaning you won't have to share loot with friends and strangers (either online or in local splitscreen), while level scaling also ensures less experienced Vault Hunters can team up with friends further down the line without having to worry about being overwhelmed. 

However, if you're looking to add a competitive edge to your Borderlands fraternising, or simply want to keep things old school, you can turn off both loot instancing and level scaling from the main menu of the game with Co-opetition Mode. You'll be fighting amongst yourselves for the best Borderlands 3 weapons, and any Vault Hunter who can't keep up with their friend's progress will have an uphill battle in surviving firefights, but if you're for a little extra challenge in your multiplayer sessions, feel free to activate it as soon as you like. 

5. Elemental barrels don't punch themselves

(Image credit: Gearbox)

The Borderlands game engine has been spruced with a spanky new set of physics simulations for Borderlands 3, meaning that enemies and items ragdoll across the environment like tumbleweed caught in a Pandoran sandstorm. For you, the important TLDR is that Vault Hunters can now punch explosive barrels into enemies from afar, sending them an explosive present that, unfortunately, doesn't end in smiles. 

All you need to do is get up close to a barrel before it's combusted, face the direction you're aiming for, and give it a good old whack with the melee button, before watching the fireworks unfold. It's a great way to close the distance on a particularly tough enemy, or bring some serious area-of-effect damage if you've run out of grenades. Again, though, beware that this tactic doesn't (literally) blow up in your face by mistake. 

6. Don't ignore your Crew Challenges

(Image credit: Gearbox)

Another new feature that extends Borderlands 3's conveyer belt of content even further are the Crew Missions, which are essentially Gearbox's answer to contextualised collectables, found in the form of Typhon Logs, Claptrap parts, and more. It's simple; complete all the listed objectives of the Crew Mission in a single zone, and you'll be rewarded with unique loot and gear.  

You can keep track of each Crew Mission easily from the map section of your menu, but most of their required collectibles will appear organically as you're running through the campaign and various side missions across each area. It's just a simple case of keeping tabs on each one as you progress through a zone, but don't move on to the next planet before you've wrapped them up, as the rewards are well worth the effort. 

7. Recover lost loot from Sanctuary 3

(Image credit: Gearbox)

Taking a note from the Destiny playbook, a certain number of Borderlands 3's loot drops that accidentally pass you by in the heat of the action will be returned to the lost loot section of your headquarters aboard Sanctuary 3. 

Open up the machine, and you'll can recover the weapons you left behind available to equip, completely free of charge. Visit Marcus' store on Sanctuary 3 to buy SDUs which increases the inventory size for lost loot, allowing you to recover more weapons from the machine at a time. 

8. Instantly refill your ammo with the click of a button

(Image credit: Gearbox)

While ammo is hardly scarce in Borderlands 3, there will be a number of times when you need to max out those magazines, either in preparation for an upcoming boss fight, or simply because you're starting to get a little too trigger happy with your new favourite weapon. 

Marcus Munitions vending machines are frequently peppered around zones for precisely that reason, and - unlike previous Borderlands games - these pit stops let you max out your ammo without even having to browse their wares. Just hit the "Refill Ammo" button as you're facing the machine, and it'll instantly stock you up … for a small fee, of course. 

9. Always complete the bonus objectives

(Image credit: Gearbox)

Several missions in Borderlands 3, including side missions external to the campaign, will offer optional bonus objectives that add an extra layer of challenge to your questing across the galaxy. You might be asked to shoot an enemy boss in their rear end, for example, or kill a certain amount of skags with explosive weapons. 

While they may seem like trivial tick boxes to flesh out a mission, completing these bonus objectives will provide extra rewards upon finishing the quest, some of which come in the form of rare weapons that you won't be able to find anywhere else, on top of extra XP for levelling up. Don't ignore them. 

10. Get Legendary Loot with Borderlands 3 Shift Codes 

(Image credit: Gearbox)

Borderlands Shift Codes are digital keys that can be used to unlock Legendary cosmetics and weapons across almost all of the games in the franchise so far, and Borderlands 3 isn't excluded. You'll find a Golden Chest sat in your home base of Sanctuary 3, for instance, which guarantees to contain Epic loot at the very least within, but can only be opened with one-time use Golden Keys (acquired through redeeming Shift codes). 

Luckily, Gearbox is pretty liberal when it comes to handing these out, both as social media freebies and through various promotions online, and most of them don't have an expiry date either. You can check out our full list of currently valid keys with our guide to Borderlands 3 Shift Codes, and can redeem them from the Social section of the in-game main menu. 

Check out our Borderlands 3 review, or watch our Borderlands story recap video to catch up on everything that's happened so far. 

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!