How Borderlands 3 Balances Heartbreaking Moments With Humor

Borderlands, as a franchise, is known for its over-the-top, outlandish humor. As the games have continued to release, that humor has continuously ratcheted up, but there's only so far you can take things, right? There's a ceiling out there that may or may not have already be hit. At a recent preview event for the video game, we asked co-lead writer Sam Winkler whether it was exhausting to keep up with that tempo, and his answer explained how the team balances humor with heartbreak.

"I mean the short answer is yeah, there's a lot of pressure to be funny on it, because that's what the fans expect, and I think that's a core piece of the Borderlands brand," Winkler said. "One, our writing team is larger than it's ever been before, and so we have a diverse sense of humor. What makes me laugh is not necessarily the same thing that makes Danny [Homan, the other co-lead writer,] laugh, and the jokes we write are commensurately different."

"So really, we just try to make each other laugh all the time ,and from that sort of melting pot we end up with really strong jokes, and it's also a very democratic process," he continued. "It's not just kill your darlings, it's put your darlings on a conveyor belt into a thresher. We'll write a joke a million times, because if it's not hitting, it's not hitting, but you know we just want as many varied types of jokes as possible, because one of the story opportunities that it opens up is, you know, humor is very disarming, and I think when people are laughing they're not expecting an emotional payload or a cool triumphant moment to come out of that."

Winkler noted that this emotional triumph could also be related to turning around something that's a little bit darker than the game's usual fare.

"After a heartbreaking moment, we can hit them with a joke, and that'll just make everything OK," he added. "I think Borderlands 2's Tina DLC, the Assault on Dragon Keep, did a really good job of having a light, fun engaging story that had this dark sadness at its core. And we have some similar hard moments in Borderlands 3 that kind of hit you really hard, because maybe the thing you just did was really funny and really active and engaging and then we take you to a new level."


What do you think about what you've heard about Borderlands 3 so far? Are you excited to check out the latest and greatest in the franchise, or have you done your time and moved on from Borderlands? Let us know in the comments, or hit me up directly on Twitter at @rollinbishop to talk all things gaming!

Borderlands 3 releases for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via the Epic Games Store on September 13th. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the upcoming video game right here.