The first few hours of every Borderlands game tend to feel like an uphill grind until you finally unlock better skills and find cooler weapons. Borderlands 3 is no different. But it gets a lot better once you leave Pandora, especially if you want to find a gun that isn’t an underpowered pistol or a shotgun. If that’s you, leave Pandora as soon as you can.
Pandora is a familiar, and therefore comfortable, place for Borderlands players. It’s the planet on which the first two Borderlands games were set, although Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel took players to Pandora’s nearby moon. As a Borderlands player I am used to starting in just one place, doing every single side quest in that place until it’s done, and then the game ends.
Borderlands 3 opens up the entire rest of the galaxy. The protagonist starts on Pandora, but eventually they get a spaceship that can fly to several other planets, where there are new guns to discover and new treasures to loot. As an added bonus, as soon as you enter that spaceship, you automatically unlock your third weapon slot. You will need that extra space to carry all the cool shit you can discover once Pandora’s in the rear view mirror.
You’ll have to stick around Pandora long enough to get through some main missions, and you’ll probably need to do a handful of side quests so you can level up enough to beat the area’s final boss. Much like The Hinterlands, the notoriously slow starting area in Dragon Age: Inquisition, Pandora doesn’t have much good to offer, unless you’re a player who loves pistols and shotguns. Pandora is full of waves of enemies, from Skags to Fanatics, but the game doesn’t give you good weapons to deal with them. Between levels 1 and 5, almost every weapon I found was either a crappy pistol or a crappy shotgun. It was frustrating.
My colleague Joshua Rivera, who reviewed the game, told me that his experience was similar. He also told me to skip all of the side quests on Pandora and high-tail it out of there as fast as possible.
I took this advice, ignored my remaining side quests and shotgunned my way through the main storyline. The best guns, as well as the best skills on the skill tree, didn’t start kicking in until I reached level 6. It’s not easy to fight a huge wave of enemies with only a bad shotgun and a bad pistol. Eventually, at level 6, I finally found a decent, though not good assault rifle. After that point, I managed to reach the final boss on Pandora, who would be my last significant hurdle before I finally got the quest to fuel up my spaceship and could leave.
That final boss in Pandora is named Mouthpiece. He is at level 8. When I started fighting him, I was at level 6. By the time I managed to beat him, I was also at level 8. (I leveled up just from fighting him over and over and over.) In light of that, you should do at least enough side quests on Pandora to reach level 8 before you face this guy, especially if you’re playing by yourself and as Amara, the character I chose. She’s a bit weak in the early levels, but she has an unlockable skill that can increase reload speed, which was a godsend. Once again, if almost all you have are shotguns, you’re gonna need a decent reload speed.
After you get that beautiful spaceship, you can always fly back to Pandora and clean up the rest of those side quests, but you really don’t need to. The climb from level 1 to level 8 is not fun, and it sucks even more that you have to do it in an area with mediocre gun drops. But once you get past it, you hit the good stuff. I have multiple assault rifles now. All of them are good. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is glimmering in the stars that you can see from the surface of Pandora.