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Putting the spotlight on the Borderlands art style

Ballantine's x Borderlands

The Borderlands art style is distinctive. And we’re here to tell you more about it, as well as how it inspired our limited launch of Ballantine’s Moxxi’s Bar Edition.

Over the years, there has been much debate about the art style used to bring Pandora and all its inhabitants to life. Its distinctive imagery is a blend of bold outlines, vivid colours and flat, 2D characters and landscapes. Some people swear that this art style that the Borderlands games use is cell-shaded graphics. But those people are wrong.

Let’s set the scene. You finish an intense day of fighting off Bullymongs and Bandits in Three Horns and return to Sanctuary ready for some respite. You’ve got a long day of looting planned for tomorrow but there’s just enough time for a pit stop at Mad Moxxi’s Bar before you hit the hay.

A bright neon sign welcomes you to the bar and you hear music coming from inside. You climb the stairs and have a quick spin on the slot machines before a brief exchange with Sir Hammerlock. He seems to always be here. But that’s enough chit-chat. You head to the bar and Moxxi herself greets you with a “Hey Darlin’”. You order a refreshing Apocalypse Spritz, take a sip and then check out your surroundings.

They’re awesome. Moxxi’s porcelain skin has just a pop of rose on her cheeks. The barrels behind her look aged and the scuffed, cracked bar you’re propped up at has seen a few fights.

The Borderlands art style: concept

Over the years, there has been much debate about the style used to bring Pandora and all its inhabitants to life. Some people swear that the Borderlands games use cel-shading. But those people are wrong. 

Gearbox, the company behind the Borderlands series, cleared things up. The CEO, Randy Pitchford, took to social media to explain that they have always referred to the Borderlands art style as ‘concept’ or ‘graphic novel’ and concept artist Amanda Christensen explained that “everything is meticulously hand painted and inked”.

It came close to being something else entirely. When Borderlands was first shown to the public way back in 2007, it had a very different vibe. It had the dark, realistically gloomy style that many sci-fi games had at the time and an environment that was predominantly shades of brown and grey. The game was then demoed at the 2K Games E3 2008 press conference before disappearing. 

The following year, Borderlands popped back up, much like a skag that you thought had bit the dust, with a radical new look that’s become synonymous with the Borderlands series. The cartoonish visuals set Borderlands apart from other games and the colour palette added excitement to a kooky post-apocalyptic world.


The inspiration behind the Borderlands design

Borderlands was inspired by a short film called Codehunters which was released in 2006. It uses a mix of Eastern anime and Western animation techniques and it’s easy to see the influence it had on Borderlands’ art style.

The film follows four characters in a crumbling city as they fight gangs, corrupt officials, and monsters. This story seemingly guided Gearbox too considering the original Borderlands game gives players the choice of four vault hunters; Mordecai, Roland, Lilith, and Brick who battle various nefarious characters on their journey across Pandora in search of the ‘Vault’.

When Borderlands 3 came around in 2019, the art director for the game, Scott Kester, revealed where he drew further inspiration from. He referenced South African director Neil Blomkamp, stating that playable character FL4K was influenced by Chappy, one of Blomkamp’s films. He also gave a nod to the anime movie Tekkon Kinkreet, and in particular, two characters named Black and White.


Ballantine's x Borderlands Moxxi Streamer Pack

How does the Borderlands art style add to the characters’ designs and personas?

How doesn’t it? The distinctive concept art style of the Borderlands world makes for immersive, consistent gameplay but it still allows every character to be wonderfully unique. Claptrap wouldn’t be the same without his beat-up yellow body and bright blue eye. Lilith’s fiery personality is mirrored in her red hair and the psychos are instantly recognizable due to their orange trousers, shirtless torsos, and white masks, which feature on every single game cover. 

And we can’t discuss characters without mentioning Mad Moxxi. She is the face of Ballantine’s x Borderlands Moxxi’s Bar Edition after all. Moxxi is a lover and a fighter. She has had a string of marriages and failed relationships but still wears her heart on her chest with a red tattoo. But she’s also tough and not scared to throw hands which is probably why she dons fingerless leather gloves and a studded cuff bracelet. Moxxi’s attire is often compared to the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland given that she has the playing card attached to her top hat and a penchant for red clothing with splashes of black and white.

How Borderlands adds a new edge to Ballantine’s Finest

Here at Ballantine’s, we are all about staying true. We have woven this ethos into our scotch whisky, with expressions that are distinct in flavour and can be enjoyed in whatever way you like.

Borderlands’ art style shares our sentiments. It broke free from the graphic styles that were around at the time of its inception and offered something different. Something exciting. Gearbox had the confidence to divert off the beaten path and the result was epic. 

That’s why it made perfect sense to get together and create a limited-edition bottle of Ballantine’s Finest with Mad Moxxi at the helm. She’s a go-getter who isn’t afraid to be herself or get on board with fun experiences.

If you want to live a little more like Mad Moxxi, you can try something new with the help of Ballantine’s Moxxi’s Bar Edition. Pour yourself a bloodshot cocktail or rustle up a scotch and ginger beer.  Plus, we’ve got loads more whisky cocktail recipes for inspiration including whisky sour variations and light whisky cocktails that are sure to help you find your own signature serve.

Ballantine’s x Borderlands: The Game

With a little help from Ballantine’s newest recruit, Moxxi, we have partnered with one of the most loved gaming franchises of all time, Borderlands.

Discover More