Borderlands 3 characters & skill trees guide
Spoiler: all the Borderlands 3 characters are tremendously OP
The above quartet of Borderlands 3 characters are pretty much everything Borderlands players could have asked for. They're colourful, they're varied, and they're larger-than-life gun-toting terminators with oodles of customisation options thanks to their intricate Skill Trees and Action Skills. With Amara the Siren, FL4K the Beastmaster, Moze the Gunner, and Zane the Operative, you'll have your hands full from the very start of the game just deciding who to pick and how to play them.
Our Borderlands 3 characters & skill trees guide will walk you through each Vault Hunter's skills, stats, strengths, weaknesses, backstories, and much more. There are no wrong choices with these characters, but we'll make sure you have the best possible experience during your time with whoever you pick.
Borderlands 3 characters & skill trees overview
Before we get stuck into the various Borderlands 3 characters and skill trees on offer, let's take a moment to go over exactly how skills work in Borderlands 3 - because even if you're a veteran of the series, there are one or two ways that Borderlands 3 shakes up the formula of the previous games.
- Each of the four Borderlands 3 characters have three different action skills at their disposal - but only one action skill slot, so you can only use one at a time (with the exception of Zane, who can have two skills active).
- These action skills can be offensive or defensive - most often a mix of the two - and attached to each action skill is a detailed skill tree which you can slowly explore by assigning skill points which you earn whenever you level up.
- Borderlands 3 skill trees, as you'll probably expect if you've played previous Borderlands games, are fairly complex; but they provide magnificent scope for customising your character and your playstyle however you see fit.
Now I know you're itching to get stuck into the characters and skill trees, so I'll just briefly go over a couple of useful bits of terminology you should know going in:
- Passive skills are what the majority of each skill tree consists of. These passives, predictably, provide a passive benefit to your character, such as increased gun damage or a faster weapon swap time; and many passive abilities can be levelled up multiple times to enhance their effect.
- Capstones are the final perks in each skill tree. You'll need to invest around 25 points into a tree in order to unlock that tree's Capstone, but it's often worth it, because some Capstones can have extremely powerful and game-changing effects.
- Augments, like the normal passive abilities which populate each skill tree, are unlocked after you invest a certain number of skill points into the tree. But augments differ in that they provide a powerful bonus to the action skill itself, rather than just an aspect of your character. For example, Zane has an Augment in his Under Cover skill tree which turns his Barrier into a dome, to protect him and allies from all sides at once. Augments are a very important part of every Borderlands 3 skill tree and character build.
Alright, now let's talk about the Borderlands 3 characters themselves. Click on any of the links just below to skip ahead to a particular Vault Hunter.
- Borderlands 3 characters & skill trees overview
- Amara :: skill tree & action skills :: strengths & weaknesses :: builds & skill tree planner
- FL4K :: skill tree & action skills :: strengths & weaknesses :: builds & skill tree planner
- Moze :: skill tree & action skills :: strengths & weaknesses :: builds & skill tree planner
- Zane :: skill tree & action skills :: strengths & weaknesses :: builds & skill tree planner
Borderlands 3 characters - Amara skill tree, builds, tips
Let's kick things off with Amara the Siren. If you've played the previous games then you'll know all about the Sirens - women with fantastic sorcerous powers, distinguishable by the tattoos that run along half their body. There can only be six Sirens living at any one time, and Amara, with her no-nonsense, punch-first-ask-questions-later attitude, is perfectly capable of maintaining the fearsome reputation of the six.
Amara skill tree & action skills explained
Let's take a look first at Amara's three Action Skills, and then the associated skill trees you can use to level her up:
- Phaseslam (Brawl skill tree) - Amara leaps into the air and Slams the ground, dealing damage to all nearby enemies and knocking them up (35s cooldown).
- Phasecast (Mystical Assault skill tree) - Amara sends forward an Astral Projection of herself, dealing damage to everything in its path (28s cooldown).
- Phasegrasp (Fist of the Elements skill tree) - Amara summons a giant fist that bursts from the ground and locks the targeted enemy in place for a few seconds. Enemies immune to being grasped take instant damage instead (16s cooldown).
Amara playstyles - strengths & weaknesses
Amara is a powerhouse no matter how she's played, but she excels at messy close-quarters conflicts, particularly if you gravitate more towards her Phaseslam skill than the others (and I wouldn't blame you, because it's pretty fantastic).
Her downside, if there is any, is that you need to have decent aim with her abilities. If you miss with her Phaseslam or Phasecast then you've got quite a wait ahead of you before you can use them again.
Amara builds - skill tree planner & builds tool
We've got a fully-fledged Borderlands 3 Amara build guide up and running for you to peruse, with in-depth looks at three top-tier builds for the Siren herself - one for each Action Skill at her disposal. Take a look!
And if you want to get started planning your own Amara builds, then check out the official Borderlands 3 Amara build planner. You can use this tool to easily plan out your path through Amara's skill trees, assigning points wherever you see fit to turn her into your favourite kind of destruction-wielding death-bringing Siren.
Borderlands 3 characters - FL4K skill tree, builds, tips
Next up is FL4K the Beastmaster, who already looks like they might end up the most popular choice of the four Borderlands 3 characters. Not only are they a crack shot with any weapon, but they also have the unswerving loyalty of their three pets, one of whom can be brought into battle at a time in order to lend some much needed support, aggression, and companionship.
FL4K skill tree & action skills explained
Now it's time to look more into FL4K's three action skills and pets to choose between with each fight:
- Jabber Sidekick (Stalker skill tree) - FL4K is joined by a loyal Jabber companion, armed with a Pistol. While accompanied by the Jabber, FL4K's Movement Speed is increased. Issuing an Attack Command will cause the Jabber to throw a Radiation Barrel at enemies.
- Spiderant Centurion (Hunter skill tree) - FL4K is joined by a loyal Spiderant companion, which will cause FL4K to constantly regenerate health. Issuing an Attack Command will cause the Spiderant to charge into enemies.
- Guard Skag (Master skill tree) - FL4K is joined by a loyal Skag companion, which will increase FL4K's Damage. Issuing an Attack Command will cause the Skag to vomit acid onto enemies.
- Fade Away (Stalker skill tree) - FL4K cloaks, turning invisible. FL4K can fire 3 shots while cloaked, and each shot is automatically a Critical Hit. While cloaked, FL4K has increased Movement Speed and Health Regeneration (45s cooldown).
- Rakk Attack! (Hunter skill tree) - FL4K sends forward 2 Rakk to dive-bomb enemies. This skill has multiple charges (18s cooldown).
- Gamma Burst (Master skill tree) - FL4K creates a Rift at a target location, teleporting their pet through the Rift and dealing Radiation Damage to nearby enemies. Additionally, FL4K's pet becomes irradiated, growing in size and dealing bonus Radiation Damage when it attacks. Using Gamma Burst while FL4K's Pet is downed or dead will revive the pet at the targeted location with 30% of its health, but will double Action Skill Cooldown Time (30s cooldown).
FL4K playstyles - strengths & weaknesses
FL4K is the obvious choice for solo play thanks to their trio of faithful and fearsome pets, but they're also capable of slotting into any team with ease. The focus with FL4K is very much on big, big gun damage - not to mention critical hits galore if you upgrade them right. FL4K can make any weapon - particularly Jakobs weapons - absolutely sing death and destruction in their hands.
To counteract this massive damage potential, the pets can get a little clunky and annoying by all accounts, and in some fights they're downright useless, so you can't rely solely upon their help 100% of the time.
FL4K builds - skill tree planner & builds tool
If you want to get started building up FL4K in the best possible ways for insane damage, sniping potential, pet and action skill damage, whatever: your best bet is our Borderlands 3 FL4K build guide, which will walk you through three top-tier builds, one for each pet and action skill at your disposal.
But if you're now itching to plan out your own route to take through FL4K's bestial skill trees, look no further than the official Borderlands 3 FL4K build planner, where you can spend time assigning skill points wherever you see fit to make the most of FL4K's armoury (not to mention their bestiary).
Borderlands 3 characters - Moze skill tree, builds, tips
Moze the Gunner, is always capable of making a grand entrance, clad in 15 tonnes of super-gun-toting Iron Bear mech. A soldier through and through, Moze can always be relied upon to bring more firepower to any encounter than the other three characters put together.
Moze skill tree & action skills explained
Let's take a look at the three Action Skills (read: enormous guns) available to Moze and her Iron Bear mech:
- Minigun (Bottomless Mags skill tree) - The Minigun is capable of sustained rapid fire. Firing for long periods causes the Minigun to overheat, rendering it inoperable for a few seconds.
- Railgun (Shield of Retribution skill tree) - The Railgun fires electrified high-velocity projectiles that deal Shock Damage.
- V-35 Grenade Launcher (Demolition Woman skill tree) - The V-35 is a semi-automatic grenade launcher. Its grenades are not affected by Moze's equipped grenade mod.
Moze playstyles - strengths & weaknesses
Why should you pick Moze and her Iron Bear mech as your Vault Hunter of choice? She's probably got the highest potential for sustained DPS (Damage Per Second) of all the characters - but she also has excellent survivability as long as she's safe and snug inside her mech. There's a lot of flexibility in how you want to upgrade her, too so that you can go a decent way towards making up for her drawbacks.
What are those drawbacks? She's big and slow when inside her mech, so if you want mobility you'll need to be outside the Iron Bear. And without her mech, Moze is very squishy - and the Iron Bear is on a high cooldown, so you'll need to act fast and play it safe during those times if you want to make it out alive. She's quite dependant on the gear you find, too, which means you may not realise her full potential until later on in the game.
Moze builds - skill tree planner & builds tool
Moze may seem like a bit of a one-trick (mecha-) pony, but there's an awful lot of different paths to take through her three different skill trees. We've broken down four of our favourites in our Borderlands 3 Moze build guide, each focusing on different skill trees and paths of immensely enjoyable destruction.
And if you want to start planning a build of your own, check out the official Borderlands 3 Moze build planner for a tool which will allow you to plan out your entire build from start to finish, all from the comfort of your own 15-tonne Tritanium home.
Borderlands 3 characters - Zane skill tree, builds, tips
What can be said about Zane the Operative, that he hasn't already said by himself, to himself? A retired-but-not-really hitman with a penchant for snappy one-liners (as well as equally funny long, rambling several-liners), Zane is probably the most flexible and versatile Borderlands 3 character thanks to the unique ability to use two action skills at once (though if you do this, you'll have to sacrifice your grenades for it).
Zane skill tree & action skills explained
Zane's Action Skills are particularly diverse and the ability to combine them gives you a great many possibilities. Let's take a look at each Skill in turn:
- Barrier (Under Cover skill tree) - Drop a deployable Barrier that blocks incoming projectiles. Zane and his allies can shoot through the Barrier, dealing increased Gun Damage. Pressing "F" or "G" (by default) while Barrier is active picks up and holds the Barrier, but the size and bonuses are decreased (24s cooldown).
- Digi-Clone (Doubled Agent skill tree) - Spawn a Digi-Clone of Zane. This Clone stays in place, but distracts and fires at enemies. Pressing "F" or "G" (by default) while the Clone is active causes Zane and the Clone to swap places (28s cooldown).
- SNTNL (Hitman skill tree) - Send into battle an automated SNTNL drone that continually flies through the environment and attacks enemies with its Machine Guns. Pressing "F" or "G" (by default) while SNTNL is active causes it to attack the enemy under Zane's crosshairs, if any (60s cooldown).
Zane playstyles - strengths & weaknesses
Quite unexpectedly for a hitman, Zane has the capacity to become possibly the tankiest Vault Hunter out there, especially if you focus on his Under Cover skill tree. He also offers by far the most flexibility in terms of builds, and it really opens up new possibilities in every encounter when you can use two action skills at the same time instead of just one.
The only real downside to Zane is the traditional counterbalance to any particularly versatile character in games: when it comes to builds that are very focused on one specific thing (gun damage, for example), Zane is rarely capable of matching the potential of the other characters. He can still grow to feel utterly OP, just like the others; he's just unlikely to be the very best in one area.
Zane builds - skill tree planner & builds tool
Each of the Borderlands 3 characters are enormously flexible when it comes to their builds, but Zane puts them all to shame thanks to his "two skills at once" rule. Take a look at our Borderlands 3 Zane build guide for three of the strongest builds for maximising the Operative considerable potential.
And if you want to create your own zaney Zane build, you'll definitely want to spend some time with the official Borderlands 3 Zane build planner.
And that's all we've got to give you for now on the Borderlands 3 characters and skill trees; but hopefully the above has been enough to give you an idea of how each one excels, and how versatile and OP you can become no matter your choice of Vault Hunter.