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In the Borderlands video game series, Roland, one of the playable characters in Borderlands 1, is shot and killed by Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2. However, throughout the course of both games, there are these stations called "New-U Stations" that respawn the player if they are killed in almost any way possible.

What I'm wondering is why, why couldn't Roland just simply respawn at a New-U station? Clearly every vault hunter has been registered to the system, and as long as you have money you can come back to life anytime.

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    I think the developers said something along the lines of "Well, we did this to anchor the respawn, we need that for the game, but it's not something we really consider part of the world." Not sure where that got said though. – Radhil Aug 25 '19 at 11:53
  • You may as well replace 'Roland' with 'every other character that died permanently' in your question. – Annatar Dec 9 '19 at 14:21
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Because they are explicitly not a real thing in-universe.

The developers have stated that these are non-canon.

According to the Wikia page about them:

Despite in-game references and explanations of New-U stations, Borderlands 2 head writer Anthony Burch has confirmed that New-U stations are not canon, and do not exist as far as the plot of any Borderlands game is concerned.

Also, it goes on to describe two amusing in-game quotes about their canonicity:

One of the New-U audio quotes in Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep says "Warning! This New-U Station is not canon." while another one in BLTPS says "Seriously, these New-U stations aren't canon."

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    And I always thought that the New-U service was a good way to explain why bad guys and bosses respawn... Oh well – HorusKol Dec 8 '19 at 9:17
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"Why didn't Roland just respawn?" is a different way to ask "Do New-U stations exist with the canon of Borderlands?". I believe that they don't because the characters of the Borderlands universe don't act like they would.

Let's assume they don't exist

Under the assumption that New-U stations exist purely for gameplay reasons and not in the canon of the story, the death of Roland, as well as any other major character, makes perfect sense. They are mortals, and therefore can die.

Let's assume they exist

Under the assumption that New-U stations do exist and are usable by the vast majority of the population, the death of Roland becomes questionable. One supportive argument for this is the fact that a quest aptly named Kill Yourself is given to you by Handsome Jack. While some may argue that it was put in as a joke, it can be assumed that Handsome Jack may want to see you leap off a cliff, knowing that you will respawn anyways.

What speaks against this theory is the fact that several characters in the story of Borderlands die, and seemingly for no good reason. The New-U stations are not prohibitively expensive (deducting only 7% of your net worth), nor are they rare enough that only a select few have access to them. On the contrary, New-U stations are scattered all across the world for seemingly no good reason, other than to serve the gameplay.

In essence, if New-U stations existed in the canon of Borderlands, then every single quest to kill a specific NPC - be it Nine-Toes or Handsome Jack - would be essentially pointless, as they could respawn within seconds and keep doing what they always have done.

Evidence from the behavior of NPCs shows that death is considered a "big deal", and people who have been killed usually stay dead. If they don't, there's usually a reason other than the New-U station for that.


Due to Occam's Razor, I believe that the theory with the least assumptions is more likely to be the correct one. And as such, I postulate that Roland did not respawn, because New-U stations are not within the canon of Borderlands. He died because he was killed, just like so many other people within the Borderlands universe.

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I haven't seen anything official stating why he could not respawn. A palatable explanation would be that, since Hyperion owns the New-U stations they just denied him the respawn. Of course, one wonders why the main characters are able to respawn if that is what happened. With that in mind, I think the answer is he didn't respawn because the writers didn't want him to.

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    Respawing is a game mechanic that's not part of the "story". Basically, you're supposed to pretend that the player characters are never defeated. Very few games consider the player death (and subsequent respawn/rebirth/etc.) a part of what is canonically happening in the story. – MechMK1 Sep 13 '19 at 12:25
  • @MechMK1 The thing is, the respawn station is an actual object in the game that explicitly talks about how it is reconstructing you after you die. So although you're right that respawn mechanics typically aren't canon, Borderlands gameplay heavily implies the opposite (though apparently the writers say this is more a failing on their part than actual canon). – JMac Sep 13 '19 at 12:55
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    @JMac Is there any scene in one of the Borderlands games where an NPC uses a New-U station? I can't think of any right now, but it's been a while since I played Borderlands. – MechMK1 Sep 13 '19 at 12:57
  • @MechMK1 That's beside my point. The New-U station interacts with you the same way as everything else in the game that is canon, without any clear way to tell that it is not actually part of the canon. Even the writers seem to agree they made it appear canon when it was not. – JMac Sep 13 '19 at 13:00
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    @JMac Under the assumption that New-U stations are not canon, then Roland's death makes complete sense. Under the assumption that New-U stations are canon, many questions open up, such as why the Vault hunters would even bother trying to kill Handsome Jack, if he could respawn anyways. Actually, why anyone would attempt to kill anyone would be in question, since they could just respawn. The assumption that respawning is outside of canon is the one that would impact the world the least and would make most sense, given how people act (e.g. killing someone is possible and is a big deal). – MechMK1 Sep 13 '19 at 14:21
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I think the reason behind the new u stations only working for the player is because every borderlands game is just a story, at the beginning of each one Marcus is telling the story to someone, and from a story perspective the reader can never die, only the set characters in the story. Therefore the new you stations are essentially you just going back a couple paragraphs or sentences and just rereading.

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