Borderlands Part 13: What a Twist!

By Shamus
on Oct 12, 2017
Filed under:
Borderlands

Roland decides that the best thing to do is steal the vault key from Handsome Jack. This means “hijacking” a train by blowing up the tracks and then stealing the vault key.

Along the way we meet Mordecai. Like our meeting with Lilith, the game goes out of its way to make his appearance a sort of awkward surprise reveal.

After that we meet Tiny Tina. Let’s talk about her…

Tiny Tina

Tina has the voice of Ashley Burch, the sister of the the writer of Borderlands 2. I guess it makes sense that this character clicks so well.

Tina has the voice of Ashley Burch, the sister of the the writer of Borderlands 2. I guess it makes sense that this character clicks so well.

If I’d been in charge of Borderlands 2 and Anthony Burch had come to me with the idea of making one of the main characters a 13 year old girl, I would have told him he was crazy. “There is way too much murder and torture in this universe, and we’re trying to play it for laughs. We can’t put a child in there!”

But Tina works. In fact, she nails the madcap tone the game is going for much better than any of the returning characters. She’s a demolitionist, and having this kid plot large-scale destruction while also engaging in frivolous little-kid chatter is kind of dark but also really amusing.

But her sidequest is where things get really dark. She throws a “tea party” for Flesh-Stick, a local psycho who killed her family. You have to capture Flesh-Stick and he ends up strapped to a chair where she can blast him with electricity. At the party she has tea and crumpets with her stuffed animals while also shocking Flesh-Stick. She basically tortures the guy to death while the player fends off the waves of psychos coming to rescue him. It’s completely screwed up and it even made me a little uncomfortable, but I really like that the game has an identity now. You can compare this to the “busted girl parts” of Borderlands 1. You might like this part, you might not, but at least we can tell where the humor is coming from and what the story is trying to say.

What a Twist!

The story has been telegraphing an eventual confrontation with Wilhelm, Jack`s muscle. Here we finally get the payoff for that build-up.

The story has been telegraphing an eventual confrontation with Wilhelm, Jack`s muscle. Here we finally get the payoff for that build-up.

It turns out that the vault key isn’t on the train as reportedWhich, yeah. Why would Jack have put his vault key on a train? He’s busy charging it and there’s no reason to move it around. Mordecai’s intel sucks.. Instead it’s a surprise boss fight. When it’s over, you pick up this “strange” power coreRemember that Sanctuary has this shield to protect it from orbital bombardment, and the shield is sustained by a power core. The player got one earlier in the game, and it’s starting to burn out..

What happens next is probably the most thoroughly telegraphed and obvious twist since the last time Lucy pulled the football away from Charlie Brown. Angel urges you to take the power core. Roland makes a point of remarking on how unusual the power core looksThis is evidently one of the points in the game where he can look out through your eyes.. Handsome Jack calls up and mockingly congratulates you. He thinks it’s all a joke and isn’t frustrated that you blew up his train and killed his right-hand goon. He even remarks on the power core, and then warns you that things are about to go badly for you. Back at Sanctuary, the guy in charge of the shield generator even comments that he’s “never seen one like that before”. He says he doesn’t like using tech from Hyperion (the bad guys!) but they really need a fresh battery for their magic shield. The player has to know at this point that they’re not going to plug this thing in and have everything work out fine. They have to know things will go sideways as soon as they plug in this power core. You can see this twist coming a mile off.

Paradoxically, I think over-telegraphing a twist like this makes it a lot easier to swallow. One of my pet peeves is when the game designer hits me with a bullshit twist that wasn’t set up at all. My other pet peeve is when I can see a trap coming but I’m obliged to fall for it, and then the game designer jumps out and yells “gotcha!” at the player. This over-telegraphed twist avoids both of these pitfalls.

That`s Jack`s doomsday base in front of the moon in the upper left corner. It`s been ineffectively bombing the city since we arrived in Sanctuary, but now that the shields are down the bombs are getting through.

That`s Jack`s doomsday base in front of the moon in the upper left corner. It`s been ineffectively bombing the city since we arrived in Sanctuary, but now that the shields are down the bombs are getting through.

In most games I’d prefer a twist to be properly telegraphed, but catch me off-guard anyway. That happened to me in Jade Empire and I loved it. But those kinds of twists are monumentally hard to pull off. A lot of people saw the Jade Empire twist coming right from the start because they had better genre awareness. You can’t fool all of the people all of time. Heck, it’s really hard to just fool half of them. Some people are bound to see it coming, and for them the twist will fall flat. And in the world of internet spoilers, if you only fool half of them then the first few will spoil it for the rest and you won’t fool anyone.

So why does this over-telegraphed twist work?

Borderlands is nominally a comedy game. This kind of over-telegraphed trap wouldn’t work if Sanctuary was filled with sympathetic civilians and we felt like we were about to put them in real danger. The player would stop short of plugging in the new power core thinking, “This seems like a bad idea. I don’t want to do this. Why do I have to do this?”

This doesn’t result in a brutal loss. Sure, Sanctuary is in peril, but we don’t actually lose any of our friends in this scene. In fact, the payoff is a spectacular scene where Scooter finally gets the city flying and Lilith teleports it to safety. It’s an exciting moment, not a gut-punch. If this action got (say) Moxxi killed, then I think her end would leave a bad taste in the player’s mouth. We do endure some bad losses later on, but those setbacks aren’t the result of this “trap”.

Scooter gets the city to levitate and then Lilith teleports it away.

Scooter gets the city to levitate and then Lilith teleports it away.

It’s done through characters. The game designer seems to be saying, “Yep. You see this coming. But Roland and the others don’t.” The thrust here is that Jack fooled Roland and this advanced their character arcs. The writer is sort of acknowledging that they haven’t fooled you (the player) and they’re not trying to. When you see it coming you can understand you’re feeling what you’re supposed to be feeling, and the writer hasn’t messed up.

You don’t have any story agency. Normally this is a bad thing in an RPG, but actual “roleplaying” was never part of the Borderlands mission statement. In your typical RPG it would be really bad if everyone else makes the decisions and the player’s only contribution is violence, but that’s exactly what we want in a game about using machine guns that shoot fire to kill cannibal midgets. I don’t think this series would benefit from plot-points where I have to decide if I want to cure the Genophage or not. Since Roland and his team are the ones making story decisions and we’re just a floating gun, it feels less like “falling” for a twist and more like witnessing one.

Angel is no Angel

Angel, I don`t want to tell you how to do your job or anything, but have you considered a non-interlacing codec for your creepy spy video feed?

Angel, I don`t want to tell you how to do your job or anything, but have you considered a non-interlacing codec for your creepy spy video feed?

This is also the payoff for Angel. It turns out she’s been working for Jack all along. Once you plug in the Totally Unsuspicious Power Core looted from your enemy with his blessing, she gains access to Sanctuary’s systems and brings down the shields. It’s obvious she’s not happy with Jack’s request. So after doing a face » heel turn, she immediately begins working on her heel » face turn.

I suppose this is good. Despite giving her a lot of dialog, the Borderlands 1 writer never really did much with her. She was a mystery I didn’t really care about because she never said anything interesting. But since she was present in Borderlands from the opening scene to the closing credits, she was also a foundational part of the game. She’s as core to the game as Claptrap, so you couldn’t just write her out of the story without comment. It would be like leaving the G-Man out of Half Life 3. You can’t just casually drop stuff like that.

She spends the next chapter proving her sincerity and explaining what you actually need to do to beat Jack. (Which makes you wonder why she waited until after Jack sprang his trap to betray him, but whatever. We’ll learn later that these two have a very complicated relationship.) It turns out she has the vault key, and the player needs to reach her to stop Jack. All of this is a build-up to the eventual confrontation between Jack, Angel, Roland, and the Player.

Skipping Ahead

The game is usually pretty good about making sure the H-base is visible in the sky at important moments / angles. If you look on the hills in the distance, you can see a little speck. That`s Mordecai providing sniper support.

The game is usually pretty good about making sure the H-base is visible in the sky at important moments / angles. If you look on the hills in the distance, you can see a little speck. That`s Mordecai providing sniper support.

We’re going to skip a lot of the story here. Without getting into details, the game sends you to meet a guy called “The Slab King”. This turns out to be Brick, another Borderlands 1 alumni who has been renamed solely for the purpose of creating a surprise reveal. Although since this the the third time the writer has tried this, I doubt there’s much surprise left.

What is surprising is the section where Jack captures Bloodwing, Mordecai’s bird. Since the returning heroes are basically inert by writer fiat, Mordecai sends you into the Hyperion complex where Bloodwing is being held. When you get to the end you have to fight an enraged Bloodwing. Mordecai tries to save her with non-lethal means, but Jack ends up blowing her head off anyway. (Remotely. Jack hasn’t revealed himself in person yet.)

In this series I’ve talked about “comedy” and “dark comedy”, but obviously comedy isn’t modal. It’s like coffee. You can have it pitch-black and bitter, or milky-white and sweet, or anything in between. Borderlands 2 has been gradually darkening its particular blend as the story goes on. It started off somewhere on the milky end where adventures like Guardians of the Galaxy live, but once Bloodwing dies you can start to taste a little bit of the bitter. Jack gets less funny as he loses his cool. Jack has been casually mentioning the murders and tortures he’s perpetrated, and that makes his “Childish Troll” schtick a lot less amusing. Then we get to Opportunity, the shining city of totalitarian laws, over-the-top Jack propaganda, and killer robots. Now he’s feeling less like an internet troll and more like Space Hitler. There are still some jokesI love the one where he pays you eridium to kill yourself. Hilarious. but now that we’re entering the final stretch the writer is making sure we’re motivated to kill the guy.

This is a pretty good trick. If he was fun and harmless (to the player and their allies) the whole way through then we might not really want to kill him at the end. It’s like Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movie. Sure, he’s an evil jerk. But the audience isn’t really hoping for him to die, because he’s so much fun to watch. On the other hand if Borderlands 2 had started off with Handsome Hitler, then we would have missed out on a lot of jokes and we might have gotten impatient with the various digressions in the plot. This shift in the third act lets us have our jokes but still enjoy blowing away the bad guy at the end.

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Footnotes:

[1] Which, yeah. Why would Jack have put his vault key on a train? He’s busy charging it and there’s no reason to move it around. Mordecai’s intel sucks.

[2] Remember that Sanctuary has this shield to protect it from orbital bombardment, and the shield is sustained by a power core. The player got one earlier in the game, and it’s starting to burn out.

[3] This is evidently one of the points in the game where he can look out through your eyes.

[4]

[5] I love the one where he pays you eridium to kill yourself. Hilarious.


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From the Archives:

  1. Joshua says:

    Caption for the first screenshot of Tina Tina says “Broderlands”

  2. Destrustor says:

    The funny part is, in my first time through the game, the shield core twist did catch me by surprise.

    I assumed everyone’s remarks about the core being unusual were simply meant to tell me that one was a high-tech, high-efficiency one only available with Hyperion’s infinite resources, and that no one on this dump of a planet had seen one as good as this one recently.

    Jack’s reaction felt to me like an “Ha ha, okay, you got me champ! But now i’m going to get actually serious.” from a guy who is still considering you like a harmless nuisance, but has decided to start taking you seriously. You can get serious while still cracking jokes if you’ve got the unshakable conviction that you’re still going to win handily. Like someone barely holding back his mirth while getting to work.

    It made sense for him to not even care that we’d just killed his best goon, with the sorts of money he’d been throwing around since the start (blowing up an entire train line just to kill four to six people, spending the ammo to keep bombarding sanctuary every day for no reason, all those robots and such). It sort of reinforced the idea that the power core was an amazing one for it to be the one thing he remarks on, of all the things we’d stolen or destroyed so far.

    It’s only in retrospect, and in my subsequent playthroughs that I did realize his dialog had a deeper meaning.

  3. The Rocketeer says:

    I hate Tiny Tina so much (and the enemies in the region she inhabits) that her appearance pretty much ends any attempt to replay the game. I didn’t know she was played by the writer’s sister; I don’t know what it says that when the writer is indulging himself hardest, I’m enjoying his work the least. I played both the first two Borderlands games through at least once each, but neither left very much of an impression on me, and I think examining them in depth like this is doing a lot to show me why none of it clicked, retroactively lessening my rapport with the series.

    Aside from The Last of Us, this series might be the furthest out I’ve been from seeing eye-to-eye with Shamus about the game at hand, coming not long after the Arkham series, which is the next rung down on that particular ladder. I’ve not really made much comment on either series, since my reaction to both has been, “Well, I’m glad someone likes it.”

    • Echo Tango says:

      I also didn’t have a very good time with the Borderlands games, but I’m at least getting an explanation now. When I was first slogging through BL2, all I could think was, “This is boring, repetitive, I hate the story and characters, and I can’t articulate exactly why.” – now I have solid reasons for this! :)

    • OPG says:

      Tiny Tina is usually what I point to when I say that Borderlands (2) is the best dark comedy that isn’t funny. She never made me laugh (at least not in the base game), but her presence undoubtedly adds to the absurdist atmosphere, which in turn is to contrast and highlight the painful emotional cores.

      It serves a specific narrative function even if none of the jokes land, reminiscent of much of the humor in LISA: The Painful.

    • Ciennas says:

      Well? What reasons specifically bug you? The lack of player choice or agency?

      For me, what always kills my attempts to dive back in is the leveling grind system.

      Two things that make Destiny the superior co-op shooter in my opinion:

      One: Guns stop being disposable once you reach Purple tier, and are upgradeable. Long story short: Borderlands constantly has you ditching weapons, even if you really like them, until around the third playthrough of the entire game or so, when the player reaches level cap.

      Destiny lets you take favored guns with you, if you wish. After you reach the end of base game in either game, you’ll start acquiring Legendary (Purple) Tier loot. You have by this point stopped seeing white and are only rarely seeing green gear, probably fully decked out in blue gear.

      This appeals to me, because while I don’t want to hold on to all the guns, when I get a nice one, I hate that it will inevitably be lost and useless in a few levels or so.

      I liked my Vladof machine pistol, with the rotating barrel design, you bastards.

      2)A Guardian can almost always meaningfully contribute to the team regardless of level. Borderlands basically requires you to play with players of roughly the same level. On the one hand, this does conclusively prove that the treadmill you are on is leading in an upwardly direction. On the other hand, being too far behind the other players or too far ahead is a real grind, for at least one of the players.

      (For my example, joining a friend with a playthrough one character in his playthrough two game was super frustrating, because instead of being a teammate I was barely a step above an escort quest. And no, I only had the one character at the time.)

      In Destiny, barring specific instances, every player you encounter in PvE and PvP are guaranteed to be meaningfully there. A 10Light player is only slightly less useful than a 305Light player.

      I guess in the end, it boils down to when the treadmill plateaus out and lets the player use whatever they want instead of what the game thrusts upon them.

      You guys thoughts? And as a follow up, relatedly, if Borderlands irritates you, how does Destiny (Either iteration) do for you?

      • Scerro says:

        Destiny and Borderlands are very different games fundamentally. Borderlands is a story based 1-4 player game. Destiny is an MMO game will all the time intensive frills that go along with it.

    • MelTorefas says:

      I feel kind of the same way. Not a fan of the dark-and-gritty Batmen (which is most of them), so no interest in the Arkham games (and even reading Shamus’ reviews was enough to be kind of triggering, so I bailed on them early on).

      This one has been more interesting for me since I actually played a bit of both Borderlands games before abandoning them. The first game I just found boring and (by the time I played it) horribly dated in its interface and network tech. Borderlands 2, though, held my interest a bit longer because of how much I enjoyed the Mechanomancer (I love pet-based classes as a rule).

      But I still didn’t make it very far before I abandoned the game. The humor of the game didn’t work for me at all. I found Jack super annoying, and the fact that he was constantly talking and I couldn’t turn him off basically killed it for me. I eventually hit a quest where I spent an hour running through the same two marked circles on the map without ever finding the objective, and then quit and never looked back.

      The actual gameplay of the game was really fun though. I loved playing around with the different procgen guns, which is a great idea I would love to see implemented in a game I liked more. Especially if combined with a system to let you ‘upgrade’ a fun but sub-par gun into a decent or good one.

      I never made it this far in the game, so reading this review has been pretty fun. Definitely not sorry I stopped when I did though; most of what Shamus has talked about would *not* have worked for me.

      • Guile says:

        I liked Borderlands 2 quite a lot, but then, I played it with two 20-something online dude-pals. So that helped the humor land, I think; it was our kind of game.

  4. Redrock says:

    I don’t really know how to feel about the casting of Ashly Burch (yeah, that’s the correct spelling, surprisingly) in this particular case. I actually didn’t know about that until now. On the one hand, she is a legitimately great voice actor and chances are she would have been cast regardless of her brother’s involvement. And that’s what’s most important, I think. But on the other hand …. yeah. Never a good look. Dunno. I really dunno in this case.

    • Shamus says:

      Is it really that bad? Nobody complains the the Wachowskis always work together. Or the Smothers Brothers. Or John and Joan Cusack.

      The two of them are famous because of his writing + her performing, so it makes sense that his writing would create parts that suit her. (If it helps, she did say in an interview that she had to audition for the part. Although, if it was a part written with her style in mind it’s not surprising it went to her.)

      I think the bad part of nepotism is when unworthy people are given jobs because of family connections. Otherwise, it’s just collaboration between people with a solid rapport.

      • DungeonHamster says:

        I’ll second this. Sure, giving somebody a job they can’t handle just ’cause they’re kin is doing neither them nor anybody else any favors, but if they can make the cut, why not? Are we supposed to go out of our way to NOT work with the people we know the best, to NOT help the people we owe the most?

        • ehlijen says:

          It’s a somewhat tricky thing. Of course there shouldn’t be a rule that you can’t hire relatives for jobs they’re good at. But there’s also supposed to be an equal chance for everyone in the audition. How sure can you be that you don’t unintentionally skew the odds because you know one of the candidates better than the rest? On the other hand, can you be sure you’re not discarding an option due to overreacting?

          Most people are not aware of all the bias that’s affecting their decisions, either direction.

          • Syal says:

            For something like entertainment where there’s no supply limit, I don’t think there’s any problem with it. Even if Anthony makes it a hiring condition that his sister gets a major part, that’s just another cost for the producers to consider when they hire him.

            • ehlijen says:

              The roles themselves are the limited supply. What if instead of Bob’s cousin Max, the role could have gone to Robert, who has been trying to get into the business but failed so far because he’s not anyone’s cousin?

              As soon as ‘is related to X’ becomes a criteria, you’ve given an unmatchable advantage to part of the talent pool. And that’s the danger of nepotism: it’s not what you can learn to do, it’s what you were born into (and thus can never change)

              • Syal says:

                As long as Youtube and Newgrounds are up, roles are not a limited supply.

                • Francis-Olivier says:

                  Youtube and Newgrounds voice acting gigs pay?

                  • Syal says:

                    If nobody on Youtube or Newgrounds is willing to pay a voice actor, it’s because there are more quality-friendly places the willing people can go (I mean, Wolfcop got made). There is no limit to the number of roles that can be created in a given timeframe, and the money limit is how much people want to spend on it.

                    • ehlijen says:

                      I don’t think even those places are ‘unlimited’ in notable profile roles, nor are they the equal of big budget movies or games in terms of career opportunities. It’s better now than it was before youtube etc, but nepotism is still a thing.

                      Of course, I don’t have numbers, and you are thus free to dismiss this as bias if you disagree.

              • MadTinkerer says:

                I think it depends on whether the role is written for an actor or whether you’re trying to find an actor for a role. If Tiny Tina was written for Ashley to begin with, it makes sense to cast her.

                If the situation is “If you hire me, I work best with my sister. She can play funny characters. Check out these hundreds of episodes we’ve worked on as proof.” “Okay, we’ll hire you both! Now figure out what character she’s going to play.” then it’s not taking jobs from anyone else.

                I’m not saying for sure that’s the case, but a lot of comedy duos work best when they work with each other and that’s just how it is. See also the disastrous Anthony Saves The World, which was Anthony’s first(? AFAIK) attempt at not working with his sister as part of the main cast.

                So was Ashley as Tiny Tina worth avoiding Anthony-Saves-The-World-quality writing in Borderlands 2? I think so.

                • ehlijen says:

                  I’m not saying this particular case is nepotism. I’m told she auditioned for the part fair and square, and that’s good enough for me.

                  But there is a difference between “hire us both, we work well together” and “as a member of the team, I say we should bring in my relative”.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            The thing is,in plenty of acting jobs,there are characters written for specific people before the casting even starts.Its actually a good thing when you know an actor so well that you can transport them into the work completely,thus making as fleshed out a character as possible.Sure,it would be nice to give a chance to other actors,but your characters should come first,and if you already have them completely made down to who should play them,youd only be diminishing your work by giving someone else a shot.

      • Redrock says:

        That’s true, absolutely, which is exactly why I made sure to mention that it turned out great, and Ashly is a great voice actor and absolutely deserved the role, no question about that. And I was completely sincere when I said that I’m not sure how exactly to approach that kind of thing. The Wachowski analogy is not really applicable, in my opinion. The Wachowskis collaborate as equals, they work together at the same creative level, so to speak, and approach studios together. This, as far as I understand, is a bit different. A writer and an actor in a big production are on different levels. Anthony was hired as a writer first, proceeded to write a part tailored to Ashly’s style, which she then successfully auditioned for. And, again, it turned out great, and they are obviously cool talented people who are very much a team. And writers and directors often develop particular roles for particular actors they have a rapport with, absolutely. Which is fine. But in my personal opinion it gets trickier when such people are also relatives. In many ways that’s just me. Here is an example from personal experience. When I was studying at the university, one of my classmates was the daughter of the dean of our department. And maybe she was a decent student, maybe she actually had the chops to proceed to be a decent scientist. I don’t know, which is exactly the point. What I do know is that I’d never apply to study at the department where my dad is the dean, same as I’d never take anything but an entry-level job at my dad’s firm. That’s very much my personal approach to those things and not really a condemnation of anyone who behaves differently, I’m not trying to assume any kind of moral superiority here. But I can never really get rid of the idea that when that happens we can’t really ever find out whether it was the best creative (or business, or political or whatever) choice or a nepotistic decision that merely turned out okay.

        Once again, for clarity – I really don’t condemn Anthony and Ashly Burch in any way. They did a great job and created a great character, which in the great DLC that is Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep became pretty much the soul of Borderlands 2. I never once suspected that Tiny Tina’s voice actor was cast based on anything other than talent, which is a great sign. Thus, my very conflicted emotions about this whole thing.

        • djw says:

          College is expensive, and paying for room and board at college is also expensive. The girl you refer to might have saved a great deal of money if she lived at home during college. Deans get paid well, but throwing money away is rarely a good idea if you can avoid it.

          Maybe her dad pulled strings to get her in. However, given that her father was clearly a successful member of the profession it is not too hard to believe that she would have talent of her own. The apple doesn’t usually fall far from the tree, after all.

          (Note, I have a friend who was in a similar situation. He tells me that his high school grades were awful. His father was a VP at University of Michigan and *did* pull strings to get him in. So this is a thing that happens. In the case of college admissions I do think its bad. Friend is a smart guy in spite of high school grades, but its not really fair that he didn’t compete on a level playing field).

          • Redrock says:

            Oh, right, I should have mentioned that in my country college is free and this was in the capital, where the best colleges and universities are, so living at home was not an issue, and neither were tuition costs. And I didn’t think her father necessarily pulled strings to get her in, but I did think that no professor would give her too much trouble with her dad being their direct superior.

            As far as talent goes, I dunno. Talent for political science doesn’t strike me as a genetic trait, but who knows. Once again, something that looks bad isn’t necessarily bad.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Talent may not be genetic,but growing up in a house with a person who does THING you can actually pick up some quirks about THING.Especially if you are an inquisitive child.

            • djw says:

              A few years ago I had the son of a co-worker in one of my classes. The co-worker pulled me aside and asked me to “make sure my son doesn’t get away with being lazy in your class, if he doesn’t do the work, flunk him.”

              I don’t know how typical that attitude is, since I am extrapolating from a sample size of 1.

      • Mephane says:

        I think the bad part of nepotism is when unworthy people are given jobs because of family connections.

        Also, there is massive difference between artists choosing to work together because they are friends or family with each other, or people in a position of power where they affect people’s lives greatly (e.g. politics).

        • Supah Ewok says:

          Yeah. The thing about nepotism is that it works a lot of the time. Not all the time, we’ve all met multiple someones who absolutely did not deserve their position, but in general, if you trust Person A and A says they trust this other person B, you have a better chance (or at least a smaller risk) in hiring B than you do some equally or lesser qualified random person Q. Now, if you hired a B who has no qualifications besides secondhand trust over an unknown person with years of experience, certifications, and testimonials, that’s toxic nepotism. But nepotism done right is what is commonly called “networking”, and it’s how the majority of the professional world gets by.

      • Philadelphus says:

        Wouldn’t it only really be nepotism if Anthony was the sole person in charge of hiring Ashly? (And I can’t imagine that was the case, even as the lead[?] writer. There has to be a person higher up in charge of the team.) Sure, he doubtless had some sway in the process — like vouching for her — but if hiring her wasn’t ultimately his decision (and his alone) can it really be called nepotism?

      • djw says:

        Tiny Tina is the best part of the game. I have great difficulty believing that anybody else could have done a better job.

    • Fade2Gray says:

      While it kind of sucks that other actors didn’t get a chance at the role (and it definitely has the family kickback vibe in this case), a lot of times you can tell when a writer had a particular actor in mind for a role because the acting and dialogue just mesh naturally.

    • djw says:

      Ultimately, the game succeeds or fails based on its quality. If nepotism reduces the quality then it will make less money (via fewer DLC and/or fewer “game of the year” purchases) and next time the company will seek elsewhere for talent, or go out of business.

      On the other hand, if the game succeeds (and IMO it did) then why do we care who hired who’s sister for what?

      (treading carefully here) I think that this is a case where market forces can take care of the problem for us.

      • ehlijen says:

        I disagree.

        For one, it doesn’t address the fair chance issue of nepotism, for the other, AAA gaming story quality has clearly demonstrated that market forces have a ‘good enough is good enough’ attitude to quality.

        • djw says:

          AAA games sell because they produce a game that many people are actually willing to buy. The fact that you (and I) don’t like them is not really relevant to their bottom line, as long as somebody else is willing to buy.

          Also, it is possible for them to make a game that is panned, and lose that market share. For instance, I suspect that Mass Effect: Andromeda will actually sell fewer DLC than it would have if they had actually made a decent game.

          In any case, the risks for Gearbox (a developer) are very real even if the publisher can get away with pushing crap.

          • djw says:

            In any case, I’m not even completely convinced that there is a problem to fix. Family members going into business together is as old as the idea of commerce. Why should this bother us here? Should we complain that Shamus’ daughter edited Spoiler Warning, and appeared as a guest?

            (For the record, my answer to that rhetorical question is: no, we should not complain).

  5. Christopher says:

    Sanctuary teleporting out is as far as I got before stopping, so I’m kinda curious to see where this whole thing goes.

  6. MichaelGC says:

    Hey Mordecai! I’m pretty sure Sniper Site-Selection 101 says not to sodding silhouette yourself against the setting sun! Git chore head in the game or (phrasing) someone’ll blow it off!

    • GloatingSwine says:

      Let’s face it, Brick is the only one of the original characters who this game doesn’t make into a total chump to make the new guys look good.

      You can hear them shit themselves when you find Wilhelm, but by the time the voice clips are over he’ll be at about a third health just using the pistol you get for doing Tina’s sidequests.

      • Boobah says:

        The Wilhelm thing really isn’t fair; Jack sabotaged the poor sod. If Wilhelm kills $Player, Jack’s plans for Sanctuary fail.

        The point of the Raiders talking up Wilhelm is another clue that something isn’t right here, and it turns out that it isn’t that the BL1 Vault Hunters are wimps; rather, Wilhelm is strangely weak

        • Destrustor says:

          Except in the new game plusses, where he can get so ridiculously bullet-spongy that I once had to turn on a second controller, log into my brother’s profile, and bring in his twice-my-level character as a co-op partner to kill him, because even my action skill+emptying all my guns into him weren’t enough to drop his shields before he’d construct another heal-bot to fill them back up to full.

          And yeah, to be fair that’s more about new game+ and my usual poor loot luck, but still.

      • Francis-Olivier says:

        I guess Mordecai went for a Bloodwing build and with the bird dead he can’t fight properly anymore.

        • Destrustor says:

          But then he turns into an absolutely unstoppable murderking as soon as Bloodwing eats it, and spends the rest of the quest one-shotting everything in your path before you can even shoot at it.

          • TheJungerLudendorff says:

            He’s an angry white dude on a quest for vengeance on the people who callously murdered his favorite pet. The guy has plot armor thick enough to stop an aircraft carrier on ramming speed, and his bullets must be practically auto-piloted by the very force of narrative ittself.

    • Decius says:

      Sight, sound, shine, shadow, silhouette. The five esses that will kill a sniper.

  7. Dreadjaws says:

    I love Tiny Tina. I was actually surprised that there’s people out there who dislike her. I see no reason for that unless you just don’t like violent characters in which case, what are you even doing playing these games anyway?

    • Agamo says:

      The fact that she’s a child and doing these things could definitely make people feel uncomfortable.

      • Agammamon says:

        I think the reason her character works is because its a child doing these things. Its hilarious *and* uncomfortable at the same time in a way that her being an adult doing the same stuff in the same way would just be ‘this is lolrandom stupid and this character is annoying’.

    • Christopher says:

      If the humor doesn’t hit you, she’s just annoying. And because she’s one of the wackiest characters, she’s one of the most annoying.

      • Erik says:

        Exactly this. There’s no such thing as almost funny – if it’s not funny to you, it really isn’t funny. And dark humor that misses is really dark, and often creepy in the not-good way.

  8. Mephane says:

    Tiny Tina is one of two characters in this game which I cannot at all imagine being done by any other voice actor. The one one is Mr Torgue. :)

  9. evilmrhenry says:

    I’ve been replaying Borderlands 2. Some thoughts:

    The humor seems…uneven. You can get one mission where everything’s wacky and hilarious, then the next mission is to Jack’s Puppy Vivisection Center. Then the next mission is all wacky again, but you’re still thinking about all the poor puppies. I’m alright with dark humor, but a lot of the missions don’t really have any humor, just dark.

    There is a lot of walking/driving/waiting, especially in some of the early missions. It gets a bit better once you reach Sanctuary, but there are missions that feel like you walk for a few minutes, spend 15 seconds in combat, then walk back for a few more minutes. I wonder how much that causes the feel that the game doesn’t get interesting until Sanctuary?

    • Francis-Olivier says:

      Honestly I personally find the first Boderlands is much better at that. Often it goes into some wacky nonsense but it usually maintain a dark somewhat somber undertone throught it. Borderlands 2 just gets super dark and then get’s wacky as if it’s saying: “Don’t worry none of this matter.” I don’t think it’s what it intends but it’s super wierd.

      Pre-sequel kinda avoids it I find by being dark but about desperate people doing desperate things rather than outright evil things. For the most part.

  10. Jokerman says:

    The G-Man is it out of Half Life 3, just like Gordon, Alyx, Barney etc… :D

  11. onodera says:

    I really hated Tiny Tina in the main game and the Torgue DLC. A wacky (and borderland insane) child surviving on her own in a cave surrounded by monsters and psychos? I couldn’t suspend my disbelief this far even in a Borderlands game.

    Her own personal DLC was good, though. Her zaniness feels normal in the context of playing a game, and when she finally breaks down you can finally see that her eccentric behavior is a persona, a psychological shield she uses to prop herself up after the deaths of everyone she loved and to repel other people she might grow close to only to lose them. Behind it she’s just as vulnerable as any little kid would be in her position.

  12. Matt Downie says:

    For anyone interested in playing, Borderlands 2 is currently available cheap from Humble Bundle.

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Reading all of these,I see another pair of games that played out very much like this:Far cry 3 and 4.3 was sort of all over the place,trying to be funny at times,and at times raping your brother.But because the best received part of it was vaas,they went full on comedy in 4,giving us pagan min,badgers that slaughter elephants,drug trips,and all the great shit like that.And pagan min is a delight all the way through,even when he is torturing and maiming people.

  14. Mark says:

    > It would be like leaving the G-Man out of Half Life 3

    Too soon, man :(

  15. Abnaxis says:

    Another thing I think makes the “twist” easier to accept is that nobody involved actually wants to plug in Wilhelm’s power core. The problem itself is presented as “either the core we have burns out and the shield goes down and everyone dies, or this new core is a probably-but-maybe-not-cross-your-fingers trap and we plug it in and the shield PROBABLY goes down and everyone dies.”

    Like, what choice did anyone actually have in that situation? There weren’t any other cores materializing anywhere…

  16. Francis-Olivier says:

    Actually I haven’t anyone here talking about it but the part I hate most of that twist is that right after it happens you’re going straight back to trusting Angel again. It’s not so much that I feel I wouldn’t (although I wouldn’t) but that my characters wouldn’t necessarily. I frankly believe at least half of them would straight up turn to banditry at this point.

    And I think that’s one of the big problem I have with this game. The player character doesn’t feel like it has any agency. Like sure they may commit a fair bit more actions by themselves and it can be argued that through the few choices (inconsequential as they may be) the player has more agency in the story than in the first game but my characters don’t always feel like they have any reason to care. Less in the big picture kind of way as Handsome Jack does feel like a hateable and unreasonable villain but more in the moment to moment like with this situation. So if my avatar doesn’t feel properly invested then it’s harder for me to be.

    Hell, even in Borderlands 1, you character might do thing you’d consider pretty stupid or unnecessary but the game would often have an other character tell you what he thought of the situation or even the game itself sometimes. I usually assumed that was how my own character would feel about the situation. In BL2 that actually happens more often arguably but not always when it matter.

    Angel maybe the one that’s supposed to convey the tone but I’m not sure she’s a right choice for it. That’s because I find her personality doesn’t fit the setting, that sometime she has her own stake in the events that could be opposite to yours and ,as it’s revealed later, she has her own emotional baggage that she carries around (which incidentally makes her fit the dark world more but it comes too late).

  17. Dragmire says:

    “…’Flesh-Stick’, a local psycho who killed her family. You have to capture ‘Flash-Stick’…”

    Yeah, I don’t really like to keep calling him Flesh-Stick either…

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