Borderlands 2 had a lot of DLC. All together, the DLC probably doubles the size of the core game. Some of it is crap, some of it is on par with the rest of Borderlands 2, and one DLC in particular is really good. So before we move on to talking about the Pre-Sequel, let’s talk about this stuff.
These things don’t need or merit much in the way of analysis, so let me do some rapid-fire mini-reviews…
Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep
This is the best DLC I’ve ever played. For any game.
I admit I’m biased. I’m predisposed to enjoy humor built around RPG meta-humor. The premise here is that Lilith, Brick, and Mordecai gather around the table to play Bunkers & Badasses, an alt-universe D&D game run by Tiny Tina. You’re still playing as your character, still running around shooting things with your acid gun, and still pushing the big red murder button on the Borderlands Skinner Box, but now you’re shooting skeletons and dragons in imaginary castles.
You may be asking how Lilith playing D&D can result in your Axton gaining XP and loot. I’m glad you asked. The answer is shut up you’re ruining this for me.
A lot of the humor comes from the tension between the game world and the real world, similar to the jokes in Dorkness Rising, or even that one webcomic I did. The comedy here is stronger and more consistent than in the core game. There’s the in-game story about the party trying to defeat the sorcerer who cursed the land (Tina’s story is extremely arch) and the meta-story about everyone dealing with the loss of Roland and Bloodwing.
The main story is played entirely for laughs. We’re not expected to care about the gameworld-within-the-gameworld. The whole thing is just riffs of tabletop games, with a few jokes about story-driven RPGs, MMOs, and nerd culture thrown in for good measure.
The meta story is actually kind of heartbreaking. Tiny Tina has borrowed people from the world around her to use as characters in her game, and by doing so we can see them – and even some of the events of Borderlands 2 – through her eyes. Both her perceptions and her GM style are somewhat skewed. She’s in denial about both Roland and Bloodwing, and nobody at the table really knows how to help her cope with this loss.
(One funny detail is that there are slot machines within Tina’s gameworld, and they take eridium from your inventory to play. Which if you think about it means Tina is evidently running some shady pay-to-win thing where she accepts “real-world” currency for in-game rewards. Not cool, Tina. Not cool.)
When the DLC ends we cut back to the real world where the characters are all sitting around the table playing B&B. Maya walks in and says, “Hey guys, that spy just coughed up the access codes to the Hyperion moon base. Anyone feel like blowing up a space station?” This seems to be setting up a story where everyone went to the moon. I wonder if this was the original plan for the next game, and at some point they changed their minds and made it a prequel instead. In the next game we do indeed go to the moon and we visit the Hyperion space station, but we do so with a different slate of characters and it all takes place a few years in the past.
Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage
Torgue is a musclehead who runs the Torgue corporation, which is one of the in-game weapon manufacturers. The joke with Torgue weapons is that they always deal explosive damage. This DLC is where you finally get to meet the screaming nutjob who only makes exploding guns. You enter a deathmatch tournament against a bunch of colorful characters and uses that to riff on sports, professional wrestling, television, and sports underdog movies.Also, we get to see something new, which is an urban area on Pandora. A whole section of the DLC takes place in a dilapidated cityWhere everyone tries to kill you on sight for no reason, for obvious reasons. and it feels really different and interesting.
Here’s a dilemma: I love Mr. Torgue, but I hate the gimmick his character is built around. He cusses all the time, but all of his cussing is bleeped out by an implant that was forcibly installed by the board of his company. On one hand, it’s a funny gag and leads to some amusing jokes. On the other hand, I hate having things beeped out.
I don’t mean I “hate censorship”. I mean I actually find the beeping of cuss words to be grating. I can’t listen to songs that have had lyrics muted or beeped. It bugs me when TV shows do it. Cuss or don’t cuss. I’m fine either way. Just don’t beep stuff out. It creates this building frustration in me, like having someone constantly pause a song every few seconds while I’m trying to dance. It makes me want to punch a motherf***er.
Assuming you don’t have this weird hangup about censored words, then I highly recommend it. If you do have this hangup, then I’d still suggest you get it, but turn down the volume to mask out the offensive censorship.
Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt
Here is another DLC that leaves me conflicted. On one hand, I love Hammerlock. Having this xeno-zoologist take us on a Victorian-style safari where we go around blowing away huge creatures for the lulz is a hilarious idea that fits right in with Hammerlock’s shtick. A villain pops up, and he turns out to be a lot of fun. Professor Nakayama is a unique goofball of a villain.
On the other hand, this thing is a bit of a slog in terms of mechanics. I dislike the obnoxious hiking over empty space you have to do here. Maybe the designers were trying to capture the feeling of being in the big open wilderness? If that’s the case, then the look is ruined by the sheer cliffs that wall you in on every side. I’m not sure why this game is so shy about letting us see the horizon. It has the border towers to mark the edges of the playable area, and of course you can always make cliffs that drop down rather than tower over us. But Borderlands seems to love its playpen walls, and Big Game Hunt suffers from this more than the rest of the game.
I’m not sure what happened here, but the areas feel off. The cliff walls make the space feel somehow claustrophobic. At the same time, these areas are also too large and it requires entirely too much hiking to get around. I really like the story and the unique freakshow monsters, but whenever I pop in and see that huge stretch of open space I have to cross I find myself thinking, “Meh. Maybe I’ll go do something else.”
Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty
It has some moments, but this one fell a bit flat for me. The loot at the end comes from a room full of chests rather than a lootsplosion from the boss, which left me feeling pretty cheated.
None of the regular characters show up, and the new characters don’t have the same zing. It might be because they’re all isolated and don’t have anyone to banter with. The environments are monochromatic beige for most of the run time, and you don’t see anything really fun or interesting until near the end.
It’s not bad and Scarlett wrung a laugh out of me a few times with her ridiculously over-telegraphed betrayal, but this DLC didn’t quite have the magic of the others.
The Holiday Shovelware
There are additional DLC packs for Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day. These are bargain DLCAs of this writing, these packs are $3USD while the above DLC each sell for $10. that offer maybe forty minutes to an hour of gameplay. Usually only one of the regular ally charactersScooter, Zed, Marcus, Moxxi, etc. shows up to read lines, which are heavy on exposition and catchphrases but short on actual jokes. Mechanically they’re pretty dry and the boss fights are boring bullet sponges. The loot is meager and not worth the time.
The DLC packs suffer from an overall lack of polish and balance and I wouldn’t suggest them unless you’ve tried everything else and you’re still hungry for more content.
Well, except for…
Sir Hammerlock vs. the Son of Crawmerax
The exception is the tropical island-themed Sir Hammerlock vs. The Son of Crawmerax. For some reason, this thing is a slice of brilliance. The environment is gorgeous. Hammerlock is there, but Lilith, Mordecai, and Brick get some dialog as well. There are a bunch of callbacks to Borderlands 1 DLC and some occasional in-joke fourth wall breaking on the part of the cast. The jokes are often actual jokes and not just recycled catchphrases. There’s even some important character beats in this DLC. We learn that Mordecai is busy training a new bird to replace Bloodwing.
The Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day DLC packs break from the tone of the core game. They’re silly without being funny. They don’t feel like the work of head writer Anthony Burch. But Son of Crawmerax feels like the exception.
Burch likes to do this thing where he’ll go for a really obvious joke or twist, and then telegraph that he knows that you know where the joke is going. It becomes this sort of meta-joke about expectations. He did this in the situation with the totally un-suspicious power core when Angel betrayed everyone in Borderlands 2. He did it in the sidequest No Hard Feelings. He did it again with Pyro Pete in Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage. He built an entire character around this gag with Captain Scarlett in the Pirate DLC. Likewise, Crawmerax has a section where you have to track down a bunch of assassins, only to discover they’re already dead. After the first couple it stops expecting you to be surprised and instead begins poking fun at how everyone knows where this joke is going.
I’m not sure why this particular Holiday DLC is so much better than the others, but the difference in quality in pretty striking. It’s fun, it’s beautiful, the loot is good, the environment is full of variety, and the banter is charming. It’s only three stupid dollars. You might as well get it.
That’s it for Borderlands 2. Next week is Thanksgiving and I plan on goofing off. After Thanksgiving break we’re going to start on the Pre-Sequel.
 Where everyone tries to kill you on sight for no reason, for obvious reasons.
 As of this writing, these packs are $3USD while the above DLC each sell for $10.
 Scooter, Zed, Marcus, Moxxi, etc.
TitleWhat’s Inside Skinner’s Box?
What is a skinner box, how does it interact with neurotransmitters, and what does it have to do with shooting people in the face for rare loot?
The Best of 2012
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2012.
Game at the Bottom
Why spend millions on visuals that are just a distraction from the REAL game of hotbar-watching?
The Witch Watch
My first REAL published book, about a guy who comes back from the dead due to a misunderstanding.
Revisiting a Dead Engine
I wanted to take the file format of a late 90s shooter and read it in modern-day Unity. This is the result.
58 thoughts on “Borderlands Part 17: Dee Ell Cee”
Psst,the whole article is NOT on the front page.
Yeah! What happened to the quality standards we expect around here?
Re: your comment about the d20. You can see the 13 and the 8 and they should be on opposite sides so…. it’s just wierd.
I’m of the opinion that Tina probably uses unfair dice with only certain numbers on them. Or otherwise weighted dice. Fits with her character.
Or perhaps she made them herself. And they explode. And she’s bad with numbers. I’m pretty forgiving with Borderlands in general.
Maybe if you roll the vault symbol, a tiny rocket launcher pops out and blows up a random model on the table.
*rolls a Vault symbol*
That’s a crit fail. Your piece randomly explodes due to your bad luck.
*mini-launcher pops out of the die, targets your figurine, and shoots it off the table; Brick, Axton and Salvador laugh, Lilith shakes her head, and Tina moves on to the next player as Mordecai picks his piece up and puts it back where it was*
It’s also not a 20-sided life counter; those are arranged so that consecutive numbers are adjacent, and we can see the 1 and 2 and 7 and 8 pairings are not.
Maybe, like everything else on Pandora, the dice are cheap pieces of crap, and the manufacturer just slapped numbers wherever with no attention to how anyone else makes them.
I am not familiar with Borderlands in any way (other than these articles) and this was my first assumption.
This actual ties in well with the idea that she makes her own dice, because everything Tiny Tina makes is so slapdash it somehow ends up being awesome.
I only finished up Tiny Tina’s yesterday; I had burned out on Borderlands a long while back, before I came back to finish it several months ago. I was not expecting the story to go in the direction it went. Very, very good stuff here.
I’ll add that I’m glad that I had watched some Darksouls walkthroughs before playing it, otherwise I would have missed many jokes.
My favorite, though, was one dwarf yelling as he died, “Losing is fun!”
Ahh! I didn’t know about the dwarf one. Slain!
In order to bring in anyone who might not know, and at the risk of pedantically explaining the joke, “Loosing is fun” is the official motto of the game Dwarf Fortress. And if you don’t know what Dwarf Fortress is, Bay 12 Games is your friend, but the kind where you don’t need enemies.
I 100% agree. When I was playing it with a friend we were in giggles pretty much from the start (being longtime tabletop roleplayers definitely helped there) and then suddenly it went into a very different, but absolutely excellent, direction. I honestly did not expect Borderlands DCL of all things to be one of those “I am suddenly experiencing feelings” games.
Yeah, “Loosing is Fun,” is an old Roguelike tag. I’m not sure if it’s associated with the original game, or if it came about later. First time I remember seeing it was in Dungeons of Dredmor, but it probably predates that by a few years.
Are you sure Torgue’s actually cursing? Maybe it just sounds like it.
I, uh, wouldn’t count on it.
Although I do appreciate you giving me the flimsy pretense to look that up.
Maybe its that Torgue *won’t* curse but the company’s image needs it so the PR guys got the board to force him to accept an implant that bleeps random words so it looks like he is to the punters?
“shot” “click” and “pussy-flickin’ darkballs” does sound like something the maestro of the Torgue Carnival would need to say every now and then.
The pay-to-win line was brilliant :)
On the die we can also see 7 and 14 at the same time. Like 1 and 20, those should be on opposite sides (traditional d20 has opposite sides that sum to 21, just like a d6’s opposite sides sum to 7). It’s also not a spindown die because 13 and 14 aren’t next to each other. Thus the answer is that the die doesn’t follow any specific pattern and we can safely assume the vault symbol is 20.
I keep hearing people claim this, but it’s not true. There is no “traditional” d20.
Out of a sampling of 11 d20s I can locate, 5 conform to the “opposite 21s” model, but the other 6 conform to a different, less mathematical model where the 20 is bordered by 14, 11 and 7 and opposite sides add up from anywhere between 14 and 24. (And it doesn’t seem to be a manufacturer thing, as I have both types on different dice sets from the same company.)
Fascinating. I had always heard the opposites add to N+1 rule for number placement, but never really looked into whether it was consistent in practice.
On a fair die, it shouldn’t matter, of course.
This isn’t quite true; on a fair die being rolled by a trustworthy individual it shouldn’t matter. If there are too many high numbers clustered together, it’s possible to learn to always roll high.
You can cluster the high numbers and low numbers together with the N+1 rule. To prevent that you need some sort of adjacency requirement, like a requirement that the digits touching a vertex add up to some number.
You have some odd dice… I’ve dealt with many kinds of dice for over 3 decades, and with the exception of the “spindown life counters” that others have mentioned, they all follow the N+1 rule for opposite sides (where “N” is the number of sides on the die). My first encounter with this was as a kid when I read instructions for a magic trick that depended on this as a standard property of dice, and I’ve never found anything that counters it – except for one misprinted 6-sided die in a set of 9 that had two sides with 3 pips each, and was missing a side with 2 pips.
N+1 sides is far from standard, apart from d6s. Do you get all your dice from the same place?
Or, what I find more likely, have you just not actually looked that closely at your dice and made assumptions all these years?
To add more anecdotal data to this discussion: both my set of d20s and my d10 set adhere to the n+1 rule. I don’t remember ever seeing a die where it wasn’t the case, but like you point out, I wouldn’t necessarily notice or remember.
My d10 follows N+1, but my d20 does not; 1 and 20 are across from each other but so are 9 and 15.
Just because I find this interesting, I’ve actually been able to identify at least three different number configuration on non-spindown d20s. I present here examples from the same supplier:
“Traditional” N+1 (aka 14,8,2):
Oh, how about these critters?
Is the 20 always opposite the 1, regardless of the other pairs? Could be why I never bothered to notice, since I only routinely check that pair. Or maybe because all my dice are from a 10lb sack of random Chessex, and they make all theirs the same way.
I don’t own a 17,9,6 die to check, but both N +1 and 14,11,7 dice do have 20 and 1 opposite each other.
It’s actually a 21-sided die following dartboard rules. The Vault symbol is Bullseye.
Tiny Tina’s was absolutely amazing. Loved every bit of it. It was also my first experience with Torque and he fit brilliantly in it.
“This is the best DLC I've ever played. For any game. ”
Captain Scarlett is where I left the game.
I was about halfway, maybe more in the main campaign, decided to run through a DLC – this one.
And it was sooo booooring. /Joker
Its a horrible DLC. Its massively bad. To the point that I deleted the game and have had no desire to ever go back to it again.
Ok, I’ll bite. Which holiday is Sir Hammerlock vs. the Son of Crawmerax for? It doesn’t really seem to fit with any of the four you mentioned.
Easter, maybe? Also, there are 5 headhunter DLCs: the 4 for the holidays listed, and Son of Crawmerax.
Ohhhhh, that wasn’t clear to me. I saw it as:
which made it seem like SHv.tSoC was one of the aforementioned set of holiday DLCs.
It released April 15, 2014. I kinda suspect it was a “spring break” release. Even though that’s not a specific, concrete, holiday, the way the previous packs were.
Torgue (the character) is entirely one note, but for some reason I find him hilarious.
TINA SAID GOODNIGHT, MOXXI!!!
While I might waffle on claiming Dragon Keep is the best DLC I’ve ever played, it’s certainly up there. And there’s just so many little bits that stand out.
Giant D20 falls from the heavens! “Um, Brick? Please don’t roll the dice where the minis are. Or slam them into the minis with such force you embed it in the die table.”
Or that one puzzle, where if you fail it long enough, much like a real DM Tina will go: “Okay, fine, whatever, you do it. Let’s move on.”
As to the Torgue DLC, I kinda feel he’s the character that props it up. Sure, it’s got its moments, but overall it’s kinda like Fallout New Vegas’ Old World Blues DLC to me: The first time it’s funny, but once you’ve heard all the jokes, any future playthroughs are kinda boring. I will give it one big point in its favor though, entering the crater for the first time, my first thought when I saw the blimp was “I wanna blow that up”, and later on the game let me blow it up.
I think you share my feelings for the Hammerlock and the Pirate DLCs though. The Hammerlock DLC was just a slog, too much walking and mindless shooting between being fed bits of funny. The main quest also kinda fell flat to me, I just didn’t feel any motivation to hunt down Nakayama; which I suppose is appropriate, as the PC was only hunting him down because he kept bugging them.
As to the Pirate DLC, the most amusing part of it for me was just the atmosphere, how everything was pirate-themed. Faceshootie McLootgrind’s Pirate Adventure hopes you enjoyed the ride, please stop by the
treasure roomgift shop on your way out. After the first time, I only bothered with it when I’d outleveled the main world’s loot curve (easy to do, if you do most the side-quests).
My ordering is a little different overall:
1. Tiny Tina
2. Capt. Scarlett
3. Mr. Torgue
Tiny Tina is hands down the best. No argument there.
2 & 3 are pretty similar in terms of quality, but Capt. Scarlett just feels so much better in terms of enemy diversity. Campaign of Carnage just gets boring about halfway through. It does get points for having a much better slot machine layout than Sanctuary does, though.
I also like Hammerlock (the character), but the grindy slog of the DLC is just so horrible. The end loot is an even worse box room than in Capt. Scarlett, since you can’t even sell the stuff you get and have to sort through everything in place and then just leave most of it. The boss fight itself is better than either Scarlett’s or Torgue’s, though.
I mostly agree with Shamus about the holiday mini-DLCs, but I feel that Torgue’s Grandma’s stories also deserve a special commendation.
Now I’m sad, because Tiny Tina’s DLC was where I stopped playing Borderlands 2. I basically burnt out on everything else before (332 hours, man!), and couldn’t stomach playing any more, so I barely started it.
Maybe I’ll give it another go at some point (and see if I can get the son of Crawmerax, too).
Sir Hammerlock vs. the Son of Crawmerax is, I believe, the first instance(in the Borderlands games) of the player character talking in response to the plot. There wasn’t much of it but there is some dialogue there. This concept would end up being expanded on in the pre-sequel.
No that actually started in an other one of the headhunter dlc. Can’t remember if it was the valantine or st. patrick on though.
And I gotta say thank go for that addition. With this game having so much more character and speech than the previous one it was a feature that was sorely missed.
The player has dialog a few times during Borderlands 2. I want to say it’s only two or three lines in the entire game. The only two I can remember off hand is when they get their hands on the voice modulator, and when they take it off.
EDIT: Not counting their normal combat barks, of course.
The Dungeons & Dragons DLC seems a lot less crazy now that I know that the regular final boss was also a dragon.
I don’t like the Tina DLC. I don’t like how after two games built around shooting stuff, they expect you to do puzzles and fiddly things with certain enemies. Lair of Infinite Agony is especially bad. You have that one puzzle, three different types of annoying skeletons, and the vending machines are too far apart.
My favourite of the big ones is Captain Scarlett. I can’t put my finger on what I like about it exactly, but it doesn’t have puzzles, tricky enemies, or any timed missions that I can recall. In second place is Torgue, then Hammerlock.
Of the small ones, I’d say the Christmas one is my favourite. Again, it just feels really good. Then Son of Crawmerax, Bloody Harvest, Thanksgiving (if you don’t count talking to Grandma), and last is Valentine’s Day. The end bosses are annoying, even after I worked out the trick.
I don’t mean this as one-upsmanship, but I’d say that “Dragon’s Keep” was the best GAME I played in the year it came out, in addition to being the best DLC ever made. Obviously the punch requires having played BL2, but it’s just so well-delivered and hit me so perfectly. It’s the first comedy game that actually got me tearing up. It’s just flat-out fantastic.
I really liked Dragon’s Keep, but I also felt like it was where you could really see the strain Tina’s character is putting on Borderlands’ overall tone. In a good way, perhaps. Tina is mostly on another level than other characters. While she is hilarious, her storylines are way, way darker. You get revenge torture, childhood trauma, inability to cope with the death of a loved one – all heavier stuff than usual for the franchise. I think Tina perfectly encapsulates the problem of introducing a strong writer like Burch to an existing universe. Like with the whole respawn-stations-vs-Roland’s-death thing, you can feel Burch pushing against the boundaries of the universe’s established style. Again, it makes Tina and this DLC one of the best things about Borderlands 2, at least in terms of narrative. But I also can’t help but think that maybe this didn’t sit too well with Gearbox, seeing as how they went back to Mike Neumann for Borderlands 3, who has since left the studio, as far as I know.
I find bleeping to be far funnier than cussing ever would be!
I think what I like best about Torgue is his extremely dark backstory. It’s couched in a lot of jokes (“Treating women with respect is the manliest thing you can ever do!”) but it’s really clear that he grew up in an abusive household and is probably overcompensating to make himself feel powerful as an adult.
Yeah, so Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt. I think my biggest problem with it was that the enemies weren’t much fun to fight. The spores weren’t bad, but the drifters were just boring bullet sponges. But the worst were the savages. Not only were they vaguely offensive thematically, but the witch doctors were the absolute worst enemies in game, almost qualifying as mini-bosses in terms of power level, but without the corresponding rewards or sense of achievement in beating them.
Professor Nakayama was pretty funny, though, as the “boss you love to forget.” It wasn’t until I played through for the second time that I realized he was the same guy that sent you on the Lab 19 quest during the main campaign.
The thanksgiving DLC was pretty great though, the idea of a quest that consists of listening patiently to Grandma Torgue drone on for like 10 minutes, followed by the insane 30 minutes raid version cracked me up. Especially since her dialogue is extremely well written! Totally Anthony Burch’s work.
Thanksgiving and winter were ok and made me crack some smiles. Halloween can be skipped entirely.
I really wanted to like Dragon Keep, but I quickly started to run into a lot of hug bullet sponges that I just couldn’t beat. That was when I finally gave up on BL2.
I am curious, how does this song make you feel?
My friends and I are playing Borderlands 2 again. I blame you for this, Shamus!
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