Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep

    Everything you need to know about this DLC can be summarized as this: There is a sidequest where you go kill the Hound and the Mountain before slapping the crap out of King  Joffrey on the Iron Throne of Westeros. Yes, the names are changed and the throne is made of guns rather than swords but, otherwise, it is a near-identical recreation. If you find this to be awesome, you will love this DLC. If you find this to be stupid and distracting, then I wonder about you.   

    The premise is Tiny Tina, the ebonics-using white-girl demolitions expert from Borderlands 2, is hosting a Bunkers and Badass game. This is the 50th century version of Dungeons and Dragons, complete with miniatures, Dungeonmaster's screen, and 20 sided dice. The idea of playing a tabletop game via a console video game with fictional people using a fictional character who is playing a avatar of themselves is pretty much the definition of avante-garde--I approve. That and it's hilarious to imagine my Axton deal with the whining of his fellow Vault Hunters while he's just trying to get into the game.
Shooting skeletons is harder than it looks. Those guys are TOUGH. Must be the half-damage from piercing.
    The player takes their characters from the main gameworld and puts them in the derivative but hilarious fantasy world formed from Tiny Tina's imagination. They must rescue the Queen ("who is the prettiest queen ever!") from the Handsome Sorcerer and his armies. The player character will face treants, skeletons, paladins, golems, dwarves, orcs, dragons, basilisks, FRIGGING MIMICS (I'm stunned anyone remembers they exist), and a copyright-friendly version of Lolth.

    They go through about half the old Monstrous Manual in this game and I couldn't be more pleased. None of the creatures feel like re-skins (despite the fact most of them are) and even their movements look different. When I kill orcs, I don't think I'm fighting bandits--I think I'm fighting orcs.

    Did I mention there's a gun which shoots swords? Swords that become smaller swords? Which EXPLODE?

    Yes, it's that kind of DLC.

Zero is the only guy who fits right in--and he's a cyborg alien ninja.
    Wait, there's no other DLC like this so that's a confusing statement.

    At heart, Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep is a celebration of old school gaming and fantasy fiction. There's references to the Princess Bride, Red Sonja's ludicrous outfit, The Lord of the Rings, Fantasia, Skyrim, and even the whole "fake gamer girl" controversy (gender reversed with Mister Torgue). There's also a reference to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic which is so awesome, so unexpected, and so wonderful I had to pause the game in order to stop laughing.

    In addition, the story is surprisingly poignant. At the risk of spoiling, the DLC chronologically takes place after the end of the main campaign. Tiny Tina, though she doesn't show it, is traumatized by the events of Handsome Jack's rampage. Watching her use Bunkers and Badasses to deal with her trauma is heartbreaking and if you aren't moved by the final cinematic, you have no soul.

Oddly, Moxxie is MORE dressed in this version of the story.
     If there's any problem with this DLC, it's the fact that D&D-influenced fantasy isn't new ground for gamers. I've killed more orcs over my lifespan than Aragorn. So, the opportunity to kill them with guns in Borderlands 2 isn't quite the awesome change it might be. Still, it's a delightful change from the rest of the game and so well-written, it's hard not to think of this as a masteful stroke of storytelling.

     Loot-farmers will find this DLC to be a source of numerous interesting new weapons and mods, including ones which allow you to shoot fireballs and lightning instead of hurling grenades. The aforementioned Sword-Gun Which Shoots Exploding SwordsTM is the standout item of the DLC but there's several other interesting weapons to be had. The aforementioned Mimics are so terrifyingly grotesque that their appearance will have you tense up in trepidation everytime you approach a treasure chest. Given that looting is 90% of Borderlands 2, this is a great way to amp up the game's intensity.

     Really, my favorite part of the DLC is probably the characterization of the Vault Hunters. Mordecai, Brick, Lilith, and (kinda sorta) Roland all are entertaining in their roles both in-game and out-of-game. The fact Lilith is the only true geek of the group and bitter about it, reflecting how many women have been treated in this hobby, is an interesting idea which is played to the limit. It's also cool to see how the group considers Tina to be their surrogate daughter but isn't QUITE sure how to deal with her antics. The Handsome Sorcerer is underused and I would have loved more taunts from our reincarnated master-villain.

    In conclusion, I suggest fans of Borderlands 2 buy this DLC because it's the perfect coda to the game. It also goes to show that silly and fantastical doesn't have to mean childish. Or, as Lilith says in the game, perhaps there's no such thing as adulthood.



  1. The Princess is also a throwback to the first echo messages you get from Handsome Jack. I laughed for about five minutes after the princesses intro.

    1. Yeah, I remember Butt Stallion. I was actually kind of disappointed we didn't get to see her in the mainstream game proper. I figured she'd be in some display case somewhere in Opportunity.