Critical Hit: Borderlands 2
Hey, everyone! Today we're going to take a look at Borderlands 2, along with the DLC released for it. Sadly, publisher Gearbox didn't handle the DLC all that well, despite the fact that a few of them are fantastic, but we'll talk more about that in the actual review.
Quick Breakdown: An excellent action/FPS/RPG hybrid, with great characters, strong dialog, fun gameplay, and a unique art style that helped hook me on the game in the first place. The guns feature randomly generated stats, which makes the quest for a better weapon never-ending, since the game boasts over 3 million possible outcomes. With 4 different classes to play as, plus 2 more in the GOTY, you must shoot ‘n’ loot your way across the world of Pandora, as you fight to take down the villainous Handsome Jack with the best guns you can find. Borderlands 2 is great fun in single player, but way better with 1-3 friends for co-op play.
Length: 30-40 hours (Main game), 50-60 hours (main game + sidequests), 100 hours (GOTY edition)
Genre: Action / FPS / RPG
Score: 8/10 (Base game), 8.5/10 (GOTY edition)
Review Date: 2016-01-27
Note: For the love of god, make sure to get the GOTY edition, as it features excellent campaign DLC, 2 more playable characters, and raises the level cap. Sadly, it doesn’t include all of the game’s DLC, but it does feature all of the essential ones. More details about the DLC and which are worth getting can be found at the end of the review.
Full Review: I wasn’t sure if I should get Borderlands 2 or not at first. At the time, I wasn’t a huge fan of FPS games (and I’m still not, though there are certainly exceptions). However, I figured it might be kinda fun, and I really liked the art style featured in the game, so I thought it was worth gambling the $5 it cost at the sale price. I ended up enjoying the game substantially more than I expected, and learned that the DLC included in the GOTY was so good, that it was considered essential. Next time it went on sale, I ended up purchasing the GOTY (sadly, there was no upgrade option. However, it didn’t affect my save data, and even buying it twice I only paid $13 for it), which was well worth it.
So what does the game offer? For starters, the base game offers 4 different classes to play as, with the GOTY giving you an additional two. Thus far, I’ve only played as the Commando and the Assassin, both of whom are great fun to use, and differ enough so as to make it worth playing twice (combined with the strength of the game itself). From playing co-op, the Gunzerker looks like a swell time of badass bullet frenzy as well.
Each character features a unique action skill and skill tree. The action skill is a reusable skill that in some way aids or augments the character, while the skill tree features boosts that improve your character in various ways, such as augmenting their weapon damage, speed, action skill, or some other perk. The Commando utilizes a deployable turret for his action skill, which attacks automatically, while the Assassin turns invisible for a few seconds, and deals additional damage. Each skill features a cooldown period before it can be used again.
The GOTY gives you 2 more characters to play as, and while I haven’t tested either, from what I’ve seen of gameplay footage and my friends using them in co-op, they seem like a lot of fun too. The Psycho is a heavily melee-oriented character, while the Mecromancer can unleash a badass robot of destruction.
Back to the skill trees for a moment, each character features 3 different skill trees, each focusing on a different aspect or group of aspects to boost the character. Each time you level up, you earn a skill point that can be pumped into a skill tree of your choice (unlocked at level 5). From what I’ve played of the classes, the different skill trees can drastically alter how you play a character, and are equally viable, which greatly helps the variety of the gameplay (you can respec in the hub world at any time).
The combat of the game is primarily gun-based, though grenades, melee, and vehicles do factor in as well. Guns can be purchased, looted from dead enemies and random chests, or collected as mission rewards. Each gun features randomized stats, sometimes elements, and other attributes, which helps make weapons much more unique, as you need to always be on the lookout for new and better weapons. This randomization holds true for the other items in the game, such as shields, grenades, and equips that boost things for your character.
The game’s story isn’t particularly interesting, but it’s enough to help move the game along. Thankfully, the game has a wide assortment of interesting characters, from the ones you play as, to compelling NPCs that feature prominently; both allies and foes. My favourite has to be the villain, Handsome Jack, who is charismatic and beautifully deranged, utterly convinced that he is the good guy despite his psychotic actions. But we can’t forget others like Brick, Dr. Zed, Marcus, Tiny Tina, or Mr. Torgue (EXPLOSIONS!!!). And of course, there’s CL4P-TP (“Claptrap”), the dumbass robot who really has no idea about things (he’s a bit divisive: a lot of people hate him, but I think he’s great).
Not to mention the fantastic dialog in the game: shouted by your character, random enemies, and of course featured in-story dialog. Things like “They will come to the slaughter, like children to an ice cream truck”, "Did you know over 97% of all creatures on Pandora aren't exploding right now? THAT'S BULLSHIT! BUY TORGUE!" ,“Minion! Draw their fire with your face!”, “Bacon is for sycophants and the products of incest”... How can you not love dialog like that? Not to mention that the voice actors all do an excellent job with their lines.
As mentioned earlier, the game is well worth playing through solo, but it’s way more fun to do co-op with friends. You don’t need to play the game solo first: in fact, I’d recommend starting out with co-op if you can. Not because it’s easier, but because it’s so much better. The game supports up to 4 players, and the more players, the better it is. To scale for the additional players, more enemies will spawn, and they tend to drop better loot as well.
The game isn’t perfect however, despite its many strengths, it does falter some. For one, some of the areas aren’t very interesting. In addition, the enemies change very little over the course of the game, and more variety would help. Finally, while the core game is very good, the side-quests vary in quality; some being excellent, and others being awful fetch quests.
So that's the base game, we're going to have a brief overview of the DLC, and then give each one an in-depth look. So let’s break down the DLC:
* = Included in GOTY
! = Full campaign DLC
$ = Mini campaign DLC
@ = Character DLC
# = Raises level cap
Captain Scarlet and Her Pirate’s Booty*!
Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage*!
Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt*!
Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon *!
Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 1*#
Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2#
Headhunter 4: Wedding Day Massacre$
Headhunter 5: Son of Cramerax$
Headhunter 1: Bloody Harvest$
Headhunter 3: Mercenary Day$
Collector’s Edition Pack*
Headhunter 2: Wattle Gobbler$
The rest is just character skin packs, that aren’t included in the GOTY since Gearbox is terrible about DLC, and instead sells them separately as part of a cheap cash grab. As you may have gleaned, the best thing to do is buy the GOTY and the second upgrade pack, as this will get you all the good and essential DLC. If you’re really into the game, the Headhunter packs add about 30 minutes of gameplay each, though none of them are that great, and certainly not essential. The Wattle Gobbler one is terrible and should be avoided.
Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty
Quick Breakdown: The first campaign DLC for Borderlands 2. It adds a few hours of gameplay and is decent fun, if not the best of the bunch. The highlight is a pair of engaging raid bosses that can be fought after completing the main portion.
Length: 4 hours (Main game), 8 hours (Main game + sidequests)
Full Review: The first of 4 campaign DLCs for the base game. While it’s not the strongest, it’s still pretty good. Captain Scarlett is set in a desert filled with pirates where you fight to find a hidden treasure; pretty generic fair there. The main part of the DLC features the same sort of hallmarks as the main game, it’s just not done as well. The characters don’t possess quite the same charm found in the main game, though you can tell the creators tried.
The biggest faltering of the DLC is that most of the missions amount to fetch quests. Fetch quests are something that should’ve died a long time ago, and while occasionally they can be well done, this DLC is festering with mediocre examples. There’s lots of “go here” and “find this”, and sometimes “shoot this guy.” Sadly, this also holds true of many of the side missions, which are plagued by this disease even worse.
Still, it has some redeeming qualities. For one thing, SOME of the missions are still fun, enough to at least give it a quick run. Two, it introduces Seraph weapons to the game, which are very powerful weapons although they each feature a drawback (they're only accessible on True and Ultimate Vault Hunter mode; though they are usable on normal).
The best facet of the DLC though is the pair of raid bosses it features. They’re both well designed, difficult enemies that are threatening even to a group of vault hunters, but still manageable solo if you over-level some and practice enough. They each feature combat more interesting than merely “shoot the enemy, dodge the attacks”. I won’t go into how to fight them, but there’s plenty of guides available if you can’t be arsed to figure it out yourself (e.g., if you’re me).
In spite of some shortcomings, it’s still a pretty fun DLC, and worth your time playing.
Mr Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage
Quick Breakdown: EXPLOSIONS!!! Mr. Torgue sets up a competition to find the biggest badass on Pandora. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, boasts another good raid boss, and most of all: it features lots of EXPLOSIONS!!!
Length: 3-4 hours (Main game), 5-6 hours (main game + sidequets)
Full Review: The second campaign DLC for Borderlands 2 features lots of things that go boom! Mr. Torgue, founder of the Torgue corporation, the ones who manufacture those lovely guns that also shoot explosive ammo, has set up a contest to find the biggest badass around. The tournament is set in the Badass Crater of Badassitude, where everyone needs to be a badass and make things explode. If that doesn’t explain the setting well enough, well, I’ll allow Mr. Torgue himself to explain:
"You may have noticed that everyone here is trying to kill you, Torgue personnel included. YOU'RE WELCOME. I didn't want you to get bored so I was like, fuck it, give everybody guns! We lost like half our workforce in three days, but who gives a FUCK!?"
Hopefully that tells you enough about the DLC to convince you to purchase it, but in case it doesn’t, know that the game features the same sort of combat and gameplay that was so good in the original game, except this time you have Mr. Torgue talking over a lot of it. Torgue is one of the best characters from Borderlands, and his banter is fucking hilarious. He’s a muscle-bound dolt, obsessed with explosions and badassness. His over-the-top, testosterone-fueled nature is ripe with laughs, and I never tire of the boisterous bloke.
On top of a strong campaign, the DLC gives you another raid boss to fight. He’s the easiest one to fight solo, if you’re the type to test yourself like that, though you’re better off bringing some friends. Like the two raid bosses from the previous DLC, his fight is more interesting than just “shoot and dodge”, though it’s not quite as clever as the previous ones.
Torgue is a very strong DLC, and certainly worth playing if you enjoy Borderlands 2. After all, EXPLOSIONS!!!
Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt
Quick Breakdown: It’s not the strongest DLC for the game, but it features a lot of the same humour and charm that help make it so great. The main mission and sidequests are just okay, but the laughs help compel you through the story. It also features two more raid bosses, but they’re not as well designed as past ones.
Length: 4 hours (Main game), 8 hours (main game + sidequests)
Full Review: Borderlands 2’s third campaign DLC is a step back from the previous one, and about on par with the first. You travel to the swamps of Pandora with Sir Hammerlock to hunt the rare creatures living there.
The strongest part of this DLC is the story and dialog. True to the form of the base game, it’s pretty damn funny. The gameplay itself isn’t up to par, mostly because it just doesn’t stand out much. In addition, it is hindered by very large areas that are often vague about where you need to go, and features lot of unnecessary walking.
The side missions are lacking, boasting nothing special, and some that are downright annoying; such as trying to find 23 eggs sprawled across a huge map, or trying to kill lots of rare creatures that randomly spawn in different areas of the DLC’s world.
Like past DLCs, this one gives you more raid bosses to fight. One of them, Voracidous the Invincible, is fought as a mission after completing the main game. When fought co-op he is stupidly easy, but when fought solo he’s stupidly difficult. My friend and I laid waste to him on our first attempt, both of us remarking “that’s it?". I tried him again solo hoping for more of a challenge, and he’s just not at all fun, as he has a nova attack that can hit you from anywhere in the arena, and will drop you in 2 hits. This makes beating him solo impossible unless you greatly over-level, or you get lucky enough to unload enough bullets in him before he opts to unleash his nova (very unlikely).
The other raid boss is hidden, Dexiduous the Invincible, and he costs an obscenely high amount of Eridium to fight (nearly 100 pieces) while offering little in return. His HP is just as obscene, and if you don’t have ammo regen, then you’ll need to repeatedly purchase ammo during the fight so you can kill him, otherwise you will run out.
It’s still a fun DLC, and I really enjoyed the banter during the story part of the DLC. Disappointing raid bosses and slightly underwhelming missions may hinder the DLC, but it’s still worth playing.
Tiny Tina’s Assault On Dragon Keep
Quick Breakdown: The fourth and final campaign DLC for Borderlands 2 is easily the best. It has all the things that the game is known for, strong characters, good dialog, and a fun story. Not to mention that it gives you some really fun magic themed weapons, and a raid boss featuring giant fucking dragons. This is what a DLC should be.
Length: 3-4 hours (Main game), 7-8 hours (main game + side quests)
Full Review: The final campaign DLC for Borderlands 2, and my god, is it good. Everything that made the base game good is true of this one as well. Herein your characters are playing a tabletop RPG called “Bunkers and Badasses”, with Tiny Tina acting as the dungeon master. This gives the DLC a fantasy setting, allowing for magic, dragons, and some silly things to occur without ever feeling out of place in the Borderlands universe.
Since the DLC's setting features the characters playing an RPG, it allows the NPC’s playing the game (Brick, Mordecai, and Lilith, with Tina as the DM) to have plenty of hilarious banter, playing off each other wonderfully. Not to mention Mr. Torgue and his desperate attempts to get in on the game (poor guy).
The campaign missions are fairly engaging, and in addition to helping move along the story and dialog, they are pretty fun in their own right. The side missions in this one hold up just as strongly, and can be completed alongside the main quest without it ever feeling like a distraction away from the main action. Occasionally, things can get a tad bit fetch questy, though it’s never enough to warrant any real concern, and avoids the pitfalls that Captain Scarlett possessed in that area.
True to form, this DLC features another raid boss. In this case, It’s four dragons fought simultaneously. The combat isn’t as unique as some of the others, but it’s fun enough that it’s easy to look past. Not to mention that they are the best spot to farm Eridium in the game, and they drop Seraph weapons even on normal mode (though you’re gonna need a friend or two unless you’re severely over-leveled).
Tina’s also introduces various magic-themed weapons, my favourite of which is the Magic Missile grenade, which not only throws 2 (or 4 if it’s purple rarity) homing slag grenades, but also regenerates grenade ammo. It’s a fantastic grenade in its own right, but the grenade regen is the icing on top.
The best place to farm for Magic Missiles is in the Badass Round for the DLC’s Magic Slaughter. Normally I love the slaughter rounds, but this one is pretty lackluster and features one of the most annoying characters in the entire game: Murderlin. He’s essentially Mr. Torgue, except instead of being hilarious and endearing, he’s just an annoying twat with an insufferable voice and an aggravating speech. It’s pretty surprising that in one of the better DLCs around, Borderlands or otherwise, we get a shitty slaughter round and an awful character.
That said, the missteps for Tina Tiny’s are pretty small, and all of it is a real treat, so anyone who loved the base game will love this too. It’s the best DLC for the game, and helps show what DLCs should be.
Quick Breakdown: It’s another slaughter round, but this time you murder lots of innocent animals. If you’ve ever wanted to tell PETA to fuck themselves in a horribly unethical way that accomplishes nothing, this is the DLC for you.
Length: 1 hour
Full Review: Not a whole lot to be said about this DLC. If you’re familiar with the Bandit and Hyperion Slaughter rounds from the base game, this is the same thing, except you kill animals (shouldn’t surprise you that this one is located in the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve). I really enjoy the Slaughter rounds, and this one is no exception.
Like the other Slaughter rounds, this one is five rounds, each with more waves, more enemies, and increasing in difficulty. Completing it will award you with Miss Moxxi’s Creamer, which is a pretty good rocket launcher for the part of the game where you encounter this, and should last you a good while.
Headhunter 1: TK Baha’s Bloody Harvest
Quick Breakdown: It’s a quick 30 minute romp. TK Baha is a charming character, but there’s very little here.
Length: 30-60 minutes
Full Review: It’s essentially a 30 minute Halloween fetch quest. The gameplay is lacking, simply running to and fro shooting things and picking some things up. I liked TK Baha in this, though I probably would’ve appreciated him more if I’d played the first game.
This DLC is not really worth buying. For whatever reason, Gearbox decided to be cheap fucks and not include it in the GOTY, which kinda pisses me off. Sadly, it’s just not worth getting on its own.
Headhunter 2: The Horrible Hunger of the Ravenous Wattle Gobbler
Quick Breakdown: It’s a short shitty fetch quest, followed by a mission where you literally listen to an old grandma prattle on for 20 minutes. There’s a reason no one has made a game called Nursing Home Simulator. That reason is because that game would suck ass.
Length: 30 minutes
Full Review: I figured this DLC would be promising, since it features Mr. Torgue. Sadly, this DLC is one of the worst I’ve ever played, and I’m pissed that Gearbox would try to peddle bullshit like this off on the world.
The story part of the DLC is a very, very bad fetch quest. Once you’ve reached the end, you’ll fight a very lackluster boss. The DLC then has two side missions after that, and in both of them you listen to Mr. Torgue’s grandma talk. For 20 minutes. I’m not shitting you, that’s the actual gameplay. I got about 2 minutes into the first of the talking missions before I said “fuck this” and abandoned it. They are the only 2 missions I haven’t completed in Borderlands 2, and that includes all the DLC.
On top of that, Gearbox decides to be fucking cancer and won’t even include this DLC in the GOTY. On the other hand, one could argue that including this hot turd would lower the quality of the package, making it less than a Game of the Year should be. They’d be right.
Headhunter 3: How Marcus Saved Mercenary Day
Quick Breakdown: It’s a short, Christmas themed, fetch quest. Despite featuring Marcus as the main person you help and letting you fight a giant snowman, it’s still a letdown.
Length: 30-60 minutes
Full Review: Following the theme of the first two Headhunter packs, this one is also holiday-themed; Christmas this time. Sadly, it follows the less savory tradition of the Headhunter packs, in that it boasts boring fetch quests as the core of its game play.
It’s a sadly lacking DLC, and while it’s fun to fight a giant snowman, it doesn’t help much. Skip this one, unless you have to have all the DLC for the game.
Headhunter 4: Mad Moxxi and the Wedding Day Massacre
Quick Breakdown: It’s a decent DLC. It tends to be a bit fetch quest-y, and it’s short, but it retains some of the humour and charm of Borderlands. Give it a shot if it’s on sale and you’re a big fan of the game.
Length: 30-60 minutes
Full Review: The fourth Headhunter pack centers around Valentine’s Day, as Moxxi tries to host a wedding. The gameplay is largely fetch quests, but it’s still fun to open fire at a wedding once you get the chance. It helps that some of the dialog is pretty funny too, such as when Salvador is asked if he’s ever had a love interest and he responds “Have you seen me? I look like a fist with hair on it!”
It falters more than it should, but it’s still some decent fun if you’re a big fan of Borderlands 2.
Headhunter 5: Sir Hammerlock vs the Son of Cramerax
Quick Breakdown: Decent fun, though like the past 4 Headhunter packs, the missions are mostly fetch quests. It does feature a raid boss though. Consider it if it’s on sale.
Length: 30-60 minutes
Full Review: The final Headhunter pack is themed around… I guess summer vacation. You travel to Wam Bam Island for some R&R, and then Hammerlock gets kidnapped, so you set out to rescue him. Though the gameplay isn’t the strongest, Crazy Earl does make an appearance to help you, which does redeem the DLC some, as he’s as insane and funny as always.
Unlike the past Headhunter packs, this one features a raid boss. By the time I did this DLC, I was grossly over-leveled, so I can’t comment on him as much as I’d like. Still, he’s there, and it’s a point in the DLC’s favour.
It’s not a must-have, since it’s just okay overall. It’s not the best Headhunter DLC, and certainly not as good as the full campaign DLCs released before it, but it’s a decent, albeit short, romp if you need more Borderlands. Just make sure to get it when it’s on sale.
Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 1
Quick Breakdown: It raises the level cap. That’s it. Don’t buy it on its own, just get it in the GOTY.
Full Review: The only thing this DLC does is raise the level cap from 50 to 61. That’s it. Still, that’s a really nice feature to have, just not worth paying $5 for. Thankfully, it comes in the GOTY edition, and that’s the way you should be buying Borderlands 2 anyway.
Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2
Quick Breakdown: Raises the level cap another 11 levels, gives you new legendary gear, and introduces a special map tailored for high-level play. It doesn’t come with the GOTY, but it’s worth getting. $5 isn’t too bad an asking price, but try to get it on a sale for less.
Full Review: This gives you another 11 levels of play in the game, which when combined with the first Upgrade Pack, brings the cap up to 72. It also features up to 8 overpowered levels (OP levels), which are weapons and enemies above the level cap, though you can’t earn experience or skill points past level 72 (hence, overpowered).
It also features a special challenge map, which is how you earn the OP levels. I've only played the map on Normal mode so far, and it was okay there, but from reading about it, it’s much better at the high levels when played on Ultimate Vault Hunter mode. However, I decided to begin a second game so I could play as a new character before I went ahead and tackled True and Ultimate Vault Hunter mode, so I haven’t properly tested this DLC fully yet. That said, I looked into the gameplay and new weapons enough to determine that there’s some solid stuff here, and another 11 levels is always a nice thing (Yay! More skill points!).
So get this DLC, preferably on sale, although $5 is a pretty reasonable price for what you get. It’s the only DLC not in the GOTY that is a must have.
Collector’s Edition Pack
Quick Breakdown: It’s a few costume packs, and a unique grenade. It’s a cool grenade, but not worth the asking price. Only get this because it comes with the GOTY edition.
Full Review: There’s very little to this pack, and it’s certainly not worth $5. You get a few more skins and heads to use, though the real highlight is the unique grenade: the Contraband Sky Rocket. It behaves a bit oddly, since it flies forward a short distance, and then up in to sky before release a shower of damaging fireworks. It has higher damage than normal for a grenade, but the truly interesting thing about is that its damage scales to the player’s level.
So despite a good grenade mod, it’s not worth getting this DLC on its own. Thankfully, it comes with the GOTY edition, and if you’re going to buy Borderlands 2, that is the best way to buy the game.
So in the end, despite some missteps, and a terrible handling of DLC, Borderlands 2 is still a phenomenal game. It’s well worth getting, and you should absolutely buy the GOTY. It’s a blast to kill enemies, raid their bodies for loot, and then use your newfound toys to kill their friends.
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