Borderlands 2 closes out its campaign in style.
By Jamie Dalzell on July 1, 2013 at 12:35 pm
“Once upon a time, the Vault Hunters played a game.”
And so Marcus kicks off Borderlands 2’s closing act with more than a lingering sense of deja vu, in the same way he opened the first some four years earlier: against a backdrop of ink-over-parchment that would become Pandora’s defining style. In truth, deja vu may well have been Borderland’s greatest enemy. How many hours could a Vault Hunter last on loot and loot alone? But with its chameleon-like ability to re-shape, re-skin and re-write, Pandora has become a world of characters and tilesets rich enough for any Dungeons & Dragons DM.
Fitting, then, that the tabletop is where Gearbox have decided to stage this final farewell, in an encore performance set amidst dice rolls and miniature figurines. Could there be a more appropriate battlefield for a franchise whose loot hunters’ fortunes have always been so heavily intertwined with the luck of the dice? It’s a chance — with Pandora saved — for its rag tag cast to finally gather together for a night of relaxation, gaming into the early morning hours. Like Vault Hunters, like videogame players.
Yet D&D likely wouldn’t recognise what videogaming has done to its time-honoured traditions, let alone Borderlands’ decision to ditch the sweeping orchestra of a backing track in favour of dubstep that drops right down to the deepest dungeon. And if D&D were to ask why? Borderlands’ response would mimic that of Torgue’s own in-game explanation for his involvement in the night’s proceedings, and explain Borderlands’ existence all in one.
It’s with Tiny Tina that they place the reins this time, a chaotic hive of uncontainable energy who has thrown out the Dungeon Master’s Handbook – burned it alongside the Bestiary – repurposing the time-tattered tale of the damsel in distress into a parade of comedy one-liners. There is no reverence here for D&D’s legacy. No character safe from Gearbox’s twisted humour. And the campaign is all the better for it.
The loot’s here, too, of course. As are the quests. And as ever, this is Borderlands at its speedy best. Ranged and melee combat walk the ever-tricky tightrope with ease, while Knights scream “Demon Bomb!” at the sight of a grenade and “The spawn has spawned more spawn!” whenever a player turret rears its head. And when Torgue asks you to blow up a civilian blimp, exclaims it’s too far away to hit with gunfire, and then screams with all of his trademark enthusiasm that “IT’S A PUZZLE!?”, it only compounds the feeling this is all a night at the D&D theatre where familiar faces, players, and Gearbox can let their hair down and overact their roles with a cheesy grin.
It’s those characters that have, perhaps, become Pandora’s stars in latter years. A surprising turn of events for a dungeon crawler whose cast were known more for the guns they wielded than the name above their heads. But with everyone back together for a final farewell, this accidental cast of superstars will be missed. It’s a fact not lost on Tina, as she brings those who have fallen in the name of the Vault back to life throughout her campaign, much to the chagrin of those who have already accepted fate.
Tina’s inability to say goodbye is perhaps a sign of Gearbox’s reluctance to move on. To leave their flagship vessel aboard which they have sailed through irradiated waters, and flown through turbulent xenomorph space. This may well have been a series that roared to life because of “reasons!”, and once full of nothing more than named gun-wielders, but four years is a long time for any D&D campaign to flourish.
Borderlands‘ future? That will have to remain unknown — but for now? It’s here, wrapped up in Tiny Tina’s D&D dungeon of sombre, and exciting, farewells. The final chapter in a four year long campaign that has been played out by innumerable companions. And why? Because reasons, of course. And in this final outing, all of them are good.
- Gearbox’s magical ability to continually re-shape, re-skin and re-write Borderlands under any guise on full display.
- It’s D&D, but not as you know it, and it’s all the more entertaining for it.
- Guns, guns, and more guns. And then some more guns. And did I mention the magical spell grenades?
- A (supposed) final farewell as touching as it is hilarious. One final encore performance for this surprisingly dear cast. Who would have thought it?
- A more focussed campaign, and a shorter one for it.
This review code purchased by the reviewer at their own expense.
For more on Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep, why not read our enormous interview with Anthony Burch?