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KRIEG: Borderlands 2's Newest Jack Smasher

 

        I actually had no idea that Borderlands 2's newest DLC character, Krieg, was heading towards release. Actually, I had no idea that there even was a new character on the horizon. I was just minding my own business mowing down some Pandoran and Hyperion scum in my monthly revisit to my favorite game and there in Dr. Zed's vending machine was a strange looking mod for a 'Psycho Class'. Initially I just wrote it off thinking that maybe Season Pass holders had access to some kind of mod that the rest of us didn't, but every time I hopped into a med machine there it was; 'Psycho Class' - Burn Chance +5%, or Melee Kill +15%. It was like an itch that I couldn't scratch and before I knew it, it was all I could think about on Pandora. So after spending a few minutes digging around in the DLC and then a quarter of a half of a fifth of a second waiting for Google to give me a result, there it was; Krieg, Borderlands 2's newest Vault Hunter.

          Krieg is one of Pandora's infamous Psychos. Now playing for the home team, you finally get to experience what it's like to be completely insane, but best of all, to wield that big-ass buzz axe. As Krieg's melee weapon and Action Skill, the buzz axe is the same wrecking ball that it is in the enemy's hands. Hit that left bumper and "Krieg get angry, Krieg get smashy." Like Brick in the original Borderlands, Krieg's action skill is all about getting extremely pissed off, charging in and separating flesh from bone. But unlike Brick, Krieg's action skill also gives you the ability to keep your distance and throw that monstrosity of a spinning death stick, giving you an alternative to charging in head first. As you progress through Krieg's skill tree you can even attach a healthy amount of TNT to that buzz axe and toss the mother of all hand tools into the midst of your enemies. Like all Vault Hunters, Krieg comes with his own unique skill tree and dialogue. It's this skill tree however that I have a few minor issues with. Much like Gaige's, Krieg's skill tree introduces what I like to call, 'a very bad idea'.

          While I always appreciate something new to try out, both of Gearbox's new DLC characters Gaige, and now Krieg, have come with skill trade-offs along with skill bonuses. It started with Gaige's 'Ordered Chaos' branch. If you wanted access to that second tier or anything below it, you had to give up a percentage of your magazine capacity. For someone like me that likes to arm themselves with Revolvers, Shotguns, but most of all, Sniper Rifles, I could be looking at a 3 shot weapon. Needless to say, I wasn't very happy with such a frustrating addition to what otherwise used to be upgradable skills; bonuses to your character's abilities. So, I just upgraded my 'Anarchy' ability and completely left the 'Ordered Chaos' branch untouched. And now, once again, Krieg comes with a branch, that while certainly offering skill upgrades, also forces you to sacrifice for a bonus. This is an unsettling development for Borderlands and it's making me a little nervous thinking about what a Borderlands 3 skill tree might look like for all of the characters.

          In Krieg's 'Hellborn' branch, if you upgrade the 'Burn, Baby, Burn' skill, Krieg deals increased burn damage - but - there's also a chance that he's going to burst into flames. I don't need to tell you what kind of trouble this can, and does, cause. Now, while you're on fire, you do deal even more burn damage, but, if your dead, who cares? In the middle of a cluster of chaos, if you're blasting away with your fire weapon and your shields get completely depleted, you're more or less done for if that fire weapon forces you to go up in flames as well (this will happen). After a few frustrating firefights, emphasis on fire, I decided it was time to go through every Vault Hunter's skill tree to make sure I wasn't just imagining this unfortunate new turn of events. As it turns out, I wasn't. I couldn't find a single skill in a single Vault Hunter's skill tree that forced you to give up something to get something. That's zero, not one, not a single trade-off whatsoever. Every upgrade gives you a bonus to your abilities, not a bonus coupled with a penalty. I had chalked up Gaige's trade-off to the fact that 'Anarchy' is an absolute wrecking ball when maxed out, so sure, decrease that magazine size (although all 3 times I've played with her, I haven't touched anything other than 'Anarchy'), but added Burn Damage does not make Krieg a wrecking ball; at all. And further complicating the problem is that 'Burn, Baby, Burn' isn't the only skill that increases your chance of bursting into flames. If you also upgrade your 'Fuel the Fire' and 'Delusional Damage' skill, you're further increasing the chance of self-immolating. This is not a good idea Gearbox. Every single Vault Hunter has an upgradeable skill that gives you bonuses to your player's abilities so that as the game's enemies get more and more powerful, you're given the freedom to choose from a variety of ways to make yourself more powerful as well. Now, your power comes along with… what? The ability to go up in flames? "Krieg no like.. Krieg strap boom-boom to buzz axe."

          Don't get me wrong. Krieg's skill tree is still a lot of fun. Replacing your regular melee with the ability to breath a cone of fire is an absolute blast, and strapping a bundle of dynamite to your buzz axe never gets old. There is a lot to enjoy. You really don't want to pass him up, because he is a great deal of fun. And who knows, maybe you'll love being on fire and decide that all of the bonuses that come with it are well worth dying every now and again. As you progress through the 'Hellborn' branch, being on fire makes you more and more powerful, so it's not like it's some kind of horrible trade-off that makes life on Pandora harder and harder; but 7 out of the 34 skills come with some form of trade-off and that's 7 more than there should be. You should also keep in mind that once you hit a certain point in the game you're mainly battling Hyperion robots and soldiers that are completely resistant to fire damage. So while it's great for most of the game (again, if you don't mind the trade-off), it's going to become a lot less useful in the end. But, like all of the Vault Hunters, the choice is up to you. You don't have to touch that right branch if you don't want, which still leaves 2 other branches that have a ton of great skills. Aside for strapping dynamite to your buzz axe, which is obviously my favorite, you also have skills like 'Pull the Pin', that let's you drop a grenade when you die, granting you double XP for killing whoever was stupid enough to be tea-bagging your corpse. The entire 'Bloodlust' branch offers stackable damage, culminating in it's final skill, 'Bloodsplosion', where killing an enemy causes them to explode with an Elemental Nova matching the element of the damage that killed them. 

          Krieg is worth the dough. Even with all my petty little issues, I had a ton of fun playing as a Psycho. That buzz axe is a force to be reckoned with and there's nothing more satisfying than going up against a Badass Psycho as a Badass Psycho, and letting them know how it feels to have that buzz axe planted firmly in their eye socket. Ordinarily those dudes put the fear of god into me, but as Krieg, I couldn't wait for one of them to pop up so I could hit that LB and chuck a buzz axe full of dynamite into their sternum. Sweet, sweet revenge. And while the skill tree is by far the most important part of any new Vault Hunter, Krieg also comes with his own unique dialogue. I never once got tired of him saying "Insurance Fraud!" every time I ran over something or someone with my vehicle. He's as stupid as you'd expect a Psycho to be and it's hilarious listening to some of his comments. As far as his mod's are concerned, some of those come with trade-offs as well, but that's par for the course with mods, so it's really no big deal. In my playthrough most of the ones I came across had to do with Burn Damage, Melee Damage, or Fight For Your Life bonuses. There are more of course, and one particularly helpful one that I'll let you discover for yourself. As a team player, he has some particularly useful attributes that will make him a helpful addition to any Jack-slaying Vault Brigade. If you're a Borderlands fan you're probably already playing with Krieg, but if you haven't picked him up yet, he's worth the investment.

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