The lights are on
The fourth narrative DLC pack for Borderlands 2 is coming at the end of next month, but we had the chance to spend time with it recently. Titled Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, the final season pass content offers a change of scenery and heavy dose of humor.
The setup for the new expansion is clever, giving the Borderlands 2 team an opportunity to do things that wouldn't normally be possible on Pandora. The story sees the group of original vault hunters gathered around a table to play a game of Bunkers and Badasses (Borderlands' version of Dungeons and Dragons). Players will function as characters in the game world as Tina unfolds it.
Immediately, it's clear that Tina is new at running an RPG session, and the fourth wall is obliterated on multiple occasions. The Dungeons and Dragons-like game world players will explore is constantly changing as Tina changes the landscape and characters to suit her storytelling. She, Lilith, Brick, and Mordecai chime in often during the seven to eight hour (longer with side quests) adventure.
Dragon Keep isn't divorced from the rest of the Borderlands 2 story. Beneath the humor and adventure is Tina's struggle to deal with the loss of important figures in her life. Her escape into Bunkers and Badasses in many ways mirrors her experiences in the Vault Hunters' fight against villain Handsome Jack.
Lead level designer Ryan Heaton told us that this expansion, which was developed entirely in-house at Gearbox (a change from previous DLC designed by The Workshop and Triptych Games) is the biggest the studio has ever published. It has the most enemies and assets (with no reskins from the core game) than they've ever crammed into an add-on pack.
"We asked our artists for four skeletons," Heaton gave us as an example. "They gave us sixteen." Each of them has different behaviors, and function as you might expect a pile of bones to. Knock of the head of one, and it will stumble around blind. Some wear armor that can be chipped away at, and still others wield bows and target players from afar. They are resistant to fire, some are enormous giants, and still others require the removal of a magical sword (up close) in order to be put down permanently.
This is just for one area. Each of the different regions has its own completely new set of enemies, including treants, and orcs (some of which will get stronger the longer the battle lasts). Of course, there are dragons, but weren't allowed to see one yet.
Players will have new resources at their disposal to combat the magical menaces. Slot machines are on hand to take your eridium, dispensing different weapon types, including some of the legendary variety. Shrines also dot the maps, turning eridium into temporary buffs, which can also be earned from nabbing one of the fairies flitting about.
The only things that seem to have been reskinned are the new lootables (treasure chests, barrels, etc.) and the vending machines. Be sure to check out the new stained glass look and amusing new names they've been given.
With content that is as extensive as some full games, cameos from some of the franchise's most adored characters, and a complete change of scenery from anything found in the core experience, Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep looks to be a fine capstone for season pass purchasers.
Whether or not this is the final DLC is something only Gearbox knows, and they aren't ruling out a return to Pandora. If this is the last one though, the title is going out with a bang.
Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep arrives for PC, Mac, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 on June 25, 2013.