Returning To Pandora: A Look Back At Borderlands' DLC

by Jeff Marchiafava on Oct 11, 2012 at 09:46 AM

Today, Gearbox officially announced the first DLC campaign for Borderlands 2, providing us with a few tantalizing details of the upcoming expansion. Join us as we look back at what worked and didn't work for the DLC offerings of the original Borderlands, and compare them to the announced features of Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty.

The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned
The first DLC expansion for Borderlands got things off to a solid start. Zombie Island featured new environments that that stood out from Pandora's monotonous deserts, providing players with haunted graveyards and ghost towns to explore. The DLC pack's biggest strength was the plethora of new enemies it introduced, which included zombified mutations of every major enemy type in the base game. These new foes also featured more varied attacks, requiring players to change up their tactics.

The only major complaints players had regarding Zombie Island was that the DLC didn't provide new items or weapons, and it didn't increase the level cap. It also didn't provide much of a challenge for veterans – a complaint Gearbox addressed with its next DLC expansion, to mixed results.

Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot
Gearbox took a major stumble with its second DLC offering, Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot. While Moxxi herself was more amusing and memorable than most of the characters in the base game, the expansion was a repetitive grind that appealed to few players. Three Underdome arenas make up the bulk of the expansion, and the Horde-style gameplay was more elaborate than most copycats, providing themed waves and game-changing modifiers. The problem is that the challenges were way too long, and didn't provide enough rewards; players couldn't earn XP or weapon proficiency points in the arenas, and the between-round loot was underwhelming. Underdome Riot did provide a bank for storing weapons and two additional skill points, but those perks weren't enough to win over fans.

The Secret Armory of General Knoxx
Gearbox rebounded with its third DLC pack, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx. Secret Armory featured new (though still bland) environments, enemy types, and boss battles that easily provided players with dozen hours of gameplay. It also raised the level cap, introduced new vehicles, and finally gave players the chance to plunder a giant vault full of loot – even if there was an annoying time limit attached to it.

Secret Armory didn't scale back the difficulty, either. Designed as endgame content, the expansion's enemies were significantly more powerful than the foes of the base game. The DLC's arena-style challenges fixed the problems that Underdome Riot suffered from, but were still a pain. The end boss, the dreaded Crawmerax, was capable of devastating even the toughest foursomes. Despite the difficulty, Secret Armory was the highest reviewed expansion for Borderlands.

Claptrap's New Robot Revolution
The final expansion of Borderlands gave fans more of the series' standout character, Claptrap. While the demented robot's revolution was filled with witty, Andrew Ryan-esque propaganda, the missions highlighted just how reliant the series was on fetch quests. Many of the new enemies were cybernetic rehashes of previous enemies, and the expansive, new locations were comprised of the same brown color palette players knew all too well. The endgame loot was satisfying, but as a whole, Robot Revolution exposed many of the unfixable problems of the core game.

What About Captain Scarlett?
The features revealed in today's Borderlands 2 DLC announcement should get fans excited. Captain Scarlett features a prominent central character in the same way Underdome Riot and Robot Revolution did, and the pirate motif provides a clear central theme, similar to Zombie Island. Like Secret Armory, the expansion also features new enemy types (including sand worms), and a new vehicle (a hovering sand skiff).

Gearbox president Randy Pitchford stated that the DLC is designed for all players, not just those who have reached the level cap, which should make it less frustrating than Underdome Riot or Secret Armory. Our biggest concern at the moment is the environment, which is described as a Tatooine-esque desert environment. Borderlands 2 did a great job of changing up location variety – we're not sure if we're ready to go back to another dusty wasteland.

The announcement also revealed a new currency called seraph crystals (we're not sure what function this new form of money serves), and while Gearbox hasn't confirmed it, we're guessing the DLC pack will increase the level cap as well. Luckily, we won't have to wait long to find out; Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC next Tuesday, October 16.