The Borderlands series has a special place in my heart, which has been medically proven to exist. I remembered something when I was writing this piece and it was sort of a gut punch, to be honest. As I reflected on my love of the Borderlands series (although we’ve had our ups and downs, and our ‘I don’t even know what that was!’ moments) I suddenly remembered something I did whilst playing Borderlands 2 years back that shocked me—I made an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my weapons. Which characters had them. What levels they were. The whole nine. And you know I color coded that mother. I had too many legendary and pearlescent weapons, you see, and I simply couldn’t part with almost any of them, so I had to keep track of which mule (a character you create merely to use their inventory to hoard items) had what weapons. I mean, I know you don’t know me, so you have no idea how high up the nerd meter I’m turned up to, but let’s just say I was in uncharted waters, as far as devotion to a video game went, once I started cataloging weapons and creating characters strictly for more inventory space.
Funny how you can be so engaged with something, so committed, and a few years later you’ve all but forgotten it was all you’d ever think about (gaming-wise) not so long ago. Even when you buy Borderlands: The Handsome Collect on PS4, as you play through Borderlands 2 (I haven’t even revisited The Pre-Sequel, that’s a total misfire for another day) you’re just revisiting things you’ve done before. And you’ve done it ALL before. You have the Platinum Trophy to humble-brag about it, don’t you, sugar?
Well, fear not Vault Hunters, because the very last DLC that surprisingly dropped at E3 for the 7-year-old Borderlands 2 is here, and it acts as one final get together for our favorite characters to chit chat about what’s been going on.
Now keep in mind, this article is not to compel you to download this, it’s FREE until July 8th, and if you have PS Plus or XBOX Live you have this game already in your library, so you should do it just because it’s free if nothing else.
As far as DLC content goes, this is a full-fledged expansion. It’s not one of those mini DLC Headhunters packs they released that were holiday themed, this is a full story. You can’t wrap this add-on up in one sitting.
Normally I would meander off on side quests as soon as possible, but I stuck to the main storyline in order to get the mainline experience. Each of the 6 chapters smartly gives the player some one-on-one time with some of our old favorites. At first, you’ll start out with Lilith, the siren, and undoubtedly the lead character of the series at this point.
As you shoot, loot, and repeat through all new levels (and a few that tweaked up sections of levels from The Pre-Sequel) your old friends will pop up on the Echo device and catch you up on not just mission objectives, but plot points, back story, and of course, a little pathos.
Since I’m already sharing so much today, I might as well tell you that at the end of Borderlands 2’s last full-on DLC, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, I may have had, a feeling or two. Not just sadness, for when Tina stopped living in her fantasy world and accepted the death of her friend, but for the joy, when Lilith, Brick, and Mordecai told her to finish her story. Then there was elation and appreciation for how the deus ex machina, swooping down from the sky that saves the day was Mordecai’s recently deceased bird, Bloodwing. I was like a little kid, but I wasn’t, I was a man in my mid-thirties—just as you’d suspect. Yet that game just put me through the wringer of emotions, despite it being the most whimsical of all the DLC, due to the fact that it’s all a Dungeons & Dragons style fantasy game. My point eventually being that I’m invested in these characters, they’re not just voices and interruptions between all the shooting, and then looting, and then repeating (these games are formulaic as hell, but it’s an open secret and everyone, including myself, don’t seem to care). The writing is what keeps me invested in the series and the top-notch voice actors rise to and often elevate, the material.
Lilith is a reluctant hero. and I realize that sounds cliché as hell, and if it proves to be in Borderlands 3, I’m sure the game will make sure to self-reference it. Don’t mistake my tone, being self-referential is clearly established early in these games. It owns it, as they say, so while I’m not a big fan of winking at the camera, I get that it’s always been this way, and for the material, it works well.
I loved the Challenges in Borderlands 2, and they have them here too. I’m a sucker for scavenger hunt stuff so when I found my first Cult of the Vault symbol, I felt like I was truly inhabiting the BL2 world again. This felt like Borderlands 2, before I went back to the future in The Pre-Sequel (the third entry in the series), and didn’t make it far into Tales From The Borderlands before I admitted to myself I couldn’t overcome my inability to play a TellTale game for any sustained period of time. They’re just not for me.
Speaking of which, if you’ve never played TPS or TFTB before, this game does all the narrative heavy lifting to fill you in on what you missed. I’m not gonna say who, in case you don’t know, but someone caught the big ride in the sky in TFTB. Having not played through all the side quests yet, I can’t say whether this add-on also deals with the ending of TPS, which was incredibly lackluster.
I don’t want to be someone that writes about things I have a lot of problems with, so don’t take me as one of those people hungry to hate something, but TPS was so tonally weird. Nothing speaks to that more than the ending, where Lilith gets too violently over-the-top for Brick, a guy who punches first and asks questions never. Lilith makes some curious choices in that game’s story, and I’m hard-pressed to think of a reason to justify it without a bit more context.
Luckily here, Lilith seems to merely be living in the literal shadow of her fallen comrade, uninterested in leading her friends, despite being the clear and only choice. Seriously, between Mordy, Brick, Tina, and Tannis, who are you putting in charge? It’s Lil, she phasewalked the entire city in Sanctuary to save it from the series’ most famous Big Bad, Handsome Jack, early in BL2, and now she’s forced to protect it from the latest villain with a weird plan.
What I love the most about Lil is that she doesn’t go around telling other characters why she’s a badass, she just goes out and gets it done. Show don’t tell, girl.
Mordy is still a drunk, using the Vault Key as a cup holder for his drink, and going on about his new pet bird, Talon, whom we met in Sir Hammerlock vs. The Son of Crawmerax mini DLC way back in 2014.
I suppose not everyone played every bit of DLC like myself, and Gearbox understands this as well. I like how they worked in mentions and references for things casual players might have missed if they didn’t addictively play every bit of DLC. This add-on tosses in sprigs of exposition routinely in a way I found very well executed.
Brick…well, Brick is Brick. He’s a brute with a soft side. Nobody pretends Brick has any pathos. I know, I know, his dog died, but he got over it—mostly through rage. And punching. So so much punching.
Tiny Tina continues to be my favorite character in the series. There is a reason this character was written specifically for voice actress Ashly Burch (besides the fact her brother was lead writer at the time). She imbues the id of a 13-year-old girl, shouting out pop culture references and releasing gleeful cackles of joy as she blows something up. Tina is your average 13-year-old explosives expert. Still, Burch isn’t afraid to give Tina’s a little PTSD when Mordecai falls ill early in the campaign. Her panic and fear are real, the carefree front she puts up all but drops, and she shows genuine concern for one of her moms (Brick and Mordy are unofficially co-parenting her). This all goes back to Assault on Dragon Keep, which was Tina’s way of dealing with the death of Roland, the former leader of the Crimson Raiders, and the person whose legacy Lilith is trying to live up to.
With all the character work so well done, it’s still not a surprise the story isn’t all that compelling. Hector (whom we’ve never met before) is the main bad guy in this, and his plan is to create a new Pandora, mostly through excessive use of aggressive plant life. In true Borderlands fashion, they explain the plan and then question the logic of it almost immediately afterwards—in the writing world we call this lampshading. However, anyone that played through the original game knows the story is secondary to the characters and their relationships with each other.
Along the way, I found little Easter eggs hidden in the game. That’s the joy of the newer Borderlands games, there are always little touches everywhere.
For example, in the mission where you’re to meet up with Mordecai, you arrive at his waypoint location but he’s not there. To the left on the rocks, there is a hand-drawn map. I chuckled. In BL2, Mordy is camped out in a mountain, and to his left, on the rock wall, there is a hand-drawn map there as well. That’s something not everyone will notice, but those who do will appreciate it.
As far as world-building, these games always do a great job adding flourishes and tidbits that show that the designers know players will often look for little extras, and the mostly diligent Vault Hunters will not be disappointed on that front.
I feel like I revealed a dirty little secret about myself with that story of having spreadsheets of my inventory. I feel free, sure, yet I also fear the very real possibility of judgment. It’s cool though, any Vault Hunter worth their weight in Eridium knows sometimes you simply can’t make a Sophie’s Choice between two almost identical weapons, you should, nay, you must, keep both.
Also, in case you didn’t know, my nerd meter goes to 11. I mean, kind of a no-brainer, right?
I’ll be writing featured articles on the Borderlands game in the future, revisiting the previous games, and possibly covering the third installment when it arrives September 13th. Until then, here are a few random tiddly bits about Commander Lilith & The Fight For Sanctuary:
- For an ideal experience, play this DLC with a custom character Gearbox has set up for you. From the Main Menu, choose the option to Select a Character from your Saved Characters list. Inside the list, there is an option to create a character that starts out at Level 30.
I was unaware of this and played with a level 25 character. I got my butt handed to me so hard, I had to leave, spend some time in the Dragon Keep DLC leveling up.
- In case you were wondering, my Nerd Meter goes to 11. Naturally.
- Yes, there is a RAID boss, an overpowered baddie you usually need friends to co-op with. I don’t personally like being yelled at by small children, so I usually have to kill these guys on my own. CHALLENGE!
- Yes, there are trophies (or achievements)
- And finally, I assume this is a The Gods Must Be Crazy reference. Right?