Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep - Borderlands 2 DLC Review  

The Quest for the True Ending
by Adriaan den Ouden

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5-6 Hours
+ Lots of great RPG humor.
+ Unexpectedly dramatic.
+ A shotgun that shoots exploding swords.
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   WARNING: This DLC review contains spoilers for the main campaign of Borderlands 2.

   Borderlands 2 is a game with some of the best replayability currently available. Gearbox has steadfastly been producing new content for it at an incredible rate, and to date it has received two new classes, a level cap increase and new difficulty mode, and four full-blown content add-ons, each with brand new zones and stories. The newest of these is Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, and it is far and away the best of the lot.

   So far every DLC add-on for Borderlands 2 has had a theme of some sort. Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty was all about pirates, Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt was a safari, and Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage was all about... well, explosions. Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep is, quite literally, a role-playing game. The story begins with Tiny Tina, Mordecai, Lilith, and Brick sitting around in Sanctuary waiting for the other vault hunters to finish beating information out of an informant. While they wait, Tina suggests they play a round of Pandora's most popular pen and paper role-playing game, Bunkers and Badasses.

   Unsurprisingly, Assault on Dragon Keep pokes fun at all manner of role-playing games. One quest points out the absurdity of one of classic Dungeons & Dragons most irritating rules by having players critically fail to simply pick up a gun. Another has players lighting bonfires and collecting souls as an homage to Dark Souls. Other quests simply bring back fan favorite characters for a last hurrah. Mr. Torgue returns as a quest giver for a while, using his over-exuberance to create bizarre quests with even more bizarre rewards, such as a shotgun that shoots exploding swords. Borderlands mascot Claptrap also makes an appearance as a wizard, asking players to forge him the ultimate wizard beard. There are even a few quests poking fun at gaming culture, as Lilith attempts to "out" Mr. Torgue as a fake geek with a series of nerd-testing questions.

   The new enemies and locales are also all inspired by classic fantasy and role-playing tropes. Players will be pitted against mages, knights, orcs, dwarves, treants, and of course skeletons. Lots and lots of skeletons. The environments include a fantasy town, a dwarven mine, a spooky forest, a dungeon (of course), and a fortress, the titular Dragon Keep. One of the best new additions to the gameplay is a set of special grenades that effectively act as magic spells. I encountered three during my playthrough, a Fireball grenade, a Lightning Bolt grenade, and a legendary Chain Lightning grenade. All three have the unique property of slowly regenerating grenade ammo over time, and characters will enthusiastically shout out the name of the spell whenever they cast it.

   While the whole campaign maintains an irreverent, wry sense of humor throughout its duration, by far the best aspect of this new DLC is the unexpected emotional side of the story. Players can see the beginnings in the trailer, where Tiny Tina casually suggests they wait for the now deceased Roland. It seems odd, maybe even out of place, but it's just the start of something much grander and much more poignant. As the campaign continues, she makes other odd comments, like mentioning that Mordecai looks different without Bloodwing on his shoulder. And then Roland shows up as an NPC, and the darker side of the story starts to emerge. It all leads up to an emotional finale that's uncharacteristic for a franchise as silly as this one. When the whole picture comes into focus, the story handles aspects of the grieving process in an incredibly accurate and painful way, including displacing blame, denial, and escapism. I never expected Borderlands to manage to bring a tear to my eye, but Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep did just that, and that is by far the best thing I can say about it.

   Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep lasts about 6 hours, a solid length for a piece of DLC, and includes post-campaign content including a new circle of slaughter and a raid boss. It's funny, it's haunting, and it's loads of fun. You should go get it. Go go go.

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