Game Opinions

Venture into the Borderlands – Part 5: CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR HUMOUR

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You may remember last time I finished the Scarred Booty For Adventures DLC and looted a train after it got blown up (in case you’re counting, second time a train went off the rails due to my intervention). If you’re new to this written Let’s Play series about Borderlands 2, you can find links to the series so far as the bottom. After doing 5 rounds in an arena, I felt like I could do with a break from the plot and heard the distinct, faint sounds of explosions. I mean, after all, 1 hour is PLENTY of time with the narrative and I still have so much DLC to crunch through, like being told no dinner until I finish my box of crackers. So, it is time to apply some cheese to my dinner of crackers (I…I’m not very good with metaphors…) in the form of MR TORGUE’S CAMPAIGN OF CARNAGE*.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Uh oh… Not these types of jokes again…

So, after signing the waver saying I am aware that taking a bullet to my throat during the arena will end in my demise, and said console I signed it on exploding (because of course it did), off I went to the arena to secure my name onto the arena board. After all, a vault will apparently open if the number 1 badass spills the blood of a coward onto it and, who knows, I may be enough of a badass to open the vault and HAVE TO FIGHT A TENTACLED LOVECRAFTIAN BEAST OH GOD (…oh, nevermind, that was the Borderlands vault — nothing to do with Borderlands 2). There will also probably be loot.

However, oh no, the current number 1 badass, Piston (who offered to sponsor me), tried to kill me by gassing me. This was an unexpected twist considering Piston offered to share the vault, and he looked like the sharing type. However, I managed to escape with my life, with MR TORGUE* declaring me a coward and therefore not worthy to be a badass… Except he knows Piston totally betrayed me hard, and after my performance of letting three groups of people shoot each other and picking off who’s left, decided I was 5th on the board.

This brings me to something I found interesting while playing through the DLC. Do you remember how absolutely irritated I was that Captain Scarlett was self-aware about her eventual betrayal? That she kept hanging it over your head like a jingling pair of keys to a child, and from this humour was meant to occur? Well, MR TORGUE does something very similar. Throughout the DLC, he’ll constantly chime in with things like “OH LOOK, HE’LL PRETEND TO BE YOUR FRIEND, BUT HE WILL BETRAY YOU AND IT’LL BE THRILLING!” (He talks in full caps). However, perhaps oddly, it actually works this time around, which makes me curious why.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

At least besides MR TORGUE having more depth in a sentence than Captain Scarlett did in the DLC.

I guess the most obvious reason why MR TORGUE’s story-savviness works where Captain Scarlett flops is the subject of the awareness. Captain Scarlett’s source of humour was how she talked about nothing but the pending stab in your back she was going to inflict. MR TORGUE, however, focuses on many subjects of awareness throughout the DLC, and he even does comedy bits that aren’t about masculinity and BEING A TOTAL BADASS, or about being aware of what is coming. There is even one joke that relies on Tiny Tina derailing an interview MR TORGUE was having with Moxxi (oh yeah, those two characters appear), as Tiny Tina begins to interview him and then declares the interview over after a question. When Moxxi asks if MR TORGUE will continue his original question, he screams at her “DID YOU NOT HEAR TINY TINA?! INTERVIEW OVER.”

Another part that I found interesting comparing the two characters is the level of involvement. While they are both titular characters, only Captain Scarlett takes centre stage in the plot of her DLC. MR TORGUE is more of an observer who is doing announcements on what is going on. I believe this leads to an interesting situation: While Captain Scarlett comes off as horribly smug and irritatingly 4th wall breaking; MR TORGUE is plausible in what he is saying while, yet, diffusing any sign of smugness by coming off as dim. For those familiar with Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder, it is as though he rolled a 16 in intelligence but got a 7 in wisdom.

Even if he had the wisdom to act upon the knowledge he has, he does nudge a few times that he is wrapped up in so much red tape that all he can do is watch. So, the comedy is both believable (and, therefore, does not snap the player out of the story), and you don’t feel that smug pressure that requires you to laugh at the story-aware “jokes” that come from Cap Scar or her DLC co-host, Shade.

Anyway, back to the story. So, MR TORGUE secretly YET NOT SECRETLY AT ALL decides that I need to get a new sponsor as my old one now hates me and legal requirements necessitates my sponsor to, at most, mildly loath me. Fortunately, he did hear a rumour that there is a sponsor lugging about somewhere but that she got a distinct case of the captured. To free her, I must go visit Pyro Pete at his Pyro Pete bar (I wonder if Pete is his real name or if the rules of the universe dictated that a fetish for combustion requires alliteration…). He offers to have a talk to me in his basement, and then MR TORGUE SUBTLY INFORMS ME THAT HE’LL TOTALLY BETRAY ME.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

You can hear all the excitement and his smiles are all gone now.

After I’m done peeling my boot from the back of Flame-boyant Fred’s skull, it is revealed that the selfless, kind Moxxi wants to sponsor me out of the goodness of her he- I can’t lie that well. She totally wants to remake the Underdome, also known as that Borderlands DLC that, fortunately for Gearbox, people often forget about. I’m surprised they have the titanium balls to remind people of its existence, considering it was a pretty pricey slog that felt empty, but okay. I also admit I have questions for her about what in bleeding hell happened to Sanctuary, but it is probably best not to think too hard on that.

Moxxi has a plan though: What is arena fighting without training montages, which seems like the ongoing influence the Rocky series has had on the world. It’s a good thing I got just the perfect person who knows how to keep myself in peak position for fighting people: Tiny Tina. Well, okay, she can’t teach me about how to put people into the floor but she did manage to rustle up a nice explosive gun with her own paintwork on it.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Styled after her own bus.

So after running around the arena edge blowing up challenge barrels, raisin cookie vending machines, and robots, Moxxi decides I’m ready to take on her ex-girlfriend in the form of some disgusting sexual innuendo about cannibalism. With this she then disgusts herself with it and confesses her sexual innuendos are a psychological coping mechanism, oddly the most amount of character development I’ve seen her have (reminder: I completed Borderlands and most of its DLC). On foot, I am then tasked to blow up Motor Momma’s motor-bike and then blow up her morbidly obese body, something that took quite a few tries.

Afterwards, I’m told that a 16 year old boy is next to murder, but someone locked the gates to MR TORGUE’S Forge. Sadly, explosions and lock-picking are out the question for some ill-defined reason ,and I have to go sneak into the arena again to grab the keys like a teenager trying to steal their father’s car keys. Although, also like a teenager, I have to go walk the dog first.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Uuuhh…

…Okay, now that I’m done with that, I go grab the keys (using a coathanger to deftly unhook it from a distance) and escape into the tar and burning plastic smelling Forge. Although, to get to the flying lad to shoot him down like the girl he like-likes did to him at the prom, I have to open up three gates. It is never simple and easy to kill a child, always hoops to jump through…

…Now with hoops jumped and gates open, I have to lure him out now. I have to shoot down not only his patrols, but also his bling? I admit I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from a 16 year old who talked like the game reviewers I had to kill earlier (ha ha, nothing like strawmen to laugh at). I know what I didn’t expect: Banjos. So, after stealing all of Flyboy’s prized bling-tastic banjos, finally we can fight… After I climb up his tower. I did start to wonder when I would get to kill the mouthing-off teenager like I used to do in my dreams after playing Saints Row online.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

At least MR TORGUE gave Moxxi’s obsession with sexual innuendos a punt.

Okay, NOW I get to kill Flyboy. He even appears, laying on more insults that Anthony Burch likely found in a Mother’s Guide To Internet Slang. Just as I lift the gun up to the iron sights, just like that he is shot out of the sky. All that teasing, all for nothing. Fortunately, I was to take it out on Piston’s zeppelin that sadly didn’t fall like the Hindenburg (i.e. in one shot). It even had shields up which I had to penetrate through. At least I got the satisfaction of Moxxi calling Piston a cheater over and over and him getting angry about it.

As I died, my body unable to lift itself up any more, I took Piston’s ship down with me. Faint screaming of congratulations was the final thing I heard as I went into the white void and respawned. I was pleased Borderlands 2 has a system where you can usually carry on where you left off upon respawning, so the boss kill still counted.

Except, well, it wasn’t exactly a boss kill. I could sense the game felt a bit awkward about this confession. You see, Piston was still alive. Flyboy was dead, though, so MR TORGUE decided it was time for the showdown between number 1 and number 2; I just needed to prepare. So I did a few more side-quests, like hiding a man (sporting a flamboyant feather tiara that made me think he was now dating an offensive stereotype of an Native American) from his ex-husband. Finally, I got everything I could and went to the arena for the showdown.

Oh, how the crowds cheered as I walked into the middle, and how MR TORGUE’s voice boomed in constant caps lock — How it was time for the two top people on the leaderboard to battle it out with each other. That is when the Badassasaurus came down from the ceiling and crushed my briefly-twitching body into the sands.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

And now we know what wiped out the dinosaurs: Badassasauruses. 

It took quite a few tries to grind the metal dinosaur down, as it had a ridiculous amount of health and would occasionally nuke almost-all mine away. I also then realised there weren’t the health packs I could store in my inventory and refill my health with at any point I wanted. Nope, I had to do it on one life bar, as well as any health I regenerated with my shields up (Thanks Preparation skill!). Next was a one-on-one with Piston who, besides one point where I accidentally took a light-cannon to my entire body surface, made for an easy kill.

Then, just as Piston’s blood stained the sands, it flowed onto the vault. Lit up, the vault begun to creak open. MR TORGUE must have been prepared for this, as he rigged the vault with explosives. Rather than just blowing up all the loot into iron filing that would surely rain down into my eyes, instead it blew all the contents into the air to rain down upon me. Luckily none stuck me on the back of my head, or maybe it did and the rest of the game is the final thoughts of a dying commando? Who knows? Then the credits ran.

The only other thing I found interesting about the DLC was how they handled end-game missions. Part of me does wonder if these missions were built in an anxious rush to have something there, just anything there, after the player has finished the story to give some feeling of something more to do. These boil down to redoing previous missions but with a harder difficulty. I guess it isn’t something I should grumble about, but it feels a bit empty to ask players to simply replay the missions again for added content.

In whole, despite MR TORGUE’S CAMPAIGN OF CARNAGE seeming shorter than The Booty DLC (at least I managed to complete MR TORGUE’S CAMPAIGN OF CARNAGE in one sitting rather than The Booty DLC requiring two punts), it felt more concentrated in enjoyment. There was significantly less downtime and the writing didn’t feel stiff and forced. I really expected, walking in, to absolutely loath the ridiculous MASCULINITY, YEAH humour MR TORGUE seemed to be presenting. However, he grew on me, really. He showed that he isn’t just about BADASS EXPLOSIONS, YEAH but also just wanted to make an arena he found awesome.

Isn’t that just what everyone wants in life, though, to make an awesome arena?

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Especially if you can launch prizes into the air with rampant disregard of the victor’s skull.

Thinking through my future DLC plans, I believe I might follow the story through until it feels appropriate to give Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep and then Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt a go. After that, I might complete the rest of Borderlands 2‘s story and then get back up to Sanctuary (either with Axton’s True Vault Hunter Mode or a new character). Then, it’ll be onwards to Headhunter DLCs for the finale, or Tina Tina/Sir Hammerlock’s DLC for a finale if the Headhunters might level me up enough (5 of the damn things). I think I’ll leave it up to you to decide how I handle the other DLC, or I’ll work something out then.

*I think the caps lock for the title of the DLC and MR TORGUE, the titular character, is compulsory? I’m not the type to take risks. I have binned food a day out of date, and then felt anxious of “… Should I have done that?” Everything scares me, send help or don’t because the help will likely scare me further. I think I have a problem.

[Part 1: Funny Little Robot] [Part 2: Roland’s Disapproving Gaze] [Part 3: The Worst Fear & Loathing Tribute Band] [Part 4: Tiny Tina’s Troubling Temperament]

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