So. I have now finished Borderlands 2 on Normal Mode and finished the two DLC expansions. Some spoilers below.
I’m less angry than I was (though that isn’t saying a whole lot — and let me tell you, getting to off Handsome Jack was, as I expected, not nearly satisfying enough to make up for how he shifts the tone of most of the plot missions), but I still have really conflicted feelings — especially now that I’m playing through the game again with two different characters AND playing through on True Vault Hunter Mode with my original character (aka: the game is the same but harder).
There’s so much to enjoy, starting with the gameplay. The baddies are hard, but not impossibly so. The zillions of different weapons and shields and powers mean you can be constantly changing how things work, so things are constantly fresh. Further, Gearbox periodically gives out codes that give you keys to a special gold chest in the game, and that chest always has hella awesome rare loot — weapons and gear that are so fucking awesome you’re psyched to have them, but not so powerful that the game stops being challenging. (And, on the rare occasion you get a dud, they’re worth a ton so you can sell ’em and buy something else.)
That is a really hard line to maintain, and I want to give Gearbox mad props. They are doing that incredibly, incredibly well.
The dark tone I complained about in my previous post is even more obvious on multiple playthroughs. The fact that Handsome Jack is a bad, bad man gets pounded home so hard, so often that I’m kind of amazed they didn’t have him tossing kittens into chipper-shredders for most of the game. They sure came close (do the optional mission involving his grandma, and you’ll see what I mean. Or pick up all the recorders of him forcing a nice scientist lady to torture people to death. Or the ones explaining the backstory on his relationship with Angel. *shudder*). I like my villains either slightly sympathetic (Loki!) or over-the-top evil without tipping into reality. Jack is evil the way actual abusive fathers are evil, the way evil Nazi scientists were evil. Jack is evil in a real way, and that does not make for escapist entertainment.
Then I got the latest DLC, Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, and it was like the sun dawning on a new valley full of awesomeness. It’s basically everything I love about the game with none of the dark bullshit that pissed me off (well, almost none). And the awesome? Is dialled TO ELEVENTYBILLION. Seriously. It’s like one long guitar solo that makes you scream and yell and jump up and down and want to take up electric guitar yourself.
Then I finished it, and went back to working on the regular game, and I just… couldn’t. Last night I actually stopped playing an hour before I planned to, because the thought of trooping around the goddamn Eridium Blight collecting severed limbs for a malfunctioning robot was just too much. I missed the lightheartedness and enthusiasm of the first game, and of Mr. Torgue’s DLC.
So. I’m sure I’ll be back before too long, if only because I love the characters i get to play as (and OH MY GOD doing the Campaign of Carnage with my Gunzerker is going to be like one long slow-mo explosion in an 80s Schwarzeneggar movie. YYYYYYEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!).
I’m hoping that the next batch of DLC will also be awesome, that Gearbox have found their way back to the tone I loved about the first game. I guess we’ll see.