Editorial: Gearbox Proves They Can Still Do DLC Right

Borderlands 2 Logo

Are you ready for some shooting and looting?

There are a number of video game companies that are universally viewed as companies to ignore. EA, Activision, and Microsoft are all companies that have built an empire on pissing off gamers. Gearbox Software, however, is a company that gives gamers every reason to be divided on their feelings for the studio. While Gearbox seems to take great pride in their own games, the Aliens: Colonial Marines debacle proved that they should not be trusted when contracted to develop games. As a huge fan of Borderlands, I grew a bit concerned when Gearbox charged five dollars for a level cap increase and ten dollars for an ill-conceived additional class. That being said, I was looking forward to Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, the latest content pack for Borderlands 2, although I did have my reservations.

Besides millions of guns, Borderlands and its sequel have been known to be some of the few games to have downloadable content that is worth the price of admission. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep does nothing but solidify this image. Taking place in the world of Bunkers & Badasses, Pandora’s version of Dungeons & Dragons, the setting is like nothing seen before in the series. The barren, alien landscape of Pandora is replaced by a fantasy world that is home to areas like the Immortal Forest and the Unassuming Docks of Potentially Little Importance. The change-up in settings is one of the things that really sets this DLC apart from the previous offerings. The Bunker Master for the round of B&B is everybody’s favorite twelve-year-old, Tiny Tina (that sentence feels a little too Dyackian).

Having Tiny Tina at the helm of the campaign makes it all feel a bit unpredictable. Within the first ten minutes of the story, I was confronted by an invincible dragon that was only changed to a more manageable enemy once Tina was reminded that it is not good BM etiquette to kill off the entire party at the start of the adventure. Later, while walking down a side path in the forest, I was told to be careful as Tina did not have a chance to combat balance anything beyond the main path. Ignoring her warnings, I came across a trio of enemies that were thirty levels above mine, only to be saved by the BM’s hasty changes. With the game world being invented by Tina, expect to see many familiar faces making appearances in the campaign. Mister Torgue Flexington returns as eager as ever to be apart of the chaos, only to be put through a nerd trivia test by Lilith, despite his claims that he is a lover of “Sci-Fi, fantasy, Unicorns, and *BLEEP*”.

To go along with the fantasy setting, the enemies have been given a matching fantasy overhaul. While the previous content packs have featured slight reworkings of enemies in the main game, the enemies in Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep are quite different. Fights with orcs and skeletons seem a bit odd at first as they rely on swords and magic to attack as opposed to the gun-toting enemies I have become accustomed to in Borderlands. While the difference in enemy types caught me off guard, I did not have much time to appreciate it as these enemies are quite tough. My Mechcromancer sits at level fifty right now, but I often come into combat against enemies that are as high as level fifty-five, leading to some long fights. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep feels more difficult than the main game, although I am playing the content solo which probably does not help.

A melee class in a game with guns as the only weapon. What the hell was Gearbox thinking?

The initial four classes are quite balanced, but the two additional ones are anything but.

The Borderlands games and their content packs have never missed an opportunity for a humorous pop culture reference and Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is no exception. This time around, however, the references are tied more closely to nerd culture. Everything from The Lord of the Rings to World of Warcraft have been represented during my trip into the world of Bunkers & Badasses. Although the game is loaded with these references, they never feel forced or overused as the writers have worked them into the dialogue and quests flawlessly.

Gearbox has really smashed a home run with this DLC. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep joins Super Luigi U as an example of DLC done right. It takes everything that gamers love about the base game, but adds enough new content to make it not feel as just more of the same. Although I sit at around the half-way point of the ten hour DLC, I am confident that it will appeal to any fan of Borderlands. The change in scenery and enemies really makes the game feel fresh even though it is still the “Shoot-n-Loot” gameplay that fans have come to expect from the series. My lone complaint about the content pack is that there are a few fights that are obviously designed to be played with a party. Apart from that, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is a fantastic, humor-loaded addition to Borderlands 2. Even those who are not enamored with Tiny Tina should not hesitate in picking up this awesome conclusion to the first “season” of Borderlands 2 DLC.

13 comments on “Editorial: Gearbox Proves They Can Still Do DLC Right”

  1. As bad as ACM was, Gearbox is not solely to blame. Sega sunk millions into the development but didn’t care enough about the game to fully investigate what Gearbox was doing with the money.

  2. That’s such a terrible excuse. Of course Gearbox is to blame for making a bad game! If you paid a mechanic to fix your car and he went to buy alcohol and smokes instead, is that your fault? It probably is a little bit for not picking a reputable mechanic, and maybe that’s your point. Gearbox was not really disreputable prior to this and you shouldn’t be expected to have to check in constantly to make sure you’re not being cheated. If someone steals your money when you’re not looking then they are still a thief even if you are irresponsible, and one of those is significantly worse than the other.

  3. I’m with DiceAdmiral – Sega is probably guilty of gross gullibility, but Gearbox made the terrible game, Gearbox defrauded Sega in order to fund Borderlands, and Gearbox may well have deceived Sega in precisely the same way as they did to the game journalists who thought that the various Colonial Marines demos that they played were actually a representative sample of the finished product.

    This precise thing has also happened with Activision in relation to Silicon Knights and THQ in relation to the developers of Homefront.

    The game producer is expected to report the progress of the game to their publishing partner, but there isn’t always a way to discern whether such reports are the truth or merely misdirection. The publisher can ask to see the game, yet most times they are not familiar enough with the project to know where the part they are playing fits into the project as a whole.

    Sega could have been easily mislead by a developer as dishonest [and unrepentantly self-righteous and entitled] as Gearbox.

  4. @DiceAdmiral: Except I pay a mechanic to fix my car because I don’t know how to fix it. Also, I would not leave my car in the shop for a month, much less six years, without checking up on it. Sega knows how to develop games, and as a company sinking millions into a project that lasted six years, I would expect them do more than take Gearbox at their word.

    I agree that Gearbox does deserve the majority of the blame, but Sega still should be held accountable for apparently not giving enough of a shit about the final product they slapped their logo on.

  5. Sega are ultimately guilty for selling a product that should not have been sold, but I think you are overestimating Sega’s capacity to keep tabs on a project being worked on at an external studio – see my above reasoning.

    They really would have had to embed an employee within Gearbox to get a clear idea of what was going on – without that kind of tacit knowledge accrual they had no way to contextualise the things they were shown by Gearbox.

  6. You also have to understand that the people that Sega sent out to interface with Gearbox were, in all likelihood, businessmen rather than game developers. Thus, so long as they could see that progress was being made in quantitative terms, there was no reason for them to think that anything was amiss.

    Even if Sega did send one of their internal developers to look in on the project, I don’t know how helpful that would have been – I mean what does Sega know about making FPS’? It is likely that any blemish could be explained away by Pitchford as something that was going to be taken care of during polishing.

  7. SiliconNooB covered most of my comments, but I have one additional point. If Gearbox was already okay with deceiving Sega, then they could likely have done the same thing on a different level if there was a closer inspection going on, though it likely would have been more difficult. I also agree that the people sent to check in on Gearbox were probably business or money people, not developers. As a last point, we don’t know that Sega didn’t send inspection teams do we? Is it not possible that this did happen and did not change the result?

  8. I heard tell that Sega were very unhappy with them towards the end, and threatened to cancel the game a couple of times.

  9. Sega temporarily pulled the plug on the project in 2008 because they got wind of what Gearbox was doing with the money. This caused Gearbox to layoff 26 people later that year. The game had not even been in development for two years when Sega began to get wise to Gearbox. What did Sega do after that? They decided to let Pitchford and Co continue on to build the abortion that would finally see the light four years later. Even if the people reviewing the progress were businessmen, they should be fired for not delving deeper than a one minute trailer.

    If Sega really had no idea what Gearbox was up to, then why has there not been a lawsuit for a breach of contract? Did Sega just hand over millions of dollars without a contract between the two companies? Did their lawyers lack the foresight to include clauses about how the money should only go towards ACM or that Gearbox needed to handle all of the development? Sega really did not give two shits what the finished product was. Gearbox is to blame for the shitty development of ACM, but Sega is to blame for enabling them to do so.

    As much as I love Borderlands 1 and 2, I have no plans to purchase Borderlands 3. As good as Tiny Tina’s DLC is, it is not enough to atone for all the sinning that Gearbox did with ACM’s development.

  10. So what you are saying is that Sega was essentially a Kickstarter backer to to Gearbox’s Double Fine?

  11. I would agree that more of the blame lies on Gearbox when looking inward from my removed point of view. I don’t have any way to know exactly how much Sega tried to keep an eye on Gearbox or if Gearbox ever deceived Sega regarding their progress. So all I can say is that Gearbox is responsible for making an excrement-filled game and Sega is responsible for publishing it.

    Nice editorial, Gyme. Thank you.

  12. Tina is one of my favourite characters in Borderlands 2. So far I have not been tempted by any of the DLC offerings, but this may be the one to make me pick the game up again.

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