Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep Review

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The final piece of story DLC for Borderlands 2 is finally out and I’m happy to report that it’s by far the most impressive piece of Borderlands story DLC ever. It’s set in vastly new areas, features a huge number of new enemy types and weapon modifiers and features one of the best written dissections of current geek culture in any form of media. There was a huge amount for me to enjoy playing through the story and I can’t recommend it highly enough for any Dungeons & Dragons playing geeks reading.

The DLC kicks off with everyone from the BL2 cast that survived the ending of the story sat around a table playing a game of Bunkers and Badasses (read Dungeons & Dragons). We see Tina acting as Bunker Master, helping the group to enjoy some much needed downtime by exploring a fantasy world of her own creation. However, it quickly became clear that this wasn’t going to just be a story of some friends having fun, but that Tina’s denial of Roland’s death was going to play a major part in the way around the player is shaped.

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As Tina is one of the Borderlands series more unique characters, featuring both a love of violence and a curious innocence, placing her as the Bunker Master and giving her full control of the player experience makes for some wonderful moments. From Tina forgetting to balance enemy levels if you stray too far from the beaten path, to plot twists that make very little sense and unbeatable bosses, Tina clearly has a lot of enthusiasm for DM’ing, but her lack of experience shows in ways that result in great moments of character interaction.

As we delve deeper into the story, the world also starts to more accurately reflect Tina’s view of the world around her, with characters appearing in her story in ways that are very different than their main game appearance. There’s clearly a lot of darker themes that Tina’s struggling to overcome and by allowing them to manifest in the game world we get a very valuable insight into her way of seeing the world and her as a character.

Set in an entirely new fantasy world, the DLC takes you away from what you know to be the world of Borderlands and instead releases you into a world full of huge castles and ruins, small villages with taverns and gatekeepers, forests and dwarvern mines. Each of these levels is given a new unique enemy time or two and thematically it’s impressive how well these fit into the Borderlands gameplay. From knights who you need to shoot in the gaps in their armour, to orcs whose charges need to be constantly dodged to avoid massive damage, the enemy types all feel unique and make great use of fantasy tropes. There’s eternally undead skeletons that need swords pulled from their backs before they can be at peace, there’s fairies that can offer with buffs or damage when encountered and even full blown dragons that will make big arcing flights through the sky before swooping in to attack.

How do you combat these new enemies effectively? Obviously with grenade mods that act as spell casts and a gun that shoots swords. While the game never gives you an actual sword or bow and arrow, likely due to the ways they may have broken the main game, there are numerous ways in which existing weapon types are modified to fit better into the world of B&B. By surrounding you in glowing light swirls when you activate a power-up, having your character shout out a spell name when they “cast” their grenade mods and finding a way to shoehorn swords into a game that requires you to be shooting rather than swinging most weapons, the developers did a great job of making sure the gameplay systems all felt at home in this medieval fantasy setting.

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Despite how cool all of this is, my favourite thing about the DLC was the mastery with which it handles discussing the current state of geek culture. From the in-joke style quests, like one in which the “fake geek girl” topic is looked at through a gender swapped lens where it’s obvious how silly the whole argument is, to the fourth wall breaking moments where a D20 is dropped onto the board and seen in the game world, the story has a huge number of tricks up its sleeve. There’s discussion of the absolute impracticality of female “bra armour” in RPGs, examples of the cheap tricks employed to increase game length and some wonderfully unique solutions to puzzles that were a punchline in their own right. There was even a quest that involved me trying to get some fake random matchmaking players to rage quit by teabagging them at a quest swarm point. I enjoyed every line of dialogue from start to finish and felt that it kept up its level of quality right until the very end.

The other benefit of the story and its setting is that it allows you to learn a little about what the Borderlands cast are like in their downtime. When not shooting robots to save the world, they’re a group of people who have their own personalities and it’s great to see those without the imminent threat of death hanging above their heads, just ours as a player.

Ultimately Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is three things. It’s a wonderfully insightful love letter to D&D and general geek culture, it’s a world full of vastly new content to explore with your BL2 character and it’s a wonderful exploration of the way that loss and denial can shape your view of the world around you. It’s hilarious at times, but it knows just how to build up an impactful story with teases as you progress, leading to a truly heartbreaking and very powerful conclusion that tells us a lot about Tina and her relationship to the group. If you’re looking for more Borderlands 2 content, or if you’re just looking for an insightful look into geekdom and how it’s evolving, look no further than Assault on Dragon Keep.

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