Borderlands 2 is the probably my most played game of 2012. Why? The shooting is good, the setting is fun, the characters and their special abilities are all distinct and fun while being useful in their own right (Maya is the exception here as I feel she suffers when running solo), and the side characters are just juvenile enough to make me laugh out loud while playing cooperatively both with my wife in the same room and my best friend in California.
It’s the perfect storm, since I don’t have a ton of time to game with kids running around; this is one that while I’m reading a book my wife will ask to play. She’s into games, but she’s really into Borderlands 2, and that means that when new content comes out I’m playing it on or near release day. Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage is evocative of Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot from the original Borderlands, but despite that it’s the clear choice when comparing the two DLC packs already out.
Why? Because Mr. Torgue is hysterical. I like the majority of the NPCs in Borderlands and Borderlands 2. I don’t get tired of high-fiving Claptrap or hearing Steam go “heeeey-o!” This game
was seemingly made for my sense of humor, and Mr. Torgue cranks it up to 11. It doesn’t hurt that my favorite NPC from the main game, Tiny Tina, makes an appearance and continues to amuse me endlessly. I know she’s an immature character, and I understand people’s complaints, but that doesn’t stop me from grinning like an idiot every time she has more than two lines.
Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, as mentioned, focuses on arena fights. It works here though because it’s held up by a story. And it rewards the player with XP and badass ranks instead of just bragging rights. It also breaks the arena fights up with side quests including time trial races, a training montage, and running errands for the denizens of the “Badass Crater of Badassitude” instead of just going to the pole for an arena, hitting go, and losing four hours of your night because you can’t save in the middle of a tournament in the Underdome. Seriously, that DLC was awful, and I’m glad that Gearbox has learned its lesson here.
Gearbox is also learning lessons from its prior Borderlands 2 DLC outing. Instead of a single black-market vendor who deals only in seraph crystals that are only obtainable from two level-50 bosses like Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty, here you’ll be collecting Torgue Tokens. You can obtain them as quest rewards, from slot machines, and from re-running arena fights (which are all a manageable length, closer to the “Circle of Duty” quest line from The Secret Armory of General Knoxx than Moxxi’s tournaments). You’ll spend these tokens in special Torgue vending machines scattered around the DLC landscape.
It takes a while to earn enough to buy anything worthwhile, but you can use the system at anything above level 15 instead of waiting until you’ve maxed a character out. The included raid boss is even designed better this time around. It doesn’t rely on finicky environmental effects, and it has some lower-level mooks around so that when you go into “fight for your life” you have a chance to come back from it. Raid bosses aren’t so bad, when they use the systems the gameplay is based around.
And when you die (and you will, the combat here is harder than the main game), Mr. Torgue will get on the ECHO and make you laugh because you’re having fun even though you died. Gearbox did well their first time out, but it hit it out of the park on this one.
Pros: Torgue is funny, arena combat is fun here and rewards the player, raid boss is doable
Cons: You’re going to die until you find better guns: combat is universally more difficult than the main game