In which we enter the mind of a crazy person and shoot make-believe things with lots and lots and lots of guns.
When you think of the perfect person to be your role-playing gamesmaster, you'd probably describe them using words such as 'patient', 'intelligently creative', 'knowledgeable' and all those lovely adjectives that help picture someone who'd very likely make your role playing adventure just the right dosage of adventurous. What you very probably wouldn't describe is a psychotically unstable 13-year-old explosives expert with a knack for losing her train of thought every few seconds as it derails and tosses its hapless passengers around like terrified, screaming beans in the maraca of a hyperactive lunatic.
In the context of Borderlands 2's humour, however, Tiny Tina is exactly what we need. Her erratic moods and fickle attention cause the environment around our characters to morph and shift entirely at her whim. She is God here, and what she imagines is exactly what happens. For example, upon entering a wooded area, Tina describes it as The Forest of Tranquilly. The environment is peaceful and soothing, trees swaying gently as fireflies dance in the hazy glow of a dreamlike sunset. Brick complains that its boring. Tina agrees, and renames it to The Forest of Being Eaten Alive By Trees. You can guess what happens next...
The DLC uses this technique to humorous effect more than a few times, but instead of getting old it creates an ever-shifting environment that feels absurdly imaginative and fun. From what we played of TTAODK, it feels like a parting love letter from Borderlands 2: genuinely sorry that it's leaving, but joyously reminding us exactly why we fell for its insane universe in the first place.
The quest begins with our group gathering around the board game Bunkers and Badasses as Tina gleefully chains massive slabs of rocks to our legs and pushes us into the deep end of her dementia. This new world is both instantly recognisable and remarkably fresh. The environment is distinctly fantasy, with mechanical crates being replaced by chests and breakable urns, and skeleton archers and massive looming Ent-like tree beasts roaming the ever shifting landscapes of Tina's lunacy.
From the content we played, the quest chain seems utterly narrative driven and linear, but as the quality of writing here equals or and surpasses the best that BL2 has offered so far, the linearity never felt like a detriment to the action. Moments such as Mr Torque briefly replacing one of the the NPC quest givers and (after having us arbitrarily destroy the only defenses of the village we're supposed to be protecting) yelling at us to "blow up the ocean" are brilliantly idiotic.
Other touches include new quips from the New-U stations upon respawn, our favourite that we heard being "perhaps there's a healer somewhere looking for a group". There were some interesting tweaks to the enemies, too. Similar to the repair drones that floated around Handsome Jack's robotic minions, Fairies populate the enemy infested woodlands. However, instead of aiding the enemy, if left alone (shooting them switches their health bars from green to read as they turn hostile), they aid your party by bestowing buffs and heals and attacking alongside you. Little touches like these make the detail of this imagined world nestled inside the cranium of a crazy person pop to life.
The quest chain itself, as well as being linear, did feel very standard in terms of the actions we were instructed to take. Go to point X and shoot object Y until it explodes a lot. Find character Z and talk to it/shoot at it until it does what/dies like you need it to. Again, though, the strength of the narrative and design propelled us forward without concern.
The DLC was shown to us in its entirety, but we only managed to make it as far as a battle with a couple of mini-boss like dragons alongside The White Knight, who was played by a character chosen by Tina that perfectly highlights the deluded nature of her fragile mind. We won't spoil it for you, but we hope this part is explored a little further and the story doesn't just hit for the humour, there's plenty of room for it to explore aspects of the relationship between Tina and our favorite vault hunters a little more. We're not asking for poignant and profound, but perhaps a touch of meaningful melancholy could make this a truly memorable epilogue to a fantastically frenzied journey.
Regardless of how the story pans out, the content we saw left us with no doubt that this final addition to the world of BL2 will leave fans satisfied more than pining . Not only did the game itself speak of a labour of love, but the devs we spoke with seemed utterly enthused. We're sad to see our time on Pandroa drawing to a close, but enamored by the obvious amount of effort that's been poured into this parting gift.
From what we saw, exploring the mind of a deranged explosive obsessed psychopath has never been this fun.