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Reviews: Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep Review

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

[Image: images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQDe2XfvBCAkdbY2bSStvu...b141Ooi1mA]

Have fun storming the castle!

Within the same single hour of playing Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, I saw a giant d20 die crush a man like a grape and a questline that offered insightful commentary on the exclusionary nature of nerd culture. It takes a special sort of writing and creativity to facilitate that kind of on-the-fly tone switching, but the fourth (and possibly final?) DLC add-on for Borderlands 2 does it regularly and effortlessly. Whether you're buying the wittier, headier stuff that's on tap here, or just checking in for another shot of shoot 'n' loot crack, Dragon Keep has you covered.




Like the name suggests, this is Tiny Tina's show, and she puts her stamp on it early by introducing you, and the other vault hunters, to Bunkers and Bad-asses, the table-top role-playing game of choice for nerds all over Pandora. “Roll for initiative suckas,” and just like that, our intrepid pack of monster-slaying heroes are playing parts that should be painfully familiar to anyone who's ever tried to get a group of friends together for a D&D session. This oddly playful setup is a key part of Assault's charm, as well as its effectiveness when things take a turn for the somber. Without getting spoilery, lets just say that Tiny Tina finally gets to be more than just an amusing side character, and this campaign she's cooked up is just as much about coping with loss as it is about fire-breathing dragons and dwarven farts.

Borderlands 2 has always been a constant parade of pop-culture jokes, and boy do they come thick and fast here. It's a lot more than just nerd-pandering and name dropping though. This is some of lead writer Anthony Burch's best stuff, deftly walking a thin line between adoration and loving criticism of fantasy fandom. That’s a greatsword that swings both ways though, as folks familiar with the source material get a constant stream of terrific winks and nods, while those not so well versed will likely be left scratching their heads. But even if the humor had been lost on me (which it wasn’t), the diverse set of enemies and locales on offer would have been more than worth the price of admission. A Game of Games indeed.

If not for the familiar gameplay and characters, you'd be forgiven for thinking Assault on Dragon's Keep was a completely new game. Orcish berserkers level up over the course of battle with tribal warcries, and immortal skeletons rise again and again unless you pull the glowing sword from their backs after downing them. Even then, a necromancer could just raise them to fight on his behalf as he proceeds to throw everything but the magical kitchen sink at you. You'll could be gazing at a beautiful rainbow that arches over a verdant green valley until Tina exerts her narrative omnipotence as Dungeon Master, transforming it into a lifeless plateau of “butts and dead people.” From towers that spiral near-endlessly into the clouds, to the provincial charm of Flamerock Refuge, all the art is brand new, and its visual diversity is remarkable.

But don't worry: this is the same Borderlands 2 you've come to know and love. The many new enemy types add fresh variables to the equation but you'll still solve it by familiar means. In terms of gear, Assault's only real addition is a sweet one: highly unique grenade mods that behave like popular D&D magic spells, essentially transforming your stock grenade indicator into a recharging mana bar. You can't quite spam them to plow through encounters, but you definitely can - and should - use them liberally, as they're equal parts effective and amusing. Hearing my assassin shout “MAGIC MISSILE!” as he hurled two homing slag-balls at a distant skeleton archer made me cackle aloud, and I can see lightning bolt and fireball earning spots in certain builds too. Sure, their humor is dependent upon the context of the DLC, but their utility is unquestionably universal.

[Image: borderlands-2-tiny-tina-s-assault-on-dra...ep-014.jpg]

As much of a blast as the new grenade mods are though, they're pretty much the only tangible reward you get from Dragon’s Keep. The final two bosses do shower the battlefield with loot, but it's almost all gold and ammo with just a handful of weapons, which I found a tad underwhelming. Sure, there are new raid bosses, and completing the DLC gives you access to a very special vendor who accepts eridium in exchange for random loot, but ultimately the real reward for taking up this epic quest is the fun of playing through it.

[Image: Tiny-Tina-s-Assault-on-Dragon-Keep-DLC-f...1369460160]

The Verdict

Like Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage, Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep is an example of how DLC can match, and in some ways surpass the quality of the original release. With eight to 10 hours of brand-new enemies and locations that have been built from the ground up to look like nothing else in all of Borderlands, it offers a great value, especially to those who can appreciate the cavalcade of nerd culture references it makes. Sure, the loot rewards are a bit light, but the chance to give a virtual King Joffrey a proper smack in the face with the butt-end of a rifle will be reward enough.

[Image: 468px-TinaDLC3.jpg?1373582231]
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