Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Torgue's Campaign is Kind of "Meh"

I just finished playing the second Borderlands 2 DLC campaign, Mr Torgue's Campaign of Carnage. It was alright, but I wasn't particularly impressed by it. It features a number of mechanical improvements over gameplay elements that were introduced in Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty, so it's nice to see that Gearbox are actually learning some lessons in their development process, but it also features a much less interesting story in a far less interesting environment. And there's not even a whole lot of unique loot to get out of it. 

In this DLC, you travel to the Badass Crater of Badassitude to compete in a gladiator-style arena organized by the manufacturer of Torgue weapons, Mr Torgue himself. The premise is vaguely similar to the second DLC from the first Borderlands, Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, except with a more fleshed-out story. After being cheated and disgraced in your first arena match, you go around knocking off other gladiators, working your way back up to the top of the leaderboard for a chance at retribution and the grand prize that awaits the arena champion.

The main bit of lore introduced in this DLC is the personality behind Torgue weapons. When we're introduced to Mr Torgue, we learn right away that he's a simple, angry meathead obsessed with explosions and displays of badassery. He's basically the central character of this DLC, giving out the majority of quests and sort of narrating the main quest line, so he's clearly meant to be the emphasis of the DLC. And yet I didn't really care for his personality. It just feels like they were trying too hard with Mr Torgue to make him amusing to the point where he was almost annoying.

Crawling through air-vents; an FPS tradition since 1998.

Torgue's Campaign doesn't introduce many unique environments, either. The majority of places you visit are typical desert wastelands -- the same kinds of environments we've been in since the original Borderlands. It was nice to see some genuinely urban environments in the Beatdown, and the Forge was kind of cool with its color palette, but these were the only areas I kind of enjoyed. Otherwise, it's hard to feel excited about exploring areas that feel strongly reminiscent of The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, a DLC I didn't care much for because of its barren, overly-expansive desert wastelands and over-emphasis on vehicular combat.

Vehicular combat in Torgue's Campaign might be the stupidest thing about the DLC. I went into the DLC on my main character, a level 50 siren in True Vault Hunter Mode, meaning all enemies were scaled to level 50, and vehicular combat was a tedious chore and a huge waste of time. Enemies ride different types of motorcycles, and literally every fight resulted in my vehicle being destroyed, because the enemy vehicles do an incredibly disproportionate amount of damage compared to your vehicles, forcing me to trek long distances on foot to find the next Catch-a-Ride station. It was actually faster, easier, and less of a hassle for me to get out of my car and fight the bikers on foot, which completely defeats the point of vehicular combat.

Scarlett's Booty introduced a new DLC-specific currency for buying special items from a unique vendor, but the system was fatally flawed by making the seraph crystals way too hard to get, and requiring way too long to farm (having to wait 24-hours between battles with Hyperius and Master Gee, the "Invincible" raid bosses). In Torgue's Campaign, you collect Torgue tokens which can be spent at Torgue vending machines to buy Torgue-brand legendary weapons and a few new, unique weapons. Unlike Scarlett's Booty, however, there are several different ways to farm tokens in a time-efficient and far less stressful manner, meaning Torgue tokens are actually somewhat useful.

Using a Torgue machine. Unique heads and a legendary weapon.

I say they're "somewhat useful" because you can only buy Torgue gear with those tokens, and I have basically no interest in Torgue weapons. As a siren, I get enough elemental splash damage from my phaselock and grenades, so I don't really need the explosive bonuses of the Torgue weapons, but what really turns me off is their super-slow bullet velocity. According to polls, the general public doesn't think too highly of Torgue weapons, either, so it's not like there's a huge appeal in being able to buy Torgue weapons. Besides that, there aren't very many unique weapons introduced in this DLC, and 40% of them are only obtainable as super-rare drops, so the DLC doesn't even have much lasting impact on your character.

The one thing I really like about Torgue's Campaign is that they made the new "Invincible" raid boss, Pyrocaustic Pete the Ultra Invincible a little less cheap than Hyperius and Master Gee from Scarlett's Booty.  Both of those bosses had completely undodgeable super attacks that made each battle an exercise in trying to regen enough health to stay alive. Pete does something similar in the form of an undodgeable AOE attack that puts a strong damage-over-time effect on you, but there's a mechanic specifically implemented in this fight to remove the DOT.

But at least there's more Tiny Tina.

When you're under the effects of the DOT, you can activate two different valves to trigger a waterfall and rinse yourself off, removing the effect of the DOT. The caveat is that turning the valve causes a group of weaker enemies to come out with the water -- which can be useful for triggering kill skills or for getting a second wind -- but each time you use the valve, the enemies that come out get stronger. This is a neat mechanic, because you have to pace yourself with the water, and there are a couple of pros and cons to having the weaker enemies out and about. It adds a little extra strategy and depth to the fight and makes it seem a little less cheap and unfair.

That's about all I have to say in regards to Torgue's Campaign. The new "Invincible" raid boss is a nice improvement over the previous ones introduced in Scarlett's Booty, and the Torgue tokens are implemented a lot better than the seraph crystals, but the overall scenario and experience felt kind of bland and generic to me. I really liked the ambient electric guitar soundtrack, but wasn't impressed with the DLC. It's not something I would recommend buying/playing unless you already own the season pass or if you can get it on sale. The only lasting, worthwhile thing I got out of this DLC was a pretty cool head-style for my siren.

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