Venture into the Borderlands – Part 10: Hunting For Seasonal Heads

Wow, it has been so long since we last saw each other, about three weeks. Of course, as always, you can find the previous editions at the bottom if you’ve forgotten things. Funny how time passes quickly in a blink. In this break I managed to take a deeeep breath so I’m able to sprint the final hurdle. In addition I picked a new character and levelled her up to level 15 for the Headhunter episodes.

“Her?”. Yep. I ditched Axton to the curb and moved onto something that I felt would be unique to my experiences with the series so far (i.e. Mordecai in the first and then Axton in the second). After a long thought, I went with Gaige. While she was designed to be for new players, she does have one skill tree that I thought would be a challenge to wrestle with: Ordered Chaos. Rather than giving you straight boosts to how much you can murder everyone in the room, Ordered Chaos is mostly about giving you a lot while taking away a little.

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Which by that, I don’t mean choosing to ever take away a part of your hud.

The main source of difficulty is the main star of this show: Anarchy. Every time my gun is reloaded within a few seconds of dealing damage or I kill an enemy, I get a stack. Each stack gives me 1.75% extra damage but 1.75% less accuracy. This likely doesn’t sound like much, but fresh out the packet you can get 150 stacks with this going up to 400 with the right skills or even 600 with the right class mods. So, a hundred or so reloads in I’m able to hit like a train as long as I can hit a thing (which usually I’ll fail to).

However, this comes with two main snags. The first is I must stay standing. If I fall into Fight For Your Life mode on the floor then I have all those delicious stacks drained like a recreation of There Will Be Blood, and if I respawn then they’re all gone. The other problem is if I ever prematurely reload, all those stacks are also gone. So it leads to this bizarre challenge of knowing you’re going into a gun-fight with one bullet in your magazine, trying to make sure at all costs you don’t hit the floor and lose hundreds of stacks that likely took you an hour or three to build up.

So far, besides the potential infuriating moments of “OH GOD DAMN IT, GIVE ME MY STACKS BACK”, Gaige is actually pretty nice to play as. While she feels a bit fragile and either struggles with damage or accuracy, her Deathtrap is a mean beast even in its non-upgraded form so I have something to fall back on. In its upgraded form, well, you know how Gearbox partially designed Gaige with new players in mind? Imagine Axton’s turret, except it sticks around longer and can walk. Then imagine shoving upgrades on top of that such as more protection, more damage and staying around longer, and you can see how with that skill tree you usually just vaguely point in a direction and let Deathtrap just fix all the problems in that rough area. So, to present something of a challenge I keep him in his mostly-raw Anarchist form.

Anyway, you’re not here for a study of Gaige, poking and prodding at her mechanical ways. I readied up my level 15 Mechromancer and dived deep into the five Headhunter DLCs in a chronological order.

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Each from beginning to “winning” the DLC.

First saw a return of T.K. Baha, a character that seems to be keep getting resurrected in a literal and metaphorical way since the fan response after the release of the original Borderlands. This time, in his Bloody Harvest, trouble is being stirred in the form of an evil pumpkin that is doing… Something? He’s apparently really really evil and… T.K. Baha isn’t despite being a zombie? Oh, nevermind, it seems clear T.K. Baha is there just to high-five veterans of the series and Gearbox needed a narrative reason (no matter how loose it is) so people don’t get too irritated.

So off I go to the pumpkin patch to kill the Pumpkin King and… A gate locks. Of course, was too simple and too quick. So I have to make a skeleton key using the random bones of multiple skeleton mages rather than harvesting one skeleton for all the parts? Anyway, with the bones jumbling about in my back-pack, Baha tells me to talk to the blacksmith into possibly assembling the key. So I did, exchanging bullets rather than words. After peeling the hammer from the creature’s rigour mortised fingers, I assembled the key myself since skeleton keys are the second thing you’re taught in the Vault Hunter academy after how to be quietly obedient to whatever quests are pinned to your forehead.

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Although to be fair to the game, out of all the playable characters Gaige would probably be the closest to knowing how to make a skeleton key.

After that I continued my walk to the pumpkin patch and… Arrived. “…Huh, that was quick” I muttered, fists planted to my waist in confusion, “let’s get this over with, where is the big, orange and glowing evil critter?”. As I begun randomly kicking pumpkins, Baha nervously chimed in “uhh… You may need to do a bit more work, since The King is hiding underground… What if we flooded the fields so it’ll have to come up for air?”

“Ah ha! That’s actually a pretty good plan. Maybe flood it with lava or melted metals? Perhaps even blessed water, kill the malevolent spirit.”

“…Hhhmm…To make evil unable to breath from underground… What about blood? Flood the evil entity with blood, that’ll definitely draw it out as it looks for air!”

“…Fucking…What?! You want me to lure out pure evil in a pumpkin form by suffocating it with blood, a life-force that may just end up making it even more meaner, corrupted and stronger?”

Then T.K. Baha nodded his head dumbly (or I think he would have if he could actually move his neck at all) and I sulked off in silent obedience to do the plan.

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I’m not convinced he is even able to move anything besides his mouth.

So after doing the various tasks needed to power the stream (mostly shooting the shit, literally), I flooded the field. Surprisingly, Baha’s plan didn’t lead to fighting a huge monstrosity that fed on the blood like an offering but rather the beast just crawling out of the dirt for a fight. A few shots later, including trying to shoot a flying head out of the air, and this specific form of evil was done with and the DLC was finished. Well, there was a candy fetch quest, but considering one of them involved a leap that if you missed would involve a 5 to 10 minute walk back to the ledge I told Baha to take a swim in a lava pit and left for the next adventure.

So I walked into the Gluttony Gulch, the only clue of what would be in store being the name of the DLC: The Horrible Hunger of the Ravenous Wattle Gobbler. I mean, it sounded maybe turkey related? Well, for reasons beyond me MR TORGUE suddenly decides that I should totally go kill whatever this Gobbler creature is. However, gasp, it turns out this creature is invulnerable and is just used to murder contestants brutally. Since MR TORGUE cherishes me like a child holds dear their pet rock, he has decided he is going to help me murder the hell out of the foul creature so he can eat it. Oddly, considering I wasn’t sure what the Wattle Gobbler was, I actually accepted it since MR TORGUE would probably eat about anything.

Long story cut short, well, it turns out to be a Thanksgiving special and I’m murdering the hell out of the turkey. Taking on the final turkey boss felt like a bizarre cross between the possessed turkey scene in This Book is Full of Spiders, the Playstation game South Park and The Hunger Games. In the end I managed to murder everyone while getting MR TORGUE fired by his higher-ups in the company.

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Although the highlight was the boss and then the raid boss that is MR TORGUE’s grandmother.

With MR TORGUE now feasting on turkey for the next month or three while now queuing up at the job centre (is there a Pandora equivalent of a job centre?), I went to the winter wonderland to find out how Marcus saved Mercenary Day. Like most Pandorian tales start off: It turns out that Marcus sent a gun shipment but has heard nothing, not even the sweet death-rattles and gunfire. So off I plod to the nearby town to find out what happened, only to discover the town has frozen over due to a heater having its coals stolen.

“Who could have done this?!” was my thoughts, but looking at the Christmas festivities I know of one bastard who would steal coal: Santa Claus. I was ready to kick him in his shins, burn his beard and pour candle wax into his eyes like a mall Santa. Shortly then, a grouchy gravelly voice invaded my ear drums, telling me how they were going to be evil for nefarious ill-described reasons. Rather than old St Nick, it was an invasion of snowmen and I had a flame shotgun.

I sloshed through the now-soggy snow to where I could see a train nearby, the said train that was meant to be filled with guns and coal. I escorted it back to the boiler where it managed to defrost the residents without the usual problems you’d normally get like the rupture of cells. That was when the final showdown was made between the the giant snowman and I, and that was when I melted him quickly because fire is effective against ice. With that done, I stole guns from the gun-train and departed for warmer lands.

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“Why did I have to have an obvious weakness? Isn’t it seasonal to have a fair fight?”

So, continuing the feel-good vibe, I went from Christmas Cheer to the St Valentines Day themed Mad Moxxi and the Wedding Day Massacre (not to be confused with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, which is incredibly irrelevant). Moxxi hopes to end the feud between an Irish gang and a Redneck gang by connecting them by marriage, making me wonder how Ellie’s plan to drive one to obliterate the other by killing the leadership didn’t work. However, the bride and groom from different clans despise each other. So Moxxi sends me off, telling me “Go get me something new, something old, something borrowed, something gold”.

In usual Borderlands fashion, this goes off the rails quickly as “something new” and “something borrowed” is combined together to be “kidnap the wedding couple’s baby”. Nothing like stuffing a baby into your backpack and hoping it doesn’t get smothered, suffer shaken baby syndrome or get hit by a stray bullet. Fortunately the other parts (e.g. stealing whiskey that is taste-tested and Irish gold) go without a hitch. After making a brew out of baby tears, whiskey and gold, I present the concoction to the bride and groom…

…Which transforms them into rabid beasts that took a good few attempts to put down. Well, bright side is they’ve ended the feud, bad news is the peace exists as long as they’re trying to put a bullet in me. So I should probably skedaddle before they paint a trailer’s interior with my brains.

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Especially after breaking into their car to steal their baby. I don’t think talking about “the potential of cooking your baby on a summer’s day in your car” will make me look charitable. 

With that sickly sugary taste in my mouth out of gobbling on too many festive-focused DLCs, I was happy that the 5th and final Headhunter was going to be the ever vague “beach episode” piece. Just with less awkward soft-core nudity. I join up with Hammerlock, curious what wild beast he wants me to kill on this tropical island (probably the last of some species’s kind). Surprisingly, it really is meant to be a holiday and isn’t like the Big Game Hunt’s bait-n-switch holiday.

That is when Hammerlock gets kidnapped by a burrowing mammal (before you ask, no, wasn’t a dwarf I think), thus ruining the relaxation and sending me out with a gun to find out what happened. After a long time spent finding insects, injecting the egg with whiskey and following them until they explode, I find out someone has decided Hammerlock would make for a good sacrifice to the son of Crawmerax the Invincible (remember the father from Borderlands? I don’t). Many bullets later, I free Hammerlock and then have pink lemonade toast at my victory to get through five Headhunter DLCs in less than five hours.

One part I was surprised at was during the 4th Headhunter DLC (Moxxi’s Massacre at the Wedding) there was an odd amount of character development. A common point of personal humour is how your characters wordlessly do what they’re told, never commenting on what is going on around them. In contrast, during the DLC your character talks! Gaige actually speaks, even if it is occasionally wishing Hammerlock would “bat for the other team” so she could scoop him up. While nice characterisation, I did start wondering how old Hammerlock is and why Gaige wants to date someone out of her age group so much… Eh…

Although a different part that jumped out at me was how 4 out of the 5 Headhunter DLCs were designed for a particular North American celebration (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and St Valentine’s Day, in that order). Normally I’d comment about how perhaps inappropriate it was to have such a specific time relevancy (as otherwise it’d be like listening to Christmas carols in July), but looking at the cheap price and shortness (about 1 hour each, maybe a bit less) of the DLC I am actually inclined to let it somewhat slip. Just, it still feels weird to shovel through a Thanksgiving DLC perhaps not designed for me, feeling the elbow-nudges that fall flat due to unfamiliarity. Then again, the price allows for that odd audience targeting.

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Not to mention, I don’t think the desire to take a vacation to somewhere that is hot is time specific. 

Sorry this part has been relatively commentary free. As I did manage to get through all five pieces of DLC quickly, I had a lot of “what” but actually not much places to talk about something with interest and curiosity. Each DLC did manage to shove me 1 level further into the game, now leaving me at level 20. This presents the problem that I am now 10 levels away from the grand finale DLC: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep. So I’m going to have to push out that part on the 18th, sorry. Since it’ll be Christmas the following week, I’ll probably spend a week or two further to do a final dissection of the game as a whole. After that, I’ll need a month or two to recharge my batteries before I launch into another series (which if you have any suggestions, fling them at me!).

Until the 18th, I’ll see you around!

[Part 1: Funny Little Robot] [Part 2: Roland’s Disapproving Gaze] [Part 3: The Worst Fear & Loathing Tribute Band] [Part 4: Tiny Tina’s Troubling Teenage Temperament] [Part 5: CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR HUMOUR] [Part 6: There Are Brakes On The Plot Vehicle] [Part 7: I Don’t Know About Angels, But It’s Fear That Gives Men Wings] [Part 8: The End of the Tale of Handsome Jack] [Part 9: The Big Hunt with the Big Problems]

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