It’s almost an understatement to say that I love inventive story telling techniques in games. We’ve seen a bit of a surge of games which play around with the narrative of late, from Call of Juarez: Gunslinger to Thomas Was Alone, although obviously you can’t drop it in everywhere; The Last of Us with an unreliable narrator just wouldn’t work.
For quite a few games it’s not that big of a stretch to get there, and in Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep we see Borderlands 2 making that stretch. I’m glad to say that the fourth part of the Season Pass absolutely oozes inventive storytelling, and everyone will be able to enjoy it.
Throughout Borderlands 2 you will have occasionally bumped into some of the Vault Hunters from the original game. Assault on Dragon Keep sees you playing as these characters as they play a game of Bunkers & Baddasses, the Dungeons & Dragons of the Borderlands universe. Basically the whole thing serves as a game within a game, with the in-game characters becoming players themselves. Tiny Tina, for better or for worse, acts as your dungeon master as you’re dropped into this new world.
In terms of gameplay, you pick up exactly where you left off in Borderlands 2. You run around with whatever character you have built up through that game, shooting guns and using abilities. While the original Vault Hunters are ostensibly in control of the characters within Tiny Tina’s world, you still actually play using the current classes from Borderlands 2. Beyond that, almost everything else has morphed to fit into this new fantasy setting.
There are now quaint little fantasy villages and towns, mysterious and deadly forests, and there will no doubt be an appearance of the eponymous Dragon Keep. Similarly, though you’re running around with your existing weaponry, you’ll be going up against traditional fantasy foes, from bow and arrow wielding skeletons to orcs and dragons.
However, all along you have the decidedly fickle and unstable Tina meddling with the game, and playing around with what’s going on. She can change her mind about pretty much anything she wants, so one moment it could be lovely and sunny, and the next it’s eternal night, courtesy of the lovely day-night cycle being sped up. Or, you can be walking along quite happily, only for Tina to announce that you’ve been beset by attackers, who will spawn in all around you.
It even extends to inserting fan favourite characters like Mr. Torgue, whether they want to be involved or not. As you’d expect, these characters will bring their own brand of carnage to the proceedings. For example, In Torgue’s case, you could end up being flung off the side of the map, or told to blow up the ocean!
The main downside to all of this is that it’s still a linear journey, and one over which you have no direct control. It all just feels a bit limited when you compare it to a real game of D&D. As soon as you step off the boat at the start, with Tiny Tina having set the scene, it’s not you who decides that you are off to investigate the town, but rather the original Vault Hunters playing this game within the game, and mainly Lilith at that.
It also mostly seems to serve as a fresh coat of paint on top of Borderland’s existing game mechanics, which rely very heavily on fetch quests, wading through enemies and chucking endless amounts of loot at your feet.
These aren’t really problems, as long as you enjoyed Borderlands 2 and its particular brand of gameplay. This DLC serves as another lovely twist on the already well received story telling and characters from that game, something that will surely appeal to fans. It will call back many players’ favourite characters, give you a lovely new setting for the gameplay, and certainly has the ability to defy your expectations and get you laughing as you play.
So it’s more of what the fans want, and in this case it’s a DLC pack which is set to eclipse all those which have gone before in terms of scale and game time. Tiny Tina’s Assault may well be the perfect way to end the Season Pass on a high note when it is released on PSN, XBLA and PC on 25th June.