There are many, many things I love to see in literature and narrative universes of any form of media. One of the things I’m particularly fond of is taking ancient mythology and giving it a fresh twist. To the detriment of Western media consumers, most of this mythology is largely coming from the Greek/Roman pantheon. While I would really love to see more influence from, say, African and Indian mythos, for example, because knowledge of the Greek and Roman pantheon is so prevalent, this mythology is easier to market. (Again, a flaw of over-saturation in the market.) Due to this, when Borderlands gives me a group of people called “sirens”, I automatically start filling in some of the blanks. But, thinking about it a little more closely, how similar are the sirens in the Borderlands universe to the songstresses from ye olde legends and myths? Spoiler warning for both Borderlands games under the cut.
I love it when games release content for the holidays, and when the heads behind Borderlands 2 announced the release of a Halloween-themed DLC, I knew I had to get it. Even though Halloween proper is still a week off, I snapped it up on its release date back on Tuesday.
In addition to being something special for this time of year, T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest also gives way to a new type of DLC: head hunts. As the name implies, the goal of the quest line is to eventually win a special head—it’s what it sounds like: a facial customization for your character that changes most, if not all, parts of the head. Whereas I will agree that releasing so many ‘pay-to-get’ DLC customization options is a bit money grubbing—there have been fifteen in total—what I like about the head hunts is that it gives you an entirely new environment to run around in and new enemies to fend off. At least that’s what it seems like given the contents of this DLC. The question is: is it worth the three dollars? Spoilers under the cut.
[Spoilers for Borderlands 2 Below]
When playing a game, there’s nothing more satisfying to me then when I can start to sympathize with the main antagonist. And there’s no character in the past couple of years that I can think of that has encapsulated this as perfectly as Borderlands’ Handsome Jack. When I began my new journey on Pandora, I hated him. I hated him so much, him and his stupid crystal pony and stupid surveyors. (GAH! Could there even be a more annoying enemy?!) I loved to hate him. Then I made it to the BNK3R and it all went to shit. And after going to the Arid Nexus it went even more to shit and I actually began to like him.
The shift from over-the-top despicable to 3-dimensional character who is still awful, but has motives that one can empathize with was amazing. One aspect that really helped propel Jack’s character was his relationship with his daughter, Angel. Fraught with power struggles on both sides and a general feeling of helplessness, it was something that so strongly motivated the now Hyperion CEO, but in ways that weren’t, and still aren’t fully known to the audience.There just wasn’t enough on their past together for me to be satiated. More. I wanted more. Luckily, Cybertronic Purgatory has taken up the slack with their fic, Becoming Pandora.
Ooooh, Gearbox. Why this? I am just so… disappointed. I don’t think there’s any other way to describe my feelings upon finishing the newest DLC, ‘Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt’. It was supposed to be the brosiest hunting trip in the history of hunting trips—until it was interrupted by a mad scientist trying to destroy my character—but it just felt so rushed. So unloved in comparison to the other two DLCs that were previously released and even the DLCs for the previous game (not counting the Underdome DLC, ‘cause that shit just didn’t have a story). Spoilers below the cut.
Today is the day, my fellow vault hunters. Today we travel to the uncivilized continent of Aegrus to traverse swamp and mountain in search of harder enemies, better loot, and… Handsome Jack? Well, maybe we’re not searching for him. I dare say in Borderlands’ newest DLC, Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, the person I’m going to be most interested in is the titular character himself. So, allow me this time to gush about how much I absolutely adore this monocle’d zoologist: it is his big day, after all.
I think the first thing that’s obvious is that Sir Hammerlock is the classiest badass to roam the lands of Pandora. He’s got that Victorian gentleman vibe going on (in all the best ways, especially the accent) but he starts the relationship between your character and himself by electrocuting your robot guide, then shoving its eye back into its socket.
Okay, it may not be as badass as Ellie’s introduction, but he’s been living completely alone—except maybe for visits from Claptrap—in the bandit-infested village of Liar’s Burg for who knows how long and he’s managed to stay alive. I’m sure there’ve been nights where he’s sniped bandits from the top of his roof just to lure them into that electrical fence. You may have also noticed that his right arm is missing completely? Yeah, it was ripped off by quite possibly the largest thresher on Pandora, no big deal. Hammerlock lives for his work and, if past trends continue, it’s quite possible he may end up dying for his work someday.
However, besides being a character with such a frustrating lack of backstory, Hammerlock also plays an important role in one of the most understated initiatives in a game I’ve experienced. If you do side-quests (if you don’t, I don’t want to talk to you), he’ll eventually ask your character to find the lost manuscripts of a rough and tumble kind-of-scientist-but-not-really, Taggart, who also happens to be his old boyfriend. Borderlands 2 was the game that really made it apparent that the developers wanted their universe of Pandora and vault hunters to allow for equal opportunity in both treasure looting and getting killed by literally everything and as such many of the characters, whether they be in the backstory or available for interaction, were discussed as being of a non-heteronormative sexuality. Of course, there were complaints about characters being made so explicitly “gay”, but it was so much more nuanced than that. Characters were not defined by their sexuality; rather their sexuality was just another aspect of their character which is how it should be done. Hammerlock didn’t constantly gush about all that hot yaoi sex he was having with his boyfriend, it was something he mentioned while reminiscing about his past relationship with the most-likely dead Taggart. Even if he did constantly gush about it, it would still be amazing to see such a nuanced homosexual character, especially in a genre where these things are usually shied away from.
So come on, give this scholar and his creators some love and join him on his expedition. See him in his natural habitat—‘he’s’ been giving you weapons all weekend so show at least a little respect—and download Big Game Hunt. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see some more of that badassery that we’ve all come to love (who am I kidding? We definitely will).
It’s the new year, and I feel excited about video games. I am excited about the mountain of games I acquired as presents and with gift cards, as well as games coming out later this year. For as much as I love good games, I am sad over how many of my friends and family just don’t enjoy them the way I do. Whether they lack interest or skill, it’s always difficult to share this part of my life with them. That’s why I’m trying to think of new ways for me to try and share my gaming experience with them.
There are of course the games that are fun to play with a group despite the challenges of the game. Games like New Super Mario Bros. U, Call of Duty, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 are great because, due to their tendency toward bullshit difficulty spikes, the whole group enjoys the accomplishments of even two players finally beating a level. Plus, the shared suffering leads to lively conversation. Other games which have narrative arcs which tend to appeal to those outside of the medium are always fun to pass and play, even if some people are terrible. These games include Alice: Madness Returns, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Resident Evil 5, and they tend to be just as fun to watch as to play if you are already invested in the subject matter. Hell, some games are such a spectacle that it’s fun to pass and play without any narrative context. Call of Duty and Halo attract droves of casual players who only play in groups. Any of these are fine, but I feel my repertoire lacks a certain “universally appealing” punch. So imagine my delight and excitement as I realize a way to better involve more people in the same games I already love. Continue reading
In all the hubbub of Borderlands 2, what with its delightful new and old cast and (roughly) kajillion side-quests, I think it’s important to step back and appreciate the timeless things. The simple things.
But mostly that Ellie is the best character in the game.
I’ve already given my partial opinion about larger people in the media, so when I saw her concept art I was seriously worried what would come of such a character, especially when every other female in Borderlands is thin as a whistle. Would she be played off for jokes? …The bad kind, that is, not the kind that Borderlands is revered for. I should have had more faith in Gearbox because this lady is faboo.
From her introduction I loved her—seriously? Smashing a bandit in a car compactor? Bad. Ass.— because it was such a great example of what was to come. She doesn’t take shit, she’s clever and resourceful as hell, and she’s fun. She’s an actual 3-dimensional character. Gasp, be still my beating heart.
Playing along her questline further also reveals an intricacy that not many other Borderlands characters have in my opinion. She has motivations beyond “wow, I better not die” and she has something to prove, but not to herself. Being Scooter’s sister, that also means that she’s Mad Moxxi’s, the voluptuous vixen manager of the Ring O’ Death’s, daughter. By doing Ellie’s quests, Ellie ends up venting about how her mom wants her to lose weight and essentially be like Moxxi. In fact, her mother doesn’t believe that Ellie can even take care of herself on her own out in the Dust. Ha! Allow Ellie to prove her wrong. The great thing about Ellie is that she’s completely okay with her life and her choices. She knows smart enough to survive and that she’s damn sexy to boot. Her confidence in her skills and in her body isn’t played for laughs, so the player is able to come to respect this unlikely paragon of beauty. And gosh, it’s just great.
I could gush more, but why don’t you take a look at what the designers at Gearbox have to say on the mechanic yourself?
Today is the day, my friends. The day where we all return to that mythical planet, Pandora, and take back what is rightfully—nah, we’re just gonna loot the place. Yes, today is the release date of Borderlands 2 and I, like many others, wait patiently to get my hands on these new classes. However, since I decided not to do an in-store pick-up, I have to wait and sit consumed in my hatred for all of you until it arrives (just kidding: my brother has a copy and I’m going to be bumming off of him). But, let’s take a look back at what made the first game so captivating, so memorable.