You know how sometimes a certain piece of downloadable content comes along like, for instance, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare or Fallout: New Vegas’s Old World Blues that looks like a whole different game compared to the original? Well that’s what Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is to Borderlands 2. This is the fourth expansion to the shoot-and-looter and it has a wealth of content to show you. It will also show you that Gearbox has still not run dry on their abundance of pop culture references and jokes.
Back at Sanctuary, Brick, Lilith and Mordecai are playing a game of “Dungeons and Dragons”. Er, wait... “Bunkers and Badasses”. Sorry. Of course, the game is nod to D&D, and as per usual with Borderlands 2 there are many other nods to different pieces of pop-culture here. The raucous yet always likable and hilarious Tiny Tina is your Dungeon Master....errr Bunker Master on this fantastical adventure. Your Vault Hunter is plunged onto a beautiful-looking dock with a perfect blue sky and a rainbow shining from above...until Tina realizes it’s supposed to be dark and changes the scene to “eternal night, you hear spooky music, and the whole area kinda smells like butts and dead people”, and so it does. And your task is to journey to the castle of Dragon Keep to find the queen and rescue her from the clutches of one Handsome Sorcerer and his Handsome Dragon so that she may return light to the world once and for all.
As fantasy tales go, the main quest is your basic hero’s journey from Fantasy Storytelling 101 and is nothing unique, but for Borderlands 2 it’s something fresh and welcome. When you step into the first area you encounter an army of skeletons and they’re reduced to bone pile under your mighty guns. Well that’s not too bad, pretty easy...until the Handsome Dragon attacks you from nowhere and leaves you critically injured. Damn...well that sucks. Oh wait, no, it’s fine; Tina calls it off and gets you back on your feet because Lilith says it was unfair. That’s better. But these are the sort of on-the-fly changes (like the docks scene shifting to eternal night) that you can expect to happen here when you have someone like Tina as your Dungeon Master and they make for some nice laughs and giggles here and there. That’s just a portion of the comedy Gearbox so effortlessly wields in Assault on Dragon Keep while another part comes from Brick punches the obstacles he encounters in Tina’s game. Oh Brick...you make me smile.
The game has been given a full-blown makeover with this new expansion and just about everything is different. Ammo and money chests look for like old-fashioned chests while loot chests have floating platforms when you open them. The vending machines have stained-glass mural-type designs of Dr. Zed and Marcus and even provide nice new quotes when using them (“Go kill some wizards for me!”). The folks you come across and mingle with are also dressed appropriately in medieval-type attire. It all has a very Tolkeinesque/George Martinesque feel as you explore every part of the world. It looks very cool and it was easy for me to get sucked in.
Naturally, the music is also altered with more orchestra-oriented songs to listen to when you travel or battle. I’d say one of my favorite new things are the slot machines as they have now been Tina-fied with different pictures like bunnies, cupcakes and rainbows, though they still give you the same ole goodies. However, they also have some cool new features. For instance, if you happen to get a set of three D20s (yep, those are there, too!), a drawer opens with a D20 that rolls in the air and lands back down and reveals a number. Depending on the number it rolls, you can either get a really nice blue-class weapon, a plain white-class weapon, some pink Seraph crystals, a chance to spin the slots again, or nothing at all. And after each use of these slots, Tina’s voice can be heard saying something goofy and hilarious. They can be pretty addicting to use, provided you have plenty of Eridium to spare, which is a bummer about these new slot machines. There are loot chests with D20s that will ask you to spend Eridium as well. Fortunately, though, you’re given the option of rolling one or two of them. The higher the rolled number, the better the loot, so if you want a higher chance at better loot then you’ll need to fork over five Eridium blocks to roll two dice. Again, it’s a bit of a bummer, but what makes up for it a little is that you seem to pick up Eridium more often from chests and fallen enemies this time around.
As I said earlier, there are several new baddies to tackle. You've got skeletons, you've got knights, you've got treants, dwarves, spiders, and more (including dragons, of course). They can pack quite a wallop depending on how high level you are. Several bosses and mini bosses are spread across different areas of the fantasy world ready for you to take down and snatch the beautiful loot they spew upon their demise. Sadly, though, the loot from the Handsome Sorcerer and his dragon is quite underwhelming as you only just get a crap-load of money, ammo, some Eridium, but little else. I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed at how scarce it seemed. Quest reward weapons, on the other hand, do not disappoint. As far as new toys you can go “bang bang” with, Moxxi, as always, provides you with some fine new Maliwan weaponry. But all you really need to know is that you can get a shotgun that shoots swords which explode on impact...courtesy of Torgue. Who else? And if that won’t suit your shooting fancy, then I don’t know what will.
There is a great amount of fun to be had in Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep with a lot of replay value, especially if you want to get the new achievements that come along with it. You’ll get a good laugh out of the humor and pop-culture references, if you can catch them, that is. But if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, then you’ll be sure to get most of them, at least. My favorite involved a side-mission where you’re asked to stop Prince Jeffery from being a jerk by slapping him across the face. It’s quite satisfying. His throne is also a parody of the Iron Throne, only it’s made of guns instead of swords. Last but not least, there’s a nice addition to the Borderlands story going on in the background of the board game you’re playing. Without giving too much away, you get to experience a completely different side of Tina from her usual whacky, amusing demeanor. It felt a bit out of place at first when I was just trying to have fun shooting up baddies. But despite this, I still found it to be quite effective, especially when remembering what happened earlier in the main story and how Tina was connected to it.