Author: Rory Young
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/borderlands2_pirates_booty_dlc/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
Returning to Pandora for Borderlands 2's first campaign DLC, Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty initially proved a conflicting experience. It's a game that's difficult not to like, simply because it presents itself as such a fun and casual experience. Still, I worried, because there were numerous faults I discussed in my review of the full game that still itched terribly. Inevitably the opportunity to meet a new cast of those unique characters Gearbox so brilliantly crafts proved too strong. Yo ho ho, it's a pirate's life for me.
Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty introduces over a dozen new characters, seven new explorable areas like the not so lively town of Oasis (spoiler, they're all dead from dehydration), an assortment of new enemies and bosses, along with a bit of level 50 endgame content too. Needless to say there's plenty more Borderlands 2 for vault hunters to explore; I put around 13 hours into the DLC and would say I finished all but the raid boss quests.
Does is represent the best of Borderlands 2, however? Or, is it different in a meaningful way? What's great about Borderlands 2 is still great in Captain Scarlett, but it's no question that development never set its aspirations very high. Thar be gold in this here DLC, but it's buried beneath a sea of that same old Borderlands gameplay. Is it worth the efforts? Yahar, wouldn't be a proper pirate adventure if we spoiled the fun now!
I started Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty with my level 29 Zero character, because what's better than a pirate? Ninja pirate. I finished the DLC at level 33, feeling like I'd given the game's content a thorough roundabout. By then, no quest markers remained – beyond the level 50 “raid” bosses packed in for end-game players. This small level growth, in combination with the fact that all of Captain Scarlett's content scales to your character's level (so long as you're 15+), creates a clear intention from Gearbox. Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty is not meant to be a significant method of progression for your character. Rather, it's just a side-story experience to take in, and also a supplement of endgame content for Borderlands 2 uber-fans.
Scarlett's side-story nature may seem obvious. It is DLC after all, but this is significant because I found the worst part of the full Borderlands 2 game was the progression and itemization. It was a grand relief to find Scarlett scaled to your level, and that the combat proved much less intrinsically difficult. I'll admit, part of that was certainly due to luck, as I picked up a sniper rifle and pistol at the start of the DLC and used both throughout the entire campaign. Not having to change weapons was relieving, but completely counterproductive considering upgrading weapons is one of Borderlands 2's main features. One of my main complaints in Borderlands 2 was that Gearbox's gameplay features continuously got in the way of my having fun, and I'm pleased to say Captain Scarlett does a better job of not doing that... even if it's just by accident.
Endgame content in the Scarlett DLC is going to be a mixed bag for most players. Here's the math. You'll encounter two new level 50 endgame bosses designed to be extremely difficult for four person parties, each on daily lock timers. Acquiring a new Seraphim Weapon tier item will take two weeks of farming these bosses every day. In other words, beating even one of these bosses is only achievable by the most dedicated and geared of players, and beyond that only the most dedicated of those dedicated players will stick around long enough to pick up Seraphim Weapons. Additionally, the stats on Seraphim Weapons are randomized, so even if you acquire one of these top tier items, they aren't guaranteed to be of quality, or even something you'd want.
I mentioned earlier that the best of Borderlands 2 was back, and by that I mean its outstanding dialogue and unique characters. The addition of Captain Scarlett, Shade and perhaps the biggest badass on Pandora, Herbert, will keep players questing despite the need to eat, sleep or breath in between laughing. While the overarching story of Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty is a bit, well, Goonies, having the cast at your side encouraging you, berating you, or providing extremely awkward commentary makes every moment special. Yes, a majority of the quests still break down to kill 10 rats, but Borderlands 2 does better than any game in making these typically boring quests rewarding.
It's that little miracle known as humor. For example, an early quest will send players on the hunt for an item from a bandit camp. Summarized like that, it doesn't sound very appealing or engaging. Painted over with Gearbox's patented messed up humor, however, and it turns magical. There's a psychotic dude tied to a pole who utters streams of insults about cannibalism. One of his fellow bandits thinks he's hilarious but is getting tired of the pole-guy, so he hires you to acquire some condiments to make pole-dude more appetizing to the sandworms. You pick up some ketchup, and (God knows why bandits in the post-apocalypse have ketchup) slather it all over the dude and push him into a sand worm pit. As pole-bro is being devoured, the quest giver admits there was really no reason to cover him in ketchup, but it sure was hilarious, right? Fin.
All of this is, of course, accented by the outstanding voicework done by the Borderlands 2 crew. Every character bleeds identity, and while it's difficulty to live up to Handsome Jack shadow and the cast of the original Borderlands characters, Captain Scarlett and crew do the brand justice. Borderlands 2's other audio work is also just as exceptional. Not only is the soundtrack so good you could listen to it anywhere, but it fits incredibly well with the theme and energy the Borderlands 2 world has been crafted with. I never thought I'd say that about a mixture of dubstep, alternative rock, and assorted techno.
To be fair, many of Borderlands 2's old failings remain as well. A majority of the explorable areas appear more like junkyard puzzles, with pieces shifted and reorganized in different configurations and palette swaps, rather than exciting new frontiers to be discovered. You'll find a number wonderful accents in each area, whether they be ancient sea ships now grounded, neon signs, or a lighthouse, but it all comes across as icing on a tasteless cake.
Don't pick up Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty expecting a great new endgame for Borderlands 2, either. At best, it's a fun diversion to see how strong you and a group of your friends are. At worst, the new bosses and rewards are tedious, broken content. If endgame is your deal, wait for a DLC pack that raises the level cap.
I'm still of the opinion that Borderlands 2's root gameplay mechanics, item and leveling systems and skill trees are all poorly optimized and designed, and Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty does little to dissuade me of that. Captain Scarlett did, however, seem to deprioritize those features through various means – level scaling, starting at a point where characters are well established – so they weren't burdening my experience. What resulted was a legitimate romp through a beguiling piece of Pandora. I came for the pirates, I stayed for traumatizing story of Captain's Blaze's fall from grace.
Let's keep things in perspective here. Borderlands 2 is a four-player cooperative game, and really, all you need to enjoy any four-player cooperative game is three friends and an hour to kill. There's really no new or fresh gameplay mechanics being added, the new endgame content is actually quite disappointing, and even the new enemies feel dumber or slower than normal.
Despite all that, I genuinely had a better time overall, which I attribute that not to any fixes or feature changes, but to a better alignment of the game's flaws with overarching design. The end product has better pacing and delivery than the main game does. Of course, maybe I'm wrong, and my enjoyment was instead due to those two strong weapons that dropped as soon I started up Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty. As Borderlands 2 will teach you, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
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