Original

Venture into the Borderlands – Part 7: It’s Fear That Gives Men Wings

(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

New to the place? Don’t worry, just slide your way to the bottom of the page and you can find all the previous episodes all neatly arranged for you.

After upgrading Claptrap (sadly, not with a mute button) two weeks ago, there were just two more steps to help overcome the barriers between me and the key to the vault: A heavily armoured bunker and a door that can only be accessed with Handsome Jack’s bio-data and voice. Rolo then had an idea of how I could get past the first part: Non-descript help of The Slab King. All I had to do was give him a note.

Of course, true to Borderlands form, things are just never that simple. I would first have to shoot my way through The Slab King’s army, and then I would have to join The Slabs by taking on the initiation trial. In case you’ve taken a shot in the dark what this trial may be, if you said “shoot more of the Slab King’s gang” then you are correct.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Although, first I had to do a small side-quest.

Now with the original Borderlands gang back together (oh yeah, remember Firehawk a few parts back? Lilith), Rolo looks at me expectantly with more plot. After all, with Brick with us the bunker wouldn’t be any trouble to take down for some reason. Possibly his gang, what few members are left? In tradition to the Let’s Play, I noticed there was some side-quests to do first. After all, if he couldn’t contact his pals himself so I don’t have to wade through nonsense for a greeting, then I don’t have to do constant plot.

First, well, Mordecai was still pretty torn up about Bloodwing getting an acute case of the “head explosion.” The question then gets raised: What do you do for an alcoholic in their dire moment of vulnerability, anguish, and depression? Feed their alcoholic tendencies by raiding a booze-mobile for its ale, of course. I mean, Moxxi did try to steer me away, promising a sweet revolver if I give her the alcohol instead. I guess it says a lot about me that I still stuck to encouraging Mordecai’s alcohol dependency, despite barely using sniper rifles and selling off the one he gave me straight away.

The rest of the side-quests I did quickly were less interesting, really. I got to rekill Jimbo & Tector Hodunk (still not making the game fade into a “game over” screen, with accusations of creating a time paradox being the only noise in the void) as well as take pretentious photos that inspired Scooter to write a romantic poem that in turn inspired a suicide. Then it was off to Opportunity.

How to sum up Opportunity… So, let’s imagine if Donald Trump/Tony Abbott/Boris Johnson (I’d say David Cameron, but he’d probably go all Lord of the Flies and become too intimate with a pig’s head on a stick) bought out an island and tried to recreate the high-society insanity of Dubai. They’d have information booths, statues of themselves, and an exclusiveness to them that is hard to take seriously. It would also be the type of place where you want to cut down all the statues, ruin any construction going on, and explore the biographical museum like one explores a serial killer’s lair. So, of course, I did all that.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Uncanny employee ethics.

While I was there, though, I made sure to say Hi to Handsome Jack by swiping his body-double’s bullet-ridden bio-data and recording Jack saying phrases. After all, I still had that third part to unlock. Then it was time to round-up the gang (sadly including Claptrap) and get going to infiltrating Handsome Jack’s vault-key lair.

Usually I try to be funny while being informative. I do not know how successful I am at either, but the intention is there when I’m talking through what I experienced when playing Borderlands 2. Often I’ll cut out mentioning side-quests or do a quick summary if I can’t milk any humour out of it. The most common time I drop trying to be funny is when I think I could analyse something and make an interesting point about it; Something likely born not only from an educational background heavily laden with analysing content for theories (i.e. sociology/psychology), but also a keen interest in the show ExtraCredits.

For now, well, I don’t really feel like being funny due to the subject matter and I’m not so sure there is much to analyse. I think I’m just going to describe as is what occurred and just let things naturally go as they go.

So, I get through the first gate, deal with the bunker, and unlock the final locked door. That is when things begun to feel awry. It wouldn’t be as easy as grabbing the key and running. Angel told me that the key to the vault had been getting charged by a siren that Handsome Jack captured years ago and that to get to the vault, I would have to set her free. I half expected a boss-fight by a siren driven mad for the whole 30 seconds I was left in silence–before Angel chimes in…

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Often times, the most agonising moments in games for me is when I’m given a choice and both options lead to me doing something I don’t like. “Kill X or let them turn into a zombie” for instance, as I had grown to enjoy X quite a lot through the Telltale adventure. Instead, I knew what had to be done but I didn’t want to do it. Angel was only alive due to a device Handsome Jack set up, and the key would only be charged while she lived. The only way to stop it would be to turn off the life support. The only blessing, besides possibly digging deep for those memories of Angel’s betrayal to fuel what I had to do, was that this was what she wanted.

What then made it harrowing again wasn’t Angel, nor Roland or Lilith who came in as reinforcement; It was the screaming, the begging, and even the threatening of Handsome Jack. I was killing his daughter, and he was pretty much powerless as I swept aside all of the security forces. If his word was to be taken, his entire success, fame and fortune was done for her. Yet, she was done with living.

After all the life support tubes were destroyed and Angel passed on, a gunshot echoed. Slowly, Roland’s hand moved down to a hole in his chest and he fell down. Behind his now-cooling body stood Handsome Jack, holding the smoking gun. Lilith tried to strike at Jack but instead got a controlling collar put on. Before she could get me out of danger–so one of us survives the encounter with the furious father of a now-deceased daughter–Jack came close and told me with chilling calmness:

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

And with a blinding flash I found myself at Sanctuary, though not without one last gut-punch to give me a bruise to nurse. Recall how Angel would speak in a mostly-clean blue-tinted signal with her messages? Well, with Angel gone there is a replacement siren messenger:

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Lilith, in a dark place as though any minute now something terrible is going to happen on the feed.

I admit, when Lilith first messaged me I got a creeping fear. It was the type of anxiety I get when something is just wrong or off, likely induced by how the video of Lilith looks in contrast to how Angel had looked. I kept expecting things to get worse somehow, that something else dark and bleak would be revealed as the narrative walked down the dark echoing steps into the narrative cellar. Yet, nothing happened.

Although, oddly, after a quick memorial to Rolo (who will be unable to deliver any more plot), the game continues as though nothing had happened, tonally. I had at least expect Jack to tear into me more for killing his daughter, maybe even hint about possibly doing dark things to Lilith since he did control her now. Within the hour though, he was back to old tricks, like paying me to kill myself or to see if his grandmother is okay (in case you’re curious, no, and he’s pleased about it). It felt as though the game was too scared to dwell on the drama that had occurred and was trying to bring it back up to the usual comedic tone. To me it felt jarring, but who knows, maybe it reflected how insane Jack had become?

Anyway, with that gloom doom out the way, let’s get back to something resembling humour. With Rolo the Plot Vehicle ceased to be, what was I to do but leave the story missions alone for a bit? At least, besides some mild explosives gathering to help go to a place with information on where to find Jack and rescue Lilith. I can’t help but feel worried that the two most level-headed of “Team Kill Jack” are either dead or captured, and I now have to silently follow along with what an alcoholic sniper and a psychotic meat-head want to do.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Although, I have to say, Mordecai has yet to not make sense. 

This was when I hit a snag. As I had out-levelled the current missions still, I was getting side-missions for a place called Lynchwood, and I wasn’t sure the plot would drag us there. I’m still not sure, in fact, and prefer to visit when the plot takes us to that neck of the woods–if it ever will take me there. Instead I stuck with a barren, bleak place called Eridium Blight which, well, sums it up actually.

After helping Jack with his grandmother and being paid to kill myself, I went to see about a loader bot who wants to be human. It took a while, but he soon learnt that on Pandora, the thing that separates man from machine is a heart, freshly plucked out due to an insatiable psychotic hunger for murder. As long as he has a heart-jar, he has his humanity (something Legend of Zelda taught me). I’m sure there’s a film about that.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

A gun that lies to me about information I need? Yep, just as funny as is useful.

I also discovered some buried-loot that I swiftly sold on, helped someone find their pet goldfish and a beacon so he can crush himself, and set up flags on the slowest mechanical flag-raising/lowering machine I’ve witnessed.

After all that, what with the dramatic events that unraveled surrounding Angel, well, I don’t have it in me to do any analysis. Hopefully next week I’ll poke, prod, and nudge at some aspect that intrigues me. This week, well, I think I need a lie down after that whole Handsome Jack/Angel thing; especially after Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5. I’ll wake up next week, hopefully rejuvenated, and get back to attempting comedy and pretentiously analysing something.

[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 Temperament] [Part 5: CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR HUMOUR] [Part 6: There’s Brakes on the Plot]

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