First of all, SPOILER ALERT. I will be discussing key plot points of the new Borderlands 2 DLC, so if you wish to go into it fresh, which I HIGHLY recommend, then bookmark this blog and come back later.
The new Borderlands 2 DLC – Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep- is wacky, crass, and hilarious. I went into it expecting a good time, (as is always the case with Borderlands content) and nothing more. For the first five hours or so I enjoyed the fantastic new fantasy themed environments, awesome enemy types, loot and dialogue that could only be delivered by Tiny Tina herself. But as I neared the end of the story, I began to realize what the true message behind it was. This wasn’t a simple game of Dungeons and Drag- er, I mean, Bunkers and Badasses. I wasn’t simply trekking though these crypts and castles to save a queen and vanquish the Handsome Sorcerer. This was a story of loss, and how some of us will cope –or avoid coping- with this loss. This story hit closer to home that I expected.
I should probably give you some background into my situation first. Since 2007, my father has suffered from ALS, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a neuro-muscular degenerative disorder which, in the most basic of terms, slowly shuts down a person’s muscles until they have no fine motor function and eventually can no longer breathe or swallow. It is a horrible disease, with the usual life expectancy being 18 months to 2 years. My father has had it for 6 years. This is an unusually long time, and while from one perspective it is fantastic that he has lived this long, it is also terrifying because there is an overwhelming sense of impending doom hovering over every year, month, and day that passes. I have never been one to show fear of the future, or get upset over my family’s debacle. I generally just brush it off and say “I’ll deal with everything as it happens”. I’ve usually thought that when my father finally does go, I will deal with it with pride, maybe even not acknowledging it at all. This is where Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep hit me the hardest.
Anyone who has played the main Borderlands 2 questline will know that when the Vault Hunters finally get to Angel, they are forced to kill her. Soon after, Handsome Jack arrives and stabs Roland in the back, killing him. In the beginning of Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, Tina insists that the Vault Hunters wait for Roland before starting their game of Bunkers and Badasses. The others try to get the message across to her that Roland is gone, and will not be joining them, ever, but she ignores their words everytime. She even goes so far as to make him the “White Knight” (ironically) of the kingdom. With every instance of Lilith or Mordecai trying to explain to Tina that Roland is gone, it become increasingly clear that she knows, and is just delaying facing the facts. After the DLC’s final battle, she finally breaks. “I know!” she cries, “but it’s my story!” And then I almost broke.
I didn’t think any Borderlands content would ever almost bring me to tears, but it happened. To any other player it probably would have just been another cutscene, another barrier between them and more loot. But something in there clicked with me. I realized that someday, I was going to have to go through exactly what Tina went through. I will have to accept my loss, acknowledge it, and live with it. I still dread that moment, but I found help and guidance in one of the most unlikely of video games. It may be crazy, loud and rude, but boy, does Borderlands 2 have heart. Thank you Gearbox.