The Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC Review
Borderlands is a game I wish had never ended, which is odd considering how long it was. I was not remotely bored with it when it finished, and would have eagerly played for another 25 hours. The first DLC, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned was okay, but wasn’t really enough like the main game to be quite as good. As Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot was such a tragic failure, I was a bit worried that it would be the last piece of Borderlands, so was thrilled when I heard they were planning such a full bodied third DLC pack. With a higher level cap, plot continuing past the original ending, more guns, more vehicles, it all sounded great. I am happy to report that it clocks in at being the best and biggest expansion yet.
Worth noting is the fact that if you haven’t beaten Borderlands there is nothing for you here as the new areas are scaled for characters who have just finished their first playthrough or are maxed out at level 50 in a second playthrough. In terms of plot, after the ruckus you caused in the process of finding and opening the vault, the Atlas Corporation is back on Pandora and is sending out Crimson Lance fellas to put up wanted posters with your face on, which you aren’t too happy about.
While the overall plot of Borderlands was pretty barebones, it did have some quite memorable characters most of which return here. Moxxi is also a real character now, and you can visit her and her underdome to get some missions. Her character and the general aesthetic of the Underdome were the highlights of the 2nd DLC pack, so it’s good to see her making amends here. Scooter is also back with an increased role and tons of awesome dialogue. Two new characters join the ranks, Athena an ex-Atlus crazy lady looking to take revenge on her former employers, and the ironically detached General Knoxx who as a villain is almost too likable.
One of the biggest changes to the main game’s formula is an increased emphasis on the vehicles and vehicular combat. To aid this there are three new vehicles: the Racer which is like a faster version of the regular car, the Monster which is slower but sturdier and has the best weapon, and the Lancer which is a four-seater APC thing which I can’t see a lot of use for except for funsies. The four seats of the Lancer include a driver, a turret seat for the powerful main gun, a seat that allows the user to throw land-mines around, and finally a blast seat that makes explosions rip out of the undercarriage killing anyone nearby.
The new area is designed to take advantage of the vehicles, and is generally constructed with larger zones connected by long linear highways. Crimson Lance vehicles patrol the highways, there are checkpoints, and automated drone defence systems activate as you drive up and down the roads. If you are flooring it in a vehicle though, none of this really matters as you can slip by anything without problem. Oddly, there is only one teleport point in the entire new area, so you will have to drive up and down the map far more often than you’ll want to, in order to get to and from the bounty board and all the mission givers. Here’s a hint, if you save and quit then reload you’ll spawn back in town removing the need for one half of this tedious commute.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m not really a big fan of this vehicle stuff. Sorry Gearbox. If you stop to fight a vehicle, you’ll die really quickly and attract more vehicles to fight as quickly as you can kill them. If you die you’ll end up either on foot and shortly after dead, or trying to use your last-stand to take down a truck which rarely works out well for you. There also some big monsters out in the more open zones that seem to be designed to be fought using vehicles, and they suck too. They move in a weird glitchy fashion, instantly respawn when killed, and shoot incredibly accurate acid goo at you from miles away. The weapons on the Racer and Lancer seem to deliberately miss them if you try using the lock on system, which is yet another reason to use the Monster as it's homing rockets kill them pretty quickly.
Other than the dubious mechanics, the main reason I don’t like the vehicle combat much is because none of the things you’ve been upgrading about your character have anything to do with vehicle combat. None of your stats, perks, items, nothing. You are stuck with the base blueprint vehicle that spawns, and can’t really do anything about the fact that it dies too quickly. If the vehicles were as customisable and upgradeable as the characters then it might work, but I think that would probably be a totally different game. If you are reading this Gearbox, please stick with the on foot stuff, and leave the vehicles to be quick transport tools like how mounts work on MMOs.
I’m happy to report that the parts of this new area which are on foot are as awesome as any of the previous content. Most of your enemies will be the Lance, so you’ll want to be using acid guns, or take the time to line up headshots. The Lance have been reinforced with elemental based troopers, which helpfully drop a gun of the same type that they were using when killed, for example the shock troopers decent shock weapons. This will help quickly fill in any gaps in your loadout right away. Other new enemies include midgets riding Skags (the badass version if three midgets on a skag) which are awesome, and giant robots suited Lance guys.
I’m not quite sure how the level scaling is supposed to work, but I don't think it worked quite right for me. With my Roland I played through the the main game and the first DLC which took me to level 41. Most of the enemies I faced here were levels 34-40 which would have been good if I hadn’t played through Zombie Island. As it was, I only got enough experience to progress to level 44. In a way I feel like this may have been designed for people who had finished their second playthrough, and needed a way to get beyond level 50. The result was I think I had a pretty easy time throughout the eight or so hours it took me to complete.
Just like Borderlands, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx is not without a whole list of weird issues, but also just like Borderlands I still can’t help but love it. If they make another 8 hours in a few months, I will happily continue to play these basically indefinitely. Also, they are crazy releasing this for only 800 points, this is easily worth 1200, especially considering Moxxi was also 800 points, and that was basically four small areas and one quest.
Review Notes: Ian purchased the DLC himself, and played to it to completion on a retail Xbox 360.