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Borderlands 2: At the table with Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon's Keep


"What's initiative?" asks Brick, the hulking bruiser from the original Borderlands. He's seated with Mordecai, Lilith and Tina, all hunched over a table-top roleplaying game – not unlike Dungeons & Dragons – called Bunkers and Badasses.

As the tabletop game gets underway, players are thrust into "Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon's Keep," the latest DLC campaign for Borderlands 2.

Gallery: Borderlands 2 - Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon's Keep | 9 Photos

Unlike previous add-ons, Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon's Keep is being developed fully at Gearbox without collaboration with Triptych Games. "The games don't end when you ship them anymore," said Borderlands 2 Creative Director Paul Hellquist. "In terms of development, you kind of get this tiny little break and then you're back into it for the next thing. What this strategy did allow us was to recuperate a little bit."

The decision to focus on the original Vault Hunters, as they play through Tina's tabletop tale, is somewhat odd, considering they've gotten the cold shoulder in all previous DLC packs after featuring so prominently in the main campaign. "To me, it was because they were not in any of the other DLCs and it'd been a long time since we'd heard from the originals," said Borderlands 2 Lead Writer Anthony Burch. "Despite the fact that you spent some time around them in Borderlands 2, you never got a chance to see them just hang out and be friends. To me, one of the appealing things about this D&D thing is that, for the first time ever, you get to see them just chilling."

The titular assault introduces players to a world-within-a-world, as a faux-RPG being played out within Borderlands. This is Tina's world; she controls it and can change it on a whim. In my brief time playing through the beginning of the DLC campaign and sampling the first town, Tina changed times of day, switched out characters and even changed a quest outright. When Mr. Torgue shows up and humbly requests everything be blown up, Tina puts him in his place.

"The great thing about that structure is that it allows the narrator to have things just happen in the world," Burch said. There are a lot of opportunities to break the fourth wall here, but this is a good thing because it allows Pandora to shine – a vibrant planet that played a beautiful backdrop to Borderlands 2's hours of grinding. Burch offered some examples of how this might work in the final campaign, such as rainbows turning into "dark and terrible things" and instantaneously changing a serene locale into a dilapidated mess.

Tina's endearing actions and speech come through in the tone of the story. Somehow, she always manages to keep things lighthearted, no matter how serious the situation.

Yet Tina wasn't always a ringer to run this new DLC campaign – even with her fan-approved status as unofficial mascot. "She wasn't the obvious instant choice, " Hellquest said. Burch claimed the idea initially revolved around a nerdy nephew of Handsome Jack, the antagonist in the Borderlands 2 campaign. As the Vault Hunters came into the Hyperion installation housing Jack's successor, they would be sucked into a D&D-like game.

Eventually, the idea snowballed into Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon's Keep, giving Gearbox the excuse to add more families of enemies and whole new areas – not simply reskins and palette swaps of established enemies. "We were tired of robots," Hellquist said.

Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon's Keep is set to launch on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on June 25 as part of the season pass; 800 MS Points ($10) for those looking to purchase it separately.

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