Well, this is how to do DLC. The firs t major Borderlands 2 DLC takes a piratical theme, introducing a few large new areas, a fun main story and a good range of side quests. All of the fun of the vanilla game is there, although there are some elements in this release which fall slightly short of the very high bar set by the main game.
Despite the pirate theme of this DLC, it doesn’t take place near an ocean, instead staying in the deserts which are the primary setting of the series. There are a handful of big new hubs, which feel admirably distinct from each other and those in the main game. Some of the most breathtaking geography in Borderlands 2 is to be found in this DLC. I particularly liked a vast lighthouse on a high promontory above the desert; I was often fond of the more vertical environments of the main game, so I was glad to see more here. I’m generally not fond of caves in videogames as a rule, and the cave levels of the main game were generally less impressive than their more open ended counterparts, so it’s gratifying to see that Gearbox have included the most lovely and beautiful cave section of the game in this DLC. A gorgeous underground oasis ironically discovered below a town in which all of the population bar one had died of thirst is a classic example of the wonderfully cruel comedy which made Borderlands 2 so great.
The Vault Hunter (or hunters if you are co-op inclined) arrive in the deserted town of Oasis, and are soon greeted by a message from the titular Captain Scarlett, who is seeking the treasure of the dread pirate Captain Blade. She recruits the player to find four compass pieces, which will reveal the location of the treasure, whilst cheerily confessing that she will almost certainly stab you in the back come the end. Along the journey there player meets plenty of new big personalities to join the roster, encounters some fun new enemies and picks up the requisite hordes of loot. The actual plot isn’t anything special at all, there aren’t any compelling twists and it doesn’t pack the emotional punch which the main game was able to. What makes the DLC so fun to play is, as always, the characters. Captain Scarlett herself is a hoot, affably sadistic, but there are plenty of other fun characters rounding out the bunch. One of the best was Shade, the last survivor in a town riven by drought, who has propped up the corpses of his former friends, pretending that they are still alive. Shade even gives you some missions ‘in character’, which was as amusing as it sounds. It would be so easy for Borderlands 2 to slip into being obnoxious, but it never does; the humour is cleverer than it may first seem.
The basic mechanics of Borderlands 2 are as strong as ever, and the levels are well designed and fun to play. If there’s any area which takes a slight step backwards from the main game, it’s in the prevalence of fetch quests. These were generally still fun, and what you’re fetching is usually amusing, but a little bit more variety would have been nice. One huge improvement is the addition of the ‘sand skiff’, a hovercraft to explore Pirate’s Booty’s locales. The vehicles in Borderlands 2 were one of its weakest points, as they lacked traction and weight, feeling unnaturally floaty. A hovercraft has no traction and is floaty, so the controls feel a lot better here, with a nice extra boost to manoeuvrability. However, if you’re hoping for something fundamentally different to what’s on offer in the main game you may be disappointed, there’s no real innovation here. More of the same isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, when the ‘same’ was so damn fun to begin with!
The voice acting is up to its usual high standard here, with plenty of fun and amusing characters joining the fray. One tragically minor character was Aubrey Callahan III, a wonderful deadpan teenage girl, who I’m utterly convinced is named after Aubrey Plaza of ‘Parks and Recreation’ fame. There are a few technical issues, a cut out of the music during the final boss fight rather sapped the tension from the battle, but Borderlands 2 remains a remarkably glitch free experience. After the mess that was Assassin’s Creed III, this was a relief.
If you enjoyed Borderlands 2, Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty is a worthwhile, but unessential purchase. If you gave this a miss you wouldn’t necessarily be missing out on anything incredibly worthwhile, but there are much worse places you could put your money.