Preview & Interview: Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep

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We got an extended preview Tiny Tina’s Assault On Dragon Keep a few weeks back and now we can finally talk about it. As mentioned in our previous coverage, Tiny Tina sits the Vault Hunters down to play some “Bunkers and Badasses”, essentially the Dungeons and Dragons of the Borderlands Universe.

I’ll tell you right upfront, it looks and plays absolutely fantastic. Filled with the signature Borderlands humor throughout, the Vault Hunters fit surprisingly well in this fantasy world. Understand when I say world, I mean it. This DLC is huge, by far the biggest DLC Gearbox has ever released. With Knights, Dragons, Orcs, Dwarves and just about everything else you could think to pull from the fantasy realm, this one is really a labor of love and it shows in the details.

Since your characters are essentially sitting around a table playing a game, you’ll constantly hear Tiny Tina narrating things as you progress and constantly breaking the forth wall in ever more hilarious ways. You’ll be playing through a lot of familiar situations from the game filtered through the prism of Tiny Tina’s imagination. It’s charming, sweet and loads of fun all at once.

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After getting some hands on time, we spoke with Ryan Heaton, Lead Level Designer, for some deeper background on the new DLC.

PS Nation: Where did the idea for this come from?

Ryan: It came pretty much from what the guys wanted to do at the studio. We have a lot of fans that are fantasy people, D&D, love just fantasy games in general. And we wanted to do something completely new, something that people would not expect, so that’s where that comes from.

PS Nation: And this all ties in, somehow, to the original story.

Ryan: Right, so that was kind of our two goals was we wanted to do something that was really different, that people wouldn’t expect, but at the same time, we know people wanted something that would further the story of the regular game and give our characters more depth and basically tie it back into the core story of Borderlands 2. So it’s not just spin off DLC, it actually does tie back in to the plot and to our main characters.

PS Nation: And it’s huuuuge too.

Ryan: It is, it’s a massive DLC. We thought a lot about Knoxx, General Knoxx from Borderlands 1, and so we wanted to have something that was comparable to that at least and it turns out that we came up with something that’s actually a lot bigger. So there’s quite a lot of content, all new enemies. You won’t see any reskinned bandits, there’s actually no bandits in the DLC. In all of the new enemies, we actually have a full range of variants for each enemy type, so everything from your basic grunt, cannon fodder guy all the way to badasses.

PS Nation: So with all the new enemies, and I got to see a lot of them, why don’t you explain some of them and maybe even where they came from. Was it people around the studio just saying “Oooh, I want this, I want this”

Ryan: That’s definitely part of it. Our creature designer Reuben is amazing and he loves fantasy stuff too so he just like could not wait to get his hands on these enemy types so… Like hey, we want like four variants of skeletons and we ended up with sixteen, ya know? That’s kinda how that went. Yeah we’ve got skeletons, rock golems, knights, dragons, let’s see what else do we have… Trying to think through all the different maps because there are so many of them. We’ve got dwarves, orcs, spiders, of course. They’re more cannon fodder guys, but yeah…

PS Nation: And there are multiple dragon types, right?

Ryan: Yeah, definitely got multiple dragon types, both land based dragons and flying dragons. So everything from like little basilisks to full, large dragons, even boss fight dragons.

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PS Nation: Nice! And the style, the style fits really well with the, I mean it’s still the Borderlands 2 engine and all but it’s an entire fantasy world.

Ryan: Right, right.

PS Nation: So can you speak more to that?

Ryan: Sure, it’s a fully fleshed out world. You are playing in Tiny Tina’s imagination, so, um, but at the same time, we thought initially when we started on this we’re like okay, this is gonna be a huge undertaking because we do a whole fantasy world, is it gonna be weird to have, you know, knights in armor and skeletons battling you when you’ve got these huge, futuristic, high-powered weapons, the Borderlands guns. And initially we thought, okay, that could be a risk but as we started developing it and getting more into it we found like oh wow, this just works, perfectly, and it’s actually not weird at all. So there are some enemies, and like you’ll see the Orc-zerker, um, he has guns, but for the most part it’s a fantasy universe that you’re tackling as your Borderlands character with these crazy guns and it actually works.

PS Nation: So they’ve all got, for the most part, swords and bows and arrows and things like that?

Ryan: Yup.

PS Nation: But when they drop stuff, they’re dropping ammo and things like that for you.

Ryan: Right, that’s right. And we do have a lot of different style enemies, so there’s plenty of projectile enemies. That’s one thing that we were kind of concerned about initially was like, hey, they’re not gonna be shooting back at you, they’re not gonna be taking cover, um, so, we kind of addressed that in a different route by having all these different projectile enemies like we have wizards are an enemy type, those are more projectile based. And we do have a couple special weapons and some class mods like the Magic Missile, lightning bolt, you know, all those kinds of things that people, you know, associate with the fantasy tropes. That stuff’s cool too.

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PS Nation: And even the vending machines and all, they got a complete makeover to fit into this.

Ryan: Yeah, everything got a makeover. Vending machines, loot chests, the environments, we created a lot of new art assets. So as you go through the environments they’re gonna look really different than what you’re used to in Borderlands because this is Tiny Tina’s imagination, she’s kind of reimagining some events from the regular game but they all kind of have this whole new look to them, it’s very fantasy. So we have new things like castles and forests, so that’s really cool too.

PS Nation: Yeah, and the way it plays out where you’re essentially playing the game and… you’re breaking the fourth wall a lot.

Ryan: Mm hmm.

PS Nation: A lot during the game.

Ryan: Definitely, that’s part of it. We wanted to sell it as, it’s not just a fantasy spin-off it’s actually that you’re in Tiny Tina’s imagination so she can say hey oh, you know I went in this area and I forgot to balance the combat so all of a sudden the enemies are like Level 80 and you’re Level 30 so she says “Whoops, I screwed up” and she despawns them out right in front of you and the respawns in enemies at the appropriate level. So you know, we have special effects that we play on those spawns and we really try to tie it in with the plot so it’s not an abrupt change and it totally makes sense to the plot.

PS Nation: Yeah, it looks badass. It really looks like a lot of fun. Do you have a favorite enemy in there?

Ryan: Oh yeah, for sure, I mean I’ve got a lot of favorites. I do think the badass skeleton is one of my favorites, he’s really gnarly. There’s a boss fight that has to do with these skeleton kings, I like that fight as well, a lot. It’s hard to say though, there’s a lot of cool enemies. I guess, now that I think about it, my favorite would be the badass golem. He’s the badass iron golem and so you’ll see him later in the DLC but he’s the badass version of the regular rock golem but he’s iron. The dwarves kind of built this iron golem enemy and he’s allied with the dwarves so that’s probably my favorite.

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PS Nation: Nice, and were there, I didn’t notice any, but did you guys really pull from things like Dungeons and Dragons and do you reference things like that, Lord of the Rings and stuff like that?

Ryan: Sure, that’s kind of a Borderlands thing we love to do. We love to be inspired by stuff and throw call outs to things, you know we always have the best intentions because these are the things we love so we do kinda treat ’em carefully but there’s definitely lots of references to a bunch of different fantasy properties in there. Some of them will be more obvious than others. Some of them are games, some of them are movies, like there’s a Conan reference in there which is kind of subtle but that’s one of my favorite ones because that’s one of my favorite movies but it’ll be interesting to see if people can find that Conan reference.

PS Nation: The Schwarzenegger one, not the Momoa one right?

Ryan: Right, the first movie. So TV, Movies, we have all of that. When we started out, we just listed on the board our favorite fantasy properties and we tried to hit as many as we could but ya know there’s definitely plenty in there.

PS Nation: Some nice obscure references?

Ryan: Oh yeah, definitely.

PS Nation: Good that’s what we love, and this is coming out?

Ryan: Late June.
* The new DLC will be available June 25th and will be included in the Borderlands 2 Season Pass or available separately for $9.99.

PS Nation: Excellent, thanks so much for the preview and all the information!

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I was very impressed with what I played and saw that day and I really can’t wait for this DLC to finally hit in about a month.

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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