Borderlands 2 dropped like a giant death-slinging Powerloader fired from orbit today! After what seems like an eternity of teasers, trailers, and previews telling us "dudes, you should play this game" us mere-surface dwellers finally get a chance to dive Scrooge McDuck style into a pile of guns and loot.
I hadn't been following every detail about the launch and I was surprised to find out that folks that pre-ordered the game are treated to a Willy Wonka-esq Golden Key. A one-time use beauty that will open a stash in the main hub area brimming with guaranteed rare drops. The question is, when do you use it?
The chest scales with your character's level, so no matter when you crack it it's bound to have useful treats inside. It is entirely possible to hang on to it till you reach the lv cap and get your hands on some top-tier equipment. Get the highest value stuff for your pre-order buck.
Or you could do it the other way around. Pop the chest's top as soon as you see it and get some swag loot to help you through the early levels. Could be handy for a low lv character or a player new to the game.
Both are tempting options, and it only gets tougher the more you look at them.
Getting that end-game rare-loot sounds great, but who is to say it will be any better than the arsenal you've built yourself by that point? If you've made it to the cap, you've probably already found tons of great weapons – another masterpiece for the pile is really just gliding the lilly.
Maybe the smarter play is to crack the golden chest early. Set yourself up with a strong opening hand while your waiting for your skill perks to blossom. Seems like a good idea, but I hesitate a little.
- Looks friendly!
A big thrill in Borderlands is finding better guns. "Don't get attached" is the Vault Hunter creed. The game is at its best when you are constantly swapping up to the next strange and deadly piece of hardware. It keeps it fresh. With all the new types of bizzare guns introduced in the sequel, you have more reason than ever to keep trading and trying out new things. Strapping yourself to a piece of rare loot way more powerful than anything your likely to see for the first 8 hours of the game might take away from that magic. Who needs to try new things when you've already got something better?
I like having to think this through. This is the way pre-order/retail box content stuff should be. Interesting additions that add depth to the game without taking anything away from those outside of the club. It doesn't have the skeeziness of an online pass, or a piece of arbitrarily walled off content Arkham City style. Unfortunately, as neat as the idea of a one-time bonus for a pre-order is, Borderlands 2 still suffers from gating off Gaige the Mechromancer.
- C'mon. We shouldn't have to wait for stuff this cool.
I'm not a big fan of limiting access to characters. It's annoying in a fighting game, and its annoying in a action/RPG too. It's always hard to draw lines about what is real bonus content and when stuff is being held back just to call it a bonus. When is a game considered complete? When does content become additional content? But we aren't talking about some far-off expansion pack that is released months or more after the launch of the game, we're talking about a character that is by all likelihood finished and ready to go right now being deliberately held back for a few weeks. To me it feels like a slightly manipulative move, and a totally unnecessary one at that.
Borderlands 2 looks like a great game. The first one was a hell of a lot of fun, the DLC expansions for it showed that the devs knew how to improve the game, and the sequel looks by all reckoning to be fantastic. They don't need to trip into unsavoury practices to trump up pre-orders, all they have to do is continue making a quality product and the sales will come.
Walling off Gaige isn't the only slightly shady move Gearbox is pulling. Review copies for the game were distributed early last week, and like always came with the usual NDA stuff – but with a twist. While reviewers are not allowed to publish "review content" (criticisms, scores, purchasing recommendations, ect) they are allowed to "tweet about their impressions." So you reviewers can't talk about any faults, but they can go on Twitter with vaguely positive reactions to cool stuff in the game? Tricky stuff Gearbox.
It isn't the most underhanded tactic ever. Compared to the blatant buy-offs, bullying, glad-handing, and reach-arounds were used to seeing in the industry, some Twitter shenanigans seems pretty tame. But still, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Why do they feel they need to do this? Why have cheeky "bonus" content to prop up pre-orders? Why finagle the public perception so hard? The game looks great, the people behind it are earnest and passionate, and it has nothing but positive goodwill coming towards it from the community – don't worry Gearbox, we're sold. These shenanigans are just spoiling the magic.
- I was going to buy it just for the Wub Wub alone.
Griminess aside, I see a good way to use the former piece of bonus content to help out with the latter. Personally, I don't see much advantage to using the golden key late in the game. But I don't want to taint the purity of my first run either. So what I plan to do is to take Zero through an all natural first-time through (what does he need guns for, guys got a Sw0rd) and when Gaige makes the scene in mid-October I'll crack the case then. Give her a taste of the good stuff while the mech skills grow in a bit. That way I'll skate through the early content I've done before and get deep into D347-TP's skills as fast as I can.