It's two-ten everyone (that uses the European system)! Which means it's time for me to do some two-ten of my own horn in another ambiguously named Mento Miscellany. Honestly, all I did this week was play more Borderlands 2. It's like the big blog drought I had around this time last year, when it was nothing but Skyrim for Talos knows how long. As is usual for MM, this is just a smattering of thoughts and observations about whatever piqued my interest for this week in the world of gaming. Like Borderlands 2. Let's start there, why not.
22 Short Observations About Borderlands 2
Going to do the whole parody of a Simpsons parody reference thing here. Seems fitting, given Borderland's main source of humor. Oh wait, talking of which:
- Borderlands 2 likes its references. One could literally list where those things are and where they came from until they're dead or simply wish they were, so I'll cut to the chase and give you my three favorite. However, don't interpret this as a general approval of reference/shout-outs in lieu of actual jokes; it's akin to a Frankenstein's Monster in that you haven't so much created humor as created an amalgamation of hoary, half-rotten once-humorous elements that were stitched together and had several thousand volts pumped through it. That said! Best references:
- "The Yellow Dart" (how many people outside of Telltale Games's employee lounge even knows about Homestar Runner any more?), "Rocko's Modern Strife" and I guess "Minecraft" if only because of how far they were willing to go with that dumb idea.
- where is the chubby monster i need to kill a chubby monster it's not there again the chubby monster is not there the internet said it would be there the chubby monster i need it for the achievement and also for rare loot i need it chubby monster where is it where is it where is it*
- Handsome Jack would be funnier if he were Cookie Masterson. I can only imagine what reasons that fellow would have for being on Pandora. Actually those two and Sterling Archer could form a triumvirate of oblivious vindictive idiots constantly living inside their own heads (or up their own asses). I couldn't tell you with any conviction why two of those work and the other does not, but I want to say Tom Gottlieb and H Jon Benjamin. Nah, that's not fair on Dameon Clark, who is an entirely competent voice actor. I'll go with the writing behind them instead.
- I do appreciate the ways the game is able to expand the history and geography of Pandora a considerable degree. It's kind of surprising that they have so much material about the world left to reveal, given how many interminable side-quests there seemed to be in the first game on the same subject matter. I guess when it's next to impossible to wring a cohesive thought from the planet's only scientist, there's still plenty to discover.
- I have seen exactly two orange guns since starting the game and now it's over. Luck of the draw, or is this a second playthrough sort of deal? It's just I kind of expected to see more, given there's an even rarer color category just after it. (ETA: I have since been reliably informed that this is not the case. Orange you glad that there isn't an even rarer color to go searching for?)
- For the life of me I don't understand why the gambling is so compulsive. I so rarely win anything that isn't either a white gun, a pile of cash half the value of the one I just fed the damn thing or a live grenade that I never seem to escape from in time. I do occasionally find a superior weapon, but I tend to spend all my money doing so. My addiction to that glowy box is unfathomable, given how it likes to take my money and screw me over as a thank you all because I just want one more damned weapon that's better than... oh... OK, the symbolism just took me a moment.
- Really could've used a late-game purpose for Eridium. Maybe Crazy Earl could sell a "mystery box" you can spend 10, 20, 30 Eridium on (for a guaranteed green/blue/purple item respectively, with a small chance of the next category up). Just an idea for DLC, or some later patch addition. I don't think the four I have to spend each time I want to get killed instantly by Terramorphous is necessarily going to put a dent in the maxed out 99 I'm sitting on.
- Jeff mentioned a few times about how Hyperion weapons will force you to untrain your usual shooter logic of not straight dumping at all times to increase accuracy, but I feel it's more important to wean oneself off the impulse to reload with half a clip left while using Tediore weapons. Because that'll really screw you over in next to no time. Of course, you could just not buy Tediore weapons. There's a reason "Tediore" shares most of the same letters as "mediocre".
- i am arguing about fictional weapon manufacturers on the internet goddamn you borderlands
- The "Splinter Group" in the sewers of Bloodshot stronghold. Yeah, you know the one I mean. They actually emerge from their hiding places in the same order they appear in the theme song, which I thought was... something or other. On a related matter, this game certainly has a lot of pizza lying around and not just for that particular bodacious side mission. Maybe it's just a thing where you make one sprite for "desirable food item" and then say "screw it". All I know is that if this game was made by Giant Bomb fans, they'd all be replaced with hamburgers. Perhaps not an improvement, but then at least you'd probably get to see one of those Rat Thieves with a black and white striped shirt going "robble robble".
- Wow, the Gunzerker is really short. Funny how I never noticed that until the credits' picture montage.
- So happy those Vault Sign scavenger hunts aren't at all necessary for any reason, since there's no achievements attached to those stage-specific challenges and the amount of badass points you earn for them is minimal anyway. Kind of wonder what the point is, really. Maybe something pings once you find all of them? That's a sobering thought, if only because I'm the type of person who would track them all down if there was a decent reward behind it.
- Seriously hoping that new Mechromancer teenage girl doesn't become Tiny Tina 2. I really wouldn't put it past Gearbox to pull a George Lucas and make a fan-abhorred character even more prominent.
- That said, there was absolutely no sign of one Mr Nukem that I could ascertain. Maybe those guys just want to (wisely) forget that the whole thing ever happened. I mean, that's pretty much the stance 3D Realms took when they were supposed to be making the damn thing. (ETA: Apparently there is, but it's only as prominent as any other reference in the game. Explicable.)
- Probably a bit late to wait until point 16 to say this, but I played through the game as the Gunzerker. Half the internet, including Game Informer's own inimitable Dan Ryckert, tells me that the best Gunzerker layout involves investing heavily in the Rampage tree and taking full advantage of his dual-wielding class action. Nuh-uh. I can't live without Money Shot and Down Not Out (both in the Gun Lust tree). It's a testament to this game's balance that I got so used to one tree that I found it hard to adjust to another, supposedly better one after the fact. Brawn just seems like a hot mess, though I can easily imagine that there'll be more than a few Gunzerker players that will attest to it as much as I attest to the Gun Lust tree.
- A person could go insane chasing down all those customization mods. I've only found a handful of the head mods myself, though once I found one that closely resembled Lemmy Kilmister wearing shades I was pretty much done.
- I really appreciate how two of the challenges needed for that "level 1 with all challenges" will only appear after hitting level 5 in two other particularly grindy challenges. There doesn't seem to be any reason for why this is, other than either coding incompetence or sheer malice. I really can't decide which is more plausible. I was going to add to this how I was inexplicably missing a fourth weapon slot for most of the game, but that's a co-op issue that redeemed itself when, after recently starting the game as the main player, it let me skip any story/side missions I already did as another player's second banana. Such a cool feature, as I'm now almost-instantaneously back at the end of the game with a random smattering of side-missions from all over the place that I wasn't around for originally.
- While I'll complain about minutiae such as challenges, I don't really have a beef with how easy it is to accidentally spend the golden key. Honestly, I just got vendor trash that provided a modest boost to my funds when I accidentally opened it at level 5. Had I been 50, I imagine it still would've been much the same result.
- The Bullymongs and their randomly spawning parodies, King Mong and Donkey Mong. Does "mong" not mean the same thing in the US as it does here? Hell, I'm willing to bet it does, given how sensitive the game is towards depicting the mentally challenged with those Goliath enemies. I know feeble-minded giants and manic small people have been a staple of the post-apocalyptic genre since a certain road warrior strolled into the Thunderdome, but I'm surprised Gearbox isn't getting into more trouble for this sort of thing. Maybe there aren't enough benign PG-rated sex scenes with omnisexual blue aliens for the Thompsonites to take notice.
- Overall, I like Borderlands 2. It's been said enough times that it's chief problem is how iterative it feels, but that really isn't a problem for me. There'll always be things I can't stand about it (the humor and the bugs, mostly. And I ain't talkin' no varkids or spiderants neither) but it's one of the most effective games at sticking its hooks into you around. I've brought them up before, but any time a developer decides to take the true-and-tested endlessly compulsive dungeon crawling loot-em-up and combine it with another genre for shits and giggles, something good (Persona, Dark Cloud, Master of Magic, Recettear, Borderlands) nearly always seems to result.
- * Feel free to replace every instance of "chubby monster" with "Jimmy Jenkins, the world's most unfairly elusive tiny robot since Chibi Robo 3" if you'd prefer.
From The Fiiiiiine Makers of Cult
I considered turning this into a bigger blog post, but that would mean doing research into sun cults and the Waco Siege and Xenu knows what else and that sounded like a hassle and a hoff. Instead, I'll present a truncated version here of video games and their use of cults:
In both the games I played this week (the other being Might and Magic VII), there was a protracted chain of quests that deals with playing nice with cultists until the time came when you could sic the whole insane lot of them. While Borderlands 2's Cult of the Firehawk missions didn't end with a poisonous Kool-Aid gun (though, let's face it, if it did it would've almost certainly been named the OH YEAH!), it does dwell a suspiciously long time on figuring out what those guys were into and helping them with their various pyromania-based pursuits before Lillith puts the kibosh on the whole thing after being sufficiently creeped out.
My immediate assumption for why this is is that cults are fun to write about, whether you're writing broad comedy like Borderlands 2 or you're a horror writer attempting something a bit more sinister and macabre. You can have a ball writing about the kind of messed-up shit a cult might be into doing and how those rituals relate to their weird beliefs and it creates not only a large population of enemy fodder for whom the game will patiently explain away with "you really don't have the time to individually deprogram and rehabilitate all these people and a shotgun to the chops is just as effective in a fraction of the time, if we're being truthful", but also a truly spiteful villain at the head of the whole shebang. There's also that idea that as much as we'd all like to think we're in full command of our mental faculties, the human mind is largely inscrutable and there's plenty of evidence, if possibly only anecdotal, that hypnotism and brainwashing are entirely things that are a thing, to paraphrase any number of advanced psychological dissertations on the subject. Though clearly a rare situation to be in unless you're a big fan of taking random street personality tests, it's possible to imagine oneself in the position of resisting a cult as much as one can and still failing to resist a particularly charismatic kingpin and the various methods they might have of bending you to their will (especially torture - lemme tell ya, I'd be singing the party line before they pull the first poker out of the brazier). But hey, I'm mostly guessing why this is an appealing subject for writers in video game development and why so many antagonists seem to be religious figureheads. Your own interpretations are welcome in the comments below.
Frankly, at the end of the day Borderlands 2 is the sort of game where you don't really need any excuse to incinerate a psychotic midget. Doing so because a cult told you to is as good a reason as any other.
(For everyone wondering where the comics are, the two of you will be happy to hear that there'll be a special sponsor comic blog some time later this week. I may even have another Brief Jaunt, since I can tell by the barest handful of comments those things receive that their readers are reduced to a dumbfounded state of quiet awe. Sh'yeah.)