I’ve been playing “catch up” with this game to get all created characters to the same level and as I was working on my lowest level character through the game’s main story items (that character was below level 30 while all others are in the high 60s), it was time to take a break from the main story to hit Handsome Jack’s casino for some loot and mayhem.
Okay, so… Handsome Jack. We didn’t see him in Borderlands 1 and I don’t readily remember if there were even whispers of his presence at this point. We do get introduced to him in Borderlands 2 and, wow: What an evil asshole he turned out to be! Gearbox and 2K kinda “backtracked” to point out some stuff that Jack may have been involved in where Borderlands 1 went but the “man in the mask” really made his presence felt throughout Borderlands 2 and to the point where the guy who “played” and voiced the character won an Emmy. It was a stellar performance and to the point where the only other character you wanted dead more than Handsome Jack was… Claptrap, who is, hands down, the most annoying character I’ve ever had to deal with in any video game I’ve ever played.
The Pre-Sequel backs up big time to tell the story of how Handsome Jack got to be the power-mad lunatic we met in Borderlands 2. This game, strangely, wasn’t entitled as “Borderlands 3” and there were a lot of players who didn’t like the great departure from the first two games but, yeah, I liked it a lot even though Jack wasn’t the antagonist, well, not until the game’s really big boss gets defeated and, okay, now you know why Handsome Jack is the most feared entity we saw in Borderlands 2.
Good to know. Things get a little weird, though: To beat Borderlands 2, you gotta kill the shit out of Handsome Jack and I don’t know about anyone else who played the game but I took a great deal of pleasure killing the shit out him time and time again in both playable modes and with every character I could do it with and true to how the games are played, often with inadequate weaponry which just makes you get creative and tasks your ability to be that creative trying to off Jack first and then defeat The Destroyer… but you want to blow his ass away since while you’re battling him in the final phase of the game, he’s talking more trash and as he does throughout the game and you just want to make him go away.
Good fun. So Borderlands 3 comes out and during its development, a lot of players were wondering if we’d get to see Handsome Jack get reincarnated but there are a lot of references to Lilith ending Jack (and she didn’t, actually) but, okay, Jack’s gone and you don’t see a whole lot of Hyperion’s presence in the game, either – that’s the company Jack worked for then eventually took over. So Gearbox and 2K figured out how to get the handsome bastard back in the game by introducing the Handsome Jackpot DLC and kinda reintroducing Timothy, a poor slob who got conscripted to be one of Jack’s doubles who got trapped on the space-borne casino when it went into lockdown mode upon Jack’s demise and now the mission is to get in there and do what you gotta do so that Mad Moxxi can take over the dilapidated casino and because Jack stole it from her to begin with.
The Borderlands franchise has always been… gritty. Dirty. Many locations have seen better times and the first time I played the Handsome Jackpot DLC, it gave me the creeps because it was. well, trashed to be nice about it. It still gives me the creeps and as i played yesterday, I could feel how running around the place was making me feel at a subliminal level while feeling a certain kind of “joy” and irritation to be dealing with the ghost of Handsome Jack and how, even in death, he’s still being the ultimate asshole by reminding me that he took great joy fleecing those who came there to seek fortune only to find themselves buried under tons of unpayable debt to the handsome bastard. I like the storyline of the DLC but one of the reasons why I like playing it so much is that it’s one of the opportunities in the game to make money and more so when, in true Borderlands fashion, early into initial gameplay, you don’t have a lot of money to play with but, yeah, you kinda get used to this but the other games provided a way to “farm” money (and other loot) and this DLC, I supposed, was the answer to this since there’s no places in the main story where you can keep coming back to clean the place out of whatever money is lying around.
As I do whenever I play the game, I slipped into “stone cold killer mode” and methodically went through the main story as differently as I could; different tactics and approaches and, to my surprise, finding places that I’d never been in or even knew existed… and I’ve been playing this game for a long time. I got through the early main story items and particularly the ones I don’t care much for; every Borderlands game has parts, missions, etc., that I just hate doing but since they’re main story items, ya can’t progress through the game without doing them. I’d just defeated the one boss – Graveward – who, at least for me, is the toughest boss to defeat and I needed a break and… money. My character wasn’t even at level 30 at this point and I had so little money that I was basically in the Borderlands poor house but I knew how to take care of that: Do the Heist on the casino. I knew that by the time I got to the end and defeated the final boss, I’d have a million dollars or so and enough so that I wouldn’t have to worry about buying improved weapons or paying the stupidly high prices attached to respawning when you get killed.
I anticipated leveling up my character closer to level 40 which is in the neighborhood I want to be in as I continue on with the main story stuff… but after I do my best to clean out the casino for as much money as I can get my hands on. Almost every ammo case in the casino has money in it; in some areas, there are busted up slot machines that you can get money from… including the ones who come to life and tries to blow you away. You’d think that with as many times as I’ve played this DLC, the animated killer slot machines wouldn’t surprise me since I know they’re there but, yeah, they still do and, besides, the Borderlands franchise never fails to be able to keep players on their toes in some way and even when you know what’s going to happen.
Other than my low cash levels, I had an even bigger problem and one the game just throws at you. I’d gotten my hands on a legendary corrosive assault rifle made by Vladof (one of the many manufacturers in the game) but one that, normally, I don’t play with but the games are good at making each character an expert with a certain type of weapon and legendaries are, well, they’re the shit and often quite powerful. The one I had found was a level 18 weapon which, if it hadn’t been a legendary one, would have – should have – stopped being effective, oh, maybe somewhere around level 23 or 24. I get past level 30… and I’m still using this particular weapon because none of the other ones I have are doing that good of a job of taking out the bad guys and, well, I’m “worried” because at some point, this level 18 weapon will stop being effective and, as it tends to be my bad luck, during a battle where I need it to be effective. I’m running around the casino killing shit and I’ve never been so aware of my weapon deficiency like I am now and I’m cursing Gearbox and 2K – and not for the first time – because I know that, again, at some point, this low-level legendary will become as useless as the other 30 or so items I’m carrying in my backpack.
Those of you who have played Borderlands knows exactly what I’m talking about and those of you who haven’t, well, you don’t have to take my word for it – play any of the games and find out for yourself. Then, if I didn’t have enough to worry about as far as my weaponry was concerned, I’m making rookie mistakes and of the kind no seasoned Borderlands veteran should be making like how I somehow managed to walk right off the edge of a platform and went out of bounds and died and, yep, taking a good chunk out of my limited funds; it had me laughing to myself to be reminded that while you can respawn in the game, it’s never without putting a dent in your wallet. I remembered trying to figure out how the game decides how much money it costs… and gave up trying to figure it out and, well, I never liked doing math to begin with. Stepping off that platform – and something I had never done before playing the DLC – cost me about twenty grand that I couldn’t afford at the time all that much… but I guess it was okay because I was having an unusually hard time finding weapons that were effective and making me rely on that level 18 legendary that, at this point, had pretty much outlived its usefulness.
The main thing, though, is that I’m having fun dealing with this. This particular DLC isn’t exactly hard or difficult, not like much of the main story stuff can be or like some of the other DLCs really are, well, at least for me. I’m going from place to place, shooting bad guys, blowing shit up, etc., and I’m constantly being reminded that the weaponry is character specific and that some of the weapons aren’t ones that I would normally use or prefer… but that’s the beauty of any of the Borderlands games and DLCs: Being able to do more with less. Finding the right combination of items even when some of them aren’t the “best weapon” available in the game. Or that weird thing where I actually found a weapon that one of my other characters just kicks major ass with but for the current character? Not even close. In one of those rare moments, this DLC is pissing me off because I’m making progress… and not making progress… and I’m still relying on a weapon that, as I got down to the final moments of the DLC, wasn’t doing a whole lot of good or damage.
I defeated the final boss of the DLC… with a pistol. I don’t particularly like the Jakobs weapons. They’re “antiquated” items that often require a lot of trigger pulls or don’t hold a lot of ammo and other things that I’ve learned just annoys the shit out of me but, yep, I defeated the final boss of the DLC with a Jakobs pistol. A six-shooter. Not even a legendary one. I’m running around the final battle area switching weapons as fast as I can and came close to dying way too many times which, given the level of the character and the mode it was in, shouldn’t have happened, well, not the way it was. Nothing is working against the final boss; my grenades are pretty much useless, the legendary that had, up to that point, served me well wasn’t doing shit and I was more than glad that I could hit the button to look at my inventory without getting killed but frustrated because of the thirty or so weapons I had on hand, I’d tried them all… except for this Jakobs pistol that, normally, I would have sold for cash given my dislike of them.
I equip it and I’m already thinking about what else I can do to defeat the final boss and knowing that I don’t have a damned thing in my backpack that’s gonna get the job done once and for all; I’m going to get killed and respawn… and start the level all over again… with a bunch of weapons that have been proven to be woefully inadequate. I hate this game… and I love the shit out of it. I take a deep breath, make myself comfortable, and resume the battle with this “crappy” six-shot pistol that has the saving grace of reloading very quickly and the next thing I know, the final boss is defeated, the gun in my hand is trailing smoke out of its barrel and all I could do was shake my head over how things can wind up working and when, “normally,” they usually don’t.
Those of you who’ve played Borderlands knows how… improbable it is to take out a boss with a pistol. During my main story play, I took out a boss… with a shotgun. I shouldn’t have been surprised that a Jakobs pistol offed the final DLC boss but, yep, I was. It’s stuff like this that, to me, makes playing Borderlands so much fun while being pretty annoying at the same time. So I finished the DLC and went back to the next main story task facing me, got to one of the remaining “big bosses…” and took him out… with that same Jakobs pistol because despite getting more weapons and nice legendary ones, they didn’t do shit against this particular boss but yet another weapon I’m not fond of got the job done. Again.