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Anthony Burch On Borderlands 2's Tone

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By MrJenssen03-06-2013

With less than a month to go before Gearbox releases Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, the very last campaign DLC for Borderlands 2, the game's writer Anthony Burch has decided to write a blog about something that some folks seem to have an issue with - BL2's tone. More specifically, the supposed inconsistency of it. The publication of this blog is likely not random, as Tiny Tina's upcoming DLC seems to have a bit of that tonal dissonance as well. Since there's some references to events in Borderlands 2 to be found here, people who haven't finished the game yet should stop reading now. Also, friggin' buy Borderlands 2 and play through it already. It's immense fun!

Those who actually have played Borderlands 2 will likely know that it's overall a game dominated by a lot of tongue-placed-well-in-cheek humor that aims to be as funny as it is cel-shaded graphics. But those who actually paid a bit of attention to the quest narratives, or even the audio-logs found around the world, there's a bit of sincere stuff mixed in there too.

"We try to keep a kind of lopsided balance between humor and tragedy", Anthony explains, "Anything that gets too goofy should have something to give it a little bit of darkness and weight. Conversely, anytime anything might get too heavy, we try to add something darkly humorous in to take the edge off a bit and make it clear that we aren't taking ourselves too seriously."

In other words, Borderlands 2 will never be the most serious game in existence. It will however neither be a competitor to the increasingly batshit crazy Saints Row franchise. However, not all is perfect in para...Uh, on Pandora.

"Now, we've read some feedback that this tone is a bit inconsistent – that the funny stuff can sabotage the serious stuff, and vice-versa. And to be completely honest, I understand that critique – because Borderlands 2 is a fairly nonlinear game that allows you to do quests at your own pace, you could complete "Shoot This Guy In The Face" less than ten minutes before watching the big, tragic climax of "Where Angels Fear to Tread". And I can't blame anyone for finding that a little weird."

Apparently, though the main story of Dragon Keep is based around you (and possibly your friends) being trapped in a tabletop RPG played by Tina and some of BL1's main characters, as you battle your way through a fantasy world that is supposedly very different from anything Pandora can offer. Gearbox promise lots of over-the-top action with appropriate orcs, skeletons and Game of Thrones references. There will however also be a more serious second quest line, where you dig deeper into Tina's struggle with coping with the fact that Roland and Bloodwing are dead. However this time, Gearbox seem to be of the mindset that, instead of trying to fix this issue, it's both easier - and potentially better - to use it to the game's advantage. Burch finishes up by explaining this:

"I think we unconsciously decided that instead of removing that tonal dissonance, we should embrace it. Why not make a DLC that's about both the stages of grief, and punching people so hard they explode? If we do it well, we might make you laugh, then feel somber. If we screw it up? Well, at least we're not being predictable. That's gotta count for something."

Only time will tell whether Tiny Tina's DLC hits a home-run or misses off the target completely. The DLC is slated for release on June 25th.


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