While the existence of Borderlands was known for some time, it was still a surprise hit when it was released late last year. The combination of first-person shooter mechanics with an RPG leveling system was good, but the real joy came from the different guns and gun pieces as well as the ability to take on quests as a four-person team. In a way, the game was the closest one would have to playing a Diablo-like clone that didn't involve swords, sorcery and a medieval setting. After releasing The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, a DLC pack that involved zombies, Gearbox released Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, the game's second DLC offering that focused less on the RPG aspects of the game and more on arena combat. The latest DLC, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, is very different from the previously released DLC packs and is the best DLC pack for the game to date.
For those wondering about where the add-on falls in the timeline, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx occurs after the conclusion of the main game. After suffering some devastating losses, the Atlas corporation has tried to re-establish total control over everyone it can find on the planet of Pandora. This time, they've employed the help of one General Knoxx, a battle-hardened general with a fantastic suit of armor. Sensing the eminent danger ahead, an ex-Atlas mercenary named Athena has employed the ragtag mercenary bunch once again to stop the general. The reward: access to his rather large stash of various weapons.
The game starts you off in T-Bone Junction, a small town built on what was once an ocean, and the place acts as your main hub for everything in the DLC. From the outset, you'll meet up with some fan favorite characters and see how they've progressed. Scooter, for example, has more vehicles for you while Mad Moxxi has opened up a new establishment. From here, Athena feeds you mission objectives under the guise of male enhancement ads, and you're soon traversing through the desert toward the armory. There aren't too many missions that deal with the story alone, and before you realize it, you'll be facing General Knoxx. The good news is that the levels leading up to that fight are quite lengthy, and there's a variety of bandits, Crimson Lance, and native creatures fighting you along the way. It also helps that these enemies are at higher levels than you and have new toys they can play with (such as a jetpack) or are completely new enemies, like the giant spiders known as Drifters.
The actual story-based missions make the DLC feel short, but just like the main game, the longevity exists thanks to the various side missions. Just like before, the side-quests are entertaining diversions in their own right thanks to the humor and settings; they are also great ways to get loot and precious experience points to level up for the tougher fights ahead. There's even an arena-style set of missions that feel a bit like the previous DLC pack as a whole. The quests are good, but the best one is also the most difficult, and it only appears after the end credits roll. The final fight with the legendary Crawermax will probably test players who have reached the level cap, provided they don't use a known exploit with the boss. The addition of these quests easily turns the DLC pack into something that can be completed in 8-10 hours, and while that sounds great, a small chunk of that time is spent travelling from one location to another by foot or vehicle. With difficult enemies and no transporters, the travel time is irksome when you're not taking out enemies along the way.
The DLC add-on has several benefits for the veteran Borderlands player — something that the previous DLC packs didn't accomplish. There are two new vehicles that you can use to roam the land. You still have the Racer, which is a nimble and quick vehicle that is also very fragile and can explode with the slightest touch. The Monster packs plenty of firepower and armor while handling about as well as any off-road vehicle. Finally, there's the Lancer, the first vehicle that can hold all four team members simultaneously and has some unique guns, too.
Speaking of guns, there's a large assortment of powerful and rare firearms located all over the DLC world, not just in the titular armory. Since the previous DLC didn't feature any new weaponry, players are going to love getting more guns for their arsenal. Crimson Lance soldiers also have a tendency to drop power cores when they expire, giving the player temporary stat boosts that become valuable when you become overwhelmed with higher-ranked enemies or are going solo. The most welcome addition from the DLC, however, is the raising of the game's level cap. The choice of the level cap at 61 seems odd, considering the unorthodox number, but for the gamer who has been stuck on level 50 for months on end, it's a welcome blessing. It's especially great for players who enjoy the challenge of Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, since that DLC has scaling difficulty. Overall, the DLC makes for a great extension to the existing story line for the game, instead of being a side-story like the previous DLC packs.
There are a few negative things to levy against the DLC add-on, though most of the negatives stem from when and how the player chooses to play. For starters, the difficulty is tuned to those who have completed the game the first or second time. If you are somehow coming into this pack without completing the main quest or, worse yet, are starting out completely fresh, you will get slaughtered in your first fight. The same can also be said if you're planning to play the game without a good team. A high-level character can make it through the first playthrough of the DLC with some difficulty, but a second playthrough is almost impossible without at least one partner who has surpassed the old level cap of 50. Finally, all of the experience gained prior to downloading the DLC won't count when you first start this up. Even if you have amassed enough experience to bring you to level 55 up to this point, you'll start out at level 50 with the same amount of experience as everyone else.
If you're still playing Borderlands, you should definitely purchase The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, which is available for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC for $10. The increased level cap, new vehicles, new weapons, and enemies with high difficulty levels will not only give you more to do in the game but also provide a very challenging path to complete the missions. If you've thought about going back to the game, the DLC is a highly recommended investment. The only reason to turn down the DLC pack is if you just started the game or don't plan to play the game with others, since the difficulty is punishing for low-level solo players. Once you get past that, feel free to indulge in one of the best DLC add-ons for any game to date.
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