As the culmination of what's undoubtedly been a wild ride as far as the Borderlands 2 downloadable content packs are concerned, Tiny Tina's adventure ends with a bang. There's even a link to what could eventually blossom into something bigger at the end of the line, but that's not for me to spoil here. Just know that the grind is certainly worth it, especially if you've been on board from the very beginning.
From the Pixie who adds special buffs as long as she's not provoked to the snarky commentary from the Vault Hunters and malevolent wizards, Assault on Dragon Keep is a playful nod to tired fantasy tropes permeating the world of RPGs, simultaneously playing to them and turning them on their head. It's a surrealistic trip through the imagination of a manic little girl who can't quite grasp the fact that for some of her friends, there's no coming back.
Like Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage, Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep is an example of how DLC can match, and in some ways surpass the quality of the original release. With eight to 10 hours of brand-new enemies and locations that have been built from the ground up to look like nothing else in all of Borderlands, it offers a great value, especially to those who can appreciate the cavalcade of nerd culture references it makes. Sure, the loot rewards are a bit light, but the chance to give a virtual King Joffrey a proper smack in the face with the butt-end of a rifle will be reward enough.
Is Dragon's Keep fun but lacking surprises?
Almost, but not quite. Woven into Tiny Tina's narrative is something that actually feels like a bit of a reach for this series - an attempt to add a little more heart and soul to the characterisations as this strange game of B&B builds towards an unusually emotional climax.
Without spoiling anything: does it work? Not entirely. But it is, unsurprisingly, just the kind of trick one of those special long-running TV shows might try to pull now and then - a bit of heavy-handed schmaltz to break up the glib anarchy, a lunge at tonal variation to bring depth to some increasingly harshly delineated cast members.
Nice try, Borderlands. Where next?
Looking back, although I did enjoy Captain Scarlett and Mr. Torgue, neither of them were nearly as in-depth as this DLC, which is a benchmark for future Gearbox add-ons. Although they could have stood to have gone a little farther with the concept, if you can only choose one campaign, this is easily it.
Gearbox Software ends its run of Borderlands 2 DLC on the highest note possible… assuming of course that it’s really all done. The four packs attached to the game’s Season Pass have all now been released, but the story wrap-up definitely leaves a door open for at least one more romp with your battle-hardened Vault Hunters. Whether or not there’s more to come, the stuff that’s here is the best we’ve seen yet, no question. If you’ve been looking for a reason to head back to Pandora, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is it.