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Gearbox has thus far done a great job of supplying Borderlands 2 fans with DLC that's actually worth the price (Sharkey's a big fan of the last chunk, Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty). From what I played of the next chunk, Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage, it looks like the developers are determined to keep that up.
This time the excuse for general mayhem is that everyone's fighting to earn the privilege of opening a new vault, in an area affectionately dubbed as the Badass Crater of Badassitude. That's determined by the winner of a series of arena challenges, and the ones I was thrown into featured groups of enemies who wanted to kill each other just as much as they wanted to kill me.
This DLC follows suit: you're entering the world of Torgue, a weapons manufacturer, after all. You'll also collect special loot drops specific to the DLC, which you buy with special Torgue currency. You use that currency in Torgue-only vending machines. Aside from guns, you'll also be able to collect new heads and skins for your vault hunter.
The awesome thing about the DLCs in Borderlands is that they affect the larger story. You defeat general Knoxx in the original Borderlands DLC, so in Borderlands 2, Atlas is out of business, for instance. But outside the lore, the DLC can be thought of as experiments for Gearbox testing the waters to see what works and what doesn't. In Knoxx they dabbled with raid bosses and 4 player cars, in Moxxi they played with a bank system amongst other things. One can't help but wonder what Gearbox is testing with the Torgue DLC, or how this DLC will affect the lore, but it's good to know they're looking to improve and evolve the experience.
While there appears to be fewer traditional side-quests in 'Mr Torgue's Campaign of Carnage' - certainly compared to the quest-rich 'Captain Scarlett And Her Pirate's Booty' - that's not to say there isn't a handful to be found. Examples include helping recall tainted bottles of beer delivered to citizens of the slums, and taking a game reviewer down a peg or two because he gave a game too low a score.
Another interesting element are Torgue Tokens - earned from combat and mission rewards inside the expansion - which are used to buy new weapons from vending machines.
Campaign of Carnage also brings with it quite a bit of arena combat. This is not, however, similar to what was in Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot in the first Borderlands. It's more akin to what we've seen with the Bandit and Hyperion Slaughterhouses in the main game. Enemies will drop loot and give experience points for kills. Even here, the setup is a bit different. While you will still be fighting waves of enemies, they all won't attack just you. Since this is a competition to find the biggest badass on the planet, multiple factions are thrown in the arena at once, making it a free-for-all rather than you against the world.
While arenas and crazy new characters are all well and good, the ultimate draw of Borderlands is the loot. As this campaign is very Torgue-centric, Gearbox has added new vending machines that carry blue-level Torgue weapons and up, with the item of the day always being orange. These goodies, however, can only be purchased with Torgue tokens, which are acquired through completing missions and from the occasional drop. In the limited time I spent browsing through the Torgue machine, it does not look like we will be drowning in these high-level items. The prices are steep and tokens are not easy to find. At the very least, tokens are not as hard to come across as the Seraph Crystals from the last DLC -- their rarity seems to be equivalent to that of Eridium.
According to Kester, the expansion is built around (the culture of combat,) and it's not shy about exploring it. Playing the first hour, it's clear that you'll be fighting. A lot. The only ones fighting more than you are your various enemies, who are just as likely to hurt each other as they are to attack you. Combat doesn't become too repetitive, though. Aside from the story missions and arena bouts, you'll come across an additional Circle of Slaughter in a bar brawl early on, and even when you do revisit the main arena you'll encounter different combat scenarios each time.
As for that new currency, unique vending machines spread throughout the Campaign of Carnage's new areas will only accept Torgue Tokens, which you'll have to scavenge from killed enemies. Each machine features a selection of badass Torgue guns and always offers a legendary weapon in the Item of the Day slot. Campaign of Carnage will also feature some familiar faces, including Tannis, Moxxi and even Tiny Tina, who Kester says has (her own thoughts about sponsorship.) Tina will also offer a new subset of weapons, and based on her affinity for explosions it's not hard to guess what they'll do.
And just like Captain Scarlett before it, Campaign of Carnage introduces more opportunities for earning epic-level gear. You'll be able to face one more raid-style, max-level boss for seraph crystals, which you can spend at special vendors to purchase super high-end gear. In addition, a brand new currency called Torgue Coins will start dropping from enemies occasionally. These can be popped into special Torgue vending machines to score powerful new weapons. And the real kicker is that the (item of the day) at these machines is always an orange of some kind.
These items are extremely rare if you wait for one to drop, so being able to save up for and buy them is no small deal. The only compromise is that you can't get anything but Torgue-brand gear from them, so while you could deck your character out with some serious firepower, you can't rely on this method to complement every style of build. But if you like explosions (and who doesn't?), you'll definitely find something you like.
Burch and his band-mates at Gearbox have adopted a policy of inclusion, trying to incorporate a great deal more into the mix and rarely turning away ideas for new weapons, new quests or new jokes. He says the game's design very much lends itself to disparate content and a great variety of side quests, but concedes that that the result of this is that with the Campaign of Carnage (as was the case with Borderlands 2), so many team members have tossed in ideas that nobody is completely certain what's in there, not least because they enjoy surprising one another. Even Burch doesn't know all the game's secrets or Easter eggs.
(There are definitely secrets in the DLC, but they're a little more subtle than before,) he says. (There's a weird thing about the Easter eggs: the legal department knows the full extent of them, as everyone tells legal, but everyone else? Nobody knows. They're actually secrets to a lot of us. When the Dark Souls Easter egg came up, a lot of people in Gearbox were like, holy s**t, we have a Dark Souls Easter egg?! That's cool.) Of course, there's Minecraft in there, too.