Borderlands 2 "Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty" Preview: Arrrgh, Me Hearties!By Adam Rosenberg - Posted Oct 15, 2012
Zombies on an island. Ninja robot assassins. Gearbox Software ticked a few heavy-hitters off the geek love checklist with its Borderlands DLC packs. It's a pattern that continues with the first content drop for Borderlands 2, the pirate-themed Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty. The download pack arrives on October 16, 2012, but we were fortunate to spend more than an hour tooling around the pirate- and sandworm-infested wastes during a recent preview event.
Once downloaded, Captain Scarlett will simply integrate right in alongside your main Borderlands 2 content. Accessing it is simple: head to any fast travel point and you'll see a new location called Oasis added to your list of destinations. When you arrive you'll be greeted by Shade, a resident of the former seaside resort town. "Former" is the operative word here; Scarlett's pirates roam the sandy wastes of a dried-up ocean.
Shade is your typically deranged Pandoran, looking like a mash-up of T.K. Baha and Hunter S. Thompson's Dr. Gonzo persona. His relentlessly good cheer seems welcoming but it quickly becomes off-putting when you realize that this is a guy with some dark, dark thoughts. You first quest in the town of Oasis involves meeting with Shade's local "friends" in a search for vehicle parts.
I won't spoil the fun of meeting Jocko and the rest of the gang scattered around Oasis, but the parts you're collecting are necessary for one of the DLC's main new features: a sand skiff. As Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford previously hinted, the hovering sand skiff feels like its been ripped straight from the early scenes of Return of the Jedi. You'll have it unlocked at your Catch A Ride stations within 30 minutes of starting the DLC, a good thing considering how much ground there is to cover in Captain Scarlett.
In terms of size, the new DLC pack probably falls closest to the previous game's General Knoxx and Claptrap's Revolution content. You've got multiple interior and exterior locations to explore and add to your fast travel listing. Yep, you read that right: Borderlands 2 improves on the previous game's DLC by breaking the various maps into multiple fast travel destinations.
Once you've got your skiff squared away -- with your choice of machine gun, rocket launcher, or explosive harpoon accoutrements -- it's time to tear off across the ocean-turned-desert in search of Captain Scarlett, who invites you via ECHO communication to come find her. The skiff is great for cruising around the sandy, open environment; those harpoons make quick work of sandworms and pirate-controlled skiffs and, in a first for Borderlands vehicles, you can strafe around your targets.
One map and many squashed sandworms later, I come to Captain Scarlett's home, a giant-sized skiff that is not unlike Jabba the Hutt's own sail barge from Return of the Jedi. After clearing out some pirate rabble, the Captain invites you onboard for a sitdown. After the expected intro video -- which, in this case, explicitly warns you that you're going to be stabbed in the back -- Scarlett lays out the exposition that sets the DLC's main story in motion.
Apparently, there's a great treasure hidden away somewhere in Pandora's sandy wastes. A magical compass is able to point the way, only said compass has been broken into four pieces. Scarlett has one of those pieces and she wants you to recover the others. Her reasoning? You're not her, which means that if you fail in your mission, she'll live on. Of course, the potential reward of locating a long-lost hidden treasure is probably all the convincing you'll really need to take on the task.
The first of the three compass pieces that you need to recover is in the hands of Sandman, the leader of a local gang of bandits. Off you go then to Hayter's Folly, where you fight through a series of caverns and wooden walkways until you reach the midget bandit leader and his hulking lackey. It's typical Borderlands all the way, though you'll find a whole new assortment of pirate-themed bandit enemies, everything from Buccaneers to Pirate Ninjas, as you proceed.
Even in just an hour-plus hands-on session, it's clear that Captain Scarlett amounts to a hefty chunk of content, roughly 10-15 hours worth according to Gearbox. There are multiple exit points even on the first Oasis map, and lots of ground to explore between them. Just glancing at the mission list, I see a lengthy list of "undiscovered" quests to pick up. Moxxi's arena this is not.
The environments are quite striking, fitting right in alongside the already diverse assortment of locations that you explore in vanilla Borderlands 2. Pandora's dried-up oceanscape is littered with the bones of beached water vessels, from smaller 20-foot fishing boats to hulking freight liners. Some simply rest in the sandy ground while others dangle precariously high above it, split in two (or more) pieces by jagged mountain peaks.
There's even more that's hinted at in the DLC's opening hour. Some undiscovered quests points to carefully hidden bottle messages which, in turn, point the way to one pirate's stashed treasures. There's also a vendor locked away behind a door in Oasis, not unlike Crazy Earl the black marketeer in Sanctuary. The Oasis vendor only accepts Seraph Crystals, however, a new form of currency that you'll be able to spend on unique loot. You can also expect to encounter more raid bosses in the vein of Terramorphous the Invincible from vanilla Borderlands 2.
If anyone was concerned that a $10 DLC price tag might encourage Gearbox to skimp on the content offering, you can safely put those worries aside. Even at first glance, Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty appears to be just as well-developed a campaign add-on as the previous game's DLC packs were. There's plenty more to explore of course, but this taste was enough to convince the veteran Borderlands player in me that Gearbox hasn't lost its touch.