Let’s talk about the co-op in Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep

When I got Borderlands 2 on my PS Vita, it had all the DLC pre-loaded, so I got to play Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep a while back. I mostly remember how often the difficulty spikes came close to breaking my desire to finish the story, with certain areas just being a pattern of me dying and running back from a spawn point to get killed over and over again. The DLC got turned into a stand-alone game, and between those two events, the hubbers and I have played co-op on Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and part of Borderlands 3. So I figured, why not see if going in with a buddy could make the harder parts less annoying.

The short answer is, it’s a mixed bag. Certainly, having someone able to revive me or vice versa did reduce the number of times needed to run back, and an extra set of guns dulled some of those difficulty spikes. But there are still times when, even after side questing to level up, the game just gets painfully difficult. I could just stop here and call this a completed post, but I want to highlight places where that is the case, while also talking about my positive impressions about other aspects of the game.

So, firstly, our team was made of one gunzerker, hubby’s preferred class, and one mechromancer, because who doesn’t want to summon a third player when the shit hits the fan? I tried to convince hubby to do a commando and give us a fourth “player.” But he loves dual weilding so much that logic wasn’t going to convince him otherwise. (And yeah, it bit him in the ass, and he later said, “I should have gone with the commando.”)

One of the first things we both noticed is how every level up brings two skill points instead of the usual one perk per level. Also, instead of waiting until level five to let us grab perks, we got them from level two on. This was really helpful to get our characters battle ready within the first few levels, and once the wait between levels was longer, we weren’t left hurting for options.

The other thing we noticed was how stupidly generous the loot system was in dropping eridium, the currency needed to upgrade ammo and storage capacities. So instead of having to save up a while and needing to carefully consider what weapons I would specialize in, I was able to upgrade to carry more of everything, and to expand my backpack to limit the number of times I had to run back to a vending machine to free up space.

There’s another currency in the game, seraph crystals, which let you buy special guns from a new vendor, but there’s not a whole lot of variety there. Sure, the SMG that has slag and electrical elements came in handy throughout the run, as did the shotgun with explosive ammo. But where all the other vendor change stock every 15 minutes, this vendor’s stock never seems to change even with the same timer counting down repeatedly. I would have liked to see other weapons, like maybe an assault rifle that used corrosive and explosive ammo, or fire and electric. Just…give it some variety, you know?

This generosity contrasted sharply with the stinginess of the gun drops. We got to the end of the game at level fifteen, and I was still using a level eleven revolver because nothing better ever showed up. Not in the vending machines, or in the countless weapon chests scattered throughout the levels. It turned into a running joke, having hundreds of chests for new loot, and most of it going to the vending machine for being crap. I get that all the guns are created by RNG, but someone at Gearbox needs to tweak their loot system because fully 90% or the guns we found were worthless garbage.

One thing I loved is the look of the levels. The way everything looks a little like hand drawn cartoons with heavy black lining has always been a part of the Borderlands appeal, but here it’s used to create a more fantasy oriented world. There no deserts, unlike Pandora, and a lot of variety to the levels makes exploration that much more satisfying. I frequently stopped what I was doing to admire the scenery, or some side characters, or even the enemies. It’s a pretty game, and combined with the music, the story, and the super easy controls, it should be a good time. And most of the time, it is.

I think we were in the second area when the game started tossing seers at us. Seers are skeleton mages who can cast electric spells before disappearing and running to a new location. At no time did these assholes ever grow on me, because they had to be killed first or risk putting both hubby and I into a death loop. (Die, respawn, run back, and die again.) Eventually I got better at waiting them out and hitting them with a high-power revolver, but every time I heard their signature wooshing sound, I ended up growling “It’s these motherfuckers again.”

The other big hurdle is human enemies like knights, archers, paladins, and squires. Individually, none of them are that bad, but the game sends them out in waves, and if I didn’t immediately prioritize archers over everything else, it was back to the death loop for both of us. Add to this certain sections where the game throws human and orc badasses at us at the same time, and suddenly every meter of ground earned could quickly be lost because hubby or I would die and force the other to retreat.

I mentioned how reviving could help, but there were a lot of times where doing so became ridiculously hard. Even a tiny enemy throwing axes or bones can knock back characters, so while trying to revive hubby, I would get thrown back and lose progress on his revival. So I’d run back to him, hold the button to revive…and get knocked away again. Rinse and repeat until he dies, and that’s a rage cocktail that once again almost broke my resolve to see the game through to the end.

The funny thing is, once we got to the final fight, that was a cake walk compared to what we’d been put through before. I remember having the same impression playing the DLC by myself, that for all the crap that had been slung my way, the final fight with Handsome Sorcerer was kind of anti-climatic. All the boss fights before are challenging, and with a bit of variety to keep each encounter feeling fresh and exciting. Then comes the last boss, and he just hops around and summons baby dragons. It was a bit of a let down, to be honest.

The story is pretty good, a bit funny and bittersweet, and the OG Borderlands crew playing a role play game as the gang from the second game is a fun twist on the narration going on in the background and through the characters in game. The humor is about bog standard for Gearbox, but it can hit just right if you aren’t expecting it. As an example, a badass necromancer jumped out from behind a set of double doors right in front of me and shouted “Abra-ka-screw you!” I laughed for around one minute, even after he’d been dispatched, because none of the magic casters had ever used that line before. It hit at just the right time to tickle my funny bone, and there were many other times that such lines hit and left me guffawing.

In conclusion, I think I found the difficulty spikes just as irksome as I did going into the DLC solo, but in both cases, I pushed through and finished because I liked the story and wanted to see how it ended. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep can be hard, but played with friends, it can also be a fun time. So if you can round up one, two, or three buddies willing to go co-op questing with you, I’d recommend this as a fun, short campaign that can be blasted through in a few days.